SPEAK @ Home Club, September 2013

 

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So I am back-catalogueing here just a bit, but I wanted to document the gig I did at SPEAK in early September.

SPEAK is a night that is run by Vanessa Victoria and Deborah Emmanuel. What sets this night apart from other events is that the feeling created by the hosts is very inclusive and really makes space for anyone, whatever level of experience, to come and take the mic. The hosts are a close team and there never seems to be much confusion about what is going on. It reminded me of Sage and Time, run by Anne Le, Amy Acre and Richard Marsh in London. It was a pleasure to go up and do a mixture of old and extremely new material, and also to have the experience of a multiple encore, which those who know me know that is not something I easily deal with! Big thanks to Deborah and Vanessa- they go through life with determination and grace, so it was a pleasure to work with them. 

Here is a video of me performing that night,

and a link to the soundcloud file of some of the new work I did, too.

 

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Make it At Home: Learning to Bookbind

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Last weekend another Singapore-based writer, editor and book-artist Pooja Makhijani ran a hardcover book-binding workshop at The Arts House. I met Pooja recently at a writer’s event and was really pleased to take part in the workshop. Over two days, we learned how to make a strong structure for a hardback book, bound the pages by hand using specialist, organic, acid free materials, and also crafted the hard cover from scratch. Pooja brought the materials and instructed us firmly but encouragingly on the practical details of the craft. I was really excited to be there, as I have much inclination for craft but very few specialist skills. I came away feeling like I could make something strong and durable. Look out for Pooja’s workshops in Singapore, and check out her blog here.

I am interested in this field for a number of reasons. Firstly, while I appreciate the sustainability issue regarding craft work (use of paper vs interweb), it still satisfies me to connect with the tangible, especially in terms of personalised items. I grew up making cards, birthday presents, mixtapes, read: TAPES, and come from a partial lineage of stout Dutch women who made all the family clothes, cooked up jams, baked bread, crocheted, darned, and generally did not buy anything of they could make it. I still am resistant to buying clothes or even eating out at places if I feel I could do it myself. As they said multiple times on slightly slapdash British- Asian comedy Goodness Gracious Me, ‘ I can make it at home for nothing‘.Considering my time here has enabled me to engage more deeply with environmental issues and sustainability, I feel there are additional reasons why self-making crafts could have more space made for them. If I buy an notebook at a stationary shop, how far has it travelled to get to me? I acknowledge that making one notebook is hardly a revolution, but it does bring up questions for me about how I spend my time and how much I take for granted in the resources around me. My grandmother and great grandmother made all their clothes because it was cheaper that way- and they fit, lasted, and carried a value that belied the constant turnover of clothing that we have now in affluent societies. I’d be interested to see who else is practicing forgotten skills, and will definitely seek out other opportunities to develop the skills I learned at Pooja’s workshop, for my own practice, and to pass on to others.

Here is a selection of images from the workshop!
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Ready, Set..

P is For Poetry.
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Above is the set of poetry workbooks I prepared for the NUS students. Any excuse for some paint, basically.

This week marks the beginning of several workshop groups I am facilitating in Singapore. For the sake of accessibility, I am running two poetry groups of 12 NUS students, who I will see weekly to write, talk, do exercises, and share words and thoughts. The first Thursday evening class was last week, and it was fun and great to meet one of the groups. I took in anonymous wishes from the group about what they wanted from the series, and will do my best to accommodate their needs. The first Wednesday evening class is today. I’m always somewhere between nervous and excited before the beginning of a course, but the students seem hungry to develop their work and are a pleasure to work with.

In addition, I am also running the first of ten poetry sessions for Little Arts Academy, a hub in town that offers creative/expressive arts classes to children in Singapore. These will culminate in a show at the end of the year, so I hope they feel inspired to make some poems and practice speaking up through the workshops.

September is sprinkled with different poetry gigs: further details to come :-).

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Debuting at The Arts House and Books Actually

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Last friday 26th was the Arts House event, with, surreally, my name on a plaque in front of a room. Further photos from the evening follow, including the next adventure at Books Actually in Tiong Bahru. The reading and Q&A was good fun, and I met some interesting and friendly poets as well as non-poet/writers who just came along for the experience. It is always a joy to have people in an audience who have just indulged their curiosity and go away having done something slightly different with their friday night.

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The evening was compered by Spoken Word Pioneer and stalwart Marc Nair. He was a top bloke, and runs WordForward, a poetry organisation in Singapore. I also met poets Deborah Emmanuel and Nabilah Husna, who hopefully I will be working with if not casually hanging out with over the next few months.

Later, I went to The Pasar Malam event at Books Actually, where I was treated to space for an impromptu reading to the dedicated and long-standing (literally) audience. This was moving for me as I had been sad to miss the ears of some of the writers there, so magically it all worked out in the end.
In an additional cherry-on-icing fashion, I managed to sell my zines out. Better make some more!

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Thanks to all who made it down and who made the evening so warm and memorable. It’s a very special thing.

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Zines for tonight’s Arts House event laying out to dry..

Zines for tonight's Arts House event laying out to dry..

Seeing as I am waiting for my pamphlet to be reprinted and feel like I should have something for enthusiastic attendees to take away, I started making these zines last year, containing a handful of the last few year’s poems and contact details. Much more laborious than they look, but definitely a labour of love.

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new batch of zines..

new batch of zines..

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New Arrivals, New Challenge.

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I have been here at the National University of Singapore campus for just over two weeks now. I have an apartment, a travelcard, a fridge of groceries, a bottle of citronella oil, a moist atmosphere full of cricketsong and a whole lotta time.

When I left London, I was working two part time jobs, studying part time, workshopping part time, and trying to maintain my relationships and nourish my body in some basic way. I did not give myself a spare minute, and I frequently lamented this, however much of it was of my own doing.

I have embarked on a totally different kind of life. I realised when I got here that apart from 2008-2009, I have never had a chunk of time (or the finances) to totally give myself to my writing or related work, and so equally I have never had the responsibility of engaging deeply with it, really challenging, reading closely. And on realising this, I promptly froze and went into a kind of mute pause for several days.

I knew that it wasn’t necessarily good for me to be so busy but I hadn’t clocked that the time-filling might have functioned in some way to derail me from fully leaping into my own abilities, head on. A feverish work ethic is a very virtuous mask for avoidance of oneself.

A very sobering conversation with one of the wise women in my life, in addition to many other clues from the universe, delivered the message I have stuck up on my apartment wall, yet find so difficult to integrate into my actual behaviour:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. ‘ Marianne Williamson.

When you are someone who performs, it can be easy for others to assume that you are somehow more ‘out there’ in the world than other people, but it is not the case. I frequently vascillate between visibility and hiding, but I am tired of shying away from the best of myself. I hope that during this residency I manage to come further into the light.

Here is a clip from Laura Mvula, the lyrics of which I am finding very useful with regards to this quandery.

Wish me luck, fellow hermits.

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