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Monday, 25 April 2016

Update: April soon gone!

...and there it is, a 1/3 of the year done.

Uni shmooni

I'm close to undergoing my PhD upgrade presentation so I've been a little busy, rewriting some of my thesis introduction (although, you know what they say*) and messing about with Prezi. I'm also carefully devouring books about early Oneness Pentecostalism which has cast a new light on my topic. Essentially, the history of Pentecostalism, in general, is a story about race and transatlantic influence worldwide; however, it's also a lot more than that. I would say more now but, hey, I have a whole thesis in which to do so ;) **

I've been conducting interviews with a cross-section of Londoners who have something to say about Oneness or 'Apostolic' churches and it's been extremely interesting so far. The interviews, however, are the easy part. Transcribing them is a wearying but necessary task, and something I will be doing for the rest of today (along with my introduction).

*(although, that point is quite convincingly contradicted here)
** not quite true. I have roughly 30,000 words. The rest is Creative and critical writing.

Poetry McBoetry
after Boaty McBoatface

I've been smiling with pride every time I pass this advert for Kate Tempest's book. It's a massive billboard for a book!* It's pretty rare - outside of the usual suspects - for novelists to get this kind of coverage.

spot the Tempest... under the bridge

I got a similar feeling when I heard that Warsan Shire features on Beyoncé's new album, just released yesterday.

They both belong to 'us', the London spoken word generation who started turning up at slams a decade or so ago and then developed their craft into other avenues, breaking into the mainstream through music, dance, and theatre (and being quoted by Benedict Cumberbatch**). Most of all, they both write passionately about stuff they care about, and they do it with care.

*Ok, it may not look so massive in this photo, the way I took it, but bear in mind this is one of many billboards with her book on it.
**(who I, bizarrely, always imagine as being related to Engelbert Humperdinck. It's the syllabic structure of their names. Anyway, digression alert. Can you imagine what my introduction has been like so far?)


Whilst I'm happy for Kate Tempest and Warsan Shire, I'm also conscious of the need to up my own game. I've been submitting to competitions, in my (rare pieces of) spare time, and starting to edit a few poems with the help of trusted critics. I was meant to be compiling a collection of poetry for the end of this year but, if I don't make that target, watch out for 2017!    

My novel writing antics have slowed - I need to finish my research project before writing the novel - but I have now carefully crafted the plot outline.


Aside from such academic nuggets as In Jesus Name, Early Interracial Oneness Pentecostalism and Look What the Lord Has Done! I've also just managed to finish reading They Are Trying to Break Your Heart, which was, unsurprisingly, heartbreaking. For the next couple of weeks, I'm sticking to academic texts and blogs.

Breaking off from the EU debate and Obama's visit, I also found this interesting (a look at Boris Johnson's latest attack at the President and the taboo of questioning postcolonial hangovers). I personally find Boris Johnson's previous attitudes on issues pretty abhorrent; I'm surprised that more people don't. 

Next Up: Worst Date Ever, May 6th.

Long story, but I got roped into this. It'll be hilarious/embarrassing/fun. Come!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Postcard from Home: Decolonise or Die

New Cross, SE14

Exercise in semantics*: 
Note the two spellings: Decolonise/decolonize. What does this decoloni(s/z)ation look like? What language does it (re)appropriate? Does it adopt US/international spelling and grammar? Or does it seek to subvert its British/imperial inheritance whilst employing its orthographic framework? Discuss.  

*which, in fact, sheds light on some of the debates taking place within postcolonialist discourse.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Tried to post this yesterday... #BringBackOurGirls

Ok, I'm aware this needs massive editing.

I wrote it yesterday, just before heading down to Brighton, after hearing that it's now been 2 years since 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped from a school. There are still 219 missing. This article puts some faces and stories to the hard numbers.

I thought I'd share because of the immediacy of the date and also because I've finally worked out how to post audio clips after struggling with it yesterday:

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Upcoming: Breaking the Silence (Uni of Sussex) TONIGHT!

I'll be heading down to Brighton this evening for this poetry event, also featuring Dean Atta.

Hugely looking forward!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Postcard from Home: Down the Toilet

Kentish Town, Ladies and Gentlemen Bar (former public toilet)

Saturday, 9 April 2016

UPDATE: 3 things to check out

*a couple of edits

1. They Are Trying to Break Your Heart

David Savill, fellow Unwriteables workshop buddy, has his first novel out! I've been lucky enough to see some of his earlier workings-out of the plot and it's turned out to be a smasher of a novel. I've started reading it and it's already gripped me. There's more info on the book here and the good reviews are gathering pace...

(On a side note, he's also highly observant - pointing out the dust on my keyboard when I excitedly posted the picture of me unwrapping the parcel. What are friends for, eh?)

2. Coming up: Polari @ London Book Fair, Monday

Billed as a Polari Soho Special, this event at the Light Lounge bar is part of the London Book and Screen Week listings. Great line up, with added cocktails... and it's almost sold out, so get tickets now! I also have it on good authority there'll be a live stream somewhere.

3. And another list... from Buzzfeed

As part of publicity for London Book and Screen Week, a bunch of writers were invited to share some of our favourite spots to read and write in London, which were put together in a massive list. I have 3 - very varied - entries in there as do a couple of fellow readers at Monday's Polari! Check it out here.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Spring's here: take a walk!

Yesterday along Regents Canal

I mentioned my Voicemap tour a couple of months ago...* Yesterday I finally retested the route with my voice wafting through my headphones. It was a fun experience - and I'm looking forward to seeing some of the other tours on offer! It would be great to have more friends try out the tour and give me some feedback (and maybe leave a nice rating!) If you're up for the task, drop me a line and I'll send you a free download link!

The website explains more how this GPS-operated guide works.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Postcard from Home: A Bad Spell

Highbury & Islington station

Spelling and grammar perfectionism has its detractors. It has some (limited) function when it comes to pointing out ludicrousies on far right extremists' social media posts, although there is a fine line between that and barefaced classism or snobbism. Grammar, punctuation and spelling ('GaPS') is also a very controversial topic right now in the school system (some of the issues are pointed out here), and it's fun to spell out errors made by those in charge.

I can't help wondering who corrected the spelling on this sign... a member of staff who recognised the error of their ways? (they're a friendly bunch at Highbury & Is., especially after they aided and abetted some guerilla poetry a group of us did for a TfL project a couple years ago) ...An irritated commuter, perhaps? Or a cold GaPS artist, who goes around town with a marker pen, correcting everything they see.

I've just Googled the meaning of 'alternate' and it seems that it's perfectly acceptable, in North American English, to use it as an alternative word for 'alternative'. There you have it. The sign was there for American tourists and it's now been made more inclusive and I can move on. I have missed two trains.

P.s. There are soo many cheesy puns I could have used throughout this post. For the most part I resisted. You're welcome. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Frequently Asked Questions (part 1 of ?)

How are you? / Where are you from? / What do you do? / Do you fancy a drink? ...

None of these questions really say what they mean, for different reasons. As multi-purpose tools of conversation, they all require context, an intake of breath, a questioning of motive or an automated reply.

I think I've tackled the where are you [really] from? question before as a micro-aggression; I don't wish to retrace that territory now. How are you? Well, usually it doesn't even require more than a perfunctory grunt in response. It's the what do you do? that gets me all the time. And it hasn't got any easier over the years as my freelancing antics have broadened out. Anyone who's mentored, written and performed poetry, run workshops, or got through a complicated-sounding PhD programme will be familiar with some of the nuances in answering that question. What I do isn't simple. Sometimes I like to be able to explain what I do. And sometimes I like to filter out those who ask what I do in the same way they ask how are you? It takes a lot of effort to condense all the elements of my life into something coherent.  

The thing is, I'm constantly reminding myself that things have changed. I'm now a full time doctoral student*. That's pretty much my job. I've got the funding and the student card to confirm that... Repeat after me. I'm a full-time doctoral student.

Let's run through some questions...

What do you do? I'm a full-time doctoral student
How are you? I'm a full-time doctoral student
Why do you have so many books? I'm a full-time doctoral student
Are you free now? I'm a full-time doctoral student
Why can't you go to the library tomorrow instead? I'm a full-time doctoral student
Do you fancy a drink? I'm a full-time doctoral student
Do you want to come to X poetry gig on Wednesday? I'm a full-time doctoral student
Do you want to come and decolonise academia and kill patriarchy tonight? I'm a full-time doctoral student

Let's practice in the mirror...

"I'm a full-time doctoral student"
So there you have it. You'd think that would be simple, but the problem is, I still have my poetry hat on, I still run workshops from time to time and I still need to explain to people what my area of research is. I'm a full time student in what? 

So I cheated. I went to a brainstorming session for creatives - something akin to group therapy but less triggering - which Paula Varjack organised one gloomy Wednesday evening. All of us in attendance got to ask questions and expect 8 responses to them**.

I asked not "how do I explain what I do?" but "how do I make people understand what I'm doing?"

Looking at the sheet of paper I got back, the make people understand bit sounds aggressive [cue Diana Ross: I'm gonna make you understand! / Oh yes I will, yes I wi-ill...]. The "making" may sound aggressive but sometimes desperation comes across that way. The amount of times I've faltered at such a question beggars belief. I love what I do. I love talking about what I do, when people are genuinely interested and I have time. I just find it hard to pin it down. I'm that rare breed of person who's managed to turn all of my hobbies into work and so what I do means something to me in a way that it didn't when I was an admin assistant.

The thing is... some of the advice I got is contradictory.

Reply #1: Condense it into 3 clear sentences... Reply #2: don't explain too much, it's good to be ambiguous!

Let's try...

I'm a full-time doctoral student undergoing an interdisciplinary project combining Creative Writing and research on London Jamaican culture through the lens of a particular doctrine within Pentecostalism. As well as a writer of fiction, I'm best known as a poet, predominantly working through live performance. I also conduct poetry and spoken word workshops with young people and adults, taking a holistic approach to writing and performance.  [Be even vaguer] I also work with young people and various adult groups. 

Sounds clunky to me... but a good start.

Reply #3: Don't write what you do but WHY!

Ok... how about this? 

I'm interested in identity. I'm particularly interested in the ways race, religion and sexuality interact with dominant, hegemonic narratives [lose the b/s] each other and how I can best use language to explore this. I'm interested in the flexibility of language and how it can be used to break conventions. Pretty much most of what I do revolves around this.   

Reply #4: don't try to fit. Reply #5: practice writing funding applications, which force you to explain what you do anyway Reply #6: ask other people to explain what you do.

All good but I particularly like #6. Although, for a laugh, I sent a text to mum at midnight: 'Mum, what do I do?' She wasn't impressed.

Reply #7: Just be you. Reply #8: Get a clear, short phrase

Good idea, and while I'm at it, I need to change my Twitter handle (it says 'Lover. Fighter. Reader. Writer.') Some people actually think I'm a fighter... I've never so much as even slapped a fly.

I could go for something alliterative or rhymey like 'Word Wrangler extraordinaire' [Noo! What are you on?] 'I read, research, write, repeat.' [Yeah, not really sure about that]. Or something generic and brand-like, if not a little sinister, like: 'I'm changing the world, one line at a time'. Or something even more generic: I'm an artist and a researcher. Or more generic still: I write [but prepare for the follow-up question: What do you write?]. Or I could just go to bed - I mean, the library - and forget the whole thing

Ok. Yes, I fancy a drink.

*I ought to flag - and this happens with any identity grouping - that there are issues with the term 'student', which some see as a downgrade in status. Technically, I'm a researcher... and if/when I pass my upgrade exam, I'll become a PhD 'candidate' but, whatever... Repeat after me: I'm a full-time... [ad infinitum]

**And, as a professional researcher, I ought to confirm that the respondents' data has been anonymised for ethical reasons.  

Monday, 4 April 2016

Upcoming Gig: Tongue Fu in the city... TODAY!

Hear ye, hear ye... Last minute city gig at Broadgate Circle with the Tongue Fu crew (if you know the refrain, sing along: This is how we do Tongue Fu/ get on this train of thought/ you know we're coming through/ choo choooo!)

If you're free and care to join, there are details here... If you want to hear more about Tongue Fu, there are details here... If you want to hear more about where I'm next performing, there are details right here.. and I'll be updating soon!

Today, I'll be joined by Deanna Rodger (whoop whoop!), Kat Francois (oh yes!), Ben Norris (yee haw!) and the Tongue Fu band (brap brap!)*. Excuse the excitement, folks, but I'm looking forward to taking part in this one. It's an outside, FREE gig, taking place at lunchtime, 12.30-2. I'm expecting lots of city workers taking a lunchtime break, and we're gonna hit them with some poetry and music, and make sure they get back late! I'm hoping for tears, laughter and solid entertainment. Come along if you can.


*They've all got proper lush websites and thing, with their names on them... and they've all got Youtube vids and other bits and bobs... worth a visit. 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Postcard From Home: This is Art

Regents Canal, Camden NW1