NEW GIG: Find the Right Words Poetry Podcast

While measures continue to control the spread of COVID-19, Find the Right Words has continued its majestic labour of sharing poetry love in Leicester (and now beyond!) as a poetry podcast. I coheadlined the September issue with Emily Harrison (I can’t sleep ’cause my bed’s on fire).

Cynthia, a mid-fat light brown person with curly brown hair and black-rim glasses, stands on a stage behind a microphone stand holding an open notebook in her hands. She wears a green polka dot dress, a red and gold flowery scarf, a bracelet and a red cardigan. Some blue fairy lights and the letters "FTRW" can be seen on the background.
Dang, I miss this stage. Image: probably Dave Morris, ca. 2016.

It all feels very homecoming. It was in September 2015 that I began writing and sharing poetry at a Find the Right Words evening headlined by Jemima Foxtrot and the now stratospherically famous (and very well deserved) Inua Ellams, who hosted the pre-open mic workshop. The headliners, open mic-ers, audience, and above all FTRW hosts Jess Green and (until a couple of years ago) Toby Campion, were so open and nonjudgemental, I kept coming every month give or take.

Cynthia, a mid-fat light brown person with curly brown hair and black-rim glasses, stands on a stage holding a microphone on a stand on her right hand and a couple of A4 sheets of paper on her left hand. She wears a white dress with blue and red flowers, circles and stripes. Some blue fairy lights can be seen on the black curtain background.
Babby’s first poetry open mic, Find the Right Words on 30th September 2015. Little did I know what’d come next! Image: probably Dave Morris?

Here I have made so many lovely friends, met some of the most mindblowing performers in the country and the WORLD, and have kept evolving and learning through the years. During so many periods of chaos, FTRW has remained the anchor.

Since lockdown, the event has been taking place as a podcast, available on Patreon for a fraction of the price you would spend on a ticket for the live version Upstairs at the Western. It’s very special, and you should definitely subscribe and help keep it alive in this form at least until we can safely go back to the stage and hang out with these four big letters.

Upstairs at the Western stage and curtains under a blue light. A microphone stand in the middle. Behind the mic, large wood versions of the letters "F" "T" "R" and "W" for "Find the Right Words" stand one next to the other, the "T" resting diagonally on the "F".
Four Big Letters for Find the Right Words. Image: FTRW.

Summertime Radness: Los Santos

Content warning for mostly simulated violence and alcohol use.

Colourful mural at Sinners Passage in Los Santos, GTA Online.
Mural at Sinners Passage.

The other day, I woke up and hopped on my motorcycle to go to a nightclub called Tony’s Fun House. The Bosnian DJ Solomun was playing a flawless set, closing with a core-shattering remix of Leonard Cohen’s swan song “You Want it Darker”. I went to the bar, got a shot of whiskey and my sight went wobbly for a few seconds. I went to the loo, and when I tipped the freshen-up guy, I swear he gave me a secret cult greeting I had seen some decaying movie star do on daytime television. Then I went to the beach and got on a rollercoaster. No hangover, just fun. It was getting dark and rainy, but still did a few risky missions for my friend Gerald. He helped me so much when I moved to this city. First, I tried to steal a chopper at the airport, but the guards killed me. Twice. So, I gave up for now and did some teamwork with other strangers, stealing a caravan from some rednecks. Got paid for the missions, both failed and successful. Then I came back to my casino penthouse, got more money on the spinning wheel and bought some art for the master bedroom and entrance. Just a normal day in Los Santos. All fine and dandy, unless some teenage modders bomb you from their flying bikes and turn you into a tree.

Selfie of a character from Grand Theft Auto Online, somehow fused into a tree.
E! Tree Vinewood Story.

Quarantine doesn’t exist in Grand Theft Auto Online. Illness in general doesn’t exist, unless it’s mental, and it only happens when you kill innocent people. Opposite gangs are fair game, specially the very nasty ones like Vagos or Marabunta Grande. The ones that treat innocent people badly and give your community a terrible name. When randos insult you, your shotgun gives them a comeback. If the cops come, just blow up their cars. The worst they can do is kill you. Before any witnesses have time to organise a march in your name, you just wake up on the side of the road, your vehicle impounded. Up to you if you pay the fee or respect yourself and nick it, flee to the hills and hide until they forget about you in a couple of minutes. You won’t get bored and radio isn’t shit. Cara Delevingne is the Non-Stop Pop host, and she only plays bangers. FlyLo and Frank Ocean have their own eclectic radio stations, and George from Twin Shadow hosts Mirror Park Radio if you’re in a 2010s hipster mood. Some time ago, you collected a bounty for Maude. The guy called you an inbred moron, so you shot his leg and took him to your car. You played Mexican music all the way across the desert.

Character from GTA Online in Mount Chiliad. She has green and brown hair, wears an orange breathing mask and a red leather jacket. In the background, a backpacker looks confused.
Selfies with randos at Mount Chiliad.

This summer, I have been living vicariously through GTA Online. I got GTA V only because it was free on Epic Games a couple of months ago. Then, I installed it and started playing to avoid real life’s boredom and doom. It was a cinematic farcical world of sea, sun and beautiful people. Very soon, I quit the main story and got a lot more invested in the online multiplayer sandbox. The character customisation options, as well as the life and work possibilities seemed a lot of fun.

Character from GTA Online dancing at a nightclub. The Blessed Madonna playing in the background. The character is happy, wearing sunglasses and a trucker hat.
Joyful dancing.

My character loves dancing at the club and listening to music. She is Latinx, hates racists and loves motorcycles. Her fave is Dinka Akuma, but she’s currently tilting towards the Shitzu Vader. She also really likes convertibles. There are a couple of dancers who’ve caught her eye at the Vanilla Unicorn, but she hasn’t had time to bring them home – as far as I know. Sometimes, I login and there is underwear I don’t recognise on the floor. She also eats a lot of takeaway burgers and pizza when I’m not around. She is still quite skinny. For some reason, character customisation won’t let you have fat characters, even if the NPCs come in all shapes and sizes. One of the best DJs in the world, The Blessed Madonna, is featured in the game in all her fat gender nonconforming badass riot grrrl glory. My character has seen her live a few times and is now wearing the t-shirt. She gets very happy when Madge plays “Stepping Out” by Joe Jackson on her set.

Mirror selfie of GTA Online character at a clothing shop wearing a bikini, shorts, flip flops, glasses and ear protection. She's light brown with brown hair and tattoos all over her body.
¿Por qué te tatuatis? Pos nomás.

My character is covered in tattoos, like Don Cheto’s son in “El Tatuado”. She wears baseball caps like it’s 2003, short shorts like it’s the 1970s, and high heel boots like she could run for her life without spraining an ankle. She also likes smartwatches, and perhaps influenced me to get a smartwatch myself. Mind you, a Samsung. None of that iFruit nonsense. She once met Danny Brown and he didn’t invite her to his penthouse party… yet. One of her bosses reckons he can let her in some day if she does something in return. But she’s kind of busy, sometimes being CEO of Nonconglommo, sometimes leading the Batcats motorcycle club. She can literally print your money, but she often must steal supplies from rivals and coppers before her staff can make products. She wishes she could be kinder to staff. Some of them cough now and then and it makes her paranoid. But as I’ve said before, in this world there is no quarantine and there is no gringo virus.

Character from GTA Online, green and brown hair, bikini and tattoos, having a hot bath at the jacuzzi in the rooftop terrace at the casino.
Casino jacuzzi lido time.

That’s why I like it. Escapism. Empowerment. Having a hot bath, fun haircuts, driving around listening to music, wearing cute clothes, swimming at the pool, playing darts, dancing, taking selfies, downing a few shots, watching crap television, having colourful art, shooting awful people, going on treasure hunts, joyriding at races and not finishing, doing team missions and doing quite well, basking in the sun, the rain, the very rare snow.

Picture of a landscape in GTA online from the pier at night. There's a mountain, the sea, the moon, the stars and some chemtrails.
Late at the pier.

My husband says Los Santos looks a lot like Monterrey, my hometown in the north of Mexico. It kind of does: mountains, desert, tall buildings, convenience stores, massive billboards displaying nonsense, long motorways, twisted roads. The only thing Monterrey doesn’t have is the beach. We know Los Santos is inspired by Los Angeles, but the vibes are still there. After all, California (San Andreas?) used to be part of Mexico and it still kind of is. Look at the language. Maybe that’s why I like this game so much. It reminds me of when I still lived in Monterrey and I would spend hours driving around, listening to music, going to shows, buying cute clothes and snacks, discovering hideaways and shortcuts, having fun. None of the gunshots, of course. The very real gunshots against innocent people were some of the reasons I left. I guess this is a bit of a comeback with a virtual vengeance. Rebuilding the there and the here, experiencing the Hot Girl Summer that never was. Masks optional, mostly for privacy and aesthetics.

Selfie of character from GTA Online wearing a colourful print mask, a Securoserv cap, green top, Palestine scarf. At Vespucci Beach.
Stay safe, stay cool.

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. 👁‍🗨

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

Branding

Why give away business cards when you can give away stickers?

Trying to change my online presence to my name to be a bit more “serious” and easier to find as a performer. So heads up, the Facebook page will (hopefully) soon change its name from Synth and the Void to Cynthia Rodríguez, with the URL kind of matching this URL now — cynthiarodriguezdotorg.

Twitter is @cynthiadotorg because lemgth is weird, but it’s the same concept.

So yeah, if you see me around, ask for a sticker to make your stuff look spiffy. ✨

@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.

Patreonage

Image: Falco Negenman via Unsplash.

(feature image: clarita via MorgueFile)

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. 🙂

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.

The Tube of You

All these tubes are yours. Image: MorgueFile.
All these tubes are yours. Image: MorgueFile.

Dunno if I’ve mentioned it already, but when my therapist found out I was trying to do “poetry stuff”, she told me to film myself and upload the videos on YouTube. It sounded terrifying. I mean, I’m going to therapy and stuff. Why would I want to be so “exposed” to mockery and disdain? That’s why I uploaded most of my film work and footage to Vimeo instead. No chance of sick comments, very niche, from filmmakers to filmmakers. Plus, none of that soul-selling copyright nonsense. I didn’t know YouTube let you register your films under Creative Commons!

Image: MorgueFile
Image: MorgueFile.

Then, Pangaea World Poetry Slam came. Submit your videos, people can vote, you may win money, and will definitely get to be known internationally. However, you have to upload them on YouTube. Nowhere else. Get naked. Also, there are some cool free workshops on Hangouts that will help you to improve your game.

Thank you, Pangaea, for making the impossible, possible.
Thank you, Pangaea, for making the impossible, possible.

So I followed my therapist’s advice and here goes nothing! The official Cynthia Rodríguez YouTube channel. I’ve been uploading pieces for Pangaea once a week for the past three weeks, and will upload one very likely next week. From live footage to just talking to the camera from interesting places to full-blow film montage, I’m just looking for different ways to share stories and messages as they might benefit, amuse or *inspire* others. It’s already helping me improve and become less camera shy, and people have already started doing their own spoken word/films and looking for open mics to share. Sharing is caring!

Last week’s delivery was “How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble”. I want as many people as possible to see that one because the world needs you, obvs. Before that, it was footage of “Pepper Spray” from the open mic at Coventry Pride.

This week, the weather was so nice I sat on the grass at Victoria Park and relaxed a bit. I was so chilled out that I ended up filming and uploading my entry for Pangaea right there and then. An old-ish poem, from three months ago or so. It’s called “Frivolous”, and I wrote it after the Open Stage at The Y where I read a lot of my hardcore pinko shit and then came the adorable Anna My Charlotte with an ukulele (she plays harp too! <3) and said she would see a bit frivolous after all my stuff, and then proceded to sing and play the most charming and nostalgic stuff ever. The perfect songs to play in the park on a peaceful sunny day.

So yeah, follow, like, share, whatever, and if you have videos and words, share them to the world!