Archive | September, 2013

What I See Project

25 Sep

I was asked to take part in the What I See Project which is asking women all around the world to talk about what we see when we look in the mirror. I poeted* my response, because that’s what I do. Looking back I want to tweak quite a lot of it, but the video (and typed out words) are below.

http://whatiseeproject.com//story/what-do-you-see-when-you-look-in-the-mirror698

I was disappointed but unsurprised that I couldn’t completely side-step weight and various other body hang-ups – but I firmly believe I have much more going on than what I look like, and I’m forever grateful to my mother for not fucking me up about body image. (I didn’t know this was a rare thing ’til my late teens/early twenties, but the more I learn of other women’s relationships with food/their bodies, the more I realise I dodged a bullet.)

I have felt a lot more comfortable in my own skin ever since I came out as bi… because frankly it just suits me. I’d been happily self-identifying as “a slightly dykey straight girl” since my teens, so when I actually started fancying girls in my early twenties: everything just fit. It felt like a missing piece of a puzzle had finally settled into place. The idea that I was failing at femininity just evaporated when I realised I wasn’t straight. It almost felt like I’d been given an opt-out clause to all gender clichés. Suddenly a wealth of other possible female identities opened up to me. “If I don’t fit the trad femininity model then: Shrug. Fuck it. Nyah-nyah-nyah: I don’t need to.” Continue reading

One Woman Show: It Begins

20 Sep

I’ve long thought I’d love to do a one-woman poetry show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Initially I thought “that would be really cool, but I’m not good enough yet.” Then I graduated to thinking “I probably am good enough now but I need an idea I can hinge everything on. I need a flash of inspiration.”

In August this year: I had my eureka moment.

I was trying to work out what I could offer an audience, which wasn’t just “if you like me you’ll probably like X thing about my past/my interests” – because, in the tiny window of opportunity you have to flyer each stranger at the Edinburgh Fringe – you need to have something other than “ME! Like me! Love me! I’m well good, I am!”

I mean: I’ve seen plenty of shows that would fit that dismissive description and have been brilliant, but poetry is a hard sell at the best of times, and anyway I’m fed up with talking just about myself.  

And then it hit me: my big theme which I’ve been looking for has been here with me for over a year already: Permission.

photo of a young woman with her face covered by a scarf, holding a spraypaint can and a stencil, standing next to a wall. The stencil she's holding reads 'greatness'. Onto the wall are stencilled the words 'if you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission'About a year ago I wrote a poem called Permission, about instances of women acting in ways which were notably bold or in some way kicked against the assumed status quo. It was in part because I was so stunned by the succinctness of the image here*, and in part because I’d been trying to explain to a straight male friend of mine how differently women in gay bars hold themselves. Something about women just being confident in themselves seemed to be subversive and almost revolutionary. I was drawn to the double-edged sword that badass women are

  1. amazing and
  2. sadly too rare.

Permission was a poem I initially thought was pretty good, but when I started performing it I saw it usually goes across really well. As in: people remember lines of it and quote them back at me afterwards. Dudes have come up to me saying “sorry, I know that poem wasn’t really for me, but it really spoke to me and I needed to hear it.” This theme seems to have touched a nerve that – though strongly linked to feminism – was bigger than gender politics alone. It is about to get all intersectional up in here. Continue reading

Admitting to Ambition… and Fangirling

16 Sep

The last few months have been a rollercoaster ride of realising (some) people think I’m hot shit. In my specialised little world of spoken word poetry stuff I’ve worked a lot, improved a lot, and I’ve started getting booked (paid!) gigs, and things seem to be starting to snowball. I’ve seen my name (projected) in lights, and even been sent fanmail.

I don’t say this just to brag. Well, maybe a bit, but here’s the thing: I am a total Hufflepuff. And a klutz. And a bag of neuroses. I cannot begin to describe how weird it is seeing people nervously coming up to me to enthuse at me after a gig, because I know I’m a complete asshat: I know I consider BBQ sauce on toast an acceptable meal if no one’s looking. I know I write lengthy to-do lists every day and often only manage 2 things on them. I know I haven’t practiced guitar in over 6 months and have forgotten most of the Spanish I ever knew. I know I forgot to buy bread or cat litter today and blah blah blah blah.

Here’s the thing: the stage is a king-maker. Even a small, creaky, room-above-a-pub stage does something to how you perceive the people on it Continue reading

SHINE Marathon, Health, and Inspiration

11 Sep

Hannah wearing her purple 'shine' marathon t-shirt, standing in front of some vines wearing trainers and black leggingsI decided to walk in the Cancer Research Shine nighttime walking marathon. Training for the marathon has had all kinds of side-benefits I wouldn’t have expected: including creatively.

Someone close to me – my Fairy Godmother, who I used to live with – is terminally ill with cancer. I was temping at Cancer Research UK when I found out about the Shine walking marathon which takes place at night over Saturday 28th/Sunday 29th of September. I never saw myself as a ‘marathon person’ – whatever that is – but I thought with some training I could probably walk 26 miles, and the theme of the event – the name, the sparkles, the nighttime everything immediately reminded me of my wonderful (pink-haired extrovert) Fairy Godmother – who comes out with such wonderful sayings as “if you’ve got it: flash it”.

green doc marten boots with silver wings made of cloth laced on to them at the laces

I won’t be flashing for my fairy Godmother, but I will be shining. Please, if you’re so inclined, sponsor me for the Shine marathon on my JustGiving page

Working walking in

Cancer Research UK’s research has reversed people’s prospects with some of the most common cancers, and they’re working hard on the rest of them. It’s a bit obvious, I know, but when it comes to good causes this one is pretty massive.

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I’ve been following the training instructions of how many miles to walk per day and at what pace. It’s not always easy to build that much extra anything into your day, and the first thing I learnt was how crap a lot of my footwear was. (The second thing was how painfully tight my calf muscles can get.)

I’m currently the most overweight I’ve ever been, but 26 miles doesn’t seem undoable – and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how quickly my body’s ‘tuned up’ to the various distances. Just stretch those leg muscles lots. (I currently have muscle definition on my shins. Robert Crumb would drool.)

Loving London

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When I know I have to walk 6 miles on a given day, I’ll end up Google-mapping my journey home and skip some, or all, of the tube. Other days I’ve set off from my flat knowing I need to cover X number of miles, and found myself in nearby neighbourhoods I’d never visited before. I’ve found parks and forests, springs and canals, cool shops, funny signs, and all manner of architectural weirdnesses.

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Even though it takes me longer to get from A to B, walking in London has made the city seem smaller and friendlier – it’s helped me match up where different things are overground – not just on a tube map – and it’s given me a new relationship with the city I was born and raised in. I’ve found myself returning time and time again to the Thames – not the South Bank, but further along where you can walk out on the near-empty ‘beaches’ and see hundreds of years’ worth of people’s stuff – bricks, glass and pottery – becoming rounded into seaglass and pebbles. Continue reading

Flawed – Poem for Tullamore Dew

4 Sep

I was approached to write a poem by Tullamore Dew Irish whisky company, on the topic of ‘realness’. It’s part of their ‘Death to Dishonesty’ campaign, and each poet who was approached was asked to write with pieces of charcoal made from a bonfire of things the public found fake in the modern world. The plan was to get artists and poets writing true and beautiful things with the resulting charcoal. This is what I came out with (full text below):

Three sheets of paper with handwriting on them, with a bottle of whisky and a piece of charcoal on the third sheet of paper

Flawed

Toast to the moments when we
Put our cameras away
And just breathe it in.
Because this moment is more complex
Than our cameras can capture
So put away your momento machines.
Rely on your eyes.

Real rarely translates to perfect pictures
And Real will not be scored by power chords
Or swelling strings.
Real’s soundtrack will be Continue reading