The Special Relationship, May 14th 2013
Monday, May 13, 2013, 02:54 PM
The Special Relationship returns with a word fix from our all-star lineup:
Matt Haig - Award-winning novelist and outer-space thinker
Francesca Beard - International performance poet and spoken-word sensation
Matthew Spektor - Columnist, writer and diviner of the Tinsletown subconscious.
Joanna Rossiter - Debut novelist weaving tales of the land and the sea
With new stories from our regular readers, Jarred McGinnis and Sam Taradash, and hosted by the inimitable Guy Caradog Morgan, London’s literary polymath is back.
Tickets £5 at the door, or available from wegottickets.com/event/217206
The Book Club
100 Leonard Street, EC2A 4RH London,
Houses of Parliament, Represent, Kids Company
Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:36 PMI performed last month at the Houses of Parliament for an Apples and Snakes/Freeword collaborative project called 'Represent'.
Me, Beyonder and Steve Tasane worked with Index on Censorship young people's theatre group, TripWires to run creative writing workshops with young people around the UK. We sent our words to Inua Ellams, who turned them into a beautiful and funny poem film. The film was shown at an event in Westminster Hall along with performances by me, Steve, Beyonder and a poetry collective from Kids Company.
It was inspiring to work with the KidsCompany group. I keep looking for excuses and or funding to work with them again, but that's another story. Anyway, on this particular night, I knew that they were going to bring it. Their creative energy is brave and pure and true. It made me want to write and perform something new and particular for the event.
I started writing a poem about libraries and it turned into an acapella folk song.
There will be a moment when I unleash this on the public, but that moment hasn't yet come. Also, I knew Steve was going to do his wonderful piece 'Save the Libraries'.
So then I started writing a piece called 'On Explaining Black History Month to the Aliens', but it turned out to be a 3 minute silent performance art piece.
It was a mime. 3 minutes is actually quite long for a mime.
So then, I wrote the poem 'No-one Knows How Beautiful You Are'.
It's posted in the entry below.
I decided to perform that one, the most poem-ey one, the one not involving mime or singing, which be fair, aren't what I'm known for and maybe that's telling. Discretion, valour, blah.
I've never been in the Houses of Parliament before. It was actually amazing to be surrounded by the concreteness of the historical evolutionary achievement of universal sufferage. To be in the structural embodiment of democratic process.
And my seven year old self geeked out at all the dinky statues of the Kings and Queens, dolled up in their different costumes and crowns, each displayed in individual cabinets on the marble walls.
And I marvelled at the blinged out story-telling of the national Saints George, Andrew, Patrick and David in the central lobby.
Also a moment of click - how a poem about disillusioned and angry students in Khartoum equally represents the attitude to democracy of young people in the UK.
I'm posting some of the KidsCompany poems below, with permission.
"We are the sons, daughters and descendents of fallen soldiers
Since birth we’ve felt trapped under infinite boulders
Children born into a wealthy country
But still were stuck being raised in poverty
We are the generation that will probably never own our own property
So paying extortionate rent is an inevitability
There’s a so-called housing crisis
Apparently there aren’t enough so the prices are sky high
But there are thousands of discarded houses
We are the victims of our own stereotypes
Not all of us are out on road trying to earn stripes
Neither are we all petty thieves stealing to buy commercialised footwear
We are the voices of the voiceless
Yeah a lot of us walk around staring people out so hard they think were soulless
You see since the starting ages of puberty we’ve been convinced were useless
And then you wonder why some of us go round leaving people toothless
We try to keep our heads up but everyone has a limit for how much their mental wellbeing can take
Like a machine, put too much pressure on a part it will break
We’re the new wave of life, that’ll eventually bring to light your foolish mistakes "
"We are bright like the glistening stars, although we lack the courage and confidence to speak up, we are like insects stuck in a cocoon, afraid to break out
We strive for perfection and want to right all the wrongs of the elder generation
We are excellent, unique and wonderful in so many ways, able to make the impossible possible
We are successful, if only we were all given the chance to show off our skills
We are not all useless, lazy, relying on others to find a means in life.
We are not stupid, we see what's going on in society and how a blind eye is sometimes seen as more attractive than finding a solution
We are not weak or scared to voice our opinions if given a chance
We possess unbelievable talents, beyond measure, which have note been acknowledged in society
We shall be victorious in years to come
"We are the future of today, we are the future of tomorrow, with all this sorrow scattered in the street, we’re still trying to achieve
With all the guns and crime, violence, pain and torture, we still hold our head up high
We are the youths who wear hoods to hide our fears.
The tears of our suffering
We are the young mums pushing prams, pregnancy spread like venom and is seen as the only way of to get a roof.
We are the students who work hard as the fees rise higher than the sky
We are not hooligans
We are mis-understood, confused and bruised. We are not fools, we know what’s going on.
What’s going on when there’s beggars on the street asking for a pound or two in a city of wealth,
What’s going on when we see adverts to send money to Africa
Yet We’d rather adopt a dog.
Black, white, we want equality
Brown and grey the colour of poverty.
Green and yellow prices should be cut down like the trees in the amazon.
We need a hand, we’re tired of getting pushed in the sand,
We need a home, we’re tired of being alone
We need our education, we need to be valued,
We need to achieve".
We are young, we learn
From the footsteps of our seniors
To guide us, to teach us, to condition our minds
And possibly one day to promote us to the next generation
As inspiring leaders, please don’t give up on us
Even though opportunities turn to rubble around us
Leaving us with life and little other options,
We shall adapt slowly to them, and form our own.
Each new generation brings a new set of uncontrollable talents
Being wasted like left over food.
Seems like many communities are destroyed every year
For new car parks
With nowhere to play, the young ones rush to the streets
Like a tidal wave to the cliff
Passing in and out of traffic
Like a thread threading to various fabrics
Give us back our communities, and together, we’ll all give birth to a seed called unity."
With a shout-out to Monique, whose poem isn't up here yet but was blazing brilliant so please send it and thanks to Leo and Amberley who run the Kids Company poetry collective, outside of funding, because they give a *u*k.
World Poetry Day: No-one Knows How Beautiful You Are
Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:13 PMI'm reposting one of the poems from my British Council blog post for World Poetry Day here, with a little introduction:
I went to Khartoum with the British Council to work with a group called 'Makaan Arts.'
I gave the group the prompt ‘Democracy’ and asked them to respond with one line.
We went round the circle and heard
‘Democracy – a lie’, ‘a scam’, ‘a piece of rotten meat they sell and force us to swallow’
… so on and on, until the last participant, tall and thin, said mournfully,
‘No one knows how beautiful you are.’
He was talking about democracy, but it seemed as though he was referring to all of us, about ourselves and each other. So I gave this poem, about my extraordinary and enlightening time in Khartoum, that title.
No-one Knows How Beautiful You Are
Before I flew, I googled
‘Sudan’ ‘dress code’ ‘customs’,
Read how women get flogged
For daring to wear trousers.
In a floor-length orange kaftan,
Courtesy of the ’70s and my mum,
I climb shotgun into a dust-covered,
Immaculately interiored sedan.
The taxi driver is an old man,
He asks if I work for the UN.
‘I’m a poet’ I tell him.
In England, in my experience,
People often react to this with scorn.
One guest at a wedding thought I’d said pirate.
Her hostility was so in line with the usual response,
It took a full five minute argument
Before we discovered she’d heard me wrong.
Even then, her face barely stood down.
But the taxi driver exclaims ‘Poet!’
Like I’d said ‘Pediatrician’ or ‘Pastry chef’.
He asks what kind of poetry, says he himself
Writes verse, is inspired by nature,
Shakespeare and the Koran.
He asks where I come from.
I don’t have a simple answer to that question,
But say I live in London.
He expresses polite appreciation for
Various colonial legacies, the postal service,
The drains, the education system,
Which he grew up in.
He asks me if Khartoum is as I expected?
I say, I’ve learnt a couple of things –
I tell him the students I work with hate the word
Democracy, describe hypocrisy, the shiny scab,
Sealing in corruption, a barrier to healing.
The taxi driver sighs and smiles.
‘This Government does not like dissent,
They do not understand,
To be strong, they need strong opponents’.
He negotiates an anarchic roundabout,
The indicator tocks, a dialectic metronome.
‘And the other thing you learnt?’ he asks.
‘Don’t believe everything you read on the internet’.
I walk into the workshop, kaftan flowing.
Inside, participants wait, heads bent to smart phones.
All the girls wrapped tight in skinny jeans.
Francesca Beard, Khartoum/London January/Feb 2013
Khartoum, World Poetry Day
Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 11:29 AMI wrote a blog post for the British Council for World Poetry Day.
Here's the link.
I like the comments in particular:)
BookSlam at the Clapham Grand this Thursday
Wednesday, February 6, 2013, 01:21 PM£6 Advance Tickets: http://www.bookslam.com/events/84/book-slam-presents-love-bites
(This promises to be An Especially Great One - and BookSlam is always great..... )
Gazumping the horror of Valentine's day, Book Slam has put together a celebration of the mistakes, disappointments and T&Cs of love to launch Dan Rhodes' brilliant new collection of stories, 'Marry Me'.
Joining him on stage are Katie Bonna and Richard Marsh, who write and perform together and separately, like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Their poetic play, 'Dirty Great Love Story', won a Fringe First in Edinburgh last summer and comes to Soho Theatre in March.
Plus suitably downbeat music to keep you out of the mood from the exceptional Aidan Moffat, best known as one half of the erstwhile Arab Strap; and terse verse from those averse to what's worse from Book Slam's favourite flaneur, Tim Key.
There will also be a guest so special we cannot tell you their name because we'd then have to kill you, and everything will be glued together by the sublime Francesca Beard. If this doesn't get you chilly under the wind-cheater, nothing will ...
For more info:www.bookslam.com