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.

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.

Returns

Coming back to this blog after many many months of neglecting this lovely space.

I might just copy/paste Facebook rants and reflections in case they get Zucc’d.

Things in my life have changed a lot. I found out I was not a woman. Nor a man. Nor anything, really. Try using “they” pronouns for me.

I moved out from Clarry Park into the West End and I love it. Currently typing this at the local library, basking on sunshine for the first time in ages. Damn global warming.

If you could vote for a few faves on the Saboteur Awards, it’ll be good:

Shruti Chauhan for Best Spoken Word performance. Totally adore her work on family, language, friendships and the sky.

Find the Right Words for Best Spoken Word Regular Night. Such a patient and open-minded venue for all levels of performance.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta and Ben Connors for Best Collaborative Work. A fabulous zine about the intersections between queerness and race and much more.

This zine, btw, features my poem “Spidergirls”. So yay.

See you around. Expect more updates and changes around here.

VIDEO: How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble

leavethehouse1

The world sucks sometimes. You’ve read on “Craig David” about a lot of the boogers that happened in the world, and that was just for ONE WEEK. The following weeks kept getting worse and worse in small and great scale: police brutality, terrorist attacks everywhere, your parents damning this country to hell and validating those who hate us to be more outspoken about it, horrible people inside and outside taking sneaky pictures in the changing rooms and laughing at those who don’t exactly please Grandpa Hugh Hefner’s rotten standards, etc.

It can be awful daring to step outside with the piercing fear of being attacked one way or another, but then there’s also the fear of ourselves that, if we stayed indoors all the time, we might never be able to come out and our voice will be muffed and lost. The fear of not coming home alive, the fear of not leaving house alive. This is for you, for us.

leavethehouse2

It’s a poem/film/guide thingie called “How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble”. For those of us trouble by agoraphobia, being members of one or many “minority” groups and seeing our worst fears come through every day. There’s still a world outside, and this world still needs you. So get ready and earn some courage however you can, if possible.

The poem was written as an exercise at a Writing Poetry Google Hangout Workshop with Dean Atta. He gave the queue of making a how-to poem on any topic of our “expertise”. Later, I turned it into a short film for the Pangaea World Poetry Slam, who organised said workshop. It was lovely to merge three of my loves — writing, filming and sharing — and use them for a good thing.

Here comes the fun part: click, like and share with as many people as possible. Particularly people who would benefit from the message. You never know the ordeals someone could go through just to live a “normal” day. If I ever make money out of the streams, shares and likes (LOLS), I’ll give it all to a mental health organisation, particularly one which helps queers, POC and/or people who may not speak English and need someone to advocate for them. It comes with subtitles/captions if you don’t understand my accent, and I’m working on a Spanish translation. Subtitles in any other language are more than welcome. ❤

There are a couple of things that might be misunderstood. The “wear something that doesn’t attract negative attention” is not slut-shaming. We should be free to wear whatever we want, but some people don’t know or don’t want us to know this, so they attack. On low “spoons” days, you don’t even feel like fighting or defending yourself, so you keep your energy levels to a minimum and just try to roam by in a way that attracts as few bigots as possible.

Also, the “you’re still a woman on trainers, you’re still a man on stilettos” bit includes cis and trans people alike. A lot of trans people I know fear wearing items that are associated more with the gender they were forcibly assigned at birth. They don’t want to be “read” as “impostors”. A trans woman is still a woman on her Nike Air Force Ones. A trans man is still a man on his Louboutins. An NB is still an NB on whatever they want. Also, the fear of fragile masculinity or the fear of not being “seen as a woman” even if you’re cis because your exterior doesn’t match the “desirable standards” (women of certain colours not recognised in feminininininity, fat chicks like us seen as “one of the boys” by our crushes, et al). So yeah. I love you. If you find any fuckups in my work, let me know.