Tuesday 26 July 2011

Conversation With A Homeless Man On Shoreditch High Street

Yeah bruv, no one’s giving today. People get fuckin’ miserable when it’s raining, it’s like the sky takes the sun right out the people. Ya know, people think you got to be dumb to end up homeless, but look at these people bruv, any of them can end up smelling like the shit they walk into. Even my dad said be careful of women, they fuck you up bruv, alcohol and drugs were invented by men trying to run a woman out their skin. Nuff men top themselves over women, I get it, trust me bruv. If I could start over you know what I’d do? I’d leave the crazy bitches alone and I’d learn three words a day in another language. Within three years I’d speak five languages, there’s a lot of money in language translation bruv. I got a daughter ya know. Beautiful little girl, I don’t see her cause’ the mum fucked me off. Bruv, you ever felt your heart in someone else’s hands? Women don’t have finger nails bruv, just blood and fucking claws. I shouldn’t be thinking about this shit too much, you can’t think yourself happy bruv. I had a mate who read a lot of books, he was into that radical black shit about Africa and shit. My man went fucking psycho, shot two policemen on his doorstep then shot himself, it was the books bruv, he went fucking mad. I got two books, the dictionary and the bible. Yeah, there’s this barber shop I go to and they cut your hair for free if you say you believe in God. Bruv, I walk in there holding my bible so I can get a free shave too, they say I got to look good for God. I think its bullshit though, I just want a free cut in case I see my daughter. Wouldn't want her to see me looking like this. Anyway, bruv, you got any change?
The sun has come out.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Q&A With Chicago Based Poet Robbie Q Telfer

Robbie Q Telfer was recently voted best local poet in Chicago. However, he isn't really one to place himself over his peers... unless his peers are miniatures... or wrinkly dried up sausages.

He's an accomplished performer of poetry and prose, having published two collections through Derrick Brown’s ‘Write Bloddy Press’.

He's Co-Founder of The Encyclopaedia Show (Winner of a 2010 Orgie Theatre Award) and director of Young Chicago Authors. I was fortunate enough to hang out with him in Chicago and have been itching to interview him for the shapes and disfigurements blog since...

Also, Robbie described me as “the nicest Brit since Margret Thatcher” which I now use for my character references.

Q. Robbie! Now, in your book there is a quote which goes “I know that men are won over less by the written word than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to great orators and not great writers... The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone” - that's a Hitler quote man... I quoted it on my facebok and it upset a lot of people. “RAY! Are you quoting Hitler to push your agenda as a spoken word artist? you MONSTROUS insensitive bastard, nazi, prick etc” can you explain your own significance of that “infamous Raymond Antrobus facebook status?”

A. well, as an american, i definitely have a different relationship to hitler than brits, so that could be part of the touchy nerves there. but i use that quote to put forward the idea that spoken word has great power, and because of who said it, that power can do some pretty horrible things if used unethically. in small ways, it's important for spoken word artists to remind themselves that they can manipulate audiences, and it's up to the individual artist to manipulate for good or for hitler.

Q. You describe many stand up comics as your major influences. Is there a relationship between you being a stand up and a poet?

A. well, i'm not a stand-up comedian. stand-up audiences are sometimes much meaner than poetry audiences. whereas poetry audiences generally want you to succeed, stand-up audiences dare you to succeed. you risk much less when you say "i'm going to make you feel" than when you say "i'm going to make you laugh." that said, my brother is a stand-up and i grew up listening to stand-ups on actual records. i believe i get much of my timing from comedians, and i think that the best stand-ups are artists like any other genre, and everyone is just trying to figure out how to move audiences. i feel like the best poets have the stage presence of stand-ups. 

Q. You say Slam poetry competitions are meaningless... isn’t that easy to say as someone who’s already accomplished in that arena? Isn’t Slam helping develop young poets / popularise spoken word as an artform etc?

A. i don't think i would say the competitions are meaningless ever. if you got me quoted as saying that, then i was probably reacting to something in the moment. i think that winning a slam is meaningless, especially in relation to all the other great reasons to become a spoken word artist. it just feels like to me that people who take the competition too seriously are delusional and uninteresting artistically. slam is a game, like scrabble, and although there are national competitions of scrabble, and there are winners, the function of playing scrabble is not to know who the best scrabble player is, it's to connect with loved ones and laugh together. i mean, there are definitely hardcore scrabble players, but playing with them is no fun at all.

Q. Name one object that isn’t a piece of art and tell us why that object doesn’t qualify as “art”?

A. hmmm, this feels like a trap. i'm not sure i'm concerned with "art" and "not art." there are things i like, and there are things i don't like. i suppose art need only proclaim itself to be art, which initiates a communication. it is up to me as audience, then, to apply my own perspective to deem the communication engaging or not. 

Q. Why should people still care about poetry? Surely if there is one group of people society doesn’t need its poets.

A. definitely. i would love to start over. a big flood where we wash all the poets away and fill a big boat with only the creatures needed. the L_A_N_G poets' ark invitations would get lost in the mail. its exhausting weeding through the politicians, opportunists, capitalists, charlatans, gate-keepers, and douche bags to get to the stuff that was created exactly for my particular tastes.

but you know, it's not THAT exhausting. poetry, this peculiar way of speaking, can jar your mind into new ways of seeing the universe, and the more ways you see the universe and (hopefully) feel your tiny role in that big place, the less likely you are to hurt another person. poetry has the capacity to claw at evil, and we need all the help we can get.

Q. Why is imagination important?

remember being a kid and you were brought to some kind of maddening playground apparatus? remember throwing your whole body into it with little regard for the physical repercussions, possibly because in that bizarre place anything could happen? you were untethered to the millions of sorrows and newton's laws that cling to our clothes outside that park. a lovely afternoon. you sleep hard that night.


Also, buy his book. Spiking The Sucker Punch. It's very good! - http://writebloody.com/store/

Monday 18 July 2011

Word House with Dave Flowz, myself and Zena Edwards

Did a really fun gig at The Word House on saturday... I know, right? poetry on a SATURDAY!? and it was packed... with lots of very attractive people around... However, I didn't get laid... but I did get paid.

Here's a write up on the night itself -


Pics by Zofia Walczak

Don't forget Chill Pill (one of London's biggest Spoken Word showcases) is back at Soho Theatre on Aug 1st.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Love Poem From A Red Traffic Light To A Cyclist

I'm a cyclist. I couldn't live in London without my bike. I also hardly ever stop at red lights (unless there's police about). Today while jumping a red light I suddenly had the thought that red lights must be frustrated with all the cyclists ignoring it... I mean, it's a light with a good intension and no wants to feel unappreciated... I actually stopped and sat by the side of the road and wrote this little poem into my notebook... work in progress.

Love Poem From A Red Traffic Light To A Cyclist

I am a colour you do not want to cross
but I see you riding out into traffic like it's a sunset,
or an open road
or a good place to die.

When I show up
all you have to do is know what it means
to be a red light.


because if love had a licence
you'd have points for speeding,
points for passing me by.

I want you to break for me.

I do not want you to GO.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Raymond Antrobus & Byron Vincent LIVE in Bristol plus Chill Pill NEWS.

This was a great gig I did in Bristol a couple months ago with Jack Dean, Vanessa Kisuule and Byron Vincent. Here's my opening poem...

Speaking about CHILL PILL... NEXT SHOW is on the 1st AUG 2011 at Soho Theatre... speaking of Soho Theatre we're CONFIRMED for another year run in 2012. YAY!

Friday 8 July 2011

In My Own Time

I sent out tweets for people to send me images to write poems to. Today's picture was sent by the superb Sean Mahoney.

when I forget how it feels to remember you
I don’t know where you will go, but I think
I will remember you again when I’m old,
I’ll be staring at my feet in a hospital waiting room
and I will somehow, for no apparent reason
remember the picture I am holding now,
the one I’m about to throw out,
taken one night, sitting on the pavement
under a street light,
its a picture of your right foot and my left,
it means that at our best,
our feet carried the same body.

Until we scraped our shoes
with different roads.

this picture spent summer next to my window
as if competing with the landscape, and now
that summer of mine still belongs to you.

Anything that makes you happy is worth keeping,
But I don’t need this photo.

I know you will come back
in your own way
in my own time.

Monday 4 July 2011

Derrick Brown in London (This September)

One of North America's most prolific performance poets is coming to London on 21st September to do a show that I'll be putting on.

Here's an early introduction and a trailer for his film on being a poet that EVERYONE needs to check out.

Sunday 3 July 2011

Performing Poetry and Meeting Craig Charles at The Mostly Jazz Fest

One of the best things about being a poet is the random opportunities you get. I mean, it could come from anywhere... Radio, Film, Theatre, Animation, Publishing, Advertising etc although this kind of flimsiness comes with its uncertainties and sometimes you just don’t know when next to expect (PAID) work and this creates anxiety.

Today I was in Birmingham for the Mostly Jazz Festival. The poetry, as usual with festivals took place in a small tent in the corner of a field... away from the main stage but still close enough to hear how many more people appreciate bands. If the festival was a school playground the poetry tent would be the nurse’s room for kids isolated for having a contagious disease. For years poets have popped their heads out their small poetry tents with scorn, glaring out across the felid at the crowd of hearts and knickers at the feet of musicians and singers.

“Honestly, a strong poet with a strong poem could hold that stage” I found myself saying to Birmingham based poet Jodi Ann Bickey. (she was the only other poet on the bill on that day) She agreed... but she’s a poet... so of course she will.

“If we just had someone from outside the scene with a genuine love and understanding for what we do we’d be able to access more people and mediums.”

Then I thought about someone I was introduced to recently, Kieran Yates who is a freelance journalist and is responsible for the Spoken Word write up in the metro last week. This has given some of us a cookie with the hope of milk.

Anthony Anaxagorou said to me the other day how little poets actually support each other. His ‘If I Told You’ Video has had over 3000 views and only five poets or so have blogged it or put it on their facebook. We’re running around dreaming we’re going to be the ones to popularise spoken word but it’s going to take more than one poet to do it. FACT.

Anyway, I got sidetracked... I met Craig Charles at the festival and asked him about his interview with Gil Scott Heron. I asked him if he felt like he was interviewing a broken man... “yeah” said Craig “a strong spirit in a broken body. I’m pretty sure it was the AIDS/HIV that took him in the end”

I didn’t know how to carry on the conversation from there.. I just said something like.. “I love Gil’s last album” ...then I was tempted to say “I fucking love Red Dwarf!” but thought better of it.

Back at the poetry stage with Jodi Ann Bickley, we had two time slots. Our first was at 1pm, we had about 10 people sitting on plastic chairs having a rest and most of them looking like they were thinking about something else while we performed... perhaps Eastenders or when the football season is starting again... but the second set at 4pm was good. There was a moment of silence between the songs from bands on the main stage and it felt like if we had something profound to say that’s when it should drop.

“HEY EVERYONE! When you’re an alcoholic, being sober is just another word for THIRSTY!”

I felt a sudden connection with the audience at one point of the “between song main stage silence” and I even heard a “oh’ this ain’t bad” from one man sitting on the grass by the stage... but he might have been talking about his beer.

I got into a conversation with one of the stewards working at the festival. He saw me and Jodi do our poetry and came over. “Hey, enjoyed your poems guys”. Giving compliments to me can be like giving bananas to a monkey with no hands. I just don’t know what to do with them... but I know I want them and anyone that says they don’t are lying filth!

“Hey, I’ve got something that’ll make you jealous Ray” said the steward, a middle aged man with a face like a battered pillow. He got out his wallet and showed me a picture of a black, yellow eyed African woman. “That’s my wife” he said, “very nice!” I told him... although the picture looked more like a mug shot of a woman who’s just been caught with a kilo of cocaine.

Then he showed me another picture, this time of a little girl with an even darker complexion. “And this is my daughter” said the steward who by the way was white... in fact, very white with blue eyes.

The picture also looked like a mug shot but of a little girl who is promised sweets if she lets a stranger take her picture.

He goes on to tell me his wife and daughter are Gambian Muslims who have embraced him as their own and how his wife keeps failing the British citizenship tests so he can’t make their marriage official yet but he’s paying for her to re-sit it. “no shit” I said politely. Jodi looked at me and tried not to laugh.

Now I’m on the train back to London writing this and thinking about inventing a phrase that describes the difficulty of trying to write when a very attractive person is sitting opposite you. It’s crazy how self conscious you get in those moments... I’ve caught myself pouting my lips each time I turn my head to see my reflection in the train window... I’m going to slyly take her photo and show her off as my new wife when I get home.

Friday 1 July 2011

Head In My Voice

Chapter one of how to be a poet says all poets must find their voice.

I went to America, figuring
if I put my voice where it stands out
I’d have more chance of finding it.

I walked into diners with the prettiest waitresses,
sure to order a Full English Breakfast and ask

Does that come with tea?

They’d heard voices like mine in the movies.

I like your accent they’d say

To which I’d reply

Hi I’m Ray... as in Ray Winston

Ray Davis?


Ah ok, Ray as in Ray Charles.

like my voice was a new lover I introduced to everyone.

Grinning they’d ask:

Can you say Bollocks that’s bloody brilliant!?

I’d say
Bollocks that’s bloody brilliant!

Then the waitresses would tell me their names and if they didn’t say something like

I’m Amy as in... Do you want to sleep with me?

My voice wouldn’t care.

Because it was becoming proud,
It used to keep to itself but now
It wants to get out more. It wants me to repeat
everything it says.

I’d had no dreams for years.

Suddenly I was in one every night
doing voiceovers in all of them.

The Americans would hear me speak and ask if my voice
could provide the directors commentary to their lives.

I even dreamt I met Barack Obama and he accepted
The Nobel Peace Prize in my voice.

But within four days I stopped pronouncing the T in water.

I was losing the language of my voice.

It was time to leave America.

back in the UK I pronounced the T in water but lost the T in “later

I’m not sleeping with many women anymore.

British women get very jealous when I talk about myself.

They ask
if the sound of my voice replaced all my ex-lovers?

My voice started to make my face feel inadequate.
I started wishing I only existed as a radio personality.

I’ve stopped talking in my dreams.

I go home alone most the time
so I can write really long poems
just to prove I have a lot to say.