Óvinir – The Enemies project: Iceland

Sarah Dawson and I will be performing our collaborative sound poem next Saturday, at Rich Mix, as part of this amazing event. More information below and from the Enemies web site:

“Óvinir is an ambitious collaborative poetry project, pairing writers from both Iceland and the UK to create brand new works for readings in London, Reyvjavik and Stykkishólmur January 2016. Curated by SJ Fowler and Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir, and supported by Reykjavik UNESCO city of literature, Ovinir will evidence the best of both Icelandic and British 21st century literary and avant-garde writing, and the powerful potential of collaboration to bring together communities of poets and create dynamic new pieces of literature.”


Óvinir: London – January Saturday 30th 2016: Rich Mix Arts Centre

7.30pm doors for an 8pm start – Free entry. http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/the-enemies-project-iceland–ovinir/

Óvinir brings together a host of Icelandic poets and writers to the UK to premiere brand new collaborations with British poets, featuring, as the core cross-nation collaborating poets:

Andri Snær Magnason & Joanna Walsh
Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir & SJ Fowler
Eiríkur Örn Nörðdahl & Hannah Silva,
Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir & Jack Underwood.

The London event will also feature new collaborations, in pairs, and in groups from:

Inua Ellams & Vahni Capildeo
Tasimbaradzwa Kanyangarara & tbc
Lucy Furlong & Sarah Dawson
Mohammed Al-Houti, Alex Brinded, Jo Longley, Karly Stilling & Raif Mansell
Rose Ades, John Canfield, Susie Campbell, Joe Turrent & Eileen Daly
Valeria Fioretti, Ana Lucia Beck, Suzie Champion, Ella Frears, Claudia Juhre, Sarah Kelly, Jacinta Lynch, Lavinia Singer,  Simone Gilson & Iris Colomb

Harvesting A Map, Over the Fields

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A small band of friends and family took a walk Over the Fields yesterday, to help me harvest the new poetry map. A glorious late September afternoon, close to the Autumn Equinox, traditionally associated with the second harvest…perfect timing.
We met at the church and were greeted by the vicar, Kevin, who was very generous in allowing us to wander around the beautiful church that is in his care, even letting Techno the Great Dane have a nose inside, and letting the children have a go on the church organ.

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We rambled down the hill into the valley; along paths, over and under bridges, by the river and through fields, stopping at various points to read poems. Thank you to Dad’s friend Roger White, who grew up and played in the fields too. He read us two pieces of writing he had published back in 1960, which was a great addition to the occasion. One about the Hogsmill River, published in his school magazine, and the other, a small clipping from the Surrey Comet, a news story about a local ‘incident’, which took place in 1959…

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Thank you to the family and friends who have helped me to make this new map, and who have been so kind and generous with their time, skills and support. Thanks to Bill Mudge, who recently took photos of me over the fields as I was finishing the map and taking a last walk there before signing off the final proof at my friend Mel’s studio. (Mega thanks to Mel- the map wouldn’t exist without her) Bill has kindly allowed me to use his photos, and a couple of them are on my web site. You can find more of Bill’s work here – the photos of me and Mel are part of his project 20 in 15.
The map is officially ready to find its way into the world, and with a bit of luck will help people wend their way around this patch of ‘green’…maybe you will be one of them…?
You can buy the Over the Fields map HERE, right now, and the first 25 people to order one will also get a FREE limited edition postcard (1 of 50) with a brand new poem which is also connected to this area, but not on the map… Your journey begins here!
There may be other walks – please ‘like’ my Facebook page for updates.

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Never Pounce on a Porcupine #Imbolc #NatureWords

???????????????????????????????“Never pounce on a porcupine!” was my son’s conversation opener this morning- wise advice, nice use of alliteration- and the perfect way to start this post, my first of 2015.

The word alliteration has been added to the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary- however porcupine has been removed. Can you pounce on ‘a rodent with a coat of sharp spines, or quills’? Probably- although you would be foolish to do so- and the alliteration does not exist without the word porcupine. How much meaning is being lost in removing this one word, which tells us, rather delightfully,  all we need to know about this creature? The same goes for the word piglet – it is no longer in the Oxford Junior Dictionary- it has been removed. Where would Winnie the Pooh be without Piglet? Piglet’s favourite food is acorns– or as he refers to them, “haycorns” – another word which has been deemed irrelevant to children’s vocabulary in the 21st century. Alliteratively (and poetically): Pink Piglet- yes…Pink Baby Pig- No….

Acorn comes from the Middle English- it is a very old word which we have been using for hundreds of years- but will children now refer to acorns as ‘fruit of an oak, consisting of a single-seeded, thick-walled nut set in a woody, cuplike base’? No- because, according to the Oxford University Press, who publish the Oxford Junior Dictionary, these words have been removed to make way for words which are more suitable and relevant to the indoor and technology-focused lifestyles of children now.
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primrose is another word to have gone from the OJD

This erasure of nature-based words from the Oxford Junior Dictionary is not a new situation- but has received more press coverage again recently. Religious and magical words (bishop, goblin, elf, sin) removed in 2007, have been added to with words such as catkin and even conker, in the 2012 edition. Words that in my opinion are still intrinsic to childhood itself, and to our relationship, education about, and understanding of the natural world around us.

The Guardian ran a piece on this in January, and many writers including Margaret Atwood and Michael Morpurgo have written to the OUP regarding this worrying state of affairs.

As a poet and a writer who writes about place, and as a mother of a seven year old, I felt determined to do something to raise awareness about this but until this weekend I wasn’t sure what that would be.

But…this weekend I went to Glastonbury to meet up with dear friends and celebrate Imbolc with them, also known as Brigid. Brigid or Bridie is the Goddess of Inspiration, Blacksmiths, Fire and also Poetry. This is a celebration of the First Stirrings- where the begins of growth are apparent: in snowdrops, the first lambing, and green shorts daring to peek out in the freezing weather.DSC02656

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After the celebration at the White Spring, we came out into the bright, watery-sun morning and gathered in a circle across Well House Lane, between the White Spring and the Red Spring at Chalice Well. There was an open invitation for people to share their thoughts, inspiration, songs and poetry. This is an event I always try to get to, as it is a great way to begin the year proper, and is a joyful meeting of like minds and community, in the best place to be.

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Some amazing poetry was performed and read, a wonderful guided visualisation was offered, inspirational stories were told, and the ever-joyful Hemp man was there to impress the gathered throng with the benefits of hemp consumption and production.

I had chosen two poems to read, and thought I had neatly folded them into my bag, but on arrival realised I had left them behind. I was disappointed for a moment but instead I found the printed list list of nature words which have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary lurking unexpectedly in my rucksack. It was after Lisa Goodwin performed her fantastic poem, which included the repeated line What would Bridie Do? that I knew I had to do it.

She asked if anyone else would like to contribute and I stepped into the circle and explained that the Oxford Junior Dictionary had removed a significant amount of nature words, and that as this was a day for poets, language and inspiration, that this seemed the right place to say some of them, and would everyone repeat them as I spoke them?

Here are all of the words, with the ones I remember saying, shouting even, highlighted.

adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox,oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren. Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran,bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip,crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender,leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow
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crocus- omitted from the OJD
I picked them out randomly, and in the moment but as I stood there and said them myself, and heard them come back at me, with the audible surprise and indignation in some people’s voices, I realised the power and meaning attached to these words, especially to people who feel spiritually connected to nature, to the earth, to the turning year, to the seasons….
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 I am very glad I did it, and afterwards, as we walked through the side gate into Chalice Well, and headed towards the warmth of the fire, and cups of coffee and ample blocks of delicious banana cake, a few people approached me to talk about it. So if a few more people know about this then these words will be fought for more fervently, as they should be.
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This is how we communicate our connection to nature, as well as claim our heritage and our traditions. For example think about what the word ‘conker’ conjures in you….
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the words won’t die because they aren’t included in one children’s dictionary- but it is symbolic and symptomatic of the disconnection with nature that is not only happening but also apparently being accepted as ‘normal’ in many sections of society. George Monbiot wrote a great piece in The Guardian about children losing their connection to nature and the future implications of this, which is worth reading.
After my nature-word incanting at the weekend my aim is to explore some of these words with my son this year and post the results on here from time to time.
I hope that OUP reconsider their decision and send out a positive message by putting these words back into the next edition of their junior dictionary. For updates on the campaign to bring the words back, this is the place to go: http://www.naturemusicpoetry.com/campaigns.html
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To finish up, and as something to consider…here are some of the words that have taken the place of the words above…what do they mean to you?
Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and
paste, analogue Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate,EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate,
endangered, Euro Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum,
classify, chronological, block graph

 

 

 

A Fool for Bristol

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The picture above is a photo of a photo in Bristol’s wonderful M Shed, which I visited recently for the first time with my son, when we were staying with friends for the weekend.

I lived in Bristol from 1997 to 2005. I moved back to London nine years ago today. I loved living in Bristol – my love was for the city as much as it was for my ex, my friends and life there. I was hopelessly head-over-heels for Brizzol…

I did not expect to see this photo, lump-in-throat time, as I stood for a moment on my own, everyone else busy looking at the Bristol Dinosaur or playing on the old omnibus. The shop in the picture is my old corner shop, Solanki’s at the end of Gwilliam Street, where I used to live, in Windmill Hill. The kind of shop where you would pop in for a paper early on a Sunday morning, and queue up to pay behind someone who was buying 20 fags and a two litre bottle of White Lightning. Solanki’s, a legendary shop in its locality- and now making its mark in the museum.

In all the years I have been feverishly writing long pieces of psychogeographical memoir, poems and stories, I have only very briefly touched upon my time in Bristol, which was mostly very happy. I came away from this visit knowing that in the next couple of years I am going to finally do the writing I started to plan over ten years ago, when I was still living there. It won’t be this year but might be next. Yer’ tis…

The Big Fun Run for Gingerbread

A couple of months ago, in the midst of writing the MFA dissertation, I registered to run 5km around Crystal Palace Park, to raise money for Gingerbread. At the time it seemed like a good idea – running has become a necessary cog in my writing process, allowing me some head space and providing a regular dose of physical exercise to combat the hunched-in-front-of-screen posture I am otherwise prone to develop. If I’m going to run anyway I might as well do some good with it- and raising a bit of money for a very good cause by running around a park seems like a fine way to do it.

funrun1 (1)Last year I ran the 5km Treeathlon for Trees In Cities, trotting around the leafy environs of Battersea Park on a glorious September Sunday. A day where, after the run was complete, my good friend Liz, her daughter and my son, spent a few pleasant hours in the park, taking advantage of the activities put on by Trees In Cities. The kids also had a great time playing in the adventure playground, which has since been closed down by the Tories. This was one of the last staffed and subsidised community adventure playgrounds left since the those halcyon 70s days when places like it seemed to be a normal occurrence, not some kind of Small Persons Shangri-La…now it has gone.

I thought we could repeat our lovely day out in Crystal Palace Park, which is massive, and where I last spent time in 1990, to see The Cure play a gig. I wanted to show my son and my friend’s daughter the dinosaurs (there is talk of the park being ‘regenerated’ and the dinosaurs going) and to have a nice afternoon hanging out with my mate and the kids. However, on the day itself, it rained. When I say rained, I mean it poured relentlessly in a particularly wet and doggedly persistent manner. Friends and family had generously sponsored me to the tune of nearly £150 and I didn’t want to let them down, and I am fairly doggedly persistent myself when it comes down to achieving goals these days, so we got on with it.

The stairs at Crystal Palace railway station were having their own Niagra moment as we climbed up them, which did not bode well for what lay ahead…the park was grey, drenched and running with water. Liz and the kids camped out in the cafe while I found the start of the race, left my bags in the marquee, and tried to shelter from the driving rain along with the other runners, some seasoned, some in gaggles, dressed in superhero outfits, onesies, tutus and other bedraggled fancy dress. Everyone was smiling and during the three minute warm up there were hollers and whoops and ‘COME ON!’s to gee everyone into action.

funrun1 (2)The run itself was two laps around a designated route in the park, up hill and down rivulet-filled dale, some of it surprisingly steep. I am not a fast runner at the best of times but I kept my pace and finished one minute slower than my time for the Treeathlon. Not a bad result in all that rain. Liz and the kids were there at the end, cheering me on and taking photos. Then it was time to get changed and run for the train…the picnic and dinosaurs can wait for a sunny day…

Without Liz I couldn’t have taken part in the run at all, and so I need to say a huge thank you to her, for looking after my son while I ran, and for being such a supportive friend. And that’s also why I chose to raise money for Gingerbread, which offers vital support, especially now, for single parents. Being a single parent is hard work and we are all doing our best to raise confident, happy, healthy and well-rounded children on our own.

My son hardly ever sees his father, and although my own father is the most fantastic and supportive father to me, and grandad to his grandson, it does mean we don’t have that invisible mesh that seems to exist between families with two parents. The support net is different, and requires other people’s love and goodwill to take a turn at keeping an end taut from time to time. Friends are important, and I am lucky to have some amazing friends.

Thanks Liz

This was the last goal I set myself and now it is complete. The studying is done, and I have spent the last couple of weeks feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to with myself, wondering how on earth I translate this five years of determined effort and academic study into paid employment. And how to balance this with being a mum and bringing up my son. One step at a time…one race at a time…

Three Chord Wonder: Pig City Angels at The Prince Albert, Brighton

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I hopped on a train to Brighton on Saturday night, to see Pig City Angels support Chelsea at the Prince Albert. The singer and guitarist from Pig City Angels, Jimmy Slag, is my old mate who I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. Turns out we haven’t changed a bit, and I had the lovely surprise of seeing another old friend who had come to see him play as well.???????????????????????????????

Pig City Angels

The Prince Albert has a bijou gig venue tucked away upstairs, with a bouncy floor, a bar at the back and a nice sounding PA.

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Pink Narcissus

How about a riotous punked-up cover of Ashes To Ashes from Pig City Angels, https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DLJFAe3UgfE#at=45

a crazy writhing on-the-floor-frontman from Pink Narcissus; old punks pogoing and throwing themselves about with abanadon, trying to coopt the rest of the audience as the legendary Chelsea played…loved it.???????????????????????????????

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Chelsea (with the crazy jumping man, apparently from Comet in the North Laine)

A joyous night- More gigs please Jimmy Slag.