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.

Play a Dirge at the Punk Gig

I walk into a room and it feels like a funeral.
Pale faces, cold breath, blocked chimneys. Victorian
indoors. Pouts. Sleepy glass see through what
takes up the soil. Once beloved, forbidden now.
Imposter syndrome for actual imposters.
Those who’d dial trebble-nine,
toss my name on the deadpool.
Golden ticket in hand,
numbers match. My demise,
after all, been confirmed. I’ve turned up
to my wake,
uninvited.

Been struggling to articulate what’s happened and felt like whenever I’ve dared to go social these past few months. This is the best I could do.

National Poetry Day 2019 #SpeakYourTruthPoem “Dark Truths/White Lies”

Today is National Poetry Day, and everyone from living poetry legends like Joelle Taylor to… Brian?! are celebrating with their favourite poems or with pieces created for the occassion.

The theme this year is “truth”, and the National Poetry Day organisers have requested poets to write, perform and video record their work on the subject.

Here is mine. It’s called “Dark Truths/White Lies”. It has captions and it’s included on the video description, but I include the written poem here too anyway.

Dark Truths/White Lies

When I speak the truth,
the truth gets stolen.
As it comes out
and flows,
it’s grabbed
ahold
by stranger hands
from stranger friends
and loves
and relatives
and those
I’d put my trust
in those same hands.
Those hands around
my throat,
they clasp
and choke
– still say it was my fault.
Ignore the marks.
Their fingerprints
100% match.
In the autopsy,
found DNA
as signatures
of those
who chose to bury dark truths
in favour of white lies.
What lies
beneath
the pebbles in their path
is grim but real.
To dance with the devil,
you have to push some people down the stairs.
To replace your dark truths with white lies,
you have to chop some heads off.
But speakers of the truth,
like chicken,
run around for a while
after you think you’re done with them.

Writin from Between the Lines workshop – Everybody’s Reading

10 October 2019
6pm to 8pm
Sharing Space, Portland Building
De Montfort University

Based on the concept of liminality, this poetry and performance workshop aims to motivate those who feel stuck between nationalities, races, genders, bodies, legal and educational status. Open to everyone, particularly refugees, migrants, survivors of domestic abuse and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Here we can create and share work in a safe environment, following prompts and inspiration from other liminal poets and give performance and confidence advice to those who want to speak their truth but don’t know how.

The workshop will be provided by Cynthia Rodriguez, a Mexican-British writer and performer who writes from between the lines based on their life as a non-binary migrant whose ethnicity and background cannot be found in the regular British census.

The workshop will take place at the Sharing Space in Portland Building. Click here for more information on how to get to the building.

It’s a very nice place. It also has tea and coffee making facilities.

This event is organised as part of Everybody’s Reading, a month-long festival aiming to inspire Leicester to read, write, listen and speak. The rest of the programme is also really good and highly recommended.

While the event takes place at De Montfort University, attendants don’t have to be students or staff members of the institution to attend. Just be excellent to each other.

The event is +18 only since difficult and upsetting topics might be discussed. We have a safer spaces policy and assistance in case anyone needs it.

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.

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.

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.