Tuesday 14 June 2011

Letter To A Friend

Dear Lawrence,

The guilt of letting silence speak for our friendship is visiting me again. It’s weird how people can get close then drift off, carrying each other’s secrets. I know if I had a self-portrait you would be a strong colour, a hard brush on my roughest patch. I know I owe you for seeing me through heartaches, breakdowns and self-doubts. It is a weird guilt because I don’t feel like I owe you an apology, I just feel like I owe you SOMETHING for the time and patience you’ve given me over 10 years of friendship.

I must have come off arrogant when I was developing my opinions on things and when I started to tune out of a lot of things that helped us bond. Rap music for example, we used to bump a lot of gangster rap but I moved away from most of it. I developed an ear for abstract, tongue twisting, poetic funk-lovin' emo rappers.

I let you borrow the albums I found inspiring and you returned them saying you didn’t like them. I gave you a CD of my raps and hoped to impress you. You never responded but your sister told me you thought my voice didn’t sound good. This I remember was the first dent in our friendship.

I quit my job as a full time personal trainer and started a career as a performance poet. I went on the dole and even borrowed money off you at times to keep myself afloat. As time went on, I wasn’t making any money off my poetry and you’d make remarks about how you pay taxes so people like me can run around calling themselves artists.

Of course, you work long hours as a train driver on the northern line. You are a dad to a little boy and you embrace that responsibility. Beautiful, I admire that, and I must have come off rather arrogent when criticising your parenting.

I was in the backseat of your girlfriend’s car with your son. He turned to me, jabbed me in the arm with his tiny three-year-old fist and said, “Fuck you Ray” and you and your girlfriend laughed your heads off. I got offended and said, “I don’t think a three year old should do that” and you, of course got defensive as you would, I’m not a dad so who am I to comment on you as parents? … I got it… but I know this was the final kick from the wall.

I was remembering how we referred to each other as brothers and how sincere that was. I remember feeling guilty for our fading connection, as it was me that was changing, you were pretty much the same.

I went travelling for 7 months, I experimented with drugs; I became a performer and got into different genres of music and literature. This made me into a new character… one that needed more feeding from people with minds heading in my direction. I had a new type of hunger for knowledge and experience but felt like your complacency with what you know frustrated me. This again, must have made me come off really arrogant. I’m sorry.

Not everyone needs to have wild dreams and curiosities, in fact at times I wish for a simpler existence. One that doesn’t define it’s worth by what it creates and how many people its approved by.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with people having no major ambition. There’s nothing wrong with people working 9-5 and enjoying their weekend. Maybe it’s me, I’m the one poisoned with disillusionment.

Maybe I over think things, maybe I’m too sentimental and I expect too much from humanity. Maybe, I’ve been looking in broken mirrors and expecting myself to look better than everything else reflected in them. Maybe I’m floating around like a restless spirit when life is about sitting down and being still with the little peace you can find.

I’m constantly in need of fuel for creativity and when it isn’t there I feel worthless. Is that crazy?

Maybe I need to go somewhere and just let a sunset be a sunset and a friendship be a friendship.

I hope you don't think of me as arrogant or ungrateful for years of loyalty as a best friend.

Much love to you and the family.

Ray. x

Frank O'Hara

What a big piece of wank poetry can be.

I've been trying to work on some new pieces for a while and the pressure of consistently turning out quality gets at you!

Also, I've had a number of rejections from publications recently and that grates your confidence. I was asked to submit 6 of my favourite poems and I couldn't... I feel like I've never written a good poem in my life.

So, I've decided to stop writing for a while... do something else...and you know, I'm enjoying my time away from the desk...

Finding this poem by Frank O'Hara cheered me up some.

Why I Am Not a Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Are performers crazy?

Performers – it’s true. We are completely and utterly insane. There is no escape from this. Think about it… the intensity of pre-show nerves is every “DON’T FUCKING DO IT!” symptom your body can give. You shake, you shit, you throw up, you piss, you sweat… shit man, we become one big disease crumble.. yet, we have some inner lunacy battling though these very human instincts. The dream of being acknowledged, validated, idolised, self-employed etc wins… almost every time. This is not a criticism but we performers are complete masochists and our audiences are complete narcissists, seeking out pain and pleasure in others and connecting only to what they see (or want to see) in themselves.

I’ve performed a lot of shows this year and you know, some of them went very well… The tour I did in Chicago has changed quite a few things about me as a writer/performer. Most of the top Chicago poets I met are out of performing arts schools, creative writing academies and have every bit of paper that suggests they are a lot smarter than me.

I haven’t been to drama school, university or even college. I left school at 16 with four GCSE’s. Pretty much everything I’ve learned about performance and writing has been from my own research. I owe a lot to Wale Ojo who is a renowned Nigerian actor and director who came up to me after a show and said “you are a good writer but not a very good performer… you need work” and then taught me in just one workshop how better to approach the stage. Breathe, articulate, understand who you are talking to and most importantly… enjoy yourself… see it, believe it and your audience will too.

I just read Bill Hick’s biography and found it deeply inspiring.

Bill Hick’s stage persona was an anti-establishment, social-reformist, critical thinker, spoken word artist and comic. He got a big break by being asked to do a set on David Letterman’s talk show (one of the most popular in America). Bill gears up and performs his strongest set to date, talking in the book about all the nerves that rattle your body in pre-show mode, he smacks his set, the studio audience loved him and Letterman himself is in fits of laughter. It’s a proud moment for him. He goes home and sits in a hot bath to unwind and congratulate himself only to receive a phone call to say he’s been cut from the show due to censorship issues. This hurt him so much he called his mum with tears in his eyes shouting “MUM THEY CUT ME! WHY DON’T THEY SEE… THEY’RE JUST JOKES!?” this shows one of the most popular out-spoken/ anti-establishment performers of the 90’s being rejected by (drum roll) brrrrrmmmmm THE ESTABLISHMENT! ... and it cut deeply into him.

Man, Bill Hicks was crazy.

I’ve asked myself a few times why I do what I do? … I want to be heard. I want to promote a form of entertainment that engages people emotionally and intellectually through this weird and wonderful thing called language. It's amazing to me that we live in an age of gloss machines constantly flashing their lights, yet, we can give Spoken Word shows where audiences are engaged and transfixed by one person and their stories/rhythms/persona.

I want to provide an alternative to the numb, gutless brain of mainstream media… it's amazing how many people think there is no other way. Overall I think I do this because I am completely and utterly insane.



I also owe a lot to other insane people like Musa Okwonga, Joshua Idehen, Mista Gee and Niall O'Sullivan.

Niall booked me for his book launch after my second ever gig (or display of madness) and he encouragement my insanity. I told Niall recently "you are one of the only people who said I could have a career in poetry" and he said "poetry!? I thought you wanted to be a tobacconist"

P.P.S Here's a list of up coming gigs (hyperlinks included)

Brizzlemania w/ Byron Vincent this Wednesday

One Taste hosted by Paradox 19th June

London Literature Festival with PoeJazzi at London Southbank. July 1st

Chill Pill at The Albany w/ Bohdan Piasecki, Hollie Mcnish, Joshua Idehen. 9th July

The Word House w/ Zena Edwards. 16th July.