On Thursday 12th September, I’ll have the privilege of opening for fabulous, kaleidoscopic, multimedia British-American performer La JohnJoseph. They will bring their show A Generous Lover to Attenborough Arts Centre.
The true, and very queer tale, of one soul’s journey through the wasteland of mental illness, to deliver their lost love. Selected as one of The Scotsman’s top 10 pick of Edinburgh Fringe 2018. La JJ has presented performance work across the UK including the Royal Opera House, Bristol Old Vic, HOME and the Southbank Centre, as well as internationally.
“Both campy and moving, this story of love and insanity mixes humor with pathos.” – The New York Times
“Elegant, incisive and intoxicating …powerfully mobilises the distinctive forms and sensibilities that make them such a rich, compelling artist” – The Scotsman
“Horrifying and funny and defiantly beautiful” – Frieze
La JJ has presented performances at the Royal Opera House, Deutsche Oper, Bristol Old Vic, Barbican, Schaubühne (Berlin), Art Basel Hong Kong, MoMA (SF), Dixon Place (NY), Martin-Gropius Bau (Berlin), Fancy Him (Tokyo), La Java (Paris) & MAC (Rio). They have also joined such luminaries such as Justin Vivian Bond, Taylor Mac, Arcade Fire and Paloma Faith onstage.
La JJ is the author of five plays, including “Boy in a Dress” (2012) and “A Generous Lover” (2018) which will be published in a joint volume by Oberon in Sept 2019. La JJ’s book, “Everything Must Go” was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize and a Lambda Literary Award. They are currently writing the follow-up.
The past month was a month of losses and disappointment. This month, I am trying to regain my strength, sense of self and trust in other people. Therefore, I am spending it with those who believe, listen, communicate and fight side by side as allies and colleagues.
Last night, I went to see a couple of really good eggs perform Upstairs at the Western. Charles Wheeler and Rosa Fernandez are staples of the Leicester spoken word and poetry scene. So it was really pleasant to see them on their own presenting new and old work for 45 minutes each.
Charles Wheeler successfully completed this year’s National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) challenge in April. He wrote, more or less, one poem a day, partially following prompts but mostly following a main topic. NaPoWriMo happens to coincide with Autism Awareness Month, and Charles is autistic. Thus, the poems are about autism from the point of view of an autistic person. These poems deal with misunderstandings, coping mechanisms, the struggle of survival when the world bombards you through all five senses, well-meaning and ill-meaning neurotypical strangers, researchers who treat the autistic community like lab rats, and violently dreadful puppet shows.
Charles is loud, passionate, and you live – or at least try to — through his words. Wrestling references, science, left-leaning (more like compassionate, I’d say) politics and being “extremely online”. I stand by my back cover quote where I say that he “is one of about five cis men I wouldn’t happily kill”.
Rosa Fernandez is also an outstanding performer and writer. She goes to almost every poetry night in town and charms people from all walks of life with her wit and sass. She has a lot of fun with metric challenges, particularly haikus, and actually released a small haiku scene last year. You can get them from her wherever you find her. She can also deliver sonnets, villanelles and pretty much any other type of metric poem you suggest.
On stage, Rosa is charming and multifaceted. Her show is about her daily routine of “eat, sleep, work (from home, sometimes), repeat”. She plays the ukulele. She reads your future. She gives you biscuits as she sings you a lullaby. She agrees that Jaffa Cakes are cakes and not biscuits, but still brings them anyway. Her slippers are glittery, so I reckon she can walk into the Met Ball wearing them.
David from Upstairs at the Western challenged Charles and Rosa to do a collective piece. So, at the end of the show, they did a round of Cards Against Humanity but change the name to David Against Humanity and the answer to everything was “David made us do it”. So David is guilty of everything, from you losing your virginity to the end of the world. But he is the most guilty (or innocent?) of hosting such excellent poetry and performance art shows in Leicester in such a homely venue.
Something I really, really love about poets like Charles and Rosa is that not only do they speak their truth, but they are still eager to learn and share. Constantly honing their craft, not afraid of asking for advice and not hoarding their wisdom and skills away from others. They are well-rounded people on and off stage, and I am very proud to still consider them friends even after a lot of community earthquakes. They have their head on their shoulders but their eyes on the skies. They talk and they listen. They love a challenge. They have ambitions and dreams, but they still remember who they are and where they come from. A lot of local, national, and international performers could learn from that.
Whenever you can, please read their stuff. Go to open mics and poetry events in your area. Go to workshops and hangouts if you can afford them. If not, ask for concessions. Get their zines in the flesh (in the paper?) or read them online.
Sometimes I low key miss the days in which wealthy families gave housing, food and money to artists in exchange of portraits and decoration. Or when posh people were pals with writers and let them stay in their house, gulp absinthe and write sonnets in the mountains.
But you don’t need to be a Medici or a Lord Byron to help a caffeinated creator survive.
I got a Patreon account and at the moment I don’t know much about what to do with it. If you pledge to give small amounts of money per month, I can email you about life and we can talk and share advice and whatever. Once I start getting more into undisclosed projects, I can let you sneak a peak or something.
Just click on this link and choose your perk:
I still have a ko-fi account apparently, if your thing is more of a one-off. I haven’t updated my website address in there, but if you want to buy me a cuppa, it’s cool.
If you just want to give and being a selfless sugar parent is your thing, there’s always PayPal, and you can just click on that word. 🙂
To those who came to see my set at Manchester Punk Festival: thank you so much! It was a wonderful weekend of music, poetry and pals. It was great that y’all managed to get to The Thirsty Scholar on time to see me share some old and new stuff. I was staying in a cosy attic in Hebden Bridge, and while the place was so lovely and cuddled up amongst green hills and cute dogs, I underestimated how far it would be and how difficult public transportation could get, so I barely made it on time to my own show. But I made it!
Highlights of the weekend as copypasted from twitter:
Saturday: yer da getting through their word set, @beehartyeah being unashamedly pop (which is punk af tbh fire me), coffee pilgrimage and records with @onsind, and @CrywankBand bringing on the doot doots 🎺🎺🎺🎺
Honorific discovery mentions to @BeffernieBlack for living The Real L Word life with tenant girlfriend, fixing her dad’s laptop in France and Actually Looking Good with a Bieber haircut; @munciegirls because fuck Jeremy Clarkson; and @TheHardAches with good ol’ school OZ emo. 👍
I missed Sunday because of the trains, so I chilled at the Hebden market before coming back straight to Leicester. It was lovely except for that old dyke who wouldn’t eat anything from the Greek stall because it wasn’t English. So I had a chickpea curry pasty on the train. Someone’s gotta eat that delicious foreign food, so I volunteered as tribute.
ANYWAY. Back in Leicester.
This Wednesday, 1st of May, I am opening for Hannah Swings at Upstairs at The Western. She has a book called This Dress Has Pockets. Best kind of dress. She also coached Birmingham Uni for UniSLAM last year and not only helped the team win, but won at CoachesSLAM. Great stuff. Come and watch her. And me. And Rubies & Duels. £8, £6 concessions. Gonna do a more or less similar set to MPF with oldies and newbies, so if you missed that, this is your time for redemption I guess. Wink wink.
Punk is not just three chords, spiky hair and badly sewn black patches. Punk, above all, is ethos. Out and loud, no middle men, making it work with what you’ve got against a mainstream current that gives advantage to oppressors. Honesty, no fucks given, actual free speech, in unity and solidarity with those who get the short end of the stick. Breaking the law that needs to be broken.
So you can be punk in music. In comedy. In art. In poetry and performance. And I’ve been invited to do the latter at Manchester Punk Festival 2019 in a couple of weeks. The festival takes place on Easter Weekend (19-21 April ) through different venues across the Deansgate/Oxford Road area.
The poetry people will be at The Thirsty Scholar every day during the early afternoon. On Friday, you will get to see and hear the words of Geneviève L. Walsh, the best goth in Halifax. Before her, you can see Martin Appleby from Paper and Ink Zine, and Kit Rayne from Umbrella Poetry.
I will be performing on Saturday 1:30pm sandwiched between the open mic (come and read your stuff) and the fantastic Bridget Hart. So if you like bespectacled heartbroken fem/mes in their 30’s who love Sleater-Kinney and their friends, we are your people.
On Sunday, you can see the colourful Suky Goodfellow all the way from Scotland, writer and facilitator Simon Widdop, and stage organiser Henry Raby from Say Owt. Great stuff.
Of course you can still go for the lols and for the music. And the atmosphere, food, and so on and so on. Some band queens got together and are releasing a special edition beer if you want to try.
Besides performing and being a spoken word dork, I will be seeing a few acts and bands. Looking forward to see Martha, Rachel Fairburn, Suggested Friends, Charmpit (been meaning to catch them for aaaaages), Big Joanie, The Winter Passing, Fresh, Cheerbleederz, Perkie and Crywank. Plus whatever I get to discover in between.
The full lineup, plus some tips about enjoying both the festival and the city, are available now on the Manchester Punk Festival website.
Previously, I told you I would talk more about neurodivergency later, so here is that later.
As I’ve said before, I am doing a part-time Master’s Degree because I felt like doing a full-time one would be too much work, specially since I hadn’t been in Higher Education for ages and I needed some time to get used to learning again. Re-learning, one would say.
I have been through a lot since then, and I felt like I left a chunk of my brain rotting in a cupboard in a past life. Reading is now more difficult than when I was 18 gulping Sartre’s Nausea in five days while listening to ISIS (the band) on my discman, sitting on a comfy couch at the multicultural centre at seven in the morning. Now it takes me hours to get out of bed and if it wasn’t for my cat, I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. Or at all.
Words are confusing. Music is distracting. Senses overload. I soak up too much information at the same time while understanding, digesting and producing is slow and painful. Even writing this feels like dragging myself through the North Pole, snow up to the knees. Making things make sense to me is complex. Making my things make sense to you is a lot worse. It’s like chewing up, swallowing, chewing up, swallowing, spitting out, then having to chew it up again because it’s shite.
The disability department at DMU did some screenings at the start of first term. I went to take them to see what this was all about. If it was just good ol’ PTSD and shock doctrine regressing me into a toddler stage. I took a dyslexia group screening and an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder interview. I was already diagnosed with ADHD in Mexico around three years ago and had some extensive research done when I was four years old which showed that while I was bright, it would take me ages to reach that stage of brightness because I was away with the faeries and basically a fucking changeling jumping into a swimming pool wearing a pretty dress in October. But the NHS was taking none of this. They probably think I went to a witch doctor — I didn’t, but so what if I did.
After these initial tests at uni, I went through deeper tests. A lot of the exercises reminded me of the ones I took when I was a child. I could almost say they were fun. I loved the one where you look through the yellow pages while counting the beeps on a telephone. Maybe that’s why I love writing while listening to podcasts now? See, while it might take me a while to not be an executive dysfunctional tadpole, I like multitasking. Just don’t ask me to do it RIGHT NOW. Don’t ask me for perfection, because I already beat myself over achieving perfection in every way. Ask for things, but not too soon. “They’re not enchiladas”, we would say.
Some other testing parameters, like questionnaires and therapy talk, were a lot more painful. I think I cried in a few of them. Sam, the ADHD therapist, poked so many sore points and put some TCP on the wounds. It stung like a bastard, but it helped to heal somehow. It made clumsiness, confusion and patterns make more sense.
Early this year I got the results confirming ADHD and dyslexia. Of course I wish circumstances were easier, but it is such a relief to know what is going on. Not only that, but to know that the school is on my side. They have Assistive Technology and tutors are a lot more lenient about deadlines and note-taking. I have been taking a lot of workshops and learning to use some software. I’m still waiting for news about this, but I might even be eligible for some extra studying assistance and devices.
I am also in the queue for counselling and therapy because of my regular dysthymia and emo drama. ADHD and dyslexia are more neurological and about the wiring of the brain. The dysthymia/mood issues are more psychological and psychiatric. They are not related to each other, but they certainly don’t help each other. We’ll see how it goes.
I still need to be more lenient on myself and don’t be so self-judgmental. I have friends, family and people who love me no matter what. I have accomplished quite a lot. Going through these tests, for instance, knowing that I could have just called deuces and quit everything. I still went through and still go through. Walking through the snow, side by side with a Saint Bernard dog carrying a keg of brandy across their neck.
Gee, I haven’t been here in a g e s. Last time I wrote something was in October, which more or less happens to match with the time I started my Master’s Degree in Cultural Events Management at De Montfort University.
After my last adventure into Higher Education — a full-time Master’s in History of Art at Bristol University around eight years ago — , I decided to take it “lightly” this time and do it on a part-time basis: two years instead of one, two subjects per term instead of four. However, while DMU is really good at practical and creative courses, it is also really, really, really strict. Assignments that have to follow certain parameters, high emphasis on primary research (e.g. interviews, surveys, observation) rather than secondary (e.g. books, journals, the Internet). I love it, but it kicks my arse, but I love it, but it kicks my arse.
The great news is that through constant one-on-one tutorials and library workshops, they basically take your hand and teach you how to go through each process. More efficient research, formatting, time management, and so on. And if you’re neurodivergent — I’ll talk more on this later —, they have brilliant Assistive Technology and can be a bit more lenient about deadlines and note-taking.
One of the loudest words of advice from my tutor was to get into the habit of reflective journaling. Writing a few words each day about lectures, interesting stuff I find out, life in general, to get used to spill letters quicker and stronger. This should be easy, considering the fact that I do a lot of poetry and songwriting in general, but I’m also an executive dysfunctional self-loathing machine who lets a lot of excuses get on the way. The biggest excuse of them all, asking myself “why bother, no one’s gonna read it”.
Last minute, I gave a poetry workshop at Leicester LGBT Centre on Thursday, in order to commemorate the National Poetry Day. It was oriented to teenagers from the First Out group, including members from the lesbian, gay, bisexual an trans community who are currently doing college, sixth form and first year of uni. Something I wish existed back in my days, back in my hometown, where a lot of us were stuck in the closet or else we could get extra bullied because somehow, sometimes, everybody knows you’re bent. Everybody knows but you.
Either way, it’s nice to see how these kids have freedom of learning, expressing themselves, seeking guidance and expressing themselves.
They did a few exercises on the past, present and future of poetry. Writing about being themselves way back in the past. Even using their imagination to imagine they’re gay dinosaurs. Writing about their favourite shows, books, music artists. One of them wrote an excellent puny poem called “Eastbenders”. As an EastEnders fan, it made me cry with laughter. These kids are great at their memes, love Steven Universe and American Horror Story, and relate to the same colourful and painful stuff we relate to. They’re basically pint-sized versions of ourselves and we should respect them and let them speak, learn, live.
And like back in the days, some of them were really into yaoi. But instead of imagining threesomes in Inu Yasha, they have very real canon queer stories on Yuri on Ice. Like when Ranma 1/2 made us realise we were trans, and Revolutionary Girl Utena and Madoka Magica made us aware that we were sapphic af.
But you know what else I really loved? Remember in the late 90s/early 00s that all the kids said that something was “so gay” to mean it was a bad thing? It was so common, Hilary Duff made a PSA ad asking us to “knock it off”.
Well, now the kids say something is “so gay” when it’s something good. Which now means that top is not gay enough. Maybe if it were the skirt-as-top’s colour? Either way, it’s good that kids are growing up with a sense of pride in themselves and not afraid of being fabulous.
They still have to deal with t e r f y hags who behave like massive toddlers having more power on the GRA consultation than them tho. So please, speak up and stop bullying them from your positions of power if you can. Think of the children. REALLY think of the children and let them be the happiest, free-est version of themselves.
This is for Nadine from Twin Peaks.
Someone whose youth
was drastically cut short
by having to follow standards
of so-called womanhood,
almost at the same time
surviving a shooting accident;
a bookmark in her life
she could only go back to
after another catastrophe,
effectively travelling through time and experiencing –
albeit much stronger
and truly savouring the moments –
what was denied to her before.
A life paused, resumed,
now with extras and commentaries
imprinted on wobbly VHS tape.
Younger, but wiser.
Teenage childless mother.
for her girl interrupted.
Unlike drape runners,
no longer silent.
Bringing a semi-recycled two-week old Facebook rant-ish into the wild. Last week, Gemma Wicks and I had a meeting with Kristy Diaz (Nasty Women, Track 7) and she brought up a similar comment. About how even in the experimental, radical, queer-friendly circles of music, arts, and media, beauty stereotypes were still perpetuated and conventionally attractive cis white women were still favoured.
A few Saturdays ago, the fabulous Steph Horak and I went to Nottingham to a field recording and production workshop facilitated by Aja Ireland aka AJA. It was held at The Malt Cross, a multi-level pub and arts centre famous for having its own sandstone cave. We played with chains, drumsticks and all sorts of obscure musical instruments on the walls and tubes of the cave, recorded some of the sounds and later went back to the classroom so AJA could show us some of the things we could do with the files on Ableton.
In the meantime, something kept bothering me. Three-quarters of the students were your average men. Most of them were asking the questions. Then almost everyone else was young and stunning, like out of a NYLON magazine fashion spread. Same with the examples of performers mentioned.
I was drafting a long rant about how, in the noise scene, people who weren’t men happened to be conventionally attractive, white and skinny. Grimes, Pharmakon, Jenny Hval, Cosey Fanni Tutti in her hayday, Aja and Steph themselves, and that we needed more ugly fem/mes making ugly music. I was gonna say that even the Japanese sinewave queens like Sachiko M could swap clothes with the Western primitive curls and still fit in them.
But then it would’ve been hella hypocritical because:
At least this wave of noise beauties is teaching us beasts how to carry on through workshops, videos, etc. like AJA’s workshop, which I’m mega thankful for!
Here I am wearing one of AJA’s costumes designed by LU LA LOOP who also designs for Grimes, so even murderfats can make a murderous mess on stage and look alright at it.
It’s just a matter of being noticed by promoters/venues/festivals/media/artists looking for openers, and not being patronised I guess? Trolololol. Like, bitch, I ain’t gonna eat your backline. I’m mostly vegetarian.
If you have any examples of “ugly” women and non-binary folx who make experimental, noisy, “ugly” music, please let me know. The closest I can think of is ANOHNI, but she doesn’t make the music – tho the audiovisual concept is hers. Her last album was produced by Oneohtrix Point Never, who is a freaking genius but yeah, show me your queer fats fiddling with pedals, plz.