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.

Nadine

nadine[1]

This is for Nadine from Twin Peaks.
Someone whose youth
was drastically cut short
by having to follow standards
of so-called womanhood,
almost at the same time
surviving a shooting accident;
a bookmark in her life
she could only go back to
after another catastrophe,
effectively travelling through time and experiencing –
albeit much stronger
and truly savouring the moments –
what was denied to her before.
A life paused, resumed,
now with extras and commentaries
imprinted on wobbly VHS tape.
Younger, but wiser.
Teenage childless mother.
Cheerleader rooting
(and winning)
for her girl interrupted.
Unlike drape runners,
no longer silent.

Written as part of NaPoWriMo 2018. Collection of poetry exercises soon to be released on Big Cartel. You can still get last year’s edition on print and digital formats.

NaPoWriMo 2017

I’ve been terrible at writing this year. Great at reading it out loud and also about shouting and chanting a bit, but creating new stuff? Not really.

This is why, and also because I love a challenge, I’m doing NaPoWriMo this April. It’s like NaNoWriMo, but instead of writing a novel, you write a poem each day.

I’m following the pitches and ideas from The Poetry School. If you join their free group online, they can send you information every day.

Also, if you have a website, add it to the official list so you can show your commitment. Scary. But fun. But scary. But fun.

Particularly because it’s my birthday on the 2nd of April, I’ll be belting all over the East Midlands during the first half of the month, and maybe reading stuff during the second half. Fun.

Save me, Barry!