INTERVIEW for Eye on Leicester

Oli Page from Eye on Leicester sent me a few questions about being an artist living and loving in Leicester. This adoptive hometown of mine is more than disease and despair. It is art, innovation, hope and community, and I’m very proud of it.

Snippet: “Cynthia Rodríguez. “I love writing and performing because it’s the only two things I can do kind of well. I am usually a very shy person, but on stage I get to be honest, loud and confident”” Source: Oli Page, Eye on Leicester.

Read the full interview with Eye on Leicester here.

Leics LGBT Centre Youth poetry contest winners

(featured image: Unsplash)

Image: Cynthia smiling and staring into the camera, doing the peace sign. T-shirt from Weirdo Zine Fest, nails from Elegant Touch, scarf from Primark, fingerless gloves knitted by herself.

The lovely folks from Leicester LGBT Centre invited me to judge their latest poetry contest for members of their social youth groups First Out (13-15 yrs), T Party (13-18 yrs trans kids) and Jump (16-18).

The topic was Pride, Progress & Change, inspired by work by Dean Atta and Musa Okwonga as published on the anthologies Proud (ed. Juno Dawson) and A Change is Gonna Come (ed. Mary Bello).

Image: Leics LGBT Youth.

The “baby queers” from the centre are so close to my heart, as I have mentioned before when talking about the times I’ve given them workshops. They did not disappoint at all. Everyone’s work was powerful, honest, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but packed with a lot of soul and determination.

Books: Odd One Out by Nic Stone, Little&Lion by Brandy Colbert, The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, How to be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters, and Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett. c/o Category Is Books Solidarity Shelf Scheme. Image: Leics LGBT Youth.

It was so, so hard to choose only five winners out of nine excellent entries to be rewarded with books supplied by Category Is Books (the best indie library in Britain!) to keep reading for inspiration and encouragement. I was relieved the runner-ups wouldn’t go empty handed and would get some nice notebooks to keep honing their craft.

To read all the entries, go to Leics LGBT Youth’s Instagram (cw: slurs, LGBTQ+phobia, but kept PG-13 and optimistic). Wonderful stuff.

A cover, a new date and some words of praise

Here’s something to look forward to once we’re hopefully coming out of our cage and doing… just… fine?

My debut poetry collection, Meanwhile, will be officially released on the 8th of October sidiosquiere. It will be available for presale on my shop quite soon (with some more related swag?) and on Burning Eye Books website once it’s out.

Anyway, here’s the cover. Made by yours truly a couple of months ago. It felt amazing going back to my art school collage/mixed media roots, trying to convey the book contents and also the feeling of life in between life – an example of which we are all living right now.

Some wonderful people I love and admire have read the book already and have a few things to say:

Cynthia Rodríguez unflinchingly turns a mirror to self, to Britain, what it means to be a migrant, a citizen. Fearful and fearless.

Dean Atta, The Black Flamingo.

Following in the Latin American tradition but (dis)placed in contemporary Britain, Cynthia Rodríguez cleverly blurs the lines between playful kitsch, deadpan humour and lightning flashes of poetic revelation.

Juana Ádcock, Manca.

In this confident and important debut, Rodríguez draws on heritage, culture and politics to sing a ‘Girl Electric’ – reframing and reclaiming a range of often marginalised experiences – to devastating, triumphant and compelling effect.

Lydia Towsey, The Venus Papers.

More stuff about the book, the making of it, and the ways to celebrate it will be coming your way.

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.

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.

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.

A title and a date

Burning Eye Books has released its official 2020 programme, featuring all the poetry books they will publish this year. Including mine.

My debut poetry collection is included on that list. Its title is Meanwhile.

Image: David Wilson Clarke.

This is a book about being trapped in the Meanwhile. Walking through seemingly perpetual journeys between borders, genders, nationalities and social status. As a product of mixing races, yet not mixed race. Inhabiting a large body of before with no clear sense of an after. Set to a time of one’s own, decades lost and found in the way, at the mercy of socio-political circumstances, legal procedures and test results. Cyclically prone to fail and start again.

Meanwhile is out on 7th of September, to be available on Big Cartel and all your usual platforms.

More info coming soon.