Derby is buzzing. The city is flooded with rhythms and rhymes, lines and meters, voices and verses.
Derby has so much Spoken Word. Friday just gone was a big one, a banging beautiful night at the monthly Word Wise. I was honoured to read a poem that went down well when compared with the stunning words I was so privileged to be surrounded by. So many.
Toria Garbutt made me cry and I’m not ashamed. She’s amazing. And an absolutely lovely person.
Luke Wright was like some mad dynamo full of energy and perfect timing, hilarious and poignant and leaving our faces aching from smiling so hard.
Sophie Sparham is fire and thought and life, political and personal and always inspiring. Got to love a poet who makes you, not just want to be a better person, but feel like you are a better person, so becoming better is just a matter of opening those wings you forgot were trailing behind you. And I got to see Miggy Angel at last after hearing so much about him, wasn’t disappointed. Cullen was great and Trevor Wright’s psalm for Donald Trump was transcendent. Jonezy aka pr@xis slayed as usual and Johnny eulogized Leonard Cohen with such heart. There were poets new to me and poets whose names I don’t remember because names are not my forte, they’re my whatever the opposite of that is. There were quantum poems and theatrical poems and political poems. Happy sad and leaping-wildly-between-the-extremes poems. Cheeky poems and solemn poems, poems with punchlines and poems with lines that felt like punches.
I have so much gratitude to Jamie Thrasivoulou and Rhythmical Mike for running and hosting this night as well as performing. Such hard working dedicated guys who are doing so much to build the poetry scene.
Speaking of building the poetry scene, there should be a lot of credit to Jonezy and the City-Zen collective for the bi-monthly City Zen One Mic night. Anarchic and joyful, raising money for different causes and spreading the City-Zen message of freedom and community. The next one is this Friday, raising money for Derby International Women’s Day Celebrations. I’ll be performing! It’s always a good laugh, really welcoming joyful vibes.
And, as I stayed in tonight being grouchy and exhausted, I was missing yet another excellent night. Twisted Tongues has seen the debut of so many talented wordsters, and wins for the most historic location (I do love old buildings) and the most students. Now, some people get a bit snobby about students, but I love their young and hopeful enthusiasm. They bring new ideas, new faces, and I can feed on their fresh juicy energy like the shrivelled old vampire that I am. Twisted Tongues is also the longest running of the three nights, by quite a long shot, and boasts talented and professional performers like Dan Webber. (Who also runs it, and a whole lot of other awesome arts-related stuff in Derby.)
Indeed, there are so many amazing and dedicated and creative and energetic people on the scene, I’m exhausted just trying to write about them. So many unique characters putting their talents to use, taking the steps to put their words out there and facilitate the space for others to do so as well. I used to be kind of bitter about living here. Now I’m glad to be near Derby. Now my only gripe (and I always need to gripe about something) is that there’s so much going on here, it leaves me without the energy to explore other amazing nights in Nottingham and other places. The world is getting hectic! There’s a vibe, some intangible critical mass of energy developing. What will it lead to? A festival, a party, a riot, a legacy, or maybe all of these? I’m thrilled to be here, is all I’m going to say.
I made goals a year ago. And then reviewed them on my birthday. There may be a sense of deja vu starting to set in. Spoiler alert: I did not yet become a cyclist, or a journalist. I still can’t knit or play the violin. I have started playing the the penny whistle though. I’m sure the neighbours love it.
So, let’s start with some positives. 2016 was a good year in a lot of ways. I started, and stuck at therapy. DBT seems to be helping. I love the people I share a group with, and the camaraderie we have in learning to live in our lives, and make lives we want to live in. It can be all kinds of hard work and sometimes you find out things about yourself you’d rather not face, but better that than the previous mess. Still a bit of a mess, but… maybe, slowly, I’m getting there. It’s an upward spiral, maybe. A labyrinth, possibly. But despite the wrong turns and confusion (and the odd Minotaur hiding in a dark corner), there does seem to be some kind of change. And a change is as good as a rest, right? I don’t feel so constantly crazy. Though I’m definitely not “cured”, whatever that would mean.
I still help out with Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity, in the warehouse. Just last night, 40+ people were there, making a heroic and successful effort to load a shipping container full of clothing and other needed supplies for Syria. I don’t feel like this is something to boast about though, more something that I’m honoured to be a part of, even in a small way.
Oh, and I did run that half marathon, and do that abseil for sponsorship money. I also ran a stall at the Padley Festive Fair? which collectively raised over £400 for the Padley Group charity, which works with some of the most vulnerable people in Derby.
I am still living in Derbyshire, and have somewhat made peace with that. So much beautiful countryside, and some really good people doing brilliant social activism and creative works. I’ve been travelling more lately though, mostly within England seeing friends, but to Italy as well for Christmas.
I got a poetry book published, and done something that I never really thought would happen: I’ve developed a certain amount of confidence performing live. I’ve actually got on stage and enjoyed it, rather than just feeling overwhelming dread the whole time. (Although the dread is still there.) This spoken word/reading out loud/actually speaking my words to real live people thing is beautiful. Sharing energy, communicating, that’s powerful. Thank you to City-Zen and Word Wise especially, for hosting such powerful and amazing nights.
I’ve loved and lost and suffered and learned. I’m grateful for the good times. And there were so many good times. Hopefully I’ll learn the right lessons, from the bad times. Twice this year I’ve left a man. Now I’m single and need to be. Not for rancour and isolation. I just need to turn into a real person, before I can be good for someone else. I need to learn my own edges before I blur them into someone else’s reflection.
Friends are love. I’m sorry for neglecting you and missing you and the trials of living scattered across counties, countries, continents.
Thank you all for the good times. We’ve had some adventures.
I’m grateful for my family. I’m back living with my parents. I’m amazed they’ll still have me. I lose count of how many times I’ve come crashing back down to here, to rebuild in this nest. There have been many gatherings and events and meetings, not least the wonderful wedding festival of my cousin. Just, love to the whole enormous crew who I am not going to list and name because we are a sizeable tribe and you don’t want to be here al day.
This year has left me feeling depleted. I’ve known for a while I was running out of energy, burning the candle at both ends, failing to nourish and replenish and all that. There have been some truly horrible times where I didn’t know how I could possibly survive. But, I did. There have been people lost. Real people we knew, not celebrities. Although their families must be suffering the same grief as any, and damn I did love Leonard Cohen. But it’s not at all the same. I’m not going to do a list of loss and trauma and fear. But it’s always there in this life, ocean always wearing away at the sand, chaos always waiting to spin us off into the void. It’s dark out there.
In a wider context, this has been a frightening year. We watched with grief and rage as Syrian children drowned, as Donald Trump was elected, as racist attacks and hate crimes rose as fear and rage seemed to convulse a world spinning wildly between the end of one era and the beginning of the next. What the fuck is going to happen? Who knows? 2016 has been a year where running away to live in the woods has seemed like a more attreactive option than before.
Running on mania, running on fumes, then running out of fumes, running on gritted teeth and coffee and alcohol. Eventually everything crashes. So I go into 2017 with less energy than before, feeling old and foolish, but with optimism that I’ll be able to come back from this.
Nature has nourished me deeply, has been a refuge and saviour and source of deep joy. This is what I plan to delve into more deeply, to return to and explore this year and all the years.
Much love. May 2017 open for you like a flower, and may you learn what you need to, before you are forced to.
As for 2016, I rate it 3/7. 4/7 if it hadn’t killed Carrie Fisher just at the end, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse.
Sponsor me here, if you so feel. It’s for Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity.
I was kind of hungover for abseiling, because the night before was a truly uniquely beautiful night at City-Zen One Mic. So many talented people, and I got up and did a couple of new spoken word bits. People come together to create and talk bollocks and drink and dance and it’s magic. And raised £100 for Rojava Solidarity.
Spent the rest of the weekend with family, which was really nice. We all live kind of far apart, so it’s great when we do get together. Stayed up way too late putting the world to rights (and I managed not to get into any terrible political arguments even though my family are not yet woke to the true necessity of anarchism).
These things have been good beyond measure. In between times, things have been bad beyond measure. I don’t know if I’m actually losing it. Fuck abseiling, this is the real extreme sport. The mood graph prickles like a porcupine and shoots a facefull of quills into my idiot life. Trying to hold while everything spins. I’m too dizzy to run anywhere. My hands hurt.
I braved it and made a video clip. First verse of my new poem, Faith in Humanity (People are Strange). This the first time I’ve ever done a spoken selfie video, so I apologise for my face.
We’re snowed under with desperate political commentary and the End of The World is being predicted again. Evil is afoot. But helping out with the thousands of donations given to just one grassroots charity, has really driven home the fact that there are a lot of people who do want to do a little bit of good. The world is changing, maybe in the cracks wrought by the earthquakes we can plant new seeds, seeds of a world where no one has to flee their home, no one is coerced, and no one has to see Donald Trump’s face ever again.
If you’d like to see me do more poetry, along with 13 super talented acts wh will put me in the absolute shade, come to City-Zen: One Mic! Rojava Solidarity Network fundraiser. Last One Mic! night was absolutely beautiful, so come on down to the Maypole in Derby tomorrow evening.
To watch me (along with many other insane brave and committed people) abseil down the building, come to Jurys Inn, Derby, this Saturday at 1pm. It’s be a laugh. Or I might cry, who knows? It’s the suspense that makes it interesting, right?
Did you ever feel like things were going amazingly, but it was all an illusion? No, it wasn’t an illusion, the good times are really real, the adrenaline-fuelled adventures and mad social can’t stop-talking, grabbing life by the balls intensity. But then you have to pay, and the comedowns are really real too, the soul-crushing immobilising depression, unexplained crying, meltdowns and hysteria (yes, I hate that word, but fulfil the stereotype pretty well sometimes). Not to mention, everyone eventually gets tired of full-on emotional intensity turned up to eleven. God knows, I get tired of it. I’m so tired right now that every movement is a battle of wills, just focusing on this blog is really difficult and I’m too hot right now and there are so many more important things happening.
So, that’s where I’ve been, where I am. Oh what a thrill, to be mentally ill. Except for everyone around me. That’s the Intermission, that’s where I’ve been.
Declaration of War
Maybe war is not the best metaphor. Maybe this should be a declaration of trying. A declaration of trying to fulfil my potential, to contribute. War on ones own shadow rarely ends in meaningful victory.
Today we drank a toast to my Grandad, the first person to ever help me write a book. He spent ages printing the front cover on glossy photo paper, putting it in a folder. It was for High School English class, and I got the highest grade possible. The school still had that book, years later. They’d get it out on open evenings as an example of the sterling work of their English students.
“If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. I’ve lost a lot of time and money that way, but I still believe it.” – Ron Hunt.
So now I’ve got two books, but there is so much more to do. I’m determined not to let this illness mess with performing spoken mic at City-Zen for Rojava on Friday night. Leaving the house is difficult, and maybe I’ll cry, but better to go outside and suffer than build my own bedroom-sized prison.
And I know it will be so, so much harder now I’m intermittently paralysed by free-form anxiety, but ABSEILING is happening. Saturday, Jury’s Inn Derby, 12:00-2:30pm. Come watch. I will wear a cape. For some reason the sponsorship website is down though, so I can’t link to beg.
Often I feel like a failure, for missing out on so many things because of BPD and whatever other mental issues I’ve got. I don’t want to be known as the flaky one, but in some ways that’s inevitable. I’m working on it though. I try. Seriously.
I hope that I can be even one fraction of the man that my Grandad was, a unique and wonderful man. He was a writer, of a different kind, but I can only aspire to his conscientiousness one day. His love of stationery lives on in me. (P.S. please send left-handed fountain pens.) He was a wonderful wit, a genuinely humane person who saw the good in everyone and did a lot for charity. He was a role model and inspiration to so many. Tonight I lit a candle and me and my mum drank to his memory (a quality Port, I assume he would approve), but I hope to show true love and honour by my actions in the world. For Ron Hunt, legend.
This was not a declaration of war. This was a declaration of love.
This is going to be a hectic week. I’ll be going to three poetry nights, at least. Hopefully I’ll be able to read at least twice, and hear some amazing words. That’s the only way to learn, watching others and seeing their energy and skill. I’m not a natural performer, so I know there are always ways I could improve my readings. Like actually learning my poems by heart so I’m not actually on stage reading. Yes, I don’t remember my own words.
I went to a spoken word open mic last night which ended up rather interesting, with the entire gig being shut down and thrown out for the terrible crime of swearing. (Oh, and maybe the stuff about killing the royal family to trade them in with heaven for our beloved dead celebrities.) Censorship is sad. But so many excellent poets and musicians came to Belper. This needs to happen more. Hopefully this ridiculous incident won’t have scared them away forever. There was a decent sized audience, so maybe this town is ready for another spoken word event, hosted somewhere a little less censorious.
I decided to make a list in case anyone reading is from around Derby or Nottingham and fancies hearing some words.
Twisted Tongues, tomorrow night, The Old Bell, Derby. I’ve got a coveted pre-booked spot, so will try my best to make it count.
Or Poetical, next day, same venue. There are some seriously good poets performing.
Friday will be Word Wise, at The Maypole in Derby. Last time I was there was a truly amazing open mic night, really good vibes. This time the excellent Jamie Thrasivoulou is running the night and has got some top class poets. Like this guy.
Then on Saturday I’ll rest. Nah just kidding, it’s my friend’s birthday party thing. Maybe Sunday will be a day of rest for me, just as the good lord intended? Although, there is an amazing charity gig on in Derby that night. And as all this travelling and stuff is going to have left me skint, it’s lucky that entry for this is in return for donations of food, clothing or blankets. And I have some nice things to give.
I just have one question. Why, oh why, is everything on in the same week?
And one wish. I wish I had hard copies of my pamphlet already, to try and sell at these events, but they’re in the post. Hopefully they will turn up soon, I can’t wait to see my first ever book.