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.