Why give away business cards when you can give away stickers?
Trying to change my online presence to my name to be a bit more “serious” and easier to find as a performer. So heads up, the Facebook page will (hopefully) soon change its name from Synth and the Void to Cynthia Rodríguez, with the URL kind of matching this URL now — cynthiarodriguezdotorg.
Twitter is @cynthiadotorg because lemgth is weird, but it’s the same concept.
So yeah, if you see me around, ask for a sticker to make your stuff look spiffy. ✨
Oli Page from Eye on Leicester sent me a few questions about being an artist living and loving in Leicester. This adoptive hometown of mine is more than disease and despair. It is art, innovation, hope and community, and I’m very proud of it.
The lovely folks from Leicester LGBT Centre invited me to judge their latest poetry contest for members of their social youth groups First Out (13-15 yrs), T Party (13-18 yrs trans kids) and Jump (16-18).
The topic was Pride, Progress & Change, inspired by work by Dean Atta and Musa Okwonga as published on the anthologies Proud(ed. Juno Dawson) and A Change is Gonna Come(ed. Mary Bello).
The “baby queers” from the centre are so close to my heart, as I have mentioned before when talking about the times I’ve given them workshops. They did not disappoint at all. Everyone’s work was powerful, honest, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but packed with a lot of soul and determination.
It was so, so hard to choose only five winners out of nine excellent entries to be rewarded with books supplied by Category Is Books (the best indie library in Britain!) to keep reading for inspiration and encouragement. I was relieved the runner-ups wouldn’t go empty handed and would get some nice notebooks to keep honing their craft.
To read all the entries, go to Leics LGBT Youth’s Instagram (cw: slurs, LGBTQ+phobia, but kept PG-13 and optimistic). Wonderful stuff.
Here’s something to look forward to once we’re hopefully coming out of our cage and doing… just… fine?
My debut poetry collection, Meanwhile, will be officially released on the 8th of October sidiosquiere. It will be available for presale on my shop quite soon (with some more related swag?) and on Burning Eye Books website once it’s out.
Anyway, here’s the cover. Made by yours truly a couple of months ago. It felt amazing going back to my art school collage/mixed media roots, trying to convey the book contents and also the feeling of life in between life – an example of which we are all living right now.
Some wonderful people I love and admire have read the book already and have a few things to say:
Cynthia Rodríguez unflinchingly turns a mirror to self, to Britain, what it means to be a migrant, a citizen. Fearful and fearless.
Dean Atta, The Black Flamingo.
Following in the Latin American tradition but (dis)placed in contemporary Britain, Cynthia Rodríguez cleverly blurs the lines between playful kitsch, deadpan humour and lightning flashes of poetic revelation.
Juana Ádcock, Manca.
In this confident and important debut, Rodríguez draws on heritage, culture and politics to sing a ‘Girl Electric’ – reframing and reclaiming a range of often marginalised experiences – to devastating, triumphant and compelling effect.
Lydia Towsey, The Venus Papers.
More stuff about the book, the making of it, and the ways to celebrate it will be coming your way.
My city is on the news as 866 new COVID-19 infections were confirmed in the first two weeks of June. That’s one quarter of Leicester’s total since the beginning of lockdown.
There were initially rumours about returning Leicester to lockdown, but now the proposal is to continue the current level of restriction (which is very low, to be fair) until 18th July, instead of 4th of July as in the rest of the country. But decisions can change by the minute.
Thinking about Liverpool in the 80s, for instance. Basically defunded for being Labour by a Tory federal government, used to opportunity to cause chaos and cost lives in the Hillsborough massacre, only to have the victims satanised and blamed by right-wing tabloids.
I’m afraid COVID-19 might be our Hillsborough.
While in nice comfy Clarendon Park I’ve seen a lot of people breaking the rules, most of the focal areas affected are actually working-class people of colour. Farhana Shaikh from Dahlia Publishing was tweeting earlier today that the spike seems to coincide with the Prime Minister’s order of reopening factories. And who works in factories, particularly Leicester factories? Working-class people of colour.
This is all very deliberate and targeted. The spike does not match with the BLM protests, which were made keeping distance and precaution. I couldn’t attend as I’m in a vulnerable group, but most people in the pictures were wearing masks and staying safe. Not the same can be said about “football” fans in London a couple of weeks ago trying to “protect statues” and “stop history from being erased” while zieg heiling at the cenotaph and pissing on plates dedicated to heroes who saved lives during terrorist attacks. That far-right meeting, by the way, also included anti-5G, anti-masks, anti-vax conspiracy theorists protesting along while chanting “All Lives Matter”. We still need to hear about the consequences of that one.
Either way, I’m fuming, but also willing to continue the lockdown (if not strengthened, to be fair) until it is safer and necessary. We need to make sure our people are safe, especially if they are also from the particular affected communities by this pandemic and this system.
UPDATE: poet Cathi Rae says something similar, but more eloquently and from her testimonial as someone who has lived and worked in those areas of the city.
Note: as a non-black person of colour, it’s not up to me to decide what will and won’t lead to black liberation. It is not up to me to call myself an ally either, since calling yourself an ally is a performative sign.The final decision lies on the people. This is just something I have observed online. And yes, I have done specific actions in support of BLM from quarantine, but I’m not talking about them because I don’t want a cookie for doing what needed to be done.
These past few weeks I have been keeping quiet over here because I felt my voice was not needed. I did not want to take up space via performative allyship, as this is the time for black liberation.
I had initially avoided to write about my support for Black Lives Matter because the general timeline was getting too crowded with nonblack individuals and corporations showing their support. In theory, this should be a really good thing: privileged people are using their social and economic capital to spread information on the often-lethal biased actions of the so-called “justice system” against black men, women and children across Western civilisation. A lot of them were posting black squares on their Instagram accounts to silence themselves using #BlackLivesMatter. However, the feeds were soon clogged with big dark silence, making it harder to find news and advice from actual black people and activists involved in direct action.
The same thing happened when the black squares were shared under #BlackOutTuesday: darkness, just darkness. Some users did get a hint and used the hashtag to amplify the work of black creators, but it would all still managed to drown in a sea of dark.
Recently, some celebrities shared a video montage of themselves looking upset about unspecified actions in the past — vaguely announcing they probably did racist jokes and comments back in the days — and promising to not just not do it again, but call out anyone who does it in their vicinity. Let’s see how long they remember. Some comedians, such as Leigh Francis, Matt Lucas and David Walliams, have apologised for the use of blackface in their successful comedy shows. In the case of Francis, it seemed quite counter-productive, leading to online rabid fans racially abusing Trisha Goddard, one of his most popular impersonations.
Other famous white people, such as Lea Michele, jumped on the BLM hype train without addressing their previous problematic behaviours, as if they never happened in the first place.
It’s all staged white noise and dark squares, and the murder of George Floyd is not fully avenged. The murder of Tony McDade is not fully avenged. The murder of Rayshard Brooks is not fully avenged. The murder of Breonna Taylor is not even avenged. Trayvon Martin’s murderer is free and going on dating platforms. Philando Castile’s murderer is free. Tamir Rice is not having a high school Zoom graduation.Eric Garner is not breathing.His daughter is not breathing either. Sandra Bland. Alton Sterling. Freddie Gray. Michael Brown. Stephon Clark. And these are only a few, in one country, a land where not everyone’s free and a home where the bravery of existing as the underdog is a threat.
Yesterday was the third anniversary of the Grenfell massacre. 72 people lost their breath. The overwhelming majority, black and brown migrants and their children. One of them, Khadija Saye, was a promising artist about to be displayed at the Venice Biennale and homaged by Tate Britain much later.
These black artists are only revisited after death and reap no fruits for their labour. Besides, it is not necessary to be an artist to be mourned. It is not necessary to be “an outstanding member of society” to be mourned. Not even the victims with criminal convictions deserved to die. Not even the disabled, the old, the children, the migrants with no papers who lived and died in that tower deserved this end.
Black people do not owe us talent, charisma, physical or mental work, in exchange for their survival and legacy. In fact, it is us who owe them plenty. We owe them a peaceful life, freedom, justice, reparations. We need to let them be and let them stay, and for that, we sometimes need to be quiet if we have nothing more to offer besides white guilt and black squares.
Adrian B. Earle (ThinkWriteFly) is one of the most active creators and promoters of poetry in the Midlands. VerseFirst is his multimedia portal in which through podcasts and videos he showcases voices from fellow poets across the region.
His latest podcast, Alone Together, is a very interesting project merging words and sounds in small, reflective moments, following a prompt that unites them from a distance.
I am fortunate enough to be featured on its second episode, Arboretum. The poem is called “East Midlands is for Lovers”, and it features Arboretum Park in Nottingham. The episode, less than 15 minutes long, also features work by Lerah Mae Barcenilla and Leila Khanem, threaded through a path of music and ambience by Earle himself. It does feel like a late night walk around an arboretum.
I’ll be reading a couple of pieces from Meanwhile, some old/new stuff and finally present my NaPoWriMo 2020 poem (this year I’ve been writing a couple of lines a day instead of a poem a day, resulting in a poem a week). So let’s see how it goes.
With the whole pandemic going on, this year’s Burning Eye Books releases are staggered. A lot of release parties postponed, cancelled or moved to online (again, gotta love an online event).
So, it looks like Meanwhile will be released in October instead of September. Will add more updates as time goes by, including book release party, tour, or whatever comes next. Smoke signal book tour? Message pigeon delivery service? We’ll see how this match of Civ VI our society is stuck in continues.
Take lots of care. Stay safe, wherever you are. Love you.
It’s my birthday today. 34 years old now, and we’re mostly celebrating indoors watching television and cuddling the cat.
Coincidentally, I got another present: my interview on Gem Kennedy’s Queers & Co. podcast is out now. For a bit more than half an hour, I talk to Gem about Anglophilia and soft power, racism in the queer punk scene, writing poetry, migration and so on . You should listen to it. While you’re at it, also listen to previous episodes with fabulous guests such as Cameryn Moore, Lady Blue Phoenix and Imogen Fox.