Thursday, 30 December 2010

Notice Board Resolutions for 2011.

1. If the state of your room reflects the state of your mind you are fucked up and you need to sort it out.

2. Accept that not everyone is as passionate as you about all the things you hate.

3. Explore as many angles and possibilities before reaching conclusions and always be open to contradict them.

4. Spend less time on facebook. Distraction = lack of growth.

5. Be a bit more of a bastard by being more selective of who you give your time to.

6. Hunger is more important than talent. Work with hunger.

7. Embrace and accept your hearing aids as a part of you as if they were your heart or artificial limbs.

8. Trust your own voice. Write how you speak. Write where it hurts you and write where it tickles you.

9. Live life like a piece of art – keep adding to it.

10. Spend more time with Grandma – she’s amazing!

11. If people don’t accept you or your work – accept it!

12. Make breakthroughs but remember if you’re not enjoying it there’s no point.

13. Make your mistakes now rather than later – it’ll be more productive.

14. Always take time to consider the world through the eyes of others.

15. Keep reading, listening and writing poems.

16. Be good. Really good.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Testimony To The London Spoken Word Movement 2011

In 2011 I’m determined to help get the London Spoken Word scene whipped into better shape.

Less self-indulgent, un-interesting, unexplored writings and performances, less spoken word nights filled only with the friends of performers and failed bitter poets... less having to sit through a bunch of painful nonsense before getting to anything decent!

We need to connect the movement and establish a hierarchy of ability in performers to give progressing poets more to aspire to.

The US poets may aspire to be in Def Poetry Jam or a slot as a featured poet in the top Spoken Word nights or featured in a popular podcast or tour... these are the ingredients for progress.

If I didn’t know what Spoken Word was and I walked into some these nights I’d never have known its potential or value... some of the bollocks that’s displayed is putting off people that would actually make brilliant spoken word artists themselves and forcing the already well practiced spoken word artist to disassociate themselves with the overall movement... This is discrediting the art form.

Thank goodness the first nights I went to were filled with inspiring magic... but those nights were either in other countries, closed down or they're still going but they lost the spark)

Everyone seems too precious about their own space in a pond... forget the pond.. and even the garden... we live in a city.

I know it sounds a bit ranty and arrogant but the fact I see a lot of good spoken word artists who are good but would absolutely flourish with a strengthened, quality and well connected scene (myself included) is slightly disheartening. I’ve sat down with some mega talented poets and people to discuss how to keep this movement as progressive as possible and things are taking starter kicks.

I aim to bring the best Spoken Word artists together to contribute to the three nights I help run now. (Chill Pill, Try Poetry and Keats House Forum)

I aim in 2011 for all three of these events to serve testimony to the great talented poets, writers and performers we have in UK.

I’ve set up an i-tune podcast with Kaamil Ahmed for the best of the UK’s Spoken Word artists to let off some poems and do some interviews.

so far its rough and we're still smoothing it out and working out a format but there are 2 episodes with Musa Okwonga and Ruby Kid and one in the pipe-line with Indigo Williams) -

We need to get this movement connected.

Frustrated but enthusiastic spoken word artist.


Join the Chill Pill group if you haven't yet -

“I'm excited at the prospect of developing a platform that is driven by *quality* (which accommodates a variety of tastes and styles) rather than *access*, which is already well provided for in the performance poetry scene.

Such a platform would not undermine or compete with the current model, rather it would complement it by establishing a standard to which poets can aspire, and acting as motor to raise our expectations of what top-end performance poetry can look like.” –
Sian Robins-Grace

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Therapy in Spoken Word and Spoken Word in Therapy. A Conversation with Jasmine Cooray

My ex-girlfriend said to me she’d read in the paper "writing poetry is good for mental health"

Considering she has a degree in psychology it surprised me this was a revelation to her but apparently on a degree level art and psychology are never linked.

Recently I sat through a set of poetry by London based poet and Spoken Word artist Jasmin Cooray.

Jasmin captures something disturbingly beautiful in her work.

Some of it goes beyond bone to the marrow. She has a piece called ‘How The Tiger Got His Stripes’ which intensely explores self harm from a personal perspective.

She’s training to work in mental health and this led me to approach her to find out if the drive to get into mental health is connected to being a poet.

Hey Jasmine, ‘How The Tiger Got its Stripes' is a bold and a brilliant piece of work. I’d like to ask you if it was written for your own therapy and how does the line get drawn from a poetry reading/ performance and a public counseling session?

I wrote 'How the Tiger Got His Stripes' to tell a mishmash of stories. It contains a combination of moments of my own experience of self harm, partial fiction, and complete fiction. It would not be accurate to say it had a therapeutic function for me: my internal work around learning why I self harmed and how to cope with emotional difficulty in a healthier way came later, and continues. I didn’t ‘feel better’ after writing performing that piece, because it only contained some of my story. I don’t think you can do it halfway. People said it was a brave piece, but I think that is because it is uncomfortable to talk about spaces of vulnerability, and then, in front of an audience you increase that vulnerability. But I was emotionally detached from myself so it wasn’t therapeutic to perform personal work. What was nice was having people come up and talk about the significance the piece had for them, that it spoke for some part of them that was silent.

But it is a risk. An audience holds no guarantees: they owe you nothing, so you could receive compassion and sympathy or rejection and shock. To impose a demand for support on their audience, a performer would have to indulge in a serious illusion that their audience had an investment in them, and, on a more basic level, were listening. Most of the time, social guidelines mean that audiences display a basic level of respect. The convention is that they listen to you, but they could wander, switch off, chat. No one is obligated to really come with you into what you’re saying, because no one will pull them up later. On the flipside, there is also a wall between you which is protective, at least in this culture.

Counselling is about being listened to and supported. The only two similarities I can identify at this point between performance and therapeutic work are 1: having a space to say what you want to say and 2: having some form of validation, whether that is applause or someone showing that they are listening without judgment. The spaces are very different, though. Performance is often one-way, not interactive, often edited, not spontaneous, and it calls for approval rather than exploration. If you’re asking where the line is between the self indulgent and personal…who is at liberty to say? If we can take indulgence to mean taking beyond need ( ‘I will have another potato even though I am well fed’) then you could suggest that writing/performance that calls for the audience to do work the artist should be doing for themselves is indulgent. Often we can stimulate audiences to respond to us in particular ways, and take from them that way. For example, maybe I rarely use explicit humour in my work because I don’t like being laughed at. Maybe I use personal subject matter because the silence makes me feel I’m being listened to, which I need. I don’t think it is possible to always give yourself everything you need. Performance can be a go-between.

Therapeutic work and where it meets creativity is highly complex, and at the same time, extremely simple: we need to be heard, we need to find ways to be and survive, we need to work through difficulties. There isn’t one way. Each of our ways is different.

where should the lines be drawn between the poet and the poem or the art and the artist and can art be cathartic?

I wonder if it is possible or useful to draw a line between an artist and their work. The work does not come about by itself. Even if someone reads or hears a poem and doesn’t know of the writer or anything about them, what we write is born through our opinions, feelings, the patchwork that is woven of our experience. I love this: I want to meet the person in their work. Even if something is anonymous, it still holds the person who made it within it: the same way everyone makes a cup of tea a different way. Beyond this, I think it is up to the consumer how much importance they assign to the creator of something that they like or enjoy. Often the work means more to a person than the creator. For example, Michael Jackson often inspires the phrase ‘I don’t care what he might have done, he made great music’. In this case, whatever importance the listener places upon their enjoyment outweighs questions that challenge the integrity of the maker. But then we live in a society where denial courts convenience. It’s our choice whether we engage with the full picture that frames both artist and work, or choose to crop it according to our comfort level.

Considering the craft of writing poetry is largely to do with finding your own truth in your own voice how can this be achieved without becoming overly self conscious, egotistical or vain?

I think it depends on who you are. Some work relies on arrogance to carry it- but then the sacrifice can be a connection with the audience. A lot of people don’t care if they display inflated ego within their performance, it’s part of whom they are or what they want to present. That is for the onlooker to decipher. But we have to have some form of self-confidence to even get up there and share our work. In terms of truth: only we really know what is true and what is not. If we perform work that doesn’t fit with who we are, we can create a split in ourselves, so then the choice rears its head: stay in the cushioned safety of a persona or venture into yourself. If you are validated as a persona it is safe but meaningless. As yourself, the risk is bigger, but at least whatever comes your way is really for you, an at least your audience can trust you.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Raymond Tells The Truth (in free verse)

Looking down
my arms at my palms
where skin is blistered
yellow from weight I’ve lifted
feeling light because I’m strong.

Looking down
my torso at the tattoo
on the left side of my chest
that says something my dad
said to me
when his heartbreak became intense.

Looking down
my own legs at my feet
where land is cracked
and dry white from long walks
that cleared my head.

Looking down
my own belly
at the button
where gut feelings are fastened
by scars.

Looking down
my own pelvis
at my penis
Which is just another vulnerability
of mine.

only eyes on the inside walls
of my clothes
know how naked I am
when I’m not on stage.

here I am.

Looking further than the horizon, never seeing the sky as a ceiling

squinting eyes


I need to write to lift meteorites that...


my body is an environment
built with iron, asteroid shards
and protein shakes
so I can be the shape of superman
but I’m no hero

I cannot save time
without making it feel
and I cannot sleep next to
a woman
without creating the type of silence
That can’t be slept through.

But when I do get to dream I lighten up
and shake that shadow, see
I am a hero but only when my eyes close.

When I'm not a hero
I'm awake...
in a real life.

I cannot shy away from something
I have to facelift to look like I'm brave
although I know what it means to be weak and look
that way

there are too many women to impress that say...
they like their men to be men.

Back when I was a boy
I was so self-conscious I didn't see other people
I just saw other people seeing me.

When my voice broke
it wasn't how it sounded when it was inside me

some people say the voice they hear inside them
is God.

But I wouldn't trust my ears to hear God's voice
and even if I heard it correctly I'd be too cynical
to believe it.

Looking up my own dictionary
at the names I get when I'm rejected
by people I approve of.

Looking up footage my heart is heavy with -
I can't edit it.

Looking up my own love
at the best part
where arms lock -

and my heart learns a name it will know until it stops....