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Posts Tagged ‘Miriam Nash’

“My mother tried to teach me that the dark is friendly. She wanted me to grow up in a world where that was true. And except for electricity, except for the two phones at either end of the one street, and for the radio, blaring The Eurythmics or humming Paul Simon in South Africa, it was as much the 1800s as the 80s. We might have been the lightkeepers, 100 years ago.”

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Photos by Zarah Zahir.

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Sarah After Hours

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Artwork by Emalyn Feitshans.

 Early draft with a few choice typos. Artwork by Emalyn Feitshans.

 

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I’m performing at London Literature Lounge @ the Poetry Cafe on Thursday 18th July. It’s a special evening for me, as it’s not only presented by Anjan Saha who hosted my book launch, but I’ll be reading alongside Sundra Lawrence, the poet who, many years ago, gave me my first taste of working in the ‘poetry world’.

London Literature Lounge: Covent Garden Nights

With Miriam Nash, Sundra Lawrence & Phil Lawder

Thursday 18th July 2013

Hosted by Anjan Saha and Jason Barnett

The Poetry Café (The Poetry Place) 8pm – 10pm

22 Betterton Street

London WC2H 9BX

Tel (venue): 020 7420 9888

W: www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/cafe/

£6/5

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Author bios:

Sundra’s poetry has been described as “warm, visceral and witty”. She is published in numerous anthologies and journals including the Los Angeles Review. Starchild was her first chapbook.  She has performed her work widely, including Soho Theatre, the Bristol Poetry Festival, BookSlam, De Paul University, Chicago, Jazz Café, Prague and also on television and radio. She has two young children and lives in North London.

Phil Lawder juggles and occasionally drops two careers, writing, performance poetry, a family and a cat. He is currently working on creating the 36 hour day. He has no ambition to write the great British novel but is part way through writing several average to fairly good ones. His work is a wry and often insulting commentary on what he sees around him, the stumbling relationships and hollow hopes of London and beyond.

… & me.

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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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Two momentous events of the past month cannot go unblogged, despite my being late in setting them down. One is the Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, New Jersey this weekend - the largest poetry event in North America, the ‘Woodstock’ of poetry, poetry Mecca. Patricia Smith, Terrance Hayes and Dorriane Laux are some of the poets who brought me to America, and some of the poets I saw and heard. But before I talk about this, I want to put these writers on the same stage as another group of poets I’ve been privileged to see since arriving – the Urban Word young poets, specifically those who shared their work at the Preemptive Education Conference at the end of September.

Urban Word’s Preemptive Education Conference

was a full weekend of workshops, performances and lectures for poets, teaching artists, school teachers, young people and academics, exploring ‘critical issues that affect today’s youth, while providing creative and practical resources to address them…using the power of spoken word poetry and hip-hop as the lens to explore language and privilege’ (UW).

Poet Darren Arthur opens the conference

The event I want to celebrate most was the opening evening, entitled ‘Poetry is Pedagogy’, in which acclaimed academics from the fields of education, social justice and the arts, responded to works written and performed by young poets. For me this embodied the power of the whole conference and its reason for being.

I’ve never seen this done before. What I mean is, I’ve never heard an academic scholar discuss, extol and explore the work of a young (17-21), ‘unpublished’ poet, with the attention, gravity and respect of one thinker/writer talking to (and about) another. What became clear was that the poets - Sabrina Ross, Danni Green and members of the 2012 Urban Word NYC slam team – were themselves engaging in the same active, intelligent criticism of the US education system (and the social system underpinning it) that the academics - Dr. Ernest Morrell, Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz and Dr. Kersha Smith - grapple with in their own work. Sabrina Ross performed a impassioned and carefully wrought poem on the silencing of young people in classrooms; Danni Green’s beautifully crafted work spoke of her own struggle to get to university and her refusal to accept the future laid out for her by the sense of failure hanging over her community - a future personified as ‘a husband I don’t love’.

The message of the evening was clear. Young poets, thinkers and activists such as these deserve the same stage and critical attention as so called ‘experienced’, published writers (the word ‘young’ is actually misleading as it suggests inexperience, in both writing and life). This is true because of the importance of what they have to say, as well as the form and language in which they say it. But the message was also that their work needs to actively inform the education system; that this level dialogue of poet-young adult-professor is essential to education.

The Dodge Poetry Festival

Now I come back to the other stage, and to the incredible poets I saw this weekend. What was striking (though it should really be obvious) is how many of these giants of American poetry are engaged in the same struggle as the Urban Word poets – struggle against injustice through language (in both senses), struggle with language itself. To sit in a room with Amiri Baraka and historian Clement Price as they spoke about Baraka’s experience of the 1967 Newark Uprising and the founding of the Black Arts Movement was to recognise art as a truly transformative, social force.

Patricia Smith performed a sequence from Blood Dazzler, her collection of poems in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, accompanied by The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra String Quartet. Smith’s work embodies the hurricane through so many voices, including Katrina’s own, with such compassion towards the people she is imagining and reporting on, that there is no presumption in her personas.

As Smith read, the vast, Prudential Hall audience included pockets of students who had been visited by the poets the previous day. The Dodge Festival was remarkable not just for calibre of poets it assembled, but for the way it put them to work, in full recognition of the role poetry needs to play in contemporary education.

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This crowd surely belongs to the start of an album, not to me, swaying on the grass at Afropunk Fest this weekend to Erykah Badu, who I usually associate with arriving at the Albany for work, where she’s a regular on the cafe sound system.

 

But that’s one of the beautiful things about being here. I felt both at home and entirely foreign. Next to us in the crowd, we met people from Brixton and Goldsmiths. But then there was also the brilliant moment when Mos Def came on stage, unannounced, and we were the only people who didn’t immediately realise who he was. There was the impassioned speech by a local councillor, “this isn’t about race, this isn’t about age, this is about Afropunk”. Something I cannot imagine a Lewisham councillor pulling off unscathed, right before the headliner. All this was part of the beauty of the evening. Rolling Stone has written a good article here which takes in Afropunk’s reason for being and how this has changed over the festival’s eight years.

It’s definitely interesting being a foreigner in the audience. On Sunday I went to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre for a free comedy improv show. It was a bit like being invited to someone else’s family dinner, where you can enter only partially into the jokes, some of which were universal (meerkats), some local and some totally baffling to me. One sketch involved somebody’s English cousin arriving in New York, and the disappointment and confusion from both sides about un-met (and met) stereotypes. We’ll see whether that turns out to be the case.

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