Monday, 19 March 2018

Long Overdue Update (5 things)

1. Hesitatio-

I haven't posted on here for a while; that much is obvious from checking the post history, although the drafts section tells a different story.

I started a few in-depth posts sometime in the Autumn, after the long, angry summer; I attempted to write about Grenfell and Rashan Charles and found I was too bereft of words to convey my hard-to-define hurt, impotence, even. I took to Twitter instead and encountered hatred and ignorance, scrolling all my way to the bottom of each thread, searching for reason and finding more confirmation that anonymity breeds the worst kind of evil, releases all the prejudices kept locked up behind kind smiles. I took to long walks instead, rediscovering the small parks and gardens - some of them repurposed graveyards - hiding behind the relentless pace of the city. I also spent more time with friends and family, on the days when it's been too hard to focus on my PhD.

These moments of withdrawal haven't come without their own cost: over the last few months, I've been accused of shoplifting (cheers, Holland & Barrett!); asked by concierges - when visiting friends for dinner - if I'm here to deliver food (cheers, gentrified Docklands!); experienced several of the eye-rolling moments that come from being deemed out of place. And I find myself getting increasingly tired of them, not because they occur but because they do with such predictability. And because to retell them elicits predictable responses, from minimisation to the even more unfortunate familiarity; I'm not alone in this.

Meanwhile, the days are getting longer again, and it's getting easier to give up my evenings to reading. My bookshelf has been straining under the weight of so many new ideas. I need new bookshelves. I also need to keep up with the pace of my book purchasing, and with my library fines. I'm jumping from essay to memoir to poetry to fiction to experimental, stream-of-consciousness mish mashes. It makes me excited for my own work, and terrified. I'm writing what is basically a novel, and I'm not sure I believe in the novel as a form anymore.*

In the coming weeks, if and when I come back to the blog, I'll write more about my progress with my writing.
*that's not quite the full story...

2. Strike

Maybe I've chosen today to post is because it's the first working day since the end of the first round of UCU strikes. Below is a video explaining the action:

It's the first time in over a week that I've been able to work in the office at university without crossing the picket line, and I need this space to write, away from laundry and unmade beds and paper work and March road drilling outside (we all know, as the tax year ends, the holes in the budget are always filled up with tarmac).

I have grudging but full support for the strike; it's important and necessary and I know of lecturers whose pensions have been cut in half by the decision to take away the benefits they'd been promised. But it's about more than pensions. The whole university system in the UK has had a destabilising overhaul in recent years, and it's not working for many people at all. (There is context for my sweeping claim here and here and here and elsewhere. And there is more recent commentary, linking up some of the dots for students.) Given this, I find it hard to even think about pensions when many employees of universities - including myself - are on precarious contracts that don't even offer any reasonable security while working, let alone upon retirement. 

Striking is the last legally-sanctioned recourse of the injured worker. It's easy to rail against rail strikes (especially as train driver wages seem pretty healthy) or try to outlaw NHS strikes (under the pretext that it's dangerous to threaten key services), but without questioning why hundreds or thousands of workers are prepared to walk out, people who generally love their jobs, their vocations.

I hope a deal is reached on this particular issue, so I don't have to look up what day of the week it is before I can go into the library, or even open my university email and respond to the few students I teach. But this is by no means the end; a myriad of issues underneath it are surfacing and the UK needs to decide what it wants for the future of higher education. And, for that matter, it needs to decide on its identity beyond the academy, too. It feels like a spiritual crisis.

3. Good Presence @ Last Word, Roundhouse Festival

But I don't want to write about politics. Or religion, or spiritual crises. I want to write about walking through old graveyards and parks and local history. But whatever I do, those same old themes come back to haunt me, so I find myself picking at them. I also find humour in the picking; if I can no longer laugh, I may as well already be dead.

With that in mind, during a rare drunken moment, I rescued a surprisingly heavy mosaic cross from a skip and carried it home. I regretted it the morning after, taking up space in my room, bulky and awkward and odd.

After the regret - and my hesitation at being seen carrying it back down three flights of stairs and across two roads into another skip - it also started the seed of an idea for a poetry show.

As fortune would have it, I've been approached about a spoken word show for the Last Word Festival in June. Not one for ambitious projects(!), it will be partly in Spanish. I can't give too much detail at this point - it's a work in progress - but the blurb can be found here

4. Occupation! and more upcoming...

Before then, I have a PhD to keep working on, plus a seminar to plan, plus a gig this evening which I've organised with a colleague, plus more impracticalities to navigate.

Occupation! is an experimental, one-off event, but if it goes well, there might be others. Some more details on Eventbrite here.

5. And, finally...

I've just ordered some more copies of my book Selah; feel free to message and request a copy!

I have other deadlines coming up so working away at them right now. In between, I've made a pile of books I'm reading and rereading over the next couple of months; it'll be an interesting experiment to see which I manage to get through by the end of May. I've just finished Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and loved it.

Now it's back to work...

Monday, 4 December 2017

The Science of Poetry... (UPCOMING: Experimental Words, THIS EVENING)

[Cue dramatic music]

Just when you've been complaining that not enough poets/ people in general collaborate across disciplines.... 

[building up]

just when you've been writing a chapter for a book on the need for interdisciplinary both within and outside of academia...  

[peak crescendo]

and just when you said you'll be involved in just one more public gig before the end of the year...

[dun dun duuuuhhh!]


According to the flyer, this is a high-energy collision of science and spoken word. Bang! Whoosh! (etc.)

Specimen A: flyers
According to me, this has been an opportunity to team up with the brilliant Dr Jess Wade, share ideas about her research on LEDs - and how to find poetry within it - and combat the fear of physics and biology I've harboured since falling asleep during my GCSE exam at 16 (long but true story). I can't really divulge too much else, except for the fact that we'll be creating some multimedia magic on stage this evening, along with other poet/scientist teams.

So... sign up to the waitlist here (there's a waitlist as it's SOLD OUT!) or just turn up and hope for the best, or better yet, stay plugged into the website to see what it's all about and to stay up to date on the ticket situation. There's also info about previous events in other cities - and the project will hopefully appear in other places too!

In the meantime, here's a link to the poem I wrote in collaboration with Jess after our first conversation.

And here's a lovely trailer for the project:

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Upcoming: Reverb Chamber

I've been thin on blog posts of late, mostly as I've been overwhelmed with work. So I'm particularly looking forward to three things:

1) Christmas break
2) stuff I'll put in my next post
3) tomorrow! 

Tomorrow? Yep, tomorrow I'm in Gravesend for Reverb Chamber in Gravesend. Just a few minutes on the high speed train out of St Pancras and fabulous company, a pleasant tea and cake (possibly more) accompaniment and an evening of poetry awaits.

Do come along!

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Sunday, 29 October 2017

Postcard from Home: Either dead, dying or hazardous in Autumn

"Unfortunately it has become necessary to remove this tree as it is either dead, dying or hazardous" - LB Camden.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

October Update: 5 things

1. Reading List (in brief): We Need New Bookcases...

My reading list has grown exponentially over the last year, and shows no sign of slowing. At some point, I'll have to cull some books, if I'm going to achieve balance in my life!

In the meantime, one book I'm VERY excited about it the biography of Patrick Nelson by Gemma Romain, and it's just in time, incidentally, for Black History Month. I've been waiting for my copy since I first read about the book and subsequently wrote a monologue based on Patrick, 'Safest Spot in Town'. I can't wait to geek out properly on this slice of history.

I've also got Danez Smith's collection (OMG!!!) on the go and The Complete Works anthology, which has me struggling to read and breathe at the same time; there's some brilliant writing in there - and I was glad to be at the launch last week and see most of the poets read. 

keeping me company at the university office

2. Balancing Act (basically a rant.. tl;dr)

Right now, things are chaotic. I've just started what is set to be my final year of PhD study. I'm also:
- running seminars for a module at university
- running a couple of schools projects
- occasionally leading creative workshops
- performing poetry (I have a few events coming up in the next month or so, but won't be doing many more after then).
- doing some occasional mentoring
- writing the occasional poem/essay/short story
- about to take on some more research...

I also do all of my own admin (including tidying my flat, chasing invoices, replying to demanding emails that go back and forth for days and spread across different formats until I lose track - Messenger/Whatsapp/email/text but rarely a call -, posting on social media - if that counts as admin -, answering calls about 'that accident you had in the last 2 years?' etc. instead of actual calls)

I'm also trying:
- to keep up an active artistic life (reading some of the books I've been buying of late, going to galleries and poetry gigs, seeing new films and trying not to fall asleep in the cinema)
- to look after my physical and mental health (sleep is non-negotiable right now; and I didn't know antibiotics rage was a thing until this week when it became A THING)
- to keep a half-decent personal life (friends and family are apparently THE MOST IMPORTANT THING).

 As a result, I have my priorities - PhD; sleep; close friends/family and so on - and I know other things will just have to fall back in line, but I have had a couple of overwhelm moments lately where I've wanted to throw stuff at people. I've been assured this is normal and this is what I've been missing out on for most of my adult life. So yay!   


I'm performing at Backstory Cabaret as part of the Bloomsbury Festival at Goodenough College. There's so much to look forward to, with music, dance, poetry and storytelling taking centre stage. It's gonna be brill! And... I've heard there are only 10 tickets left, so get them while you can.

4. Next Up

My 'Upcoming' tab is up to date, yay! I don't have many London poetry gigs coming up: in fact, next week's Stablemates is the last time I plan to hit the stage in London with a full poetry set for a while, so please come! And if I can't convince you, I hope Hollie McNish and Kate Fox can - two amazing fellow poets I'm performing alongside. 

5. And finally... 

In case you missed it, here's a link to my performance (intros in Spanish - and my accent is a little weird at the beginning - eek!) the other week at Naves Matadero. I had a lot of fun there and hope to be back again! 

Monday, 16 October 2017

Upcoming: MIR:Live Anthology reading

MIR14 anthology reading 

Image may contain: 14 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor

Tonight, from 7.30pm, I'll be reading my short story, 'Mug' at The Harrison (my local venue!), alongside some of the other writers in this brilliant anthology. Please come!

Also, coming up: Backstory Cabaret - on Friday (20th); Forbidden Fruits on Saturday (21st); Stablemates next Thursday (26th)... more info soon.

Friday, 22 September 2017

September Update (the Keith Jarrett experience)


I have a story coming out in The Mechanics' Institute Review, Birkbeck's annual anthology of short fiction. MIR14 (yep, it's been running for fourteen years!) will be launching next week and copies will be available here (or you can ask me nicely and I'll source a signed one for you).

I'm also keen to have my latest book of poems read more widely. So, anyone who orders a copy of Selah directly off me (either through Paypal link on this page, or by emailing me) will also get a copy of my last pamphlet I Speak Home.  

If you've already got copies of those, and you're sick of reading me, then MIR14 has some great stories by other people... and I have plenty of other reading recommendations!


There's just over a week left to listen to me on the BBC Radio 2 Arts Show with Jonathan Ross. Tori Amos, among others, is interviewed in this episode, but if you just want to hear me, I come on around 1:13:15.

Again, if you've already heard me - there's live poetry from Malika Booker on this episode which aired last night (the night of the Forward Poetry Prize announcement... drum roll...).

Seeing as it's back to school/uni/work for everyone, there's a special back to school Lunar Poetry Podcast on air, where Jacob Sam La Rose, Miriam Nash and I discuss poetry and education. Please check it out!

And again, there's a whole host of other interviews on the Lunar Poetry site also worth checking out.

3. SEE

I'll be updating my Upcoming tab soon. In the meanwhile, I'm popping up at various places: Madrid in two weeks (I'll talk about that in another post), then Cheltenham for the literary festival, and doing some teaching and reading and general life stuff. I've just started my (projected) final year of my PhD so that will be the biggest priority for me for the next year - and I'm likely to go AWOL at various points.

My only London poetry gigs in the next month will be Backstory Cabaret at Bloomsbury Festival on October 20th (my local!) and Stablemates on 26th October at the (new, improved) Poetry CafĂ©.

As far as other people reading/performing, I'm looking forward to National Poetry Day. There are so many events going on, it's ridiculous! I'm also going to Southbank's Poetry International Weekend on October 14/15, which looks promising.

Ok, back to work! 

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See Coming Up tab at the top of the page