to Seeds and Fuses
– the poetry and other makings of Anne Enith Cooper
Thanks for dropping by. I’m not big on labels though I’ve been described as “an artist, activist, and author.” Am based in Brixton, London, England. I scribble and snap, make stuff. You could say I’m a dreamer and seeker. Life, art and activism merged with my position as writer-in-residence at the Cressingham Gardens council estate where alongside other residents we created the book 306: Living Under the Shadow of Regeneration.
My poetry ranges from the classic themes of love and death, sex and war to those small, often unsaid interchanges, the basis of my pamphlet Touched. Documentary poetry is my preferred form of choice, my poem essay 21st Century Guernica was described by the late Tony Benn MP as, “Powerful and deeply moving.”
With photography I capture light and colour, texture and line and the atmosphere of place, with an emphasis on finding the beauty in the lost, decaying and abandoned. I’ve exhibited at the Portico Gallery, the Urban Art Show, had a solo show with an artist talk at the Salome Gallery, The Poetics of the Everyday.
I’ve worked for 20 years on creative projects in the community as a workshop facilitator and project leader. I am the founder of The Way of Words – from the page to the stage. In recent years much of my work has been in mental health and homelessness services including at the V&A, The South London and Maudsley Hospital Trust and The Recovery College.
In addition I have curated events with spoken word, live literature, dj’s, vj’s and musicians, honoured to have been joined by many special guests including; Paddy Hill, Brian Paddick, Karen McCarthy Woolf, John Cooper Clarke and Malika Booker.
I ardently believe another world is possible. I have felt her breath on my face. She grows around us, within us and beneath us and beckons we deliver her. Be still, silent, surrender, hear her cry out to you from the floods and flames. And when you are called act, #ActNow for people and planet.
Still reeling somewhat from the death of a dear friend. And at times still feels life, thought, action somewhat on hold. That said have enrolled on Writing From The Soul of the Earth, a workshop created by Dom Bury and started some mentoring with Bethany Rivers, I find her gentle, playful approach to creativity suitable for me, a safe place to explore and create.
Have planned an Escape to Margate with a good friend. The aim is to visit Botany Bay, which I thought was in Australia, but no, 20 minutes on a bus from the aforementioned so we might even check out Dreamland which I read inspired Banksy’s Dismaland but is not The Thing itself as I thought it might be, no, that is in Weston-Super-Mare, Geography is not my strong point it would seem.
In downtime have been watching a bunch of foreign movies. Netflix seems to think because I like Spanish cinema I might like Polish, Ukrainian, Italian, German titles. Their algorithms need sharpening up methinks. The most memorable was the biopic Roma from Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón.
Also become enthralled with Adam Curtis’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head, BBC iplayer. I read this as a multidisciplinary essay presented in a poetic collage with a multi layered narrative. At its heart a thesis about or perhaps just an exploration of individualism versus collectivism with segues from obscure and sometimes bizarre examples of popular culture and an eclectic soundtrack. As such it is compelling. So much to say about that, another time!
Received my copy of the MPK anthology the other day, featuring my poem This is a Prayer. Just love the feel of it in my hands! It was the first time I really felt that so-great-to-see-my-name-in-print feeling people talk about. I put this down to the huge amount of time I’ve spent in meditation paying off. The launch is on the 5th August, still waiting for details of that. It’s available to preorder here https://uk.bookshop.org/books/too-young-too-loud-too-different-twenty-years-of-british-poetry-from-malika-s-poetry-kitchen/9781472155061
Looking forward to the launch of Anna Robinson’s Whatsname Street on Sunday 1st August, live and direct from Lower Marsh, Waterloo, yeah! Not sure if the launch is public, if so details will appear here http://www.annarobinsonpoetry.co.uk/
#amwriting what is slowly dawning on me is ecopoetry
#amreading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, a novel exploring issues of migration and the threat posed by Mexican drug cartels, and Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors: Overcoming Internal Self- Alienation by Janina Fisher.
There are times when it’s hard to put into words, even in poetry with its condensed form, the passing events that rage on. What can I say? Finally the clouds broke, the rains eased and the sun blessed us while I hear one of my oldest, closest friends has died and a dear neighbour.
In between all this the farce of the G7, a not funny farce, in its grandiose setting and quaint barbecue on the beach. Blame farming, blame the cows for carbon emissions not the jets they arrived in nor the abysmal and quite unnecessary patriotic display by the Red Arrows. Not to mention the postering and posing commitment to 1bn Covid vaccines when the WHO says the rest of the world needs 11bn. Never has inequality been so starkly clear.
When words fail me I feel bereft. In my journal recently when trying to express my grief I found myself writing, “Years slip by as easy as weeks. Yet this last year stretches out. What a cruel time this has been.” I hadn’t seen my dear dear Shashi since Christmas 2019 as he was shielding during the pandemic. I’d not seen Leroy for too long. I’ve hardly seen anyone if the truth is told.
Recalling the names of those I know that passed this last 18 months I found myself writing, “it feels like a massacre,” and inwardly felt shame to be so hyperbolic and yet am I deliberately exaggerating? And is it any wonder I feel like this when daily Covid death figures make the headlines?
All I can say is Bilal, Len, Ted, Shelia, Paul, Michael, Phil, Shashi, Leroy; rest in peace brothers and sister. I feel I must say their names at least. To honour them. (Little of this was directly Covid related. Loss is loss. I’m not about to get clinical here it feels uncouth.)
I’ve been asking myself why, despite daily meditation, almost daily yoga, bipolar meds and a decent diet and routine, to be honest, I’ve been struggling with my physical and mental health. Asking why I have such pain in my back, feels like it’s given way. Erm why d’you think Anne? I could move more, I realise that, swim maybe, walk more at least.
I swing between a calm acceptance of it all and I guess denial, between a sense of quiet existential hope and numbness, and, to be honest, some days there are notes of gloom and despair. I watch Fargo and The Hand Maids Tale and find comfort there. Which says it all.
I’ve also found solace working with images and composed a new visual poem. It’s a contemplation of Spring, renewal and transformation, using found and original images, based on the philosophy of the Tao where seasons have attributes, associated with one of the five elements.
The element for Spring is wood and some of the correspondences are the direction east, sour taste, the colour green and wind. In this philosophy the virtue that corresponds to Spring is gentleness and the emotion anger. In Chinese medicine, based on these ideas, the organs that correspond to the wood element are the liver and gallbladder.
For some reason gave it the the immoderate and perhaps excessive title, In This Almost Time, This A Time of All Seasons A Fusillade of Buds and New Bloom Refresh the Senses as We Reawaken. I think now the title would better conclude –as we continue to awaken. After all awakening is a process. You can find this in my insta whether you are on or off this platform at https://www.instagram.com/anne_enith/
Besides that tInkering/ tweaking ideas for and structuring my new workshop series Into the Light: writing with an Open Heart, still a working title. Mulling over whether to take part in the Brixton Urban Artshow, if I’m not too late with that already, keeping one foot in the door with the On Our Radar project.
There was refreshing relief from it all and fun with a beautiful though belated birthday picnic in the park with lovely friends, some of whom dared try the Cava and Kahlua concoction, just over a week ago. A rare outing. It was strange that it felt not strange to be with people again. A time out of time. Life in the midst of so much death. Mostly life is still on zoom.
This weekend just gone got to the mind stretching, thought provoking Lipstick Intellectuals; a conversation between our poetry family members Jacqueline Saphra and Sophie Herxheimer a virtual offering from this years Winchester Poetry Festival.
Coming up this Saturday 19th June is our Poets from the Planet Fresh Summer Thunder while the following weekend is Saturday 26th June is a movie night combined with a poetry open mike from The Word is Write.
#amreading Taking the Arrow out of the Heart, a new collection of Poetry from Alice Walker, a gift from my blood brother, and The Storyteller, a novel by Jodi Picoult, found in a charity shop. While this was interesting too despite its bizarre, to my mind, inclusion of Katy Perry! https://faroutmagazine.co.uk/6-lyrics-quote-literature-patti-smith-bob-dylan/
#amwriting or more accurately editing, which is to my mind where the real writing happens, a bunch of poems for submission, not something I’m very good at, submission that is, we’ll see.
Life recently has consisted of not much more than yoga and mediation, acquiring or repurposing pots for herbs and vegetables seedlings, some home improvements which, in the context of the continuing threat of estate demolition, I find empowering and an act of rebellion on my part.
Beside that little more than lamenting the inclement weather (not very zen) and watching Line of Duty. I came late to the party on that one, in the end my curiosity peeked by the numerous references from friends in social media. I’m not so sure it’s compatible with achieving an uplifted state of mind but I was hooked five minutes into the first episode of series one.
Got along to a Lambeth XR planning picnic, Poetry from the Grassroots on the 9th May and the Poets for the Planet meeting on the 16th. Have been fiddling around with images for my Spring insta visual poem about based on the philosophy of the Tao. The last instalment for Winter entitled, Under a Wan Sun we Draw in, proved popular, here’s a screen shot. Come over to https://www.instagram.com/anne_enith/ to see it clearer or comment.
Am taking some time out for a period of reflection, contemplation and meditation. Recent events have compelled me to consider presence and purpose and more on a deeper level than previously.
I say this as if it were a decision when really it has been more of an unfolding process. I figure I am going inwards for a while ironically at the same time the U.K. at least is opening up partially.
Call it a retreat if you like. To return renewed, I hope, and reinvigorated.
I’ll leave you with a recommendation, check out Katie Griffiths launch of The Attitudes with special guests Arji Manuelpillai, Mary Mulholland, Matthew Paul and Michelle Penn Thursday 22 April 2021, 7.30pm
The event will be open live streamed from the Nine Arches Press YouTube channel. Tickets https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/katie-griffiths-online-launch-of-the-attitudes-tickets-148028361815
“Katie Griffiths’ debut solo poetry collection The Attitudes is a search for trust and faith – in the body, in the mind, in all those things we seek to hold on to but cannot.
Here we encounter mortality and tread the balance between visceral wisdom and the intellect, between fragile, fallible bodies, and the mind’s hold over them, between the bright spaces and the haunted ones.
In poems that are bold, effervescent, frequently playful, Katie Griffiths approaches serious subjects – eating disorders, ageing, grieving – with a precise and inventive lyricism. An astute and accomplished book which transforms.”
We take a step close to Spring, at this time of year I feel time itself speeds up at an alarming rate. Its as if January limps, February shuffles while March is limbering up for a sprint, next thing I know I’ll be shaking by head seeing nauseating Christmas ads, which incidentally I’ve found one can avoid successfully with steaming services. Events are moving fast and as such it’s hard to post a coming up diary, as I have previously, as a this went down one.
A lot of cool stuff happened in one week. Started a five week mini course led by poet Bethany Rivers called Mindful Words in which we read, write and discuss poetry.
Poets for the Planet presented FRESH: Spring Bloom on YouTube: https://youtu.be/UThp7vu3pvAHi
My experimental voyage into insta can be seen here https://www.instagram.com/anne_enith/ The Last Swallow has Flown is a visual poem exploring/ contemplating autumn, love and transformation, based on the philosophy of the Tao.
Annnnd The new anthology from Malika’s Poetry Kitchen has a cover now and can be preordered here https://t.co/vNXRgl8yYa More to follow on this
I have a recent, well not that recent, contribution to the On Our Radar, a project reporting homelessness stories here I looking into what happened to the government’s Everyone In scheme https://microsites.onourradar.org/covid19/?p=1699
On Saturday 13th In a tremendous outpouring of collective sorrow, grief, rage and solidarity across upwards of 30 cities and towns in the U.K. (the actual number unsure as it was rising by the hour) regarding the death of Sarah Everard, and so many others we never hear about, people attended and created vigils of beauty, poetry, prayer and silence.
Yet in Clapham police choose to attack a peaceful protest! As an organiser said on BBC news last night had the organised vigil been not been ruled against there would have been stewards to ensure Covid safety. Had the Met not obstructed the thing in the first place and not lost the plot on the night there would have been no need for arrests, actually scratch that there was no need in my opinion.
In a highly publicised case Patsy Stevenson, pictured above, told reporters that after being thrown to the ground she was dragged into a van, fined £200 then released back into the park where this interview took place! So we can all sleep sound in our beds now.
Beyond irony when two days later Parliament was set to debate the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 which offers no protection to women and includes broad powers for the police to curtail rights to peaceful protest and restrict assemblies, with tougher sentences for those charged, and even limitations on one-person acts of peaceful protest.
So let’s get this straight under this new legislation- If I attack a statue of Churchill I can get up to ten years inside. If someone attacks and rapes me they can get up to five years inside. If they are even prosecuted. In 2019/20 only 3% of reported rapes were prosecuted.
In a society like this WE NEED TO PROTEST!
For a joint statement in opposition see here https://extinctionrebellion.uk/2021/03/15/killthebill-joint-statement-on-the-police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-from-xr-blm-local-groups-raah-and-more/?
Sunday 14th joined Poetry from the Grassroots to deliver a poem The Truth About Hats, which skips around the centuries touching on women’s history and struggles here’s a link to the recording https://www.facebook.com/MarkMrTeeThompson/videos/10158618361077217/ Unsure if this works outside Facebook but if it does see great poetry from fellow Poet for the Planet member Sue John’s at 10 mins in ans my piece is at 35mins in, it was a great night, it’s all worth checking out.
#amreading The Occillations by Kate Fox, Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver and Healing the Tiger by Peter A Levine
#amwriting poems referencing Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses and throwing around some ideas for a piece of dystopian fiction….
I’m late with this, so late! Wa Gwarn? As they say round here. What’s going on indeed. Been feeling decidedly ropey, trying to find an appropriate metaphor…Feels like; climbing a sand dune in a desert in a wet suit, crawling up a mountain backward, swimming against the tide in a storm. All of these imply struggle.
No doubt a struggle within. As I write this I think – rather than struggle why not just surrender? Something, honestly, I find hard. I veer between the two attitudes. The latter might sound like, if you can’t do, just be.
Poet and mindfulness tutor Cath Drake puts it like this, “Many of us spend most of our time in ‘doing’ mode: organising, thinking, ticking off tasks, often in autopilot. It’s important for our wellbeing to balance this with the ‘just being’ mode, just being alive to where you are and what is around us, accepting things as they are without trying to change them.”
Cath has been running writing workshops with this in mind. If you’re struggling too why not check it out. Cath says, “What if you write without a goal in mind? Experiment?
Tuesday mornings 8am, short sessions of Mindfulness, Poetry and writing. A new theme each week – sign up and drop in when you can.” Go to https://cathdrake.com/mindfulness-poetry-uplift/
During the low energy time I’ve been playing with my images. This, I find, I can do in a meditative way, achieving what is known in the Tao as wu wei, or effortless activity. Ideally we would all do everything like this.
The result of this was what I call a visual poem called The Last Swallow Has Flown – created using 12 images, found and original. It’s a contemplation of autumn, love and transformation based on the philosophy of the Tao.
According to the Tao the universal energies yin Qi and yang Qi produce the Five Elements, which in turn, give birth to the “ten-thousand things,” ie: the manifestation of all things. The Five Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each of the five elements have attributes. The element associated with autumn is metal and some of the other attributes are the direction west, spicy taste, the colour white and dryness.
This was an experiment, it’s been fun and useful to find that contemplative space. Finally I posted the images in my insta, you can see it here https://www.instagram.com/anne_enith/ whether you have an Instagram account or not. It’s designed to be best viewed in the grid.
Accordingly to my insta analytics the posts have reached 21.5 K accounts in seven days. A bit wow, I have no clue what “reached” means but it makes me feel good anyway.
Elsewhere the zoom poetry community is blooming drawing poets from Australia, Europe to the United States. I recommend Poetry in the Brew, Speakeasy, Ooo Beehive, Say it Louder and Like a Blot from the Blue. I’m yet to dive in to appear, most have floor spots.
My fave so far was the St Valentines Mascara, a curated event held Sunday 14th February, which was particularly spectacular. A collaboration between Like a Blot from the Blue, Eye Publish Ewe and Poetry in the Brew, see it here for just over two hours of audacious wordplay and performance.
Meanwhile Poets for the Planet had our AGM also on the14th and will be holding Spring Bloom: An eco-poetry open mike night on Saturday 6th March at 7.00pm which will be broadcast on YouTube. Poets will be responding to the themes #beginafresh #noplanetb #springbloom
Finally, it’s not been a great time recently for residents on the six regen estates facing demolition, Homes for Lambeth are on the offensive, during lockdown, yep. However there’s great news for Cressingham Gardens and for children’s fiction and black writers; my friend and neighbour, Sandra Moodie, launches her first book, Aminata and the Bag of Seeds on Saturday 20th February.
Sandra took her first dabble into creative writing with the Cressingham Voices project I ran on the Cressingham Gardens estate in 2017 in my role as writer-in-residence and contributed to the book we produced. More about Sandra, founder of Pass the Baton Raise the Next Generation, and the book here https://inspirationalenterprise.com/latest-news
Happy New Year everyone, wishing you all health and happiness, hope, strength and joy in the struggles we will undoubtedly face together, let’s continue to bring beauty, respect, dignity, peace, justice, equality and sustainability to this world. Hope this new year is rich and rewarding for all.
Last year was a tough one, I appreciate many are grieving, in recovering, or financially challenged, we are all in a sense precarious now. I prefer to think also about what it has given us; a renewed respect for the often invisible yet essential workers, a chance to reevaluate what really matters, a chance to upskill, learn and grow, the reveal of the incompetence, uncaringness and mendacity of governance.
This time has also seen the emergence of mutual aid on an unprecedented scale demonstrated dramatically during the lorry-park-with-no-toilets debacle at the end of the year. While the government callously described the unfolding events as a “stress test” for a no deal Brexit it was the Kent community that fed the thousands of stranded drivers not the council or the government.
Hope you had a reasonable time last night I had a quiet one. At least the flat is emerging from a year of dust, clutter and cobwebs (ok i exaggerate a little though it is curiously how dust and cobwebs seem combine to create small fluffy balls over time…)
Reflecting on the year personality feel immense gratitude for when it was possible to connect. The year began for me on a challenging note plunged into the dark in January, almost it seemed, overnight. How much of this was personal and how much was existential I don’t know. I was writing a ring of fire: a lament for Australia as it began. Spend a good part of the year crawling out of that place. It would be easy to look on the year as the sum total of that but on reflection there was much more.
Some highlights; in March just before lockdown one hooked up with Poets for the Planet for a reading and conversation at Resonance fm link. In May and June joined the Black Lives Matter protests in Windrush Square while August saw a diminished but effective XR rebellion in London, my part in this was small but supported rebels camping in beautiful Brockwell Park, a stones throw from Cressingham.
Collectively the park became our playground, sanctuary, gym. Hard to put into words how valuable it has been for so many of us. I read in Brixton Buzz Lambeth Council want to hand over management to some company which aims to hold 50 commercial events annually, surely this must be opposed.
In September between lockdowns took a trip to Italy; discovered the wonder of Rome, attended a powerful yoga retreat at Casa Amrita in Teramo province and explored the delightful coastal town of Pineto before reluctantly returning.
The poetry world went all zoom and forced to face my reluctance to get in front of the l head on joining Poetry from the Grassroots on a number of occasions. A supportive and increasingly international tribe of fellow wordsmiths. Joined the team at On Our Radar, who in collaboration with Groundswell, are collecting stories of homelessness in a peer led project.
Have been massively supported and assisted by group meditation on zoom with water and earth protector Urtema Dolphin. She has been holding a space almost every day since the start of lockdown one. A space to learn and grow, to be and let go.
Ended the year putting together a visual poem entitled The Last Swallow has Flown; a contemplation of autumn, love and transformation which is almost ready to share, watch this space.
Feeling optimistic about the future; our struggles have gone truly global and becoming more inclusive. We are still in a fractured and polarised world, in my opinion the dark is not rising it was always there and the light is revealing it, so let the light shine!
Not much in the diary yet but starting a short course in Greek and Roman Mythology at Penn State Uni, I’ve found gods and goddess making an appearance in my poetry for a while now; the Indian goddess Kali came to me in Brockwell Park, Gaia on a beach in Pineto, while Venus, Zeus and Eros put in appearances from time to time and so I figured it was high time to learn a bit more about them.
Also will be joining Poetry from the Grassroots on the 10th January 2021