TOMBOY BOOK-CLUB!!!- ‘Please Mind the Gap’

At work recently, I have taken up a lunchtime habit. To walk outside towards St Paul’s Cathedral, plonk myself down on a bench either by the roses still hanging onto their plump colours or next to pidgins scratting around thinning grasses for crumbs or seeds, and I read. Also, I like to treat myself to some MacDonalds (but only on Fridays, so I don’t become enslaved to their global corporation of capitalist exploitation of animals, and also so I don’t become an actual potato) whilst I peruse the pages of my book of choice, exploring a whole other world contained, yet beyond the concrete noise of London. This week has been a delight, words mingling their power with the delights of tomato ketchup. I have been reading Sophie Sparham’s ‘Please Mind The Gap’.

I have actually met Sophie irl, and she is lovely. A bespectacled punk with red lips surrounding a smile, unmistakable with dreadlocks the colour of chilli peppers that hang down past her waist. She performed in Peterborough for a FreakSpeak poetry night in honour of Pride, and her poetry made me laugh and wipe away tears in equal measures that night. My slightly drunken appreciation fixed on her as she commanded the stage with a down-to-earth confidence that was not shy exactly, but was not too boisterous or forced. I spoke to her in the bathroom after she had read, we were both washing our hands. I told her how wonderful I thought her poetry was, and she thanked me with laughter and smiles, wished me luck when I said I also wrote then we went on our ways to watch the rest of the night’s wordsmiths.  Sophie is from up north in Derby, and her thick accent wasn’t difficult to listen though, it made the poems even more heartfelt and unique, evoking the places and people with whom her mind wrangled with to write these AMAZING poems.

Sophie’s poetry is the best ‘fuck you’ for days when you feel shit upon by the universe. Her work focuses on political and social issues- especially women’s issues, depression and LGBTQ+ rights. Her poems are about the mental impacts material suffering perpetuates on the mind. How anti-gay sentiments seep into the pavements of her childhood, how the rush and crush of ceaseless production wilts the heart to a hollow calculator of survival, unless we try to let the beauty in. I love her work, because the topics she talks about are serious and difficult to grasp, yet the way she phrases her work is so fluid and delightful to read I almost feel guilty sometimes for paying more attention to the control she has over rhyme and rhythm than on the crippling suffering she is trying to address and heal. It’s not only me who thinks her poetry is bomb either, in the edition I have, Benjamin Zephaniah, a poetry great, has written a foreword where he states: “I was very impressed with this fearless, compelling performer, who is unafraid to seek out the truth and comment on issues that others might shy away from“.

Her work flies above the country, and sets its visions to lands even further out to sea when imagining the unity fighting oppression demands. Her work spans the universal disappointments and difficulties of trying to be honest and happy in a world that cares more for profit and shallow popularity. But alongside these searing commentaries that I am sure Ginsberg would approve of, she also talks about her own life and memories with an intimacy that allows her point to be sharp without becoming too concerned with the details of life that she could include that would make the poems less lyrical, but more rich in specific moments. I’m not saying here that her poetry lacks imagery, it most certainly does not- but her talent and power truly does rest in the structures she can build out of rhyme and rhythm, the true gift of a poet whose work is most alive when read aloud. And, considering she tours her poetry with punk bands and at festivals, I hope many more people will be able to hear her songs, her battle cries for the release of old pain to help make concrete changes.

After first seeing Sophie perform, I expected reading her works would be the same visceral concoction of song and sadness and soul. I was not disappointed. This book is for anyone who cares, and who wants a book to pull out in fleeting moments stolen from the machine, as well as to curl up with for longer in reflection. Its style flows easily, but the issues Sparham writes about will make you want to slow down and think before rushing onto the next delicious rhyme. Her poetry will bring you eye to eye with the most confounding and saddening of injustice- social and personal- before bringing you back up to hope again and be strong against what potentially lurks behind each stranger; a smile or scorn. Her work makes clear the inevitability of our suffering, how unwittingly and silently it is committed by and against each other. But on the flip-side and more importantly, how we are all able to help each other overcome these problems we’ve made for ourselves. The words affirm that strength is not to be measured by the mainstream standards of clout or wealth or popularity: “Success means the paths we chose chose to explore/ not how high we climb”.

So, in this blog-post I want to include the first poem I heard Sophie read aloud, and the first in ‘Please Mind The Gap’. It is beautiful, and I will be damned if it doesn’t make you feel even one degree warmer inside after maybe wiping away a tear or two. Thank you for being such a wonderful and kind person Sophie, and I hope more and more people get the life-enhancing pleasure of reading and hearing your poetry!!!!

Introductory Gathering

Oh come all ye faithless, joyless and defeated
Come all ye washed out, ye chewed up and ye beaten
I want every loser,
As far as these eyes can see
To climb out of your corners and sit next to me.

Oh come all ye rejects, ye homeless, break out from your margins
Come all ye lost, troubled and drive no hard bargains
You’ll soon find that there’s no leader in this hoard
Worship yourselves
Christ, you fucking lords!

We are gathered here today to witness revolution
The coming together of our demons
As we learn the meaning of evolution
Our song birds will scream from the branches of burning trees
Not be left in their cages to sing peacefully

But they will create lawful reasons why we cannot rise together
They’ll tear us and they’ll beat us amidst this stormy weather
However, there are no exit signs here so I urge you, please don’t run
You’ll never leave this bus stop, if you’re waiting for the sun

And I don’t have faith in a god,
But I know everyone needs something to believe in
And you can build your own angels if you feel you really need them
But I would rather bow to your monsters
Put them on the committee intake
Our problems shouldn’t rule us
But it’s important to learn from our mistakes

And have you ever felt lost?
Are you lonely?
Are you the talk of the town for not buying the butchers baloney?
And are you hurt?
And are you hated?
Are you tired and wired, feeling wrong and exasperated?

Well, I’ll be your comfort in this darkened shade of blue
I don’t have faith in a god,
But I believe in you and you and you

And have you been wronged?
Are you conflicted?
By this bullshit we’re living in as long as we don’t get evicted?
And are you as tired of this everyday slog?
Did they use you and abuse you until there were no parts left to
flog?

Well bring what’s left to this table
And lets put together what we’ve got
Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not able
Your’e capable of a lot
Because blessed are the wicked, the weird and the truly despised
For allowing us to see the world through other people’s eyes

 

 

 

 

 

Pride (in yourself)

I feel it’s always worse to be sad when it’s sunny outside. When the weather corroborates your feelings with its grim drizzle and thrashing winds, it makes sense why you feel bad for no reason because, really– who can explain the weather away ? But when it’s sunny, I just feel so guilty; here are the gods in all their glories working to give beauty to life with their pollens and light rays- and I can’t feel a thing. Not a speck of summer hits the skin and tears blend with the sweat in some awful bodily cocktail. But the best thing about the weather is it’s changes; how you bless the day you’re given and hope it will last for as long as it can. The cliche of emotions being like the weather is cheesy as hell, but it is true.

I’ve been feeling BLEH for a while; a conglomeration of university ending, friends falling apart like the blown petals of flowers, and a sense of unceasing unimportance and confusion. But, it helps to get a little perspective. I saw one of my old friends yesterday who often also feels BLEH, but feeling BLEH together is actually the way to end BLEH, funnily enough. We went to a queer film screening in our hometown to celebrate pride month, and seeing so many stories of love denied, or mutilated, or hidden or so happy it could die was as uplifting as it was soberly life affirming in the different scales and durations in facing the problems we’re thrown. I’m not saying that all suffering is the same, or trying to erase lgbtqi+ narratives back into the soup of heteronormative obscurity, where specific and ignored problems are straightjacketed back into the confines of societal ignorance: I’m just saying, listen to others. You’ll learn a whole new way to see your own pain, and hopefully be able to help the other person/people too.

One of my favourite short films was about a trans kid called Nasser. Their mum keeps trying (in good faith, she isn’t trying to be horrible) to make them wear dresses, to have their unruly hair down; but all Nasser wants to do is eat crisps with their friends in their hideaway and to fix bikes with their dad. Not everyone knows what it’s like to feel wrong in their body, to feel trapped in your vision of yourself and what the world sees and dictates. But, I’m sure everyone, at least once, has wished they could be someone else- has wished to escape and exist in another’s body and life. Everyone knows what it’s like to feel shitty. And here is my point: listen. Nobody expects you to have the world answers or to be born with the heart of mother theresa. It is hard fucking work being tolerant and not judging, but it is so necessary. I really don’t want this world falling into a heap of depressed floppy bodies, all too lazy to learn how to love. Slipping back into the amnesia of claustraphobic understandings of life as an object, rather than a thing that’s always moving. The shadows as they play on curtains. The taste of chocolate as its sweetness hits you, then mellows away. The dragonfly’s one day.

I hope everyone has had a wonderful pride month, doing everything you can to support and give back to the lgbtqi+ community as an ally; or celebrating your love wherever you can to uplift others less fortuante to be romantic in their own countries (it pisses the hell out of me how most commonwealth countries still uphold homophobic laws- THANK YOU EVIL BRITISH EMPIRE AND YOUR PUTRID INFLUENCES THAT REMAIN). I am planning to go to Pride in London this Saturday, so yay! But if you still haven’t signed any petitions, made any donations or at least educated yourself a little about the lgbtqi+ community and how to rid injustices against them in the wider community (and also to rid the community internally of intolerance)- there is always time. And caring for others is the best way to care for yourself. love is a human right .JPG

XOXOXOXOXOXOXXOXOXOXOXOXOOXXOXOOXXOXOXOXOXO

PS- obviously don’t tear your soul to shreds trying to make everyone happy. You do what you can, and you understand that you’re amazing even if you can’t make the whole world love you as you wished. :))))))

The film event was run by CINE-SISTER. You can find them @CineSisterFilm on twitter. Give them a follow!!!!!

BRAIN ENGAGES, LET THE PARTY BEGIN!

Anxiety is a fickle mistress. One moment she can’t give a toss and is out trying to bed every Tom, Dick and Harry in Christendom; the next moment, there she is slap-bang on my doorstep with a bunch of cheap gas station roses and chocolates I don’t like. I could tell her to get lost… but then again, that would be like smashing a mirror, or deleting my own phone number. Useless. I am still here. She is still here.

If you didn’t guess by now- she is still here because she is me.

I keep forgetting that anxiety doesn’t really ‘get better‘- despite the cliched metaphor, I must say it. Anxiety changes like the weather. It is a slow rumbling of a realization to reach the point where you know there is actually a name for the hot-sticky fear gumming up your brain, and unfortunately, at least for me- I see no quick fix miracle for a fully-anxiety free future.

You may have a clue of what will trigger you to start worrying, but without good coping mechanisms and support- that trigger can turn into a full blown shoot-out. Personally, I’ve noticed three things that make me wanna smoke all my fingers like zoots: the prospect of evening/sleep, large crowds and THE FUTURE!!!!

aha I know the last one is quite dramatic, but it is sincere. Yet, I don’t want to unpick and examine all the affecting psychological complexities that perpetuate my anxiety and resulting bad behaviors; but to try to outline how I know when I’m thinking/worrying too much (verging on a panic attack), and just some lil’ tips of how to soothe that troubled lost-child soul, whoever you are.

STAGE ONE- BRAIN ENGAGES, LET THE PARTY BEGIN!: “OH HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING WHAT THE FUCK ARE THOSE STRANGERS THINKING WHAT THE FUCK AM I THINKING THE FUCK AM I DOING I DON’T DESERVE TO BE HERE WHAT ARE THESE PEOPLE THINKING WHAT IS THIS WORLD WHERE IS THE NEXT CRUELTY WHY WHY WHY…”

When I say, BRAIN ENGAGES, I am relating a semi-accurate recording of my neurons when they start to get boiled. But all jokes aside, having a panic attack really isn’t fun, and for all those who don’t take them seriously or whatever- SUCK MY TITTIES! 

Normally I feel my body get hotter, it will be harder to concentrate and (especially in crowded places that I don’t know so well) become more disorientating to try and find your way round- which really doesn’t help the incessant throes of inadequacy tossing around in the noggin’s mental soup. But,when I’m at home and feel anxiety coming, I annoy everyone in the vicinity by pacing round and round, wringing my hands and finding it impossible to not tap my feet.

It gets more serious when my breathing gets shallow, the tears flow uncontrollably and my hands cramp up real bad like pins and needles. It starts in the hands, but can travel. Sometimes it gets so intense I won’t be able to walk or move properly at all, I’ll just be a tightening ball of tears and rasping. It is humiliating (especially on public transport).  It is painful- both physically, but more mentally. I feel ashamed and embarrassed of what everyone else must think: “What a wimp”.

But anxiety and I (and yourselves, oh my beloveds) need to stay in my/our lane: you will never know what another person is thinking. It isn’t their heart or emotions or brain or life, so try to be kinder and as my grandma would say: “do attempt to restore some order”.

If your hands are cramping, do all you can to ease them- try pulling the fingers apart or sit on them to stop them seizing up again. Take deep, slow, measured breaths, close your eyes and think of the person/ animal/place that makes you feel the most at ease and sure of yourself. I would recommend trying to call a loved one if it’s possible; if not, and you’re shy and don’t want to ask strangers for help (I try to be trusting, but sometimes you need your own zone) try to find a secluded area that is safe but quite peopleless, and let those waterworks be free from observation whilst you try to get it together.

Keep reassuring yourself if you’re alone that it will all be alright. The truth shifts and changes, reality isn’t forever. You are trying and you are loved. You are not evil and you can love. Be your own cheerleader- but more gentle, sans the irritating valley girl accent and sickening pompoms all rustling like binbags.

 

I am only talking from personal experience, and I’m sure there must be attacks way worse than what I have had to cope with. So if my tips aren’t useful, I am sorry- But if your’e comfortable, please feel free to share your own tips/experiences feelings. (I want to make friends!)

Critical thinking, sky-musing and bad-ass rhetoric are my jam. But if this mental problem-solving is causing you occasional strife, it perhaps doesn’t make you a wimp or uncaring to not see all the atrocities of the world as soon as you awaken, which could possibly put you on edge from the time you finish your coco-pops to when University Challenge comes on (and the team you wanted to win, lose- obviously.) At the end of the day, worrying is just caring too much. There is nothing wrong with caring (goddammit, the world needs more caring people), but if you want to live a life of love and really make a difference to all the people and problems you want to help, you gotta love yourself first. I feel like such a hypocrite typing that as I still routinely hate myself on a daily basis. But I am trying. And that is what matters.

So, to return to you: you gotta do what makes you happy because when you are happy is when you’re truly alive. Shindig to Presley in your knickers. Kiss a snail (maybe not, are they germy?) Call your grandma and talk about what singer she fancied when she was 15. Write out your feelings in haiku or acrostic form and then perform it for your dogs (to clarify- I’ve never read my own poems to my dogs) Hell- watch fucking Dick and Dom in the Bungalow with a zoot and some ovaltine. YOU DO YOU BABES!!!! and your’e not being selfish or lazy or stupid. You are being happy and not self-destructive. This is good. Repeat and repeat (whilst not neglecting ‘adult’ duties or defining fun as exclusively additive substances – haha)

Sending all my love to those who struggle with anxiety, any difficulty or disability that makes life a bit more of a slog. We will be alright. 

xoxosxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxoxoxo