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My début pamphlet, Small Change, received a wonderful welcome into the world at Keats House on 18 January 2013.

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As Nii Parkes of flipped eye publishing put it, London laid on a beautiful snow tribute:

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Karen McCarthy Woolf took this Narnian picture

Anjan Saha opened the evening with a lovely poem invoking Keats, who I’m certain was listening from the back. Two of my favourite poets, Jacqueline Saphra and Kayo Chinonyi also read, and Jacob Sam-La Rose was the wonderful host he always is. So many family and friends ploughed through the snow to be there, that it was a full house and we sold out of books! Look how happy I am:

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Jacqueline Saphra reads

Jacqueline Saphra reads

Kayo Chingonyi reads

Kayo Chingonyi reads

Animated question answering...

Animated question answering…

Book signing

Book signing

My heartfelt thanks to Keats House, London Literature Lounge, Spread the Word and flipped eye publishing for such an auspicious beginning for Small Change.

Small Change can be ordered from flipped eye publishing at a special discount price. It will also soon be available from WH Smith and Amazon.

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Back to London, back to the blog


by Yemisi Blake

My seasons are all topsy-turvy. Having lived just north of the equator for a year, I’ve been back in the UK for some months and am coming out of hibernation just as the winter sets in. I’ve had a strange reverse culture shock since arriving back, but already some beautiful things have happened.

In terms of work, this new year (Autumn 2011 – Summer 2012) will be largely devoted to Shake the Dust, a national youth poetry slam project taking place across England in the run up to the Olympics. I’m part of the national production team, and am honoured to be working with some of the top poetry-in-education practitioners, arts professionals and organisations in the country. The project is the largest of its kind ever to take place in the UK. But as exciting as Shake the Dust will be, I hope it will go much further than one project, to create an ongoing national youth poetry slam. For more, keep your eyes on the blog.

This month I had the incredible opportunity to go to back to Chicago as part of the London Teenage Poetry SLAM Exchange. This time I worked with the wonderful Sifundo as co-poet coach for a team of emerging young poets. We kept a blog, which will continue to grow as the team digest and reflect on their experiences: http://slaminchicago.tumblr.com/.

One of my best memories since arriving back is going on a photographic walk in my (newly) local park with poet and photographer Yemisi Blake, where he took a picture of me for his Great British Youth exhibition. I felt a bit daunted by the idea, but Yemisi has a way of taking pictures that makes how you look less important than who you are and what you love. Thanks Yem.

Another beautiful highlight was being interviewed by the fantastic Naomi Woddis for her programme The Conversational on Reel Rebels Radio. You can listen here.

More news to follow. It’s good to be back!

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One of my poems is featured at SYNÆSTHESIA: Drawing Words, Reading Pictures, alongside the work of Singaporean artist-designer Lau Shu Hui. The exhibition, curated by Ceriph, is currently showing at the Substation. Visit www.projectsynaesthesia.com for more.

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This week, I’m taking part in readings and talks and running workshops for Singapore Writers Festival Schools Programme, ‘Words Go Round’. If I have a moment, I’ll check in here to write about it. So far, a real highlight has been reading and speaking with Sri Lankan poet Viviemarie VanderPoorten – today we gave a talk to a group of students taking a ‘Women in Literature’ A-Level paper at National Junior College. Very interesting to think about how/whether issues of gender creep into my writing, and to be challenged to talk about this. Viviemarie is a truly wonderful and inspiring poet. I’m honoured to read with her, and so happy we’ve met.

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I’m featured today on 938LIVE Radio today, talking about performance poetry, the Singapore Writers’ Festival Schools Week and reading a poem. It’s a short interview with Felicia Nah on ‘They’re Making A Difference’, a programme about people in Singapore who are, well, making one. I hope I sometimes fit into that category.

If you’re in Singapore, you can listen at 10.45am, 1.45pm or 8.15pm on 938LIVE. If you’re elsewhere, or radio-less, you can listen online by clicking HERE. Enjoy!

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Back in August, I stepped on a plane to Singapore. I had no idea what I’d find or whether it was the right thing to do. I’ve been here three months now and the idea that I might never have come is almost unimaginable. I’ve discovered so much – poets, artists, friends, jazz, festivals, schools, cafes, karaoke (!), what mangos really taste like, that umbrellas are actually meant for the sun… and food. A lot of food. And yes, I’ve neglected to blog. I’ve been so immersed in the offline world of streets and people that I’m only just coming back online. Here are some of the things I’ve been up to…

Performing at Singapore’s Esplanade during Y-Fest, a festival of youth arts. I was invited by Word Forward as a guest performer and judge for their youth poetry SLAM. Word Forward is a poetry & creative writing organisation run by Chris Mooney Singh, specialising in SLAM. They’ve given me a warm welcome to the Singapore poetry scene and I’m very lucky to work with them.

Singapore Shophouse Salon

Recently, I performed at subTEXT at The Arts House, a literary evening presented by the wonderful poet Yong Shu Hoong, and at Blu Jaz (Singapore’s jazz cafe and one of the best venues I’ve discovered) at a Word Forward SLAM that threatened to blow the roof off. I also co-hosted an evening of spontaneous performance at Singapore Shophouse Salon, a jazz-poetry-dance party thrown by Laura Freedman at her beautiful shophouse. Laura is an MBA admissions consultant who happens to know a whole load of artists and truly knows how to throw a party. Just one of the many inspiring people I’ve met here.

Leading Workshops at the United World College South East Asia. United World Colleges are an international group of schools where students from all over the world come together to learn, volunteer and live together, most of them on scholarships. I went to UWC Atlantic College in Wales before university, so it was interesting to re-visit a similar place as a workshop leader. I was working with International Baccalaureate students as well as grade 8s – performing my poems, answering some searching and brilliant questions about poetry (do I mind how people interpret my poems?), taking them through writing exercises and looking at how to approach critical commentary writing in a creative way. I hope the students learnt as much as I did. I also led a special workshop on ‘Landscape Poetry’ – exploring different ways to write about place, for a group of students who were about to visit the UK on a literature trip.

Recently I led a series of poetry SLAM workshops in a local school with Word Forward. Class sizes here are bigger than in the UK – 40 students to a regular class. The students were hard to keep in their seats, but once their energy was channelled into poetry, they produced some impressive results. One group wrote and performed a beautiful poem on love – ‘love tastes sweet like palm sugar,  bitter like antibiotics’. Mmmm. By our final workshop, even the shyest students got up and performed in front of the class, which was a real achievement. The students judged each other in a class slam and selected one group to represent them in an inter-class slam. By this time they were taking the whole thing much more seriously, asking questions like ‘what do you do when you’re nervous before going on stage?’ It was wonderful to experience a change like that in just four days.

Kite-flying at East Coast Park

I’ve also been Writing. I’m currently working on my pamphlet, which is due out next year with flipped eye, and also on new poems. As long as you remember to bring a cardigan (outside may be tropical, but inside can have glacial air-con), there are plenty of good places to write. My favourite is 15 minutes at Lasalle College of the Arts.

I’ve found a strong writing community here and there’s a sense that it’s growing and that things are happening. In September I attended the launch of Ceriph – a magazine of creative writing by new Singaporean writers, in its second issue. Books Actually, an independent bookshop to die for, publishes Ceriph through Maths Paper Press. They’re also collecting submissions for Coast - an anthology featuring new writing of that title by writers resident in Singapore.

Project-wise, I’m plotting a number of things for next year with some exciting people and organisations. These past few months have been a time to explore and find my bearings. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. Expect to hear more…

 

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It’s been a while. I’m still here,  I’ve just moved continents. August brought me to Singapore, where I hope to be based for the next year or so, continuing my writing, teaching and poetry projects. Long overdue updates to follow on that soon.

This week I’m at Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Bali, where I’m a festival blogger and events volunteer. Surrounded by palms, rice padis and the sound of motorbikes, I’m taking in the delights of the festival, listening to and meeting writers from across Indonesia, Asia and the globe. Take a read here: http://ubudwritersfestival.com/blog

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