Update on date

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.

Queers & Co. podcast interview

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.

Ok check it out!

https://player.captivate.fm/episode/ab74063e-374a-4878-99df-6d40c05ba8ff

Leicester Poetry from home

One of the things I miss from the outside world is spoken word open mic nights. Fortunately, some of my fave nights in Leicester have found a way for us to keep talking, keep listening and keep connecting from quarantine and self-isolation.

Jess Green’s Find the Right Words is now available as a poetry podcast with the usual features of their evenings Upstairs at the Western: speed poet, headline acts, open mic and the raffle. You can access it for $5 USD per month on Patreon. Cheaper than a ticket at the pub. Gutted I couldn’t see Maria Ferguson and Dan Simpson in person this month (as well as whole lovely FTRW tribe), but at least we can hear them.

WORD! hosted by Lydia Towsey, is doing this daily thing on social media called “Poetry to Wash Your Hands to”, where some of us shared a snippet of our work in 20 seconds, the recommended time you should spend washing your hands to get clean and prevent illnesses. This is my video, an adaptation of my NaPoWriMo poem “Taking Back Sunday”, called “Taking Back the Quarantine”.

You can hot desk on your laptop
from your kitchen or your living room.
Don’t be ashamed if your job or vocation’s a labour of love.
Look at art. Make some art.
Read some books. Write some lines.
Listen to some new music. Make even newer sounds.
Lying down on your bed,
know that the quarantine is yours and that you’ve done your best.
Have some rest.

Cynthia Rodríguez – Taking Back the Quarantine

A lot of the time I’ve been feeling useless as someone at risk who can’t just go outside and help, so this is kind of a self-reminder in a way.

WORD! is also releasing an online video of this month’s headline and support act on their Facebook page: Francesca Beard and WORD! Slam bichampion Rosa Fernandez. TONIGHT. 7:30pm.

Next week, you can still perform for Some Antics, regularly hosted by Sammy Nour at Bean Gaming Cafe. Their 15th episode will be released online, headlined by Jemima Hughes, on the weekend of the 3rd of April. If you fancy being on the open mic or exercise your competitive bone at the slam, send Sammy your video by Wednesday 1st April. Donations are more than welcome, to keep Bean Gaming afloat waiting for us in all our nerdom once this mess is all over.

Finally, in the not-so-distant future, Soulful Group are holding their Soulful Sunday relaxed-fit gathering online on 13th April, 3pm. If you want the link to join, email Shobana: hello@soulfulgroup.com

If you’re from Leicester (or the rest of the world because THE INTERNET) and you are holding open mic and poetry events online, let us know.

Isolated proximity in pandemic times

CW: COVID-19, health risk, self-isolation, quarantine

These times are scary and uncertain. People are ill and dying due to selfishness and inconsideration from the government and the general public. It was not until this week that universities and other institutions shifted their services from presential to online, while pubs and leisure centres were only closed last night – after a bunch of glazed hams packed their locals for a few cheeky pints goodbye.

As a person at high risk due to my chronic conditions, I have been self-isolating at home for about ten days now. It looks like I will spend the remainder of March indoors. We had to cancel our visit to relatives in Mexico (where there are fewer cases and quicker security measures) for Spring Break, as well as a university trip to Amsterdam and Brussels later in April. University is now providing online-only lectures. I had an informal one yesterday, catching up with coursemates and lecturer (who has the main symptoms of COVID-19 and is recovering at home). It was wholesome. I also joined a Zoom meeting from the Labour party with a lot of grassroots discussion featuring Jeremy Corbyn. The other day, I spoke on the phone to a friend; and I’ve been regularly in touch with family.

You can’t give from an empty cup. Particularly useful advice from Moon and Bear these days.

It’s quite odd, but in this state of isolation, I feel a lot more involved with the issues and people I love and care about than in “normal circumstances” aka semi-automated austerity heteropatriarchal underworld capitalism. Been saving a lot of spoons that I used to spend on preparation and commuting. No pressure to trek it into places that take time and money to reach. No longer having to put on a glam face, pretending things are fine, chasing arbitrary targets of success. We all just sit down, unkempt, in front of the webcam, and talk to each other in solidarity, sharing ideas much easier with the help of technology. Gaining access to free books, intimate gig streams, words of advice, movie-watching and gaming.

The possibilities have always been there. We could have taken them before all of this happened. But now that we have them and we know how to use them, we must not let them go.

Picture of myself on the screen waiting for a Microsoft Teams meeting. Home office.

Once/if/when we are back to normal, let’s make our events as accessible as possible. Affordable and comfortable in person and online. Reach out as many as possible. The chronically disabled, to whom the curfew never ends. Those kept apart from us by geography, economy, architecture, medicine, law. Make our practices available and sustainable, for our customers/audiences and ourselves. Don’t be afraid to say yes. Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t be afraid. Be prepared.

Book Review: Dean Atta – The Black Flamingo

Featured picture: Kings Place.

The first Young Adult verse novel in Dean Atta’s catalogue, feels like a warm hug to my inner child, inner teenager, inner baby queer.

We grow through over 300 pages (over three hours as an audiobook — you must listen to the poets read their work whenever you can) along Michael’s journey of self-discovery within his family, his school(s) and university, and the world we share together. Through friendships, heartbreak and ignorance from the people surrounding him, and our own ignorance, as he is the sole holder of his ever-shifting truth. A fabulously proud miracle of melanin in a sea of pink.

Between the narrative verses of his story, there are poems within poems, textual conversations where the unspoken speaks volumes, user manuals for drag, performance, gender, race, origins, destinations.

Michael (and Atta) never forgets who he is and where he comes from, regardless of occassional turbulence in his flight, and always takes the opportunity to give a shout out to other black queer pioneers and trailblazers, from Beyonce and Audre Lorde to Jacob V Joyce and Chardine Taylor Stone. The last two, people I am blessed to know in person as influential figures, colleagues and friends. I have also been honoured to have taken workshops under Atta’s guidance in the dearly departed Mouthy Poets collective, the Pangea Poets project, and the MAC in Birmingham. It is amazing to see him thrive and reach audiences of all ages across the world, hopefully inspiring them all to write their stories, their guides, their truth.

Waiting for the sequel, to see Michael grow through the rest of his university years, drag and poetry career, and life. What happens to his friends, to that one cutie from the London hip hop gay club, and that no-so-cute person at the end. Not going to give out any spoilers, but Michael is fierce, beautiful, handsome and brave. Leventis, as those girls at the beach say. Leventis indeed.

Man on the Moon

Heyy, I had a lovely workshop at Everybody’s Reading Festival and would definitely do it again. The festival is still going on this month and you should go to the events. Particularly looking forward to the Black History Month Special Man on the Moon written and performed by Keisha Thompson on the 31st. She is also giving a workshop at Word! a few hours before the show on the same day on Afrofuturism. Signal boost to any Black writers and performers reading this.

Book Review: Jackie Hagan – Some People Have Too Many Legs

featured image credit: Life on the Slow Lane.

Going to start posting book reviews here every now and then because content.

Content warning: mental health, leg amputation, near-death experience. On video: this, plus family death, internalised fatphobia.

In 2013, Jackie Hagan was given the opportunity to work on a play about growing up. Around the same time, she was also given ankle blood clots, a long stay at the hospital and a near-death experience. From the healing process, Some People Have Too Many Legs was born.

Bisexual, bipolar, unipede. This is the script for a play that definitely needs to become a film. Like a Michel Gondry or Julie Taymor film. Or directed by Jackie herself. There are rainbow lights, unicorns, bubbles, Welsh maggots, teddy bears, and plenty of quotable quotes.

As per request, we cannot say that Hagan is brave for living in her own body, but she certainly is brave for speaking her truth with no additives and without trying to play it “nice”.

The review was meant to be only for the book, but we’re in for a treat! Here’s a version of the performance, as presented at Bristol Old Vic in November 2015 and filmed by Darren Paul Thompson. It’s almost an hour long, so sit down, get comfy, come into her disco forest grotto circus rocket and travel through decades, wine glasses and hospital beds. And if you need to iron some clothes, iron with a shoe, for Edna’s sake.

This video is a bit cute too.

@TwkLGBTQ RoCur week

Almost a decade late to the Rotation Curation party, but never too late, I guess: this week I am curating the TwkLGBTQIA+ twitter account.

Every week, @TwkLGBTQ gets a different person from the sparkling rainbow of lesbians, gays, bis, trans, queer, intersex, asexual and more across the world, to share their stories, establish conversations and get us to know what their lives are like in their current times and spaces.

Tweet by TwkLGBTQIA+ Synth (@TWkLGBTQ) on 11:29pm, 8th Sep 2019. ” A preview of what’s to come on my week: cat, moving house, podcasts, spoken word, bullet journaling, groceries, international queerness, trains, parks, (Im)mature studying, bifury, languages, more cat, and more”.

So yeah, come over.

WORD! presents: A Generous Lover.
Guests: Cynthia Rodriguez & Richard Byrt.
Thursday 12th September 2019.
Attenborough Arts. Lancaster Road. Leicester, LE1 7HA.
7pm – 9pm £5/£10 (Box Office: 0116 2522455).

This is the true, and very queer tale, of one soul’s journey through the wasteland of mental illness, to deliver their lost love. Somewhere between a seance and a recital, it delves into psychosis with compassion, hoping to find catharsis.

“Horrifying and funny and defiantly beautiful” – Olivia Laing, Frieze.
This production contains shocking and sensitive mental health content. 16+

Leicester Meatspace: Remember I’m still opening for La JohnJoseph’s A Generous Lover, brought to you by the ever so lovely WORD! Leicester. 12 September, 7pm-9pm, Attenborough Arts Centre. It’ll be kaleidoscopic. You can still get your tickets online, by phone or right at the venue.

WORD! Presents: A Generous Lover

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.

AGenerousLover_P4-2-628x460

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.

Tickets for A Generous Lover by La JohnJoseph are avalailable on the ATT website. It would be amazing if you came over and saw it.

Fernandez and Wheeler – Upstairs at The Western

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.