Bentfest talks

Next week, Bentfest will host a series of talks on their Instagram Live if you want to tune in. The queer punk London festival will host a few of us at 6pm BST:

Images: Bentfest.

Monday, 18th May, Kirsty Fife zine reading and discussion of class, DIY politics, academia and more.

Tuesday, 19th May, Sop will talk about embodiment, chronic illness, sound experiments and more art.

Thursday, 21st May, I’ll be reading a few poems from my upcoming collection Meanwhile, and discuss writing from the in-between.

So yeah, all these days, 6pm BST, go to Bentfest’s Instagram account, look at their live stream on stories, and join the conversation. 👁‍🗨

Alone Together. Ep 2: Arboretum

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.

If you want to be part of further episodes, select a prompt that attracts you and follow the instructions on the website.

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.

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.

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.

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.