Diary 23rd June 2020 – Festival Night

Best Zoom Night ever

Event: The Highgate Festival, Up to 14 people in the room. 2 listeners listen in and drop out. 13 poets willing to plat, contribute and support. No egos. Positive raves.

Its good. I can barely hear a word but i can see people reacting, occasional eruptions of laughter always appropriate, trusted relations. People who are poets who know someone else in the room. An armchair, a cushion, a mattress, a pillow. We come into the room to be.

Saying goodbye an appreciative question appears across the airwave;

Q: “Richard. Where do you find all these wonderful poets?”

A: “They’re just people I know and love and trust. People whose work i respect.”

Here they are all lined up
Ready to spill the beans
Over the plate we gather
To eat from and wash
Our cares away with
Soft soap gently called
Forth in rhyme and beat
Good nutrients easily
Digested on a loving
Smorgasbord of difference

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Diary; 5th June 2020. Techno Craze

There i was sitting all smug and chirpy that i was getting over my techno mares when Zoom bent me over its knee and delivered me a real good spanking for my impudence.

Yeah I’ve been on it and its been a right drag. I seem to have conflicts going on all over the city. Some friends have remained faithful so i’ve decided to give it one more go. And that will be it. Zoom i will spank ya back across yer wizened old interface.

Having said that i’m getting involved in Thrive Aid. I am a UK rep on an informal development board for the first pan national crip event. Invited to be cool and chill with the very august Sue Elsgood, the relatively new but known to all Zoe Partington and yes Trish Wheatley is making up the early numbers.

I’ve also sent a proposal to Barbara Lisicki for consideration of an online conversation. We were amongst the number of people who changed the world. Maybe for the better or would have been better if we’d have been better listened to.

A missive has just flown off to balmy, not barmy, Norfolk for the attention of Ann Young. Second person to be invited to be first person to sit in the REaD Rhymes Room sharing poetry. Ann is not Wendy Young’s sister in a bloodline way but is well up there in the fraternity of angels.

All this goes to show i may have my techo freezes but i’m not techno fearful.

I am not a little dinosaur
Awaiting my extinction
I’m more than just a herbivore

I like a few tasty fishes
I like their pink distinction
This my plate full of crock head wishes

Otherwise I’m no real meat head
I’m a veggie with conviction
I’m not wanting skin and bone fed

Memories of men with sticks
Rubbing to make fire from friction
In a time with houses made of bricks

Electronically we compute
With sad day to day addiction
Lets go back through ages. Lets reboot

Let’s reject computer rages
In spite of this rhymes depiction
And enjoy new digital crazes.

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Diary; 20th May 2020 – Gone Techno

Highgate Society Poetry Group goes all Zoom crazy
The first meeting
The second meeting
You will note a poor attendance. It maybe my fault for not getting things going on time or struggling with the interface

More successful was my first experience of podcasting. I was the 3rd guest on Lock Down With Lila. Lila is a neighbour, friend, source of supplies during the pandemic and a news bringer. The latest came in a call that said our work was being shown by a Disability Activist to Disabled Children in India. Lila also read me her own poem ‘My Magic Eye’

The podcast included this poster poem available from my Outside In Gallery

Corona 11; A Tissue of Haiku's

 

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Diary: Responding to the Haiku Master

ferryman's cottage
Barrow in Furness holds David Haley, Haiku Master. We’ve been playing this game of returned haiku’s. David’s latest follows a recent email to him and Art Gene supremo Maddi Nicholson. It reads;

cash flow in crisis
opportunities abound
friends from a distance

I am left without a reply so instead turn to a planned diary entry to do with technology and virus. Whilst David was composing and sending his reply me and my partner Bean were discussing  our own cash flow situation in times of pandemic. Rishi Sunak has had good publicity for his fiscal interventions. Bean is someone who is likely to fall out of his heavily balanced scheme for the self employed. Me? I’m just a poet bum who sits at home typing stuff like this; no income, no benefits. We feel cash strapped, property rich, cash poor. Worse than this though is our social isolation and the dream of camping trips and festivals being scuppered. Cash flow in crisis and that’s not all.

Technology provides the opportunities that abound. I am not a dinosaur but there are aspects of the future presence that I have been slow to engage with mainly because of internal computer board settings that have led to voice distortion. As a stammering asthmatic i have quite enough issues with voice distortion thank you very much. I’ve also become aware of a little fear factor impeding my willingness to engage using Skype, Zoom, Facebook Live. I am however a brave little soldier.

My first zoom was with my old friends Survivors Poetry. I did not enjoy it.  Survivors is open to an anarchistic presence and we cherish this. I had not overcome the distortion issue. Interruptions told me to stand away from the mic. It improved things some. But…. I had a poem for Peter Beverley whom we had unexpectedly lost. I had written this poem for another relationship which seemed to be evaporating before my eyes. I thought it appropriate:

Drinking Nectar

Let me hear chords strummed on silk
Soothing hard times i’ve come to fear
Let me suck straws of honeyed milk
Retain all memories still held dear

Let me hear harmoniums drone
Pointing to new exotic lands
Let me drink with gentler gods
Keen to strike up heavens finest bands

Let me hear my well loved one
Singing of imagined peace and power
Let me laugh out loud and strong
In this last hushed remembered hour

Let me speak well of the you I loved
Along the roads we always walked
Let the iron fist rest in velvet gloves
Laying to rest the bad times we once talked

Let me rest in peace in the place of you
Learning all words that make me seem clever
Let birds sing except white doves that coo
Beneath the sun, blue skies go with you forever

The technical started to become more accessible to me. Skype and Messenger were proving useful. Good friends. People I knew. They were accessible to me. As was my curiosity, my developing sense of I can learn that.

Disability Arts Online (DAO) had established a lock down budget. Lisette Auton put in a similar bid to me. We were both looking to contact, connect and fund poets. Our respective bids failed but we had the interest of DAO, the editor of whom Colin Hambrook had attended the same Survivors meet as mentioned above. Impressed with the range and ease of accessibility he understood the potential in developing a zoom community of poets and people who like poetry. Me and Lisette have been mailing each other since and we hope for a bit of pocket money but more so for the community to grow.

Meanwhile I had cracked video and felt confident with it. Helena Ascough, hard working actress was to put on her MA’s final show; ‘Forward Thinking – Inclusivity’, a conference. I made a video of my first ever major provocation (‘inclusivity is not working because he is offered by society/not taken by us’) and later submitted a poetry reading via facebook live.

“Time passes slowly up here in the mountains”. Like so many before us I am a Bob Dylan fan. Way back in the 80’s I spent time with other Bobcats. I would lay on my bed and get lost in the visceral imagery of Desolation Row thinking to myself I could use this as a guide poem and make my own prose composition. I was never good enough. Never had the stamina the mental wherewithal to make my dream come true. Dark nights of the soul during lock down forced my hand and i finally did it. I’ve now responded to Where Are you Tonight (Journey Through White Heat)and find myself challenged by the density of imagery contained within Changing of the Guard.

Until I crack that response and meanwhile I’m building up my Outside In gallery, cropping and manipulating photographs seeking abstraction which has been inspired in large part by #texturehuntergatherer, an idea collected by @LizAtkin who also led me to the #artistsupportpledge. Loads of poster prints available now art lovers.

Charlotte Wilson who illustrates my poetry for a forthcoming exhibition and who i know from Merton Centre for Independent Living (MCIL) called me to say they were doing a zoom meeting aimed at raising the spirits of disabled people in Merton and could i do a reading. I obliged. I stood before the camera with 4 coloured ring binders and allowed my fingers to make random selections. I love not having to rehearse and love being able to trust my poetry to make appropriate impressions. Elinor Rowlands sent a picture of foxgloves and asked me to send a poem for it.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have control over how i read my emails though. The Strawberry Fair in Cambridge (Europe’s biggest free outdoor festival which attracts 15,000 people) where I had the bottle to do my third ever gig contacted me to say in view of Corona the art field, indeed the whole festival, would not be happening but would I like to send a 7-10 audio file for broadcast on Cambridge 105 radio. So I made a video of Strawberry Poems before realising my mistake and sending a further collection of unrehearsed readings. So, these last two paragraphs respond to David’s final line ‘Friends from a distance’ and I respond to his 17 syllables with a blog.


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Diary; My First Provocation

I participated in a conference in support of an Actor, Helena Ascough final show to  complete her MA. The conference was called Forward Thinking – Inclusivity. I was asked to talk about my work, my practice, how I include others and what I think about inclusivity before highlighting my influences and wishes post quarantine. Because of Covid 19 I said this using facebook live.


I am a Disabled Person. Proud, Angry and Strong. Institutionalised Special School Survivor, which is where I acquired a speech impairment and from when I subsequently developed depression, anxiety and later on PTSD . I’ve worked in disabled people’s movement for 25 years as advocate, activist and engagement worker before becoming an Emerging Socially Engaged Activist Poet almost 3 years ago following redundancy.

  • I tend to operate within disability and survivors movements. Am keen to take poetry to the streets in support of protests, campaigns, actions. But more than that I am looking to work with mixed audiences in mainstream settings to get a message across. The message is based on personal experience and from an understanding of the social model of disability which sees me define disability as ‘discrimination based on impairment. My own experience of discrimination came in education and employment but this left me at a disadvantage in other places such as housing, social and leisure life.
  • I am an Associate Artist at Disability Arts Online. I use this as a platform to reach my most natural audience. I provide weekly poems which are freely available and accessible to readers who know where the platform is. I seek to increase knowledge of the interface through social media. DAO use accessible fonts and strategies which make visual arts more accessible. I am developing skills in video to attract the non reader though to date this means sitting in front of a camera.

  • Poet in Residence Hornsey Town Hall Facebook Group. Our local town hall was falling apart but was being used by the local community as an arts and employment hub. The council would eventually sell it off to as a boutique hotel to a group based in Hong Kong with accounts in the Cayman Islands. Keen to support community involvement and ownership I started writing poems based on the articles within the universal declaration of human rights as a tree had been planted in front of the town hall celebrating 50 years of the declaration being signed.

  • I facilitate a monthly open mic event at the Highgate Society. This is one of the oldest and largest civic societies in the country. This has opened a new audience of older people to me. The society focuses on protecting the environment. It was there I started writing about Climate Chaos. I met someone at an exhibition who is developing an Extinction Rebellion Group in Tower Hamlets. My partner and I provided a video to be live streamed during the pandemic.
    I am also Curator of REaD Rhymes Live. This is a unique poetry circle including guest poets from the disability and the mental helth survivors movement. It has meant meeting new poets from impairment groups I had previously had no connection with. I seek to involve and pay as many poets as I can. But I do make judgements in terms of who is good enough to participate and I strive to see or hear the work of poets before I engage them. I have found that a recommendation from someone without my standards and expectations can have a negative impact on the evening. The style I use also puts an onus on the performer to participate equally whilst also demonstrating their unique performance style.

  • So clearly I work with disabled people, mental health service users and older people. All these groups are natural fits for me. But i’m also finding that my activist acumen allows me to step outside of these reference points and find common ground with others. Here I am reflecting back on the conservation and climate chaos groups I have developed links with but its also my experience from open mics that others appreciate my voice and feel that I have something worth saying.

  • It is this concept of the unique voice that makes inclusivity in the Performing Arts important. But I also think think it is the unique voice that keeps us on the outside looking in. This sense of distance remains important. It points as much towards our success in coming out and achieving as it does societies ongoing failure to properly include. As long as just one of us remains outside we cannot claim that inclusivity works. We still need our own groups our own audiences but we also need to attract insiders outwards. The insiders need to come to the perimeter to meet us on the basis of what we have to offer, to experience the qualities we have to offer. We still need to develop these. Better schooling may help.

  • Inclusivity is a stepping stone. A new standard to test society against. We have come a long way in a short time. We have not gone far enough. Back in the 90’s we opposed charity contesting their behaviour in speaking for us, deigning to decide how our lives should look. We fought for rights. I was involved in DAN, the Disabled People’s Direct Action campaigns for civil rights which we did not achieve. The DDA the Disability Discrimination Act was a sop to us. The DDA. DON’T DO ANYTHING legislation. We focused on accessible transport and that was an easy win in some ways though there are still issues with this which is why i’m now involved with a facebook group called Inequality Alert. Another example of how far we have come, how far we still have to go. The accessible transport campaign was planned as a first stepping stone. We then led a campaign called Free Our People which sought the closure of institutions. Some of us got really serious about this without noticing that this led to a call for independent living which many of us are still not allowed to achieve. Our inclusivity in art cannot be guaranteed without the right to freedom. Independence is about choosing our own life, controlled on our own terms. When we achieve this are own ownership of the arts will be closer. Right now it is still the institution that owns too much of what we are already delivering. Definitions of inclusivity reveal this truth.

    the practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of minority groups.

    Or
    providing equality of opportunity for people with disabilities and allowing them to participate and collaborate in class, instead of segregating them.

  • Either way it is about society providing and not about us taking for ourselves

  • The industry still needs to step up. In terms of the social model it still needs to demonstrate improved attitudes, greater access to the environment and demonstrations of trust in our own organisational abilities. There are concerns about the quisling arts of disabled people sopping out to institutional patronage. This is a negative critique of both the performer and the agencies they get to bcome involved with. Until society learns we must take strength and demand a platform for Disability Arts that is art by disabled people based on the political position of the disabled people’s movement.ur

  • Can we do it ourselves? We can do a lot, a lot more than we used to. I give my written work away. Its worth it. Its another way of spreading the key message of equality, rights, independence. I showcase talent and ability though curating the REaD Rhymes Live poetry events. But I also…. Provide workshops. A recent workshop in Merton led to the publication of a book of poems by people who would not define as poets.

  • Rant almost over. Who and what inspires my practice. My own life experience, who I am, what i’ve been through, the activist commitment of disabled people. Artists like Barbara Lisicki the UK’s first disabled comedienne, Ian Stanton and Johnny Crescendo the bob dylan’s of our generation, Colin Hambrook editor of Disability Arts Online for his kindness and understanding. Julie McNamara of Vital Xposure for her talents and commitment, John Kelly and Dennis Queen singer songwriters for keeping the flame alive, Janine Booth, Wendy Young the best of the poets I have met and worked with yet. Outside on the inside…… Yoko Ono for her activism, wit and wisdom, Leonard Cohen for demonstrating what iconoclastic poetry may be.

  • Post quarantine…… I am one of those defined as extremely vulnerable, one of those asked to stay indoors for 3 months. So, i’m looking forward to walking, to camping, tobeing outdoors but more than that i’m looking forward to getting my activist poets life back on the tracks. I was taking 3 guide words forward into 2020. Troubadour, Collaborator, Workshops. I meant to travel meet and work with new people, extend the reach of my poetry into other art settings, working with illustrators, film makers, musicians and I wanted to aid others through workshopping to look at the possibilities poetry offers.

Subsequent to this I was able to do a 15 minute poetry reading. I chose more recent politically motivated poems that i had never performed before and introduced some people i’ve read about before. Two of these I remember from Special School.

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Dairy: 11th Mar 2020 – The Sore Spot

Reservoir Levels are low
In summer
When the dark lake
Turns blue
To celebrate sunshine
Garlanded by evergreens
Beyond the shore
Where she herself
Sits on a rock
Looking clean and bright
Not dappled by sunlight

This a mere product of work shopping with the Cornflower Cancer Support Group last night.

I decided to re-run my last workshop. It had worked well. Ran to time. Showed results. Would it work again with a different group, different people, different place.

I’m not keen on repetition so that’s one negative aspect already. The drive over Corona City had been fraught. Rush hour. Jumping a red light and feeling that i may have been flashed and can expect to read one of Plod’s calling cards any day soon.

A bad start is not made worse by the new deviation on the same old calumny about poetry. “Its pompous, pretentious, preposterous, full of posh plop”. That’s in quote marks but shouldn’t be. Its just an encapsulation of an exceptionally well crafted view.

In so may ways poetry does itself no favours. Listen to the performers who feel excluded by class ridden behaviours full of nonsense. Watch the poets desperate for you to know who they are. Hear the history of old pupils put off poems by perfunctory educational processes in working class schools. Somehow, against the odds we get by just fine.t

And getting by just fine is the right line and rhyme for tonight. Some of us are getting on just fine. I hear first poems, i hear people making poems they wouldn’t call poems, i hear lines from the more engaged and practiced with the subject that may just need a little tweak.

The meditation doesn’t go down too well. We sit too long on uncomfortable chairs listening to weedy, hippy voices that try too hard to be Glastonbury. As a group we are not enamoured with the 15 minutes taken up by Celtic Meditations. Diary is for learning. If i want to go down to go down this route again….. do my own, get some one else to do it, what is the object anyway. Is it just because another group did it before? Well. Yes. So do i need to do more reading of the audience. Yes.

Certainly this time I somehow got it wrong and in spite of trying could not get back on line, made things worse by going over time. No one complained. Some voices said it had been a good time. One voice expressed an awareness of paradise. Yet i feel i could have done better.

I’m more a writer than a reader, a performer than an audience surveyor. But, if i think like this then i know i need to add more to my skills bag. And i will. And yet someone else came up with this…..

I think of freedom
What does it mean?
To me. To you.
For sure we all will say,
Different things
But why I ask myself
Is it so important to us
As human kind
To know its meaning

Part of K’s poem. Here’s part of J’s

I am sitting here at a table
A group of people surround me
We are all here for a reason
To share time and thoughts and feelings

On the table an array of fruit
Oranges, bananas, plums and grapes
What colours, what flavours
Fresh and bright to refresh

So as much as i mock and knock myself something good happened. The evidence is in the word. The evidence is in the action.

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Diary 26.02.20; Two Squirrels

Two squirrels one named History one named News are sitting at the juncture between tree and branch chatting about a quote introduced by News with; ” What do these lines mean to you, ‘there are some things in life that i try to forget and there are some things that i l know i imagined differently”.

History held court for 5 minutes going nuts with; “I remember, I remembered very well and  sequentially too. I was always getting the order of things right. It was a skill I dazzled with. Friends would pop by, phone up, and say “Aye! History. Tell me what happened on August 26th 1983 and of cause like our good friend Squirrel Soccer-Facts who could reel off Grimsby Town’s football scores from any date during the last 100 years…… I could just do it.

Then the cannabis kicked in making everything go fuzzy and kind of wonderful finding new mysteries seeking new explanations.

Ask me now about August 26th 1983. I wouldn’t have a clue. Who cares. There’s a new assembly kit, research tools, to play with and it ain’t Meccano or lego. Take a word. Take Meccano. What does that make you think of? Dad obviously. Dad where? Dad in Wednesbury on the Friar Park Estate, making cranes, teaching ropes, weights and pulleys. I’m sure he had it in mind I would be an engineer but a plastic warrior, a brown red Indian with a stunted arm captured my imagination. That was 1963. I’m guessing April. Spring coolness everywhere. Dad at home with Blackjack”.

News had allowed History to ramble on and interjected. “Next take a card. The card has to mean something to you. I’m going to ask you some questions. Some you will relate to looking at the card. Some will not require an answer from you. Here are the questions:

1) Why did you choose the card?
2) What aspect first attracted your eye?
3) What do you see? What is the card about?
4) Are you prompted to ask the photographer/painter anything?
5) Which is the prominent colour?
6) If you were part of the card what would you be?
7) Does the card have a mood and have you ever felt like this
8) Does the card trigger memories/associations
9) Does the card make you think of a person, place or time in your own life
10) What could have been in the artists mind when they made this card?
11) Does it make you think of a novel or a film?
12) Put this sentence in quotes. “i’m going to try…..”. We will return to this. So, what words have come to your mind when thinking about the questions?”

History responded; “Women, conversation, aspiration, collaboration, chat and coffee, present and future days. The past unusually is not speaking to me. Engagement with partners. Calm progression. The time is now. This year”

News said; “Thank you. These are good words”.

“Thank you”, said History pleased with the presenters politeness. History had met with many rude inquiries during his time.

“Now take all those views and tell a story as if you were an impartial reporter. Start with I’m going to try……”.

History felt as if he was in a present moment. Certainly the things he had come to tell News had only just happened. He took a deep breath and started.

“I’m going to try to contact Norris. He’ll like this. Jordi is already in the picture. Sitting pondering Jazz scores. A Walking Blues for dark dystopian saxophone. Reverb with baritone.
The women have already met. We chatted, made plans, responded to each other over coffee. Clariss illustrated, Edith filmed. I’m guessing Di will embroider or make lights. All but Di have proven something to ‘Alive Through Time’. Di won’t. Instead she’s looking into five haikus focused on  experience of miscommunication.
Time for the men to step up. Jordi is trying. He’s read through all the material. Norris as is so often the case without a clue.
What will I do? Make more coffee, hold more conversations, write applications. I had a project. Clariss gave me one back. If you give you have to take. From engagement inspiration. Bounce bebop around the room. Motifs on a theme.
How’s it going News? Here come the headlines.
Life started with a tourist trail of coffee cup recycling bins and yet another conversation. This time with Chas and Wu. ‘Can the poet be an artist’? We struggle, it’s hard enough to say i’m this without pretending to be that too. Someone some where said; ‘doesn’t it depend on what you do with it’.
Jellyfish have been around a long, long time. Probably longer that us. The interactive art machine at the Royal Academy (fact fans) says they will outlast us, say the jellyfish are multiplying, causing and storing up trouble. Clariss paints them beautifully in water colours but spoils the presentation by using absorbent card and placing it too early into an envelope marked ‘Send to Receiver’.
She hit the right notes. Edith  didn’t. She did something fantastic of cause. She scored high on time and activity and there is some chaotic water but there is no darkness, no sense of resignation to survival. That’s why Jordi’s horn sounds are so important. As for Pete what will the great S/he do with The Marcher. The Marcher Alive Through Time.

News said; ‘that’s all the news for today folks now Wendy will read Edward Hirsch’s ‘Edward Hoppers The House By the Railroad’

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Diary 21st Feb 2020; Poetry as Activity

Workshop Ahoy!!! I’m not enthusing. I am self contained. Something is holding me back.

I’ve worked with this group twice before. They’re not really there for the poetry.

They seem to just go along because they have a weekly commitment to the centre, a social need and a certain enjoyment of being actively engaged in something, anything. Poetry will do.

I’m more or less first in the building. Carers put the tables and chairs together. I am proffered peppermint tea. I am welcomed.

News announcements are being made and i scrawl a programme together on scrap paper. I am encouraged. For the first time some have bought poetry books in to read from including Poems on the Underground and a Lewis Carroll collection.

I am given the floor. There is no need for introductions but i ascertain that i have remembered names correctly. I normally do.

An informal opening. What is poetry, what makes a poem, where is poetry found. A loose discussion. I’m working to a theory I have constructed. People are afraid of poetry (not everyone) and i need to shake the fear. The room is full of older people, people who use english as a second language. There is plenty of space for resistance.

Move on to the free write. Just 5 minutes. Of cause  there is the traditional “my mind’s gone blank”, “use that has your starting point”, but also something factual. “Each and everyone of us has 5 million thoughts a day”. Its doubted. A discussion proves this to be the case. B is delighted to find someone who understands that we don’t all see the same colour.

Writing goes on. J reveals her love of gardening or being in her garden. C praises a friend. K (who may read this) goes on to describe her usual….. what is thet word….. black, melancholic, misanthropy, unhappiness with the world at large.

I have a cd of Celtic Meditations sent a long xmas ago from a friend who visited the sacred island of Glastonbury. I play it. The group likes to relax. The theme is healing. We have experiences of loss, pain. In day to day life we forget how fragile we are. I conclude the time out, time for ourselves,  with Ghost Walk and invite the group to describe their experiences as i write mine

Mucous Mucous
Phlegm and Bile
Drain away
By witchy guile

Take a walk
Cross the soil
Hear her talk
Climb a stile

Watch the hands
Turn the dial
Hike these lands
Mile after mile

Sun goes down
Cease the toil
Healing comes
After a while

Rest at home
Your stately pile
Take it easy
That’s the style.

I show the group how i made a list of rhyming words and then fitted them into short verse. The group read their own ‘captured feelings’ back. I then encourage performance, I ask I to stand at the back of the wall and recite to us from the book she selected. J has left her glasses at home (as she or is this a late sign of resistance). K reads for her. B brings out a slip of paper to read a poem she wrote 30 years ago concerning the loss of a grandad. We share tales about how grandparents have influenced us. Her poem is long and the paper so small. She must  in very, very tiny writing.

I have bought a long some of my own poems to read which i felt would be appropriate to the loose theme I had in mind last night before the programme took shape.

As It Happens
Numbers
For Esme
Conscripted
and Observation

I note the beauty of Esme and the appreciation for Observation but also that Conscripted as started a conversation. I feel good about my work. I feel much better about the involvement of the group. 3 meetings in and something has started to happen.

Days pass by. I receive a note from the organiser. She wants to introduce me to a new group. I promise to stick to the programme. It will be the first time I have repeated a set.

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Diary; 12th Feb 2020. As it happens

Diary is happening live

Here I am at the Saison Poetry Library reading Frank Bangay’s Naked Songs whilst waiting for Will. Old Time Fiends coincidentally.

There is a connection in the lines
That glints at understanding
Time and place and situations
The people that we knew way back when
Our hearts were not full of voices singing
For we had no courage then
Our strings were not pitched by CAPO*
And we had no rhythm called hope
Where we had no posters on walls
No photographs save those conserved
By indubitable, uncontested, silent memory
No pictures excepting those found in ragged papers
On rhododendron mottled lawns
Where she shades from the sun; spliffed up
Reaching out beyond an anxious moment
To find peace secluded from the death ray
Away from Daniel stalking corridors
Long strides along the corridor lengthening out
Toward locked doors, lost voices stalled from singing
Where I buzz the intercom for attention
From stiff nurses not starched by uniform
We look the same for sure but for the age of clothing
Made different only by noise of keys clanking
Save for a man named Frank in a corner singing
Like a Fool in the House high on the Hill
Taking downers downed down with liquid cosh
He shuffling slowly to an institutional step
One pace at a time connecting to an inner rhythm
Foot step foot step foot step foot step to times
That melt like Dali’s clock in persistent memory
I know you and I know he and I know she
The words they said the couplets that they whispered
Nouns and verbs and adjectives all lost to simple melody
Time,place, situation the people that we knew then
In the house high on the hill an everyday collection of fools
Some fools made idiot by electronic stupefaction
Yet he still looks to nature this man of a thousand voices
In springtime singing sounds sung softly perfectly loud

*Campaign Against Psychiatric Oppression

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Diary; 11th Feb 2020. Feel it.

It is Thursday 5 days ago. I am Mr S. O. Hot. It has nothing to do with the hormones I have been injecting into my stomach during recent months.

I am a weaver of poetic dreams, a workshop master. I am with a crowd of faces old and new, an organisation of disabled people, wanting to create poetry along the themes of choice and control. 2 themes intrinsic to independent living.

We start with introductions and from these we create our first poem focused on control using the words ‘i have control when’ and its antonym ‘i have no control when’. All i ask for are pithy lines.

Chuffed to have a work so quickly we move on to a deeper investigation of choice subsequent to a free write. I am leading thought with the values the organisation gave to the issue at hand. I am reading dictionary definitions and reciting Pete Seeger’s ‘Little Boxes’ demonstrating that even those who may wish to think themselves above us have no choice but to heed cultural diktats. This leads to an excellent contribution starting with the words ‘Pest Control’ which initially brings much amusement. There is something in our inter-connectivity which makes us feel we are at a laughter class.

I urge them on. Shaking away the hesitations, the resistors, with words of encouragement, where there are no poems, only words, I find myself identifying poetic content. Repetition. A turn of phrase, use of imagery, words that evoke a feeling. Mr Acrostic puts his head over the parapet. He does this for birthday cards. A deeper understanding of poetry than i imagined is in the room.

Control brings out a stunning wish list from one of the participants. These folk we are. The people we wish to be. I raised this by going back to the dictionary and calling up the spirit of Ian Curtis…. Mr She’s Lost Control Again. I bought this into the equation as it speaks as much to me about Mental Health as it does epilepsy and i knew such health issues would be present.

There are more than a few minutes left. Time for a planned Jenge. Photos are taken, evaluations are written. I score extremely highly. Mr S.O. Hot

Mr S.O. hot is shot to Paddington on the Friday. I am in training to be an Ambassador with Outside In. Its fun. I’m funny especially at quiz time when I put my sham competitor head on. I suddenly become brilliant at role plays. What happened there. I’ve never been good at role plays. Always hated them. Awkward words would prop up in previous plays. Words that would make me stumble and fall and blow all other ships out of the water. The difference this time, i believe, is in me not being me but inhabiting the bodies of others. I have become a performer. Poetry made this happen.

Later I am in the pub talking to an artist echoing my 2020 words of guidance; troubadour, collaborate, workshop. It is all happening already and because it happens it happens again. The rhyme that became a poster print has now developed potential to be a film. The three together become an exhibition; ‘From This to That’. I have dreams and everything is positive. Just as she is positive that Malvina Reynolds version of Little Boxes is better than Pete Seegar’s. You compare.

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