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

TOMBOY BOOK CLUB- ‘Happier’ by Tal Ben-Shahar

Hello beautiful people!!!! Today’s book was actually an unexpected read for me, as I found it festering amongst neglected leaves of newspaper piling up around the computer at home. At first I was sceptical of how good it could be considering it was just a freebie. But would you give it credence, it did actually turn out to be rather useful and interesting… it is Tal Ben-Shahar’s ‘Happier: Can you learn to be happy?

Happier is all about that: if and how we can learn to be happier people. It emerges pretty quickly in this self-help guide that happiness definitely isn’t a fixed inheritance or finite chemical resource that ebbs effortlessly from seemingly god-blessed beings of perfection, distant icons of inspiration who never worry or struggle to feel beauty or joy. Happiness is an innate prescient energy within us all, but like any muscle or lesson it has to become a consciously chosen habit to make a lasting difference to how you live your life. Ben-Shahar strongly advocates that everybody has a capacity for building up happiness, but that it isn’t as simple as just accomplishing your goals or doing what you’re told and expecting to be rewarded forever after with bliss. Nope, not at all. Happiness cannot be made into an object; is not money, the ‘perfect body’, or thousands of admirers- whatever ‘thing’ you believe would make you content. Those objects are symbols of status and safety in our capitalist world, but in themselves alone are meaningless without a jolly soul to enjoy, appreciate and give them value. Happiness, in this book, must be a sustained and cultivated perspective- of seeing and being- for it to be of any sincere use.

Happiness is defined by Ben-Shahar as synthesis and balance: harmonising present pleasure with long term self-concordant goals of personal significance. At the beginning, he diagnoses three types of people with different methods for survival, and he refers back to these archetypes throughout.

There’s the rat-racer: somebody who works hard for success with little time to enjoy themselves, and whose happiness is only ever ephemeral. Rat-racers mistake the relief they feel when a goal is reached for happiness, but because relief implicitly means there was discomfort before, happiness only ever comes after suffering. This yo-yo between constantly working like a frenzied bitch and then gasping for air evidently is not a nice way to live BUT THANKS CAPITALISM!!!

Next there’s the hedonist: somebody who has given up on the delayed pleasure and incessant slogging of the rat-racer, and instead chooses to only focus on present pleasure with no thought for the future, or what is really meaningful to strive for. They want to relax, but because they have nothing to temper the hours, eventually what once brought pleasure is just a bore. Ennui and despondency sink in, having nothing to make the pleasure meaningful, and so the hedonist becomes the final archetype. The nihilist: Somebody who has given up on finding meaningful work, and given up on the idea that pleasure brings happiness. The nihilist believes life has no purpose or pleasure and there’s nothing to do about it (can relate)…

BUT THAT’S WHERE TAL BEN-SHAHAR STEPS IN! In Happier, there’s different sections for different aspects of life- your work/career, love life, family and aspirations- where Ben-Shahar explains what could currently be wrong with the way we have become accustomed to think, and gives exercises to help us see ourselves better so we know what to do differently. He uses footnotes and real psychology research, so this is bona fide advice for any of the haters out there. And ultimately I think the lesson that the book showed me is perspective, and what you choose to prioritize in your life.

Like, you can’t always control what happens to you or how people you love (or not) treat you, but you can choose how to respond and conduct yourself. You can choose not to let it be a reflection of your worth, and not to let it grind you down or make you behave nasty. I think it is a call to a more authentic dialogue with the self, to really listen and be tough with yourself about whether the current things you think are important, or which get you down, really are important or deserve to have that power of emotions over you. If you listen to what you, ONLY YOU- not what TV or teachers or magazines or priests or singers or celebrities or friends or doctors or enemies or lovers have told you- then there can be no doubt as to what will really make you happy.

It made me think a lot about the commodification of emotion too, the sense that our western culture operates on the idea that obtaining certain things (wealth, beauty, popularity) imbues you with a corresponding emotion. IT IS ALL LIES, because if we are always changing and each one of us different, how can we possibly all need the same objects/goals to be happy?! The book is a reality check: None of us have been explicitly given a list of things that we have to do before we die. The sadness sets in when we feel we’ve lost power over this opportunity of freedom to make our own definitions, and choices of what happiness is and looks like to us. Do not let other people decide your life for you. To me, the good life is a zoot with my friends, a cup of tea and a book, writing poems and thinking of ideas about literature and society and THE UNIVERSE. To my brother it is art, star wars and frankfurters. To my dogs it is good smelling mud, a warm fire, cuddles and chews. We are all so wonderful and none of us live long enough, so don’t let other people think or decide things about you for you, it can never bring happiness, just more of the same: more people all aiming for a small plinth of fabricated grandiose, money and celebrity, and all climbing over and crushing each other to get there.

One of my favourite ideas that Ben-Shahar puts forward is that of the spreading of happiness being like a revolution, BECAUSE WHO DOESN’T LIVE FOR REVOLTUION AM I RIGHT LADIES?!? It can’t fail like other revolutions, where people have been forced externally to submit to new habits, because happiness cannot be forced or indoctrinated. It can only come from depths of yourself, and if it really is happiness and not pride or ego, shouldn’t ever bring others down. To Ben-Shahar happiness isn’t a competition, but infinity- you never want the feeling to end, you want a party to make the whole world dance! Helping yourself makes you more able of helping others, and looking at the state of the world right now, we definitely need to be helping and looking out for each other more.

To finish (sorry for this long cheesy post, the book has a lot to say and I have no qualms with being cheesy) I will include a quote as per usual. The book really isn’t long, and is accessible in its language and exercises so I really would recommend it to everybody! Whether you are in serious need of some guidance through murky waters, or just want to strengthen an already jolly soul- Happier might be able to help!!!! XOXOXOXOX

“As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. It is when we liberate ourselves from our fear of happiness that we can help others… ”

INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY!!!!

Hello everyone, I am sure you know why I am writing again today… HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY!!!!!! The official day of the year when our globe celebrates the influence and life-force of all its womyxn, and a chance to raise awareness for current issues affecting womyxn which still need to progress. I was uncertain of what to write today, as I hope it’s pretty evident that I already believe feminism is a vital ideology – I didn’t wanna just spew my guts up about how amazing feminism is BECAUSE I DO THAT EVERY DAY ANYWAYS!

So I looked online for some inspiration, and saw that this year’s theme for today is #balanceforbetter- highlighting feminism’s goal to bring identity balance to economic, political and social structures as a sustainable way of bettering the planet, and saving it from nuclear annihilation under patriarchy. The idea of balance and feminism- in how the wider world can engage with feminism, and how those immersed in the culture practise it- got the gunged cogs of my noggin cranking, and hey presto this blog post was born!

I considered balance and feminism in three ways:
1.) Balancing the onus of labour for change
2.) Balancing conflicting ideologies within feminism
3.) Balancing your time as a feminist

THE ONUS OF LABOUR

What I mean by balancing the onus of labour, is that I think everyone should be invested (to a certain extent) in social change and helping each other, and that the sole responsibility for this change should not be forced onto people already being oppressed. It takes two to tango basically. Womyxn are not the ones not employing themselves, womyxn are not murdering themselves, nor are they generally speaking the ones who implement most of the public policies which impact our lives negatively- so why are womyxn given the burden of fixing problems caused by people who aren’t engaging to fix the problems they cause, or even worse aren’t aware of the damage they do?!?!? Feminism, like a good pantomime, can only really get its razzmatazz on if there is a willing and participant audience to listen and learn from the wisdom. I can give all my money to feminist causes, scream myself hoarse for change- but if there isn’t going to be a big wig with a heart listening (we could try and blow up government, but I don’t think that would be very proactive) or willing to help bring home the bacon, nothing will happen. This goes for all oppressions, btw- not just womyxn’s issues. The way racism is handled in the West is another example. There are plenty of books defining the black experience, about what slaves had to endure to overthrow their masters, about the martyrdom of freedom fighters and the bullets black people have had to face- but not nearly as many on defining what whiteness has done to black and white people, or what role white people play in aiding the perpetuation of inequality. The study of whiteness is growing now, but for ages, the liberation of black people was seen as just a black problem, which makes no sense when it was the whites making all the problems. Oppressed groups of course should always continue to strive for expanding their powers, the lexicon and scope of an inclusive revolution; but this growth has to be accompanied by a willingness from others to take on board and implement measures to materially shift inequality. Men- all oppressors- have to be accountable in understanding where they fit into and benefit from the current systemic hierarchies of gendered and racialized bodies, so that they can begin to fight for change from without the community of oppressed activist groups. The labour must be shared.

CONFLICTING IDEOLOGIES

I also thought about balance within feminist communities, and the need for tolerance of different ideas and approaches. I don’t mean that you have to necessarily agree with anything another feminist says, and actually if you are sincerely committed to helping each other you should be critical and analytical of new ideas. However, being critical and finding intellectual issue with someone’s ideas doesn’t mean that you simply have to set every single thing they’ve ever done or achieved on fire and start again. Nobody is perfect, and we all at different stages in our lives go through rough patches of the soul which affects how we think and see the world, and I think a bit of lee-way has to be found between fostering acceptance and community with honesty and critical analysis without it turning into a rhetorical fist fight. Nobody can be expected to know absolutely everything correct about a certain topic, and so time has to be taken in order to educate people with good intentions, and not alienate them further from the ultimate goal of feminism to uplift all peoples by being too harsh or dismissive. Obviously this becomes more complex when the issue of who should educate who and why comes in, for instance black folk do not at all have to educate white people. Everybody has to stay in their lane and be accountable. But apart from issues of tackling varying levels of ‘knowledge’ and education when it comes to unpicking feminisms conflicting directions, I also think there has to be balance in terms of different camps of feminists somehow finding a bridge for us to move forward together. I fucking hate white feminists and tory bitches who turn their backs on their sisters, just as I am certain there are feminists out there who would dislike me and think I’m a nut case – but that doesn’t mean either one of us is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I think feminism should sometimes be taken out of morals and just used as a calculator is in the world. ‘Will my idea/ activism materially assist to improve the wellbeing of a real breathing womynx’s life?’ If both the left and right wings have tangible ideas for change, we should be balancing the perspectives and mingling new combustions of revolution! Differentiation and small grass-roots groups are necessary to keep a focus on the most marginalized, and to stop specific issues from being over-generalized or white-washed like too much of history. However, polarising the feminist movement between warring camps into tit for tat before any action is even taken only detracts and diverges from feminism’s ultimate goal: a good life for everyone. We must find balance to let all different modes of activism breathe, be sure to criticise when it is needed, and let the potential for solidarity between varying ideologies of feminism support each other so we are all uplifted. And if the tory feminists won’t compromise after honest critical debate, then you can fart in their face and tell them to fuck off.

BALANCING TIME

This one is obvious, but still important. In order to stay strong for the sustained fight of feminism, you have to balance your time between offence and defence. This might seem privileged coming from a middle-class white girl, and it undeniably is, as many people cannot avoid their fight if they are political prisoners or constantly targeted by authorized violence. However, for a lot of people- like and unlike me- feminism doesn’t operate in a life or death scenario constantly. So you’ve got to find balance between arming yourself for the fight and letting your heart breathe away from all the confusion and pain and upset that comes with confronting the ugliness inflicted upon each other every day. I think of it like a dog fussing a toy; sometimes, the more and more you try to make something work, the more frantically you try to make sense, the less and less sense you will have and you will just end up a hot and bothered mess of rage and confusion. Be gentle with yourself, because trust me, whilst it is important to stay informed and armed, watching the news constantly and mourning each and every story will not help anyone unless you actually do something. The world needs you empowered and able, not drained and defeated. To all the white girls out there, this is not an excuse to avoid hard work or let white fragility obstruct the path of progress. It is just a simple observation that everybody needs downtime from harsh truths and re-arranging reality away from insidious colonialization under the patriarchy.

And that is that! I just wanted to share some thoughts on this special day to keep the flame of feminism alive and burning like bad bitch! I hope you all have a lovely day contemplating the glorious existence of all the womyxn who have ever touched your life, and that you plot many ways of overthrowing the capitalist machine that keeps us apart from one another using no other criteria than our genitals. BIG UP THE GALDEM FOREVER AND EVER AMEN INSHALLAH AND PEACE!!!! XOXOXOXOXOXXOXCOXOXOXO

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

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- New River Press Yearbook 2019!!!

Hello Everyone! Today’s post is a bit of a shameless self-promotion, but I am that bitch and so WHO CARES!?! I am going to talk a little about a poetry anthology I am very honoured and excited to be a part of, ‘WHEN THEY START TO LOVE YOU AS A MACHINE YOU SHOULD RUN’: The New River Press Yearbook of 2019. An anthology of poetry and poets, some well-known names, and people who have never been published before in their lives. Young and old, all genders, races and creeds, and most importantly- completely different perspectives and modes of seeing the world.

The New River Press is a small quirky publisher from London who already have made a bit of a name for themselves in supporting and publishing poets like Heathcote Williams (I have read his collection about Trump, ‘American Porn’ and it is a powerful read) and Greta Bellamacina, who has curated anthologies of love poetry and most recently ‘Smear’– an anthology of poetry for girls. The press strikes me as quite bohemian, trying to see with an untainted, innate eye the fragments of magic that break through the cracks of mundane routine. The range of topics they publish is vast, spanning from the metaphysical poetry of love, to other works being resolutely rooted in atoms and sound, tracing the reverberations of the city, its people and their ideas. I only heard of New River Press via learning about the poetry of Bellamacina, and decided to try enter their competition on a whim, a burst of hot air happiness in my head one moment scrolling through twitter. I didn’t actually think they would accept any of my poems, but I loved myself and so decided to choose hope over not trying at all AND IT WORKED!!!

I have grown into the habit of always trying to be modest and let other people decide whether things I do are ‘good’ or not, but on this occasion (and into the future, hopefully) I don’t give a fuck about being a fabulous brat and blowing my own trumpet because IT IS EXCITING TO WRITE AND PUBLISH AND READ POETRY!!!! I feel honoured for my work to be included in such a wide-ranging, yet tremendously sincere and creative book alongside other souls with a poetic mission. On the cover is a picture of the tender prophet Allen Ginsberg, and it does feel wonderful to be able to connect with so many ideas and people, in the past for inspiration and in the present for community to keep poetry flowing through all peoples liberating dreaming from its subjugation. There are 200 poets in the anthology, so I can’t possibly talk about them all with justice, but just to give you a taste of what this anthology covers…

There’s chaotic minglings of the material city and digital anxieties, spiralling moons into memes to discuss the isolation and confusion of modern living (Zia Ahmed). There’s hating Klimt and Tequila (Nika Kechaeva), and forgiving others for what they haven’t even done yet (Phoebe Bishop-Wright). Dead flowers help console the insurmountable and inexpressible reality of things (Lily Ashley), whilst buying gas station bouquets speak of how love always searches its muckiest pockets for change to give (Dean Brindley). I could go on and on, but to summarize: this anthology is vast in the visions it includes, the infinite potentials for new ways of seeing and being. As it says on the blurb, Andre Breton’s description of poetry encapsulates the mood and mantra of what the New River Press aims for: ‘DREAMING WITH YOUR EYES OPEN’.

If you are interested in getting a copy, have a look online (http://www.thenewriverpress.com/shopn) !!!! I was given a discount code when my work was accepted and am allowed to share it, so if you would like the code just message me and I can give it to you!!! J

The poem of mine included is ‘I AM A WORTHLESS BOAT’, a modern translation of Shakespeare’s 80th sonnet and part of one my final projects at undergraduate level which I am still working on. Worthless Boat is about knowing you aren’t necessarily the sharpest tool in the shed, but still trying to create a ramshackle magnificence of love with the grime and beauty that cannot be wiped clean- it is a poem for romantic underdogs.

If you want to read it, go get a copy or message me and I can send you the page!!!!! I do hope you will give the anthology and New River Press a try, to cleanse some of the muck of ‘reality’ away from your cosmic lens aha and release the poet within us all! LIBERATE YOUR MIND FROM THE SHAKLES OF DRUDGERY AND EXPAND YOUR COSMIC HORIZONS!!!!! Xoxoxxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

TOMBOY BOOKCLUB!- ‘Rise Up: The #Merky Story So Far’

Hello everyone! Today’s post is going to be talking about a book I got from Elvis for Christmas; I had wanted to read it for a while but felt unsure, so I am glad that he took the initiative! It is the first release under #Merky Books, ‘Rise Up: The #Merky Story So Far’, about Stormzy’s journey and the work it took to cultivate raw talent into a global force for black excellence. We are all familiar with the music and the man (if you haven’t seen the Grenfell Brit performance, go on Youtube now and change your life), but the style in how the book is written by Jude Yawson, and the perspectives on fame, work and ambition are all welcomingly new.

What I really loved was that even though Rise Up is of course focused on Stormzy, it isn’t just his voice or perspective you hear. The book pulls apart the lie of celebrity, the myth that some exceptional individuals get luckier than the rest, elevated above anonymity into the bright glare of accolade and wealth. Instead, it shows a web of like-minded, hardworking people all motivated in their differing areas of expertise for one goal: Black Excellence. Stormzy doesn’t appear as a monolithic idol isolated from his origins or the hard graft, but as a gracious, humble man who is eager and passionate about what he believes is a duty in God to uplift others using your talents. The virtues of team work, patience and humility in tough grind are core foundations for success throughout. It is like a self-help book, but a lot more sincere. It doesn’t brag about money or parties or womanizing (Stormzy is actually very big on feminism, his mother raised him well), but talks about how to persist when the going seems tough, how to see the brighter side of the bigger picture when work seems futile.

I thought reading Rise Up might make me a bit of an intruder, if that makes sense? It’s funny, because I like Stormzy, the type of music and other artists in similar genres, and was so excited when he announced the #Merky Books- yet for some unclear reason I still felt like I shouldn’t read it. As if me reading the book was another example of white people trying to steal from and gentrify black culture without any understanding of or care for the people who produced it. In reluctance to try and reach out of my own life for fear of getting things wrong, I mistakenly felt the book was meant just for people like Stormzy; young black boys trying to make it in a hostile country, not white girls like me who’ve not been forced to think about, let alone reckon with half the difficulties and setbacks the black community have been forced to. Rise Up is obviously and rightly targeted at black youth, with its message deeply invested in bringing out the best of black British talent not just in music but all industries. My point is, that even though I believed this book wasn’t meant for me, I was wrong!!! You don’t have to be able to identify with all the same experiences as another person in order to be able to listen to what they have to say, apply it to your own life, and try and use the lesson for forces of good. You don’t have to centre yourself and your own understanding of things in order to learn from what another person has to say.

That is the beautiful thing; I truly believe that even if you don’t like Grime music particularly, even if you have never learnt about, or cared enough to notice and listen to the lived experience of black youth in Britain today (if you have previously been apathetic, please start caring and try to do something), this book is universal in its ambition to empower and inspire.

That’s the whole point of Rise Up really, to prove that you should never pigeonhole people in what they should do and be able to say. Stormzy is a MC from the ends who knows how to put on a show, but he is also just as philosophical as any university scholar, as musically talented as the big producers- his capacity isn’t limited to grime or underground scenes, he uses his blackness as a bridge to reach bigger heights. To show that black boys can be successful in business and management as well as music or sport, that he isn’t only an entertainer but an educator.

Art and Music are ways of expressing emotion, ideas and debate as modes of activism, but Stormzy doesn’t take pride in pretending to have all the answers. Stormzy firmly positions himself amongst and connected to people as a web of strength through which we must all listen and help one another. Rise Up is a rallying cry for all of us to be accountable, to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be, to achieve our own excellence and share that strength with others.

My only very minor criticism would be that, because the narrative intermingles so many voices to build a timeline- like a radio chat transcribed- it could sometimes be difficult at the beginning to keep track of who everyone was without constantly flipping to the list of contributors. However, like I say this is only minor as I do believe having the various voices makes for a much more compelling and meaningful read than had it just been Stromzy alone trying to big himself up. Jude Yawson, who collected the separate stories, has done a really good job on holding onto the integrity and personality of the original conversations, all whilst making it gel into a cohesive narrative.

Overall, I would recommend Rise Up to everyone whether you like Stormzy and his music or not!!! It is a beautiful book which celebrates the fulfilment of working hard for what you love and the possibilities created by surrounding yourself with people who strive for similar goals and values. Rise Up is keen on championing and inspiring the next generation of black kings and queens to rise up (as the title says so), and is wholeheartedly invested in self-belief as the key to all success and happiness. If you are looking for a book to empower and uplift, Rise Up is perfect!!!!!! I hope you will give Stormzy a try and assist the journey of black excellence by downloading his music, reading this book and making action informed by listening to others on how to invest in and build better lives for everybody!!!!

“… I’m not trying to be that corny don. I’m not on some presidential shit. I just know that no one is going to help my little brother. You can talk about things, but you have to take action. Man can go on stage and spray a two-bar about the prime minister and get a reaction. But there’s a lot more I can do. It’s a duty…”