New shiny website which I will update a lot more regularly than this here blog. Promise.
Go take a gander!
Mouthy Poets – eclectic, exuberant and heart-felt. I’d heard a lot about Mouthy before I had the pleasure of meeting them. I had followed Deborah as she set up the organisation, and watched it flourish from afar, and I am lucky enough to know some of the members who have all spoken incredibly highly of the ethos and community spirit that Mouthy embodies. So when I was asked to be the headliner for their first date of the Mouthy Tour in London, I was excited to finally meet more of them as a collective, and hear their work. In the pre-show warm up, led by Debris, the energy and passion that each member brought was infectious. They (and eventually I) were not afraid to look silly, or make ridiculous noises in the vocal warm-ups – this level of commitment to movement and intent transferred to their command of the stage.
What struck me most about Mouthy Poets On Tour was the originality, both in the content and the way this content was expressed. The themes were as broad as online relationships with ‘cyber women’, the burden a family name can sometimes hold, and whether to listen to your head or your heart in matters of love and biscuit consumption (yes, that section was as hilarious as it sounds). It felt performative in a very real sense, transporting us to these various settings and states of mind – hospitals, night-clubs, airport security. It was much more than a series of poets reading their work, but in no way did it feel like an overly theatrical, disconnected production. The balance was perfectly struck, creating a seamless performance with no scripts in sight that felt fluid, conversational and accessible.
The show itself was carefully shaped to guide the audience through a range of emotions and thoughts. A particular effective shift for me came with a poem in the voice of a young girl in a psychiatric ward. What had been quite a light, humorous beginning was unsettled with this vulnerable, truthful monologue. The variety in tone and topic, for me, highlighted the work that Mouthy seek to do as a collective – they give a space to be who you are, without apology, and offer complete acceptance of that person, a space to explore what matters to you, through your unique voice, whilst getting continuous support from the other members. Just before the audience entered, each member was asked to say in one sentence why they were there – one answer stuck with me more than any other – ‘Before Mouthy, I was drifting’ – I believe that the wider community of Mouthy poets which exists beyond the show is what makes the level of honesty and truth in the show possible, and it was a beautiful thing to witness.
Catch Mouthy Poets On Tour at their next stop – Mumford Theatre, Cambridge on the 7th of February – and look on their website for details of all their other stops. If anything, it’s worth it just to hear the chocolate Hob Nob line (you’ll know the one I mean).
This silence that lays between us like a body
that long ago gave up responding to pain,
still less to light (which is pain’s opposite),
that cannot hear and cannot be awakened,
that is, in fact, incontinent and catatonic,
but nonetheless demands to be sat beside
and talked to, prayed for, cried over, whose limbs
and torso must be gently sponged, forehead
smoothed, even in the dead of night –
especially in the dead of night – this silence,
how long do you suppose it can continue?
Extract from ‘This Silence Between Us’ in Julia Copus’ collection The World’s Two Smallest Humans
-If you sit in a café that plays old school jazz for long enough, looking out at the wind playfully pushing the Christmas tree like a mischievous lover, by the park you used to sit in at seventeen, when you still had nothing better to do, your muddled mind might start making sense. It probably won’t though.
Give me an ocean to drink.
Give me a boat not to sink.
Give me a night to lie half-awake upon.
Give me a sheet to unroll myself within.
Give me everything.
Give me the love you were saving.
Give me your hand, gloved, or cold as denial.
Give me your sorry state, do not hesitate.
We have all been an endangered mountain bear
they call vicious, too sad to bare our teeth
and make them run to give us peace.
We have all been mere mortal, all realised this
on a day that did not start with someone muttering
our name, mid-sleep, as we left them.
Give me a minute, there is always something else
to do, before I can get to you.
We are not ok, but let’s not tell anyone,
just yet. Place your hand over mine as
I try to get the bar man’s attention,
kiss me as I carry your pint and my
wine glass to our table of friends
who cannot feel this world shifting
under my black platform shoes.
There will be other nights to sink
our teeth into. Let’s not let it be tonight.
Let’s practice this skill of pretending:
me, on your lap, I am not a weight
you have to bear, I was what made you
feel light again, remember?
Remember when I made you what you
thought you were too old to become?
Performing ‘Abscess’ at a Burn After Reading night in October.
Burn After Reading’s next night is on the 10th December: https://www.facebook.com/events/749450205138615/?fref=ts
Featuring Salena Godden, Adam Kammerling and the BARPo crew. Wonderful.
I want to write different words for you
To invent a language for you alone
to fit the size of your body
And the size of my love
I want to travel away from the dictionary
And to leave my lips
I am tired of my mouth
I want a different one
Which can change
Into a cherry tree or a match box
A mouth from which words can emerge
Like nymphs from the sea,
Like white chicks jumping from the magician’s hat.
Trans. Bassam K Frangieh and Clementine R. Brown
For the last few months I have been doing all I can to deny the fact that university is coming to an end. Today, packing up the last of my room and walking around the empty house, it finally hit me. These last three years have passed by so quickly, but thinking back to everything that they’ve contained makes it seem like it was an absolute lifetime.
As dramatic as it sounds, I had a slideshow playing in my head of random snippets – that initial drive to Exeter, spotting other students on the motorway with piled up cars and wondering if they were going to the same place, figuring out which flat was mine and then looking out of the kitchen window as people pulled up, wondering which ones I’d be living with for the next year. You go loaded with fear and expectation, tingling anticipation of all the people that you’ll meet. You stalk them before you get there, and now the three years have gone, I know some of those people I discreetly fb stalked inside out, whilst others I never even spoke to in person.
You spend three years making a life for yourself in this new city, growing into yourself as some of those high school insecurities slip away, but all too soon you are reminded that the spaces you set up home in are temporary. Looking at the blank walls of my kitchen, and knowing that although it didn’t feel like it was ending, the six of us were never going to sit on those worn out leather sofas discussing dinner, the future or last night’s antics suddenly hit home.
But no matter how scary change is, that is what life is all about. You create these capsules in which you deposit experiences and memories and yes, people are transient, time sifts away some things that you thought would be around forever, but it replaces it with new opportunities that sit by side your old memories.
University is much more than the degree certificate you slave away for. It hurls you into an environment where the people around you have come from extremely different backgrounds, it tests your ability to remain strong in who it is you are whilst being open to all the new people you come into contact with.
Sitting in my childhood home surrounded by the suitcases I still have to unpack has a way of refracting time. Leaving anything behind is hard, and returning to an old place when you have changed can be an unsettling feeling. But it was time to leave the bubble that university places you inside. The real world is scary, especially without a student card to ease your woes with ASOS discounts, but it’s also what everything has been leading up to. It’s time to put into action all those off-hand remarks you made about what you wanted to be, what mark you wanted to leave on the world. Student life was good while it lasted though – Arena burger van, I’m yours forever.
Highlights from a great Vocals & Verses night that I performed at earlier this year.
Particularly relevant to today – degree mark secured, on to the next stage, whatever that may be.
Six minutes after you’d left for work this morning,
I crawled into the bathroom, wrapped in my duvet.
I could still feel the steam from the shower you’d just had.
I pressed myself up against the wall of heat as if it were your body,
and I was not afraid to touch it.
We have been dragging love around by its feet for a good few weeks,
not letting anyone see its bedraggled state in public.
Kissing in the right places: forehead, tip of the nose, mouth;
doorstep, bus-stop, tube. Are you kissing those old versions of me,
the ones you stored for when this day would come? I have saved
so many of your past selves. When I wipe your mouldy kisses
from my lips, they tap the front of my head, incessantly.