Friday, 21 April 2017

Promises, promises... #saboteur17 #theselkie

So, a few weeks ago I posted that my solo show, The Selkie, was eligible to be nominated for a Saboteur Award this year. I rashly promised to film me running around and around my garden like an over-excited toddler should the show be nominated.

The show was only bloody shortlisted.

So yeah. Now you can vote for it to win, should you wish. Frankly, all of the shortlisted shows are either by me or by people who I like/ admire (mostly both), so I will be chuffed whoever wins (though, obviously, slightly more chuffed, and definitely more manic, if mine wins).

And here’s the video, filmed after work (hence the security badge) and by the expedient of propping my phone on a chair on a table in my garden (hence my head being partially severed). You asked for it. Here it is:


Friday, 14 April 2017

It's a kind of magic… #napowrimo

So, halfway through Napowrimo/ Glopowrimo, and I’m actually on track. I accidentally wrote two poems on the first day, set the second one to go live on day two, and have followed that pattern obsessively so far. Ironically, knowing that I always have a poem in hand and could chill out if I wanted to has kept me on the straight and narrow. Very confusing – welcome to my brain.

Tonight’s poem (which will become tomorrow’s, of course) appears to be a new form. I was trying to find the name of (and rules for) the poem form where you reduce the number of words in each line until it’s down to one. Couldn’t easily, and then gave up as a new idea formed.

For Reasons, my prompt for myself tonight was “Abracadabra”. I remembered that people used to make the word into a protective/ healing charm, in triangle form, reducing the word by a letter each time:


Abracadabra has eleven letters, so I reckoned: eleven lines, first line has eleven syllables, the next ten, and so on until you have a one-syllable line to finish. A cursory search of The Internets has not, so far, shown me that this is a thing already, though I’m very happy to be corrected if I’m wrong…! ☺

Until or unless someone can tell me it’s called something else, I’m going to christen this take on another form The Abracadabra, and you’re welcome to do whatever you like with it.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Tooling Up - #napowrimo, #saboteur17, and stuff

It’s been a long few months, but, with the sunshine and all of that stuff, I finally feel like I’m turning a corner.

My health is (slowly - so slowly) improving, and my voice appears to be returning to something like its original mellifluousness. This will be a relief to everyone, I’m sure (though most of all for the people who’ve had to listen to me squeak and grate and despair about laryngitis as the days turned into weeks turned into months).

The opportunity for Something Exciting turned up recently. I won’t know for two months whether I’ve been successful, but it’s been an amazing opportunity to review what I’ve done with poetry and other artforms and poets and other artists over the last few years, and it turns out that it’s a great deal, and some of it brilliant. So I now have a nice, portable poetry CV to hand and plenty of buzzphrases about my “practice” to recycle for other opportunities.

In the meantime, NaPoWriMo approacheth, and I’m feeling pretty confident about it this time. Since I lost all momentum on getting The Selkie any further after Edinburgh (did I mention I lost my voice - I feel sure I must have done...), I’ve decided to deliberately give it (and my vocal chords) a further rest before trotting it out to other places next year. Since I spent an enormous quantity of energy on The Selkie last year, my NaPoWriMo efforts definitely suffered. You can follow what I post publicly here.

In the meantime, though, if you liked it, you can nominate it for a Saboteur Award and frankly I would just explode with excitement if it made the shortlist (let alone won), so if seeing a grown woman run around and around her kitchen/ garden (depending on weather) like a hyperactive five-year-old is your idea of a reward, I will totally film that if I get shortlisted. Get clicking.
For other entries, you should also consider nominating Allographic Open Mic/ Hammer & Tongue Cambridge for best regular show, Haiku To F*ck To (Spark The Words)/ In Other Words Anthology 2016 for best anthology, Poetry & Piano (Matt Widgery accompanying Nikki MarroneUppahar Ups Subba, and Tim Knight) for best collaboration, Bunbury Magazine/ The Fenland Reed for best magazine, SHINPRINT (publishing arm of SHINDIG) for most innovative publisher, Knots & Branches (Stewart Carswell)/ Years Ago You Coloured Me (J.S.Watts) for best single collection. In Other Words would love your vote for Best Wildcard... 
My choices are arbitrary and personal and partly to do with who I think needs the kind of boost that a Saboteur Award would bring. I'm bound to have missed someone. I'm sorry.
Best solo artist is a terrifyingly open field. PM me if you want a suggestion to fit your tastes... 






Thursday, 9 February 2017

The commercial debate rumbles on...

So, it seems that people on the spoken word scene are still upset about the Nationwide adverts, and the Jeep advert, and presumably the jeans advert and the cheese adverts and the MacDonalds adverts all using poetry/ spoken word to sell product. This seems to be this season’s visit to Buckingham Palace*.

Just now pitching in: Luke Wright with a poem-to-camera in his car on the subject.

There appear to be two viewpoints contending for people’s hearts and minds here.

On the one hand: the notion that using art to promote commercialism is anathema and offensively soulless. The strong feeling that doing this diminishes the form and not only the individual artists involved but all practitioners of the artform.

On the other: the notion that most advertising (and ALL TV advertising) uses art in some way or other (from the music to the animations to the cinematography to the acting to the you-name-it). That art is intrinsically bound up in the commercial, because we live in a capitalist society and people need food to eat, clothe themselves, enjoy permanent shelter. Some selling-out or other is inevitable. There is always compromise.

So where do you draw the line? And that’s a genuine question, artists and non-artists alike: where should we be drawing the line to retain enough dignity (if that’s the word I want) and still pay the bills? Because there’s always someone paying for the art you produce, whether it’s you, your partner(s), your parent(s), your school, your workplace, direct individual customers, or the taxpayers whose money goes into national arts funding, or commercial organisations giving a fee.

Every time I write a poem for #PoetryToGo, I compromise my taste and vision for the requirements of the person holding the fiver (or whatever), whether it’s to rhyme, talk about fluffy bunnies, or turn it around in the timescale they’ve requested. On the other hand, I’d never write a poem for BP, or the Tories. About, yes; on their behalf, no.

What I’m saying, if I’m saying anything, is that there are financial realities and status frailties that drive people (some with more inner conflict than others) to produce art for corporate entities, but them doing so does not - in my opinion - diminish that artform’s ability to enlighten, transform, communicate, be an extraordinary mirror for the human condition. And it does not automatically diminish their previous work or the work they may choose to do in the future.

Luke has said that he hasn’t seen “much of a discussion around this on the live poetry scene” and that he wants to “spark a debate”. By contrast, this is something people seem to be talking about a LOT, in my experience - spoken word artists and their enablers alike. Let’s keep this going - is there a solution, a way of resolving this conflict at the heart of the scene, or are we always going to be divided on this (or merely strung out along the spectrum of NEVER to OF COURSE with a bunch of us in between, and most of us longing for the opportunity to at least be asked, because that might well mean we’ve “made it”)?

_______________

* A few years ago, a bunch of spoken word artists were invited to visit Buckingham Palace to visit the Queen. Most who were asked went, as far as I know. Some refused. EVERYONE - invited or otherwise - had an opinion.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Poetry Sells…?

So, someone opened the debate again today about performance poets “doing” adverts for large organisations. I suspect that this is what they were talking about: http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/nationwide-strips-back-ads-authentic-connection/1408827# At the time when the adverts in question came out, I was very ill, so let a whole bunch of people fulminating about artists “selling out” slide past my eyes without saying anything. But now I’m feeling better...

I have an opinion about this (of course I do). It goes something like this:

Poetry, as an artform, especially performance poetry, is one that is still low-profile and with a real lack of opportunities to make a career in, full-time. Have talent, work hard, get to the stage where people are willing to pay you, promote you, and tell everyone else that you’re excellent, and you’re faced with dilemmas at several turns. These dilemmas apply, I suspect, to pretty much every artform.

Do any job other than your artform and you’re at risk of being accused (even if only tacitly/ in your own head) of not being a “proper” artist, of diluting, of compromising. So how do you follow your creative path, and make enough money to feed, house, clothe, and transport yourself and your dependents, let alone develop yourself as a human?

If someone is willing to offer decent money for your work in a way that will raise your profile and that of your artform, where you’re not asked to compromise yourself by directly advertising the product at hand, I think that’s a good thing, personally. (It’s also worth bearing in mind: Nationwide are not Barclays, or HSBC, or Lloyds (or Monsanto, or Proctor & Gamble, or Nestlé, etc.). They’re not even a bank. On the Evil Corporations Scale, they’re pretty darned low...)

And, as someone who is still not in a position to leave the dayjob (while simultaneously wondering whether not leaving the day job is the thing that is holding me back from just saying “the fuck with it - let’s just go, commit, be awesome!”), and as someone active in promoting the artform more generally, above and beyond my own practice, I’m pleased to see performance poetry given a mainstream platform in a positive way (how many cheesy stereotypes of shit, pretentious performance poetry have we seen portrayed in mainstream media...?), with an admirable diversity of artists, considering they only picked three.

I remember the artsy, talking-heads Barclays adverts made at the turn of the Century, featuring actors who people accused of “selling out” their indie cred, their otherwise edgy images. One of them was Gary Oldman, who openly discussed how he was willing to make the compromise because the money was going to pay for his outreach programme getting children off the street and into community theatre.

Nationwide were going to make money and produce advertising. I’m glad that they decided to produce sensitive, non-exploitative showcases of artists who are ambassadors for my artform. I’m glad they promoted this notion of performance poets as bard, as voices for the nation. I don’t know the other two artists, but one of them is someone whose work (and work ethic, and politics) I admire and support, and I very much hope she got paid well.

Poets used to make their living from patrons, unless they were independently wealthy. Over the years poets have made their living by writing things other than poetry for other people, teaching, or doing other jobs to keep body and awen together. Arts grants are on the decline, commissions aren’t that easy to find, and not everyone has the time, training, or temperament for teaching. I choose to use my non-creative skills to muster a part-time day job to muster stability for the platform under my creative endeavours. I’m still not sure if I want to make 100% of my income from the creative arts, but I won’t denigrate those who sell their poetry to those with the money to pay for it, especially when these modern-day patrons aren’t particularly evil.

What are your thoughts?



Monday, 23 May 2016

Got Angry, Wrote a Poem

It all started so innocently. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, when this popped up, courtesy of Hannah Elwick, who ripped it a new one, displaying maximum sarcasm.

“This” was a glurgy piece of nostalgia porn misogyny masquerading as poetry.  My emotions shifted through ennui to rage to disgust (and not just because of the font used) pretty quickly, briefly eased by Hannah’s magnificent rant against it.

But this is me, and it was lunchtime, so: riposte poem time:


Text version:

A Poem To Which I Can Relate

I remember the corned beef of my Childhood,
And the bread that we cut with a knife,
When the Children helped with the housework,
And the men went to work not the wife.
The cheese never needed a fridge,
And the bread was so crusty and hot,
The Children were seldom unhappy,
And the Wife was content with her lot.

I remember the milk from the bottle,
With the yummy cream on the top,
Our dinner came hot from the oven,
And not from a freezer; or shop.
The kids were a lot more contented,
They didn’t need money for kicks,
Just a game with their friends in the road,
And sometimes the Saturday flicks.
I remember the slap on my backside,
And the taste of soap if I swore
Anorexia and diets weren’t heard of
And we hadn’t much choice what we wore.

Do you think that bruised our ego?
Or our initiative was destroyed?
We ate what was put on the table
And I think life was better enjoyed.


Author Unknown
A Poem To Which WE Can Relate

artwork by Eddie Holly

We remember the old beef of Childhood,
The silence that cut like a knife
Where Children were seen and not heard
And blows clamped down marital strife
The Wife could not claim her possessions,
Worked for nothing in kitchen and bed;
The Children were gifted this vision:
That’s your future until you are dead.

We remember the Childhood diseases
That took all but lucky or strong
Darwinianism in action
And no-one to challenge our wrongs.
We gazed at the chasm dividing
The have-nots from those haves who strode
Over huge tracts of land that were paid for
By theft, tax, and History’s goad.

Those who were beaten learned nothing
Except how to govern by fear
Girls were pressed into corsets and wasted away
You won’t learn if you don’t try to hear

The privileged never do question
From whence comes their food and their board
You whine incognito as we change the world
With your death rattle justly ignored.


Fay Roberts

The beautiful picture of Ruby Rose in the Westinghouse style was created by the ridiculously talented Eddie Holly.

Feel free to share if you like. A surprising number of people already have, which both weirds me out and gratifies me (yay! imposter syndrome!), and the original Facebook version is here.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

X9C3-2

We should be asking:
Where's the line
Between what's seen
And what's just mine?

The web was meant
To make us free;
Instead we're tangled,
Can't you see?

Convenience
Can't be worth the bill:
No secret shared's
A secret still.

________________

This post is, in itself, a delivery of a #poetrytogo commissioned poem from today. Feel free to ask, but there's only so much I can tell you…