MPF review and upcoming opening for Hannah Swings

(featured image by Tee)

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!

Pic by Gaylord Pazuzu.

Highlights of the weekend as copypasted from twitter:

  • Friday: heartbreaking uprising lines by @SpeakingKit‘s RAYNE OF BLOOD and @genwalshpoet (best goth in all Yorkshire). Shredding pop gayness from @suggestedfronds, glow-in-the-dark transcontinental cuties @charmpitband and post-punk minimal perfection from @Big_Joanie. 💯
  • 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. 👍
Big Joanie on Friday.

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.

Look at this landscape, tho.

ANYWAY. Back in Leicester.

Hannah Swings. Pic and tickets: Upstairs at The Western.

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.

Manchester Punk Festival

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.

Source: Manchester Punk Festival.

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.

(Re)Learning

Collage of a person with glasses, the lid of their head off, showing their brain and a lightbulb. There are roses, bridges, tentacles, gin bottles, ostriches, a river and hands holding tumblers and chalices.
Image: lisaleo via Morguefile.

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.

Digital abstract art of brain network in black, blue, green, purple and pink.
Image: lisaleo via Morguefile.

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.

Black and white mirrored picture of telegraph poles, cables all connected to each other.
It’s all connected. Image: quicksandala via Morguefile.

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.

Picture of a child and a Saint Bernard in the snow, catching snowflakes with their tongues out.
Bork. Image: Roxanneh, via Morguefile.

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.

Back into The Habit of Journaling

Extreme close up to an open notebook, squared paper, with a series of words . handwritten in black ink. Some of these words include "Fitted", "PARALLEL", "ASSEMBLE", "Balance", "Workshop" and "HABIT".
Image: DMedina via Morguefile.

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.

A person in front of a large wooden table, with open books, notebooks, folders and printouts. The person holds a black and white pen on their right hand, and it looks as if they are revising a stapled printout consisting of several light blue sheets of paper.
Image: Sarahthecat via Morguefile.

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”.

A person on a wooden table, under the light of a desk lamp. The person is about to write something with a red pen on a lined notebook. To their right, lies a mobile device (either a smartphone or a music player) and a tumbler full of markers, highlighters and pens.
Image: Sarahthecat via Morguefile.

So I’m going to try to fight that right now.

National Poetry Day workshop at LGBT Centre

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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.

eastbenders.jpg

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.

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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.

Nadine

nadine[1]

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.
Cheerleader rooting
(and winning)
for her girl interrupted.
Unlike drape runners,
no longer silent.

Written as part of NaPoWriMo 2018. Collection of poetry exercises soon to be released on Big Cartel. You can still get last year’s edition on print and digital formats.

Ugly Music by Ugly Fem/mes

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.

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She also showed us her setup. So many drone otherworldly pedals.
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.

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AJA in her raw splendour. Picture by Xenia Onta.
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.

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Hail Wavy Mum. Sachiko M picture by Carmen Chong.
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.

lulaloop-synth

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.

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And the Oscars didn’t want dearest Toñita singing her own song at the ceremony because of course they didn’t. Picture by Rafa Rivas for AFP.
 

 

Returns

Coming back to this blog after many many months of neglecting this lovely space.

I might just copy/paste Facebook rants and reflections in case they get Zucc’d.

Things in my life have changed a lot. I found out I was not a woman. Nor a man. Nor anything, really. Try using “they” pronouns for me.

I moved out from Clarry Park into the West End and I love it. Currently typing this at the local library, basking on sunshine for the first time in ages. Damn global warming.

If you could vote for a few faves on the Saboteur Awards, it’ll be good:

Shruti Chauhan for Best Spoken Word performance. Totally adore her work on family, language, friendships and the sky.

Find the Right Words for Best Spoken Word Regular Night. Such a patient and open-minded venue for all levels of performance.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta and Ben Connors for Best Collaborative Work. A fabulous zine about the intersections between queerness and race and much more.

This zine, btw, features my poem “Spidergirls”. So yay.

See you around. Expect more updates and changes around here.

A Body Project: Cynthia Rodriguez On Their Chin(s)

A few months ago, I went to Manchester for a photoshoot for the online magazine Bustle. It was for the series A Body Project, led by the talented journalist Marie Southard Ospina and portrayed – on its Manchester leg – by Paddy McClave. The series highlights people of all genders, races and sizes, and particularly focuses on what each of these people might consider “their trouble areas”, that particular body part they can’t seem to make peace with no matter how far they are into their self-love journeys. My monstrous body part, of all the possibilities, was my chin. My chins.

The photoshoot itself was fun, albeit a bit soul bearing at times – chin bearing? Sitting inside an egg talking about Rebelde, scratching my head doing that comedy pose all the Russells love to do in their tour posters, cuddling Marie and Paddy’s beautiful baby Luna. Trying not to hide, trying not to use flattering angles for the first time in perhaps decades. Later, the bigger challenge came when answering Marie’s questions by email. That was a lot bigger and harder to hide than the chins themselves.

Either way, here is the article for you to read. I warn you, some bits are quite heavy as I talk a lot about extreme bullying in primary school, CSA and internal and external fatphobia and self-loathing. But it’s got a bit of a happy ending, I hope. At least I hope it does to you too, and you get to make things, take up space and be awesome.

NaPoWriMo 2017

I’ve been terrible at writing this year. Great at reading it out loud and also about shouting and chanting a bit, but creating new stuff? Not really.

This is why, and also because I love a challenge, I’m doing NaPoWriMo this April. It’s like NaNoWriMo, but instead of writing a novel, you write a poem each day.

I’m following the pitches and ideas from The Poetry School. If you join their free group online, they can send you information every day.

Also, if you have a website, add it to the official list so you can show your commitment. Scary. But fun. But scary. But fun.

Particularly because it’s my birthday on the 2nd of April, I’ll be belting all over the East Midlands during the first half of the month, and maybe reading stuff during the second half. Fun.

Save me, Barry!