TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- The Half God of Rainfall

Hello everyone! I actually wrote about this author very recently, but after a light summer rain I wanted to dance in thunder, hear the clouds boom (do you see I’m setting up a rain vibe?). Today’s book is a blending of modern quotidian life with epic forces of Ancient mythos, and I have just learnt that it has been made into a play too- so I guess it spans genres as well as histories. The Half-God of Rainfall is the latest offering from Innua Ellams- a dramatic tale of revenge against the powers that be, in this case the gods themselves.

I talked about Candy Coated Unicorns & Converse All Stars a few weeks ago, and this long poem seems to be a technicolour extension of one of the poems at the beginning of that first pamphlet- Portrait of Prometheus as a Basketball Player. Combining the drama, power and passion required for ruling the basketball court with the patience, meter and skill for composing poetry- The Half-God of Rainfall brings apparently separate realms of sport and art, of gods and mortals together into glorious collision. It follows the story of Demi: a half-god bastard prodigy born of rape. His mother is the mystic and quietly strong Modupe, a woman drenched with the sacrifices of her ancestors, who is forced through the cruelty of the Gods to repeat that cycle of pain herself- left alone and traumatized with a life she never asked for in her arms. The powers and influence of the Gods flow down to the world of mortals below, and whilst Demi may seem like a wimp to the other boys in his Nigerian village- it is his tears that rock the world, cause devastation with their emotion. He has inherited his mother’s humanity, along with some distant power. Love and rage. A powerful combination, which the Gods in their weakening purity cannot ignore, and like the mortal men they foolhardily think they’re so different from, seek to control in order to protect themselves.

However, whilst Demi is lauded with stardom he is not really the hero of this revenge plot. Ellams’ poem is a reworking of myth and modernity to make an exciting (and very satisfying) blood bath of feminine retribution against the Gods- who for all of history have been demanding that the feminine stays on her knees, in more ways than one… With the protection of the Nigerian spirits, and what turns out to be an inter-connected rebellion of all the feminine deities across the globe- rest assured Modupe does not let the Gods decide fate easily. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but Hollywood ought to zip it with Superman and that rabble, and really should make this poem into a film because I would LOVE to watch Modupe fuck shit up all goddess style. I thought I could predict the ending from the plot, and the tradition of revenge tragedies (me being an arrogant lil boffin) but what is remarkable about The Half-God is that it uses the old and hidden to make something dynamic and timeless. We all know that mothers are superheroes without capes, but this is a revision of herstory that truly reinstates mothers- and all those who suffer under colonial patriarchal violence- to their true majesty and vivacity.

If you love a good old plot of celestial planets and powers, sports and punch ups I would highly recommend this book. Its rhyme and metered verses make it fairly straight-forward to follow, without the laborious and cryptic language that epic poetry rooted in the ancients often remains. A modern decolonialization of myth to give the world a new taste of what power can look like, it’s potential when fuelled by love and not bloodlust.

“…Among the Greeks there is a famous tale of pride,
about a child strapped with feathers and wax. It’s told
this child who got too close to the sun fell and died.

Whenever and however this story unfolds,
it’s never admired that he flew that he proved,
it was possible, knew it, that- wings- fluttered bold,

Bright, b r o a d, a graceful glide of a thing and it moved
towards the horizon before gravity pulled.
His vengeance needed greatness… “

TOMBOY BOOK CLUB- FRESHWATER!!!

Todays’ book has me utterly besotted. It is one of the best – in my humble opinion- that I have read recently, way up there with Audre and Patti. I first found out about it because it is one of the longlisted books for the 2019 ‘Women’s Prize for Fiction’, but, more interestingly to me, it is the first book in the prize’s 27 year run to be written by a non-binary transgender author. By glorious coincidence, just as I finished this oracle of a book the months had changed to welcome in the beginning of PRIDE season- so what better way to usher in a month of acknowledging and understanding all things and people non-heteronormative or cis-gendered than by celebrating a book sincerely invested in expanding that conversation even more? Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi is stunning, wild and daring in its pursuit of defining freedom in identity: who really are we, and to whom do we belong, if not ourselves?

I didn’t realise it until mid-way through after reading some interviews, but Freshwater is actually a fictionalised representation of ‘real’ autobiographical experiences. I had been reading, stunned and touched that somehow, some stranger had put into words feelings I had never known myself how to articulate. To then learn that this story wasn’t pure imagination spoken through an art form, but grounded in and woven through actual breath and body was serious magic. This blurring of fiction and non-fiction is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to Emezi’s dismantling of oppressive reason and the destruction of organizing meta-narratives rooted in binaries. Freshwater vibrates with a low humming queerness and punk, strung through a modern indigenous ‘fairy tale’ of Nigerian spirits from another realm.

We follow Ada from birth throughout *her* becoming, however this isn’t a story of growing up- it isn’t wholly her speaking. It is the tale of the spirits trapped inside her- who both are and are not her, who want to live so badly, just not here– and what they make her do in the pursuit of their own freedom. The Obanje spirits are at once mischievous, malicious and innocent- not good or bad, childlike yet wise beyond years with their inherent knowings. They rail against the torture of individualized embodiment, the concomitant fears and consequences that come with realizing you are one and singular… to then throw away their rules. The sprits know they aren’t alone in Ada, she is of them.

In my feeble reckonings, I think the integral mission of Freshwater is to make known the alienating, terrifying, yet utterly freeing and beautiful realisations that come through the collapsing of the binary and fusion of supposed opposites. Deviation flows in abundance through Freshwater, a transgression of established borders, the edges we put up to organize ourselves which only leave us lonely: Blurring happy/sad, god/mortal, insanity/sanity, life/ death, the individual/ the crowd, male / female, black / white, animality / humanity, emotion /empirical fact… INTERCONNECTEDNESS IS A SECRET NO MORE!!! Awareness of self and the construction of destiny is rendered back to primal impressions, where knowledge is powerful because it cannot be appropriated for gain or purpose; it simply is what it is, and that’s who you are- for one moment.

I will stop fangirling now, but for anyone interested in concepts of multitudes and hybridity, I cannot recommend this book enough. Akwaeke Emezi has created a world of sprightliness and depth; intoxicating in its imaginings of private mental space, made vivid through the scaffolds of reality structured around raw flux at its centre. Freshwater was also a breath of fresh air for me, and I can’t wait for what else Akwaeke Emezi has in store!!!!!!

“…This is all, ultimately, a litany of madness- the colours of it, the sounds it makes in heavy nights, the chirping of it across the shoulder of the morning. Think of brief insanities that are in you, not just the ones that blossomed as you grew into taller, more sinful versions of yourself, but the ones you were born with, tucked behind your liver. Take us, for instance…”

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- INNUA ELLAMS!!!!

Hello!!!! Today’s post is going to be a little bit different from how I usually write, because there is actually a bit of a real life story behind how I discovered this author! EXCITING!!!! I went to a poetry workshop last week in York and to a poetry Slam- Say Owt– afterwards (with my doting lover, I know they would not want to be left out of this post aha). I wish I could go into detail about all the marvellous Slammers I witnessed- bright, quick-witted poets showcasing the intelligence of the mighty North. But to be frank, I was giddy on rum and reefer and my time there wasn’t solely for intellectual probings, but to have a good lark. I know the winner of the Slam was Dami Okhiria, a medical student training to be a doctor at Cardiff uni. Her first poem used humour to talk about the seriousness of domestic violence, and had everyone laughing then holding back tears- it was FIRE, and I hope she manages to get more of her work out into the world in the future!!!!!!! But I am not going to write about her work, but about Innua Ellams. He taught our workshop before the slam, all based around personal story-telling and how to interrogate objects into speaking narratives for you. I got his book, which he read at the slam: Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars. Hence, this blog post.

I got goosebumps reading Candy Coated Unicorns, loving the balance of humour with sentimentality, solids with light, and of plot, storytelling with abstract poetic imagery. The way some of the poems slotted themselves into a wider chain of imaginative events reminded me of how many of my own poems start out: the bones of a moment, a snippet of story that I can mould into other meanings- creating fiction from a private timeline of ‘fact’.

Ellams is a Nigerian author who has lived in the UK for much of his life, and one renowned aspect of his work is celebrating and exploring race in an anti-colonialist agenda (he has also had plays performed at Edinburgh fringe) and whilst that isn’t the main focus of Unicorns, it is clear how resistance to authoritarian powers always informs his poetry, the need to create meaning and beauty: a refusal to contain your mind in one lonely world is in itself a rebellious way to think, the first step of manifesting hope.

The stories told in these poems are a treasure trove of detail and sound: each blends surreal, busy magic with a curiosity for expanding upon what we see as material into a bridge towards more iridescent states of being. I want to finish this blog post with a section of Corinne Bailey Rae. I interpret it as a scene captured of life, of the speaker listening to Corinne in their room and watching the small world around unfurl fresh textures of colour as music tumbles out of a speaker somewhere. The specific moment described that I love is just sunlight hitting a glass- every day spellbinding in the air. This poem reminded me of the importance of respecting the tiniest of motes in the shortest of moments, because you never know when poetry will come to whisk it up into heaven. I will definitely keep an eye out for more of Ellams’ poetry and that like it, and please do let me know if you do it! 🙂  xoxoxoxxoxxoxxox

….

“The beam hits a tumbled glass and scatters,
the glass plays prism, a rainbow pallet splatters
and colours come into their own, red rides an apple,
bleeds into a burning candle’s orange glow, wax
drips onto a copy of Othello, the yellow’d paper
greens where blue ink stains, fades to a dusty
indigo, rests on a violet folder.

This harmonious violent, accidental rainbow
hits a mirror and smatters across the room, sends
a thousand things twinkling in the summer gloom.
A confined borealis blinks, sinks into the swirl
and soft madness of a still warm duvet: the ghost
of sleep rises to meet the ghost of music, entwines
in the sparse sparkle. Worn footpaths in the carpet
look like crop circles, and a natural mystic fills the air.

…….

TOMBOY BOOK CLUB- NANCY CUNARD!!!!

Hello again!!!!! It has been a hot minute since I’ve had a chance to write! I have been twitching to get the poetry/blog ball rolling again, and so I’ve decided to indulge myself and write about a poet I don’t know too much about, but whose work makes my soul sing in the lushest and funkiest of ways… NANCY CUNARD!!!

I first discovered this poet/heiress/bad-ass icon at an art exhibition- Modern Couples at the Barbican, to be exact. After having read a few more articles about her, I can paraphrase her fascinating life with my patchy knowledge as such: Nancy was born to filthy rich parents, magnates of the Cunard shipping line and famous for their posh parties. She was always embarrassed by her wealth, but used it to fund her art: establishing a printing press, The Hours, and hobnobbing with Modernist greats (she knew Virginia Woolf- FANGIRL MOMENT), even bedding many of them as her lovers too. SHE IS A COOL LADY. In her later years, she dedicated much of her life to fighting injustice: she was involved in the Spanish civil war, actively fought fascism as it spread throughout Europe, and also used her money to help champion the artistic talents and civil rights of black people in America to fight against racism there. Nancy actually lost her huge inheritance over her refusal to concede to her family’s wishes to break up with black Jazz musician, Henry Crowder (but sadly they split eventually anyways). She helped the French Resistance in London during WW2, and somehow was even on board SS Windrush from Jamaica when it travelled over to the UK (not that she was involved in fighting for immigrant rights so much, it is just a weird coincidence she was on board). Her activist efforts are sometimes dubious by today’s standards, many rightly criticise her efforts for being heavily steeped in exoticism and White Saviour-is, not really making the efforts to fully grasp how to best help people and rather revelling in the drama. However, I do like to believe Nancy had good intentions even if her execution was not always on point. In the end, her life was very sad- abandoned by most of her former friends and artistic cohorts, sick and mentally unwell in a Sanatorium; which is also why I think it is important to remember her now, so that grim loneliness in the hospital isn’t really her end at all.

Nancy’s poetry is full of heart and soulful observations about the world around her, infused with messages- whether it is an apple tree, a bunch of jonquils or a busy Parisian street, Cunard finds meaning in many places. One of the most stunning works to me is a long poem- Parallax– she wrote in response to T.S Eliot’s Wasteland, and what she felt was an uncompromising and somewhat misplaced negativity after the chaos of WW1. Where Eliot’s work is stark and undeniably morose, Cunard is febrile and sensitive, mingling the past sorrow of lost adolescence with the happiness from those memories that still lives in details of her contemporary post-war moment. She channels exuberance with grief, sensitivity with a tasteful gaudiness for expanding on minutiae, and doesn’t present a monotone landscape of emotion. Her works are serious in their poetic sincerity, adventurous in how they manipulate traditional motifs and structures in on themselves to create fresher voices, and saturated with nerve. Whether lamenting the loss of love and beauty, traversing and interpreting/interrupting urban landscapes or challenging social status quos and injustices- Cunard has a gravitas that can change its tune, but never its conviction to making us feel something.

Without going on and on, I will finish by including a poem of Nancy’s that I found very romantic and despondently beautiful in its intense stoicism on the pains of unrequited love. A sonnet of sorts that, in its strict structuring of lines, hides a trembling heart afraid of its own devotion, and the terribleness of the implications of being known. Nancy is a poet of mystic and fantastic vision, not fully understood but still starkly passionate in her various rebellions against family, cultural tradition and dominating politics. May we continue to rediscover and celebrate her legacy to modernism, activism, and generally being a bad ass rich bitch with a mission. The so called ‘socialites’ of today could never….WE LOVE YOU ALWAYS NANCY XOXOXOXOXXOXOXOXO

You Have Lit the Only Candle

You have lit the only candle in my heart that I am bound to worship,
Kneeling in the draughts of that cold and most solitary place,
Alone, without the stirring priests and breathless sounds of confession
That have made holy such other seclusions, and in their hour of grace
Absolved desires and sins that I am barren of. This sharp
Straight flame of yours is silent, and like a saint throws down on me,
Now I have knelt again after so long on this remembered ground,
The steadfast radiance of his mute impersonality.
You have lit the only candle that shall illumine my wayward paths;
And I tell you, before the time comes when its flames must tremble
and start,
Facing some great wind of eternity that rends and masters it,
I shall be gone with the thread of its tall spirit safe against my heart.

TOMBOY BOOK CLUB- LINTON KWESI JOHNSON!!!!

Hello everyone! Today’s blog post is all about the Jamaican-British, Reggae-poet genius of the one and only LINTON KWESI JOHNSON, dub and rhyme master of the verse!!!!! 

Before reading his poetry, I knew Johnson was the only living poet to have the honour of their work being published by Penguin Classics, normally reserved for deceased writers of greatness only. So he is a pretty big fucking deal to be a LITERAL living classic. To give a brief summary of him before I talk more about his poetry: Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in Jamaica, but moved to Tulse Hill to join his mother again in 1963. He was involved in the British Black Panthers during the the 70s and 80s, and now has poetry accolades and awards coming out of his ears! His engagement with combining music and poetry has led to the creation of an almost spoken-word reggae poetics on music albums, and is majorly interesting! If you don’t like reading poetry, just listen to his songs instead!

His poetry deals with the visceral ups and downs of life for Caribbean immigrants in London, the potentials for joy and violence in the instability of transitioning from one life to another in a hostile country. They celebrate brotherhood and youth culture, exploring the city and new language forming from the mixing of Creole and patois with standard English. A big fuck you to colonial logic, separatism and binaries, and the hierarchies of language alongside race. The poems spit in the face of authority: Johnson writes of police brutality with a fast paced anger, and whilst his poetry does not expand on imagery or soft lyricism, the guttural iterations of his reggae rhythms pack all the descriptive punch you need to grasp the systemic violence he sees. Sadly, its not just the police who instigate strife: Johnson also writes of the violence amongst immigrants at that time fighting with each other. It isn’t hard to work out how Johnson’s themes- immigration, law and order, racism, community and class- make his poetry timeless even today. What with Brexit, Windrush, the refugee crisis and general global disdain for immigrants and travellers of all kinds- Johnson’s poetry brings forth a marginalised displacement I am certain many still live through now, and that everybody must respect and pay witness to.   

For better or for worse- depending on your preferred style- the only way to truly appreciate the sonic mastery and rhythmic precision of these poems is to read them aloud. I know! It does seem silly to read aloud sometimes, and especially if- like myself- you are a somewhat nerdy white girl who really has no idea how to pronounce some of the words and have no intention of being a culture vulture/ putting on a blaccent. BUT I STILL INSIST! Much of the language is more phonetic anyways, so even if you cant understand what a word is on the page odds are as soon as you say it aloud the meaning will reveal itself. And once you grasp the pattern of a verse, and feel the pauses in your breath- the reggae powers do the rest. I can attest from first hand experience, as me and my lover read some of these poems together aloud, and even though we did have a bit of a laugh at each other, hearing the words spoken really is captivating. We also decided the poetry was best enjoyed the most authentic way- with a fat zoot…

These are poems not to be dithered about, and so I will stop waffling here. These poems are for crowds- to read in the park, the pub or political rally- to hear rhythm and feel emotional truths, not silently in loneliness piking metaphor apart. They are bodacious in character and precious in history, with a distinct vernacular and vocabulary that still manages to talk to us in this moment, about problems which should have been solved a long time ago… I shall leave you with an extract from a poem both Elvis and I loved: INGLAN IS A BITCH. And it truly is. England is a fucking bitch, we have to do better. XOXOXOXOXO


Inglan Is A Bitch


well mi dhu day wok an mi dhu nite work
mi dhu clean wok an mi dhu dutty wok
dem seh dat black man is very lazy
but if yu si how mi wok yu woodah seh mi crazy

Inglan is a bitch
dere’s no escapin it
Inglan is a bitch
yu bettah face up to it

WORLD POETRY DAY!!!!!!

Hello everyone, AND HAPPY WORLD POETRY DAY!!!!!!! MAY WE ALL BASK IN THE BOUNTIFUL LUMINESCENCE OF THIS GLORIOUS ART FORM!!!!!!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

I think it is self-evident by now that I really believe in the power of poetry to heal, inspire and give souls a home in the vibrating thorax of life’s cosmic mystery. Poetry can do anything! It can take you to Mars, or to ancient Greece. It can make you want to weep for beauty and love and to hold onto each pore and detail of life until you sprout wings. It can make you laugh, give you chills or knock you out for six. Poetry has had a role for centuries in helping couples express their joy at weddings, and consoled the ineffable devastation of lost life at funerals. Whether you’re a fascist scumbag or a freedom fighter, you will use poetry to define your goals, to explain your mission for better or worse. Poetry is too often confined to the frivolous, or to the dark back alleys of academia for allegedly being too difficult to be classed as entertaining… SICKENING LIES!!!! Poetry can be as deep or as silly as you will it, and one of the joys of my life is scouring the internet, and any book shelves that I see for obscure poets from across the world; people dead or alive, who I may meet or never. I may be able to identify with them, but more likely than not we are aliens to each other. And it is a miracle on earth when a stranger can say with clarity what you have had within you all along. Poetry connects us to the universe, and helps us create more of it for ourselves and others to share.

I know I am gushing, but poetry is a force worth gushing over. Poetry can define our lives like songs or smells can, evoking emotions again from a time you thought you could never return to. Poetry smashes the clock. I remember being tucked up in bed, my soft smelling wet hair tangled upon the pillow as the rest of me from the stomach downwards dipped slightly lower- my father’s body sitting on the side of the bed, weighting down the mattress with his loveable chub. We adored A.A Milne’s poetry, and his favourite was King John’s Christmas– an epic tale of a man’s redemption back into the world of community after corrupting forces of authority almost smother his soul:

King John was not a good man,
Yet had his hopes and fears.
They’d given him no present now
For years and years and years.
But every year at Christmas,
While minstrels stood about,
Collecting tribute from the young
For all the songs they might have sung,
He stole away upstairs and hung
A hopeful stocking out…

After King John, I remember The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. The lyricism and pace of the poem thrilled my little ears, imagining a lone silhouetted rider and dark hooves pounding on a moon drenched road, breaking out red sparks against the din of night. Our teacher, Miss Armstrong, let us listen to a folk song version of the poem, and I still remember the sweat of my palms gripped tight around a pencil, writing as fast as I could, trailing each line and break of the song to scrawl down the words so I wouldn’t forget. Miss Armstrong thought I wasn’t listening and told me off, but I am proud of the little geek I have always been. The Highwayman enthralled and enamoured me with its drama and gothic flare- the beginning of a lifelong dedication to bringing motion to a moment- capturing speed, pulse and the story that beats.

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.   
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
And the highwayman came riding—
         Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

I am acutely aware that considering I pride myself on trying to keep this a feminist friendly blog I haven’t even mentioned one female poet who kicks ass yet! So, for brevity’s sake I will fast forward to now and pick one of the bright stars shining out of the current milleu of poets I love to read. The latest poet who made me literally sob, her words are so sincere and powerful is the British- Nigerian poet, Therese Lola. Lola’s first collection is a grappling with faith in the face of her grandfather developing Alzheimer’s. She talks of the impact of the gradual loss of his memory upon her family, how this affects how they are able to love each other and God. But, the first poem to really give me tingles was not about her family or faith- it explores depression and the pressure of ‘beauty’ upon women, particularly black women.

I will include it here, as a new poem to make you think this World Poetry Day! I hope you give yourself time to at least read a haiku, or maybe try writing a little sonnet or sestina of your own! Poetry is truly for the people, and I hope we can all continue to keep it blossoming as a force for growth and intelligent emotion! POETRY IS POWER NEVER FORGET GOD MADE THE WORLD WITH WORDS, YOU TOO ARE A POWERFUL CREATOR! XOXOXOXOXXOXOXOXOXOOXO

Black Marilyn

Today I woke up surprised I was still alive,
last thing I remember was my body swinging
from a ceiling of inadequacies.
In my head I have died in so many ways
I must be a god the way I keep resurrecting
into prettier caskets.

In Lagos, a photograph of Marilyn Monroe watches me
in my hotel room as I scrub my body
like it’s a house preparing for an estate agent’s visit.
I think Marilyn wants to say something to me,
the way her mouth is always open
like a cheating husband’s zipper.

My mind carries more weapons
than all war-torn countries combined.
Every day I survive is worth a medal or two.
I celebrate by buying more clothes than I can afford.
I must be rich, my void is always building
a bigger room to accommodate new things.

Marilyn’s photographer, Lawrence Schiller, said
Marilyn was afraid that she was nothing
more than her beauty.
You can call me arrogant, call me black Marilyn,
come celebrate with me,
I am so beautiful death can’t take its eyes off me.

-Therese Lola

WORLD BOOK DAY!!!!!!! <3 <3 <3

Hello, and HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!!!! With my love- ever verging on compulsion- for books, it is only natural that I commemorate this glorious day! It is a universal truth that stories bring imagination, togetherness and meaning into our lives, which is why it is so heart-breaking to read about the bastard tory cuts to our country’s libraries, and what these closures mean for us all and our future.

Considering 1 in 8 disadvantaged children don’t even own one book, it is not only sad but a public disgrace that since 2010, 700 libraries have closed- there are people being deprived of an education and development of emotional depth that everyone deserves. It isn’t a mystery why books are under threat from this government of liars, bullies and thieves. Books are the ultimate power. I always remember what my mother told me as a child: your education is the most precious thing you can cultivate, because it is the one thing nobody else can take away from you. Once you have read a sentence that sticks, or a fragment of words arranged to reveal a hidden matrix of intricate feelings, that knowledge and drive for more cannot be tamed. God even made the universe with language: ‘In the beginning was the word…’ and guess what? Words belong to everyone.

Ignorance is a fertile breeding ground for confusion, which leads to anxiety, which leads to hatred; and hatred is a very easy thing to make money from. By keeping us distant from books, the powers that be are trying to stop us from accessing a great store of tools, both for society as a whole and for our own inner lives of dreaming. In a cultural and revolutionary sense, books can help us connect to one another: to exchange and merge ideas to create new movements for political change and art of beauty. Without the literatures of Sojourner Truth, W.E.B Du Bois and later of Maya Angelou and James Baldwin, how would the oppressed realities of black Americans ever have come to the public consciousness in a way that promoted empathy and freedom over fear and exploitation? Without the words of revolutionary poets writing in their jail cells, without the necessity for freedom inscribed forever in suffragette or war pacifist leaflets, how could we know what we need to do to help one another?

Without books we would all be dead.

But it’s not just language’s capacity for fostering communal spaces of shared ideas to fight injustice which ignites my soul (READING IS SEXY IF U DIDN’T KNOW) but also for what it can do just for yourself. A good book is medicine, magic and mentor all at once. A good book can come to define a period in your life, or help organize the way you perceive reality. Reading educates you in the sense of grammar and vocabulary, but also in emotional literacy. The sense that stories and their characters and messages hold a vital puzzle: the more we pick apart and analyse a story, the more we reveal about ourselves, our biases and penchants.

It is evident that reading is and always will be FUNDAMENTAL (for any Rupaul lovers out there, I hope you got that reference- if not, take yourself back to the library hoe). Which is why, simultaneously as my heart breaks over the state of our libraries, it also swells with hope: as libraries are declining, there has been an unprecedented rise in young people reading poetry.

Poetry is often considered the less reliable, messier relative of fiction. More free-wheeling in its use of language and organization of time and plot, poetry is a maverick. Created in the material world, yet not existing by the rules of that realm- poetry’s power lays in the fact that it reverberates a visceral truth which cannot be pinpointed to a spreadsheet or reported on the news. Yet the truth you feel is real alright, the shivers and goosebumps that manifest when you read lines which somehow reveal an intuition you had felt all along, but never had the foundations of language to communicate before. There is something elemental and universal in poetry’s emotional scope, which is why I think it is such a strong mode for activism in uniting people’s hearts and minds with those of strangers.

And so, we live in hope. The libraries and our access to books may be under threat from tory heartlessness (no shocker there), but the peoples’ love of poetry cannot be cut by any austerity. The more the government continues to fuck with us, the more need we will have to fight back: to uplift and learn from each other, to stop our hearts ossifying into machines of profit. If you know someone who hasn’t read for pleasure in a while, or is curious of learning but afraid of looking like a nerd- encourage them! Share books with your friends! Volunteer at your local library or donate to causes who are fighting for the dignity and importance of the arts! AND NEVER VOTE FOR THE TORYS.

I learnt today that many thousands of books are being left unopened, and many lessons aren’t being learned. And so, I leave you today with one simple message: don’t forget to read, it is more important than you think. One of my favourite authors is Virginia Woolf, and I will honour today with what she had to say about the importance of reading and learning:

“…Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind…”

The articles I refer to are:

On library closures: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/mar/07/world-book-day-2019-libraries-tom-watson

On the rise of poetry’s popularity: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/16/rise-new-poets