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” and “the love child of Fox Mulder and Patti Smith, secretly adopted by Leon Lederman.” I’ll confess to being a dictionary freak, free thinker and dreamer. I love wordplay and playing with form to create what I hope is audacious and tender work.

Born upside down, born blue, under a waxing gibbous moon, a little after midnight six months before the Cuban Missile Crisis, life was bound to have bumps; I was diagnosed bipolar 34 years later. Am based in Brixton, London, England. In this incarnation, between burnouts and breakdowns, I’ve created poems, collage, montage, concrete and matter poetry, workshops and live literature events. 

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, working class history and the planet to those small, often unsaid interchanges, the basis of my pamphlet Touched. My work has evolved to draw on auto-bio, myth, popular culture and current affairs. My poem-essay 21st Century Guernica was described by the former MP Tony Benn 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. 

anne-e-cooper-photography-dahab-taxi- 2010
Tafadhal (Be my guest.) Back of Taxi, Assalah, Dahab, Egypt, 2010. 24 x 30 inch on PermaJet cotton canvas

I’ve worked for 20 years on and off 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 am member of NAWE, Poets for the Planet and the influential writers collective Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, founded by Forward prize winner Malika Booker and T.S. Eliot prize winner Roger Robinson, my elegiac poem This is A Prayer features in their 2021 anthology Too Young, Too Loud, Too Different. I have performed in London and New York.

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 #ActNow for people and planet. 


December 2021

Return after a week away to Plan B Omicron Britain which mainly seems to consist of pretty-much-what-most-people-were-doing-anyway; working from home, wearing masks in enclosed public spaces, social distancing at a distance, that arguably, if any less would be considered, (in British terms) a bit creepy at best and at worse possibly verging on sexual harassment or threatening behaviour.

I’ve just got back from a retreat of sorts in the rather glorious Lanzarote. I had/have certain reservations about flying during a climate emergency but it’s hard when you hear of the number of private jets swooping into COP 26; one report states 118 (Forbes) another suggests it was as high as 670 (The Metro), hard not to develop a fuck it mentality. 

I will be donating a sizeable proportion over and above my total spend to reforestation. Is this just to placate my nagging conscience? Maybe. I’m only human. 

The trip was designed as a let’s-finally-kick-into-touch-the-whole-shingles-encounter break with yoga, tai chi, a spa, a gym and pool. I swerved the gym obvs! Though I walked every day  bathed in the sea air, if not the sea itself and the sunlight. By rights should be feeling renewed and refreshed. 

However the day after I arrived a received a message saying, “Did you know Dale is very ill?”Dale and I had spoken recently…frequently of late. He commented recently about “a gastric flu” and what sounded like a fairly alarming symptom, “limping with abdominal pain” but kind of playing it down. For someone as self deprecating as Dale hindsight tells me that should have rung alarm bells. 

I refrained from my usual barrage of unsolicited health advice, thinking he’s an adult, he can look after himself, instead suggested lightheartedly he’d better see or at least speak to a doc in case his insides felt out or words to that effect. I’d had a flu like thing myself and went into details of my treatment regime in the hope he’d take the hint. I didn’t pick up the phone. 

Yet it occurs to me post world wide web we’ve slipped into this culture of can I call? Calls are scheduled. When I say “we” here I mean people I know on the whole. Sending a Facebook comment when a text would be just as easy. Sending a text when a call would be good. Picking up the phone when when meeting up would be better. 

None of this prepared me to hear – induced coma – ICU – sepsis – leukaemia – DNR – turning off life support – And so as his life slipped away just three days later. I sat watching the sun set writing a poem to him after a day praying for a miracle. An hour and a half later I heard that Dale had passed. 

Our last messenger convo was about a writing swop. I was made up by this turn of events as Dale was, still hard to use the past tense, a brilliant writer, in fact, I was a little in awe of his writing depth and output. He had a voice that was witty, incisive, irreverent, sagacious and yet empathetic. Dale had more empathy than most people have in their big toe. And so it was agreed to start this week. 

I spent the proceeding days away in a kind of numbed blur. Going through the motions. After three days of meditating and sending light, then hearing he had succumbed to this sudden and unexpected early passing I felt bereft of meaning and purpose. 

And if I’m honest I still can’t accept it. I scroll through pics, I reread his articles, listen to his poems hearing a gentleness in his voice I’d not heard before. At the airport on the way home I read 148 messages full of condolences and wry memories from his friends in response to the inevitable Facebook post. 

The day before I left it all threw me into – into what? Perhaps a form of benign nihilism, I’d had a complimentary glass of wine with my last dinner and an amiable chat with a couple at the next table and found myself experiencing something close to cheerfulness. Consequently I wrote, 

“I’m just struck with the absolute transitory nature of everything; a mood, a sensation, an experience. A state I’m told can be achieved by years of meditation. I’ve heard this described as entering a state where one experiences the true nature of reality. Yet instead of conveying to me the deep sense of some other universal eternal with profound meaning and comfort it’s borderline terrifying and just led me back to what’s the point? A place i really don’t want to be.

If each moment comes and goes; bliss, sorrow, pain, anger, agony, ecstasy then so what? Perhaps the higher beings are not evolved beings who have transcended the human experience but those who never knew it. The stones, the plants, the trees, the burrowing insects. 

Perhaps it is we humans that are un-evolved in comparison, primitive. Let’s face it we are on the whole primitive. I have no grief for the end of humanity if I’m honest. And feel on some level nature will survive us. Look at what we’ve made; an indoor artificial waterfall, smart loos, chemical weapons…. 

I often wonder that Agent Smith was right the world would be better without us or at least we should stop trying to better nature, being the big Hu-Man, knowing so fucking much and understanding so little. And what is the point even if we are part of a big whole, a hive mind, a universal consciousness, some days I see consciousness as a giant multi faced glitter ball, shining on one side, darkened on the other…”

Image creator Marcy IPTC

After that it appears I stopped writing and presumably fell asleep. Since I’ve considered the point is not so much what we create, learn or experience but how we are with each other, what we share including thoughts, feelings and of course experiences, acts of creation, learning and dance! And yes these too are transitory. 

And though I don’t see death as an ending, rather a portal, the beginning  of another journey – otherwise really what would be the point?  If all the accumulated lessons and wisdom of a lifetime was just snuffed out. I guess the sheer existence of death gives life its meaning. And in particular those shared moments with other human bodied souls. 

(Though some days I think I’d rather come back as a tree, preferably a gnarled old oak tree or if I was really privileged a giant cedar, the kind they have in Fairy Creek, British Columbia or a Japanese platform cedar.)

Of course the pandemic has taken away so much sociability over the past two years. And now people are opening talking about how covid could go on another two years. Well it will unless we fucking get on with vaccinating the world! I wonder does all this isolation and distancing make us less human? Being human is being social. Does screen gazing and clicking and scrolling make us less or more evolved? 

I guess it depends what finds the eye. Ironically Dale and I became closer over the past two years than we had been for decades. And I will miss him terribly. While I got not much further than the park next door with more frequency he seemed to have taken advantage of the pandemic to indulge in slack lining which appears to be balencing precariously on a loose line strung across quarries and other wild spaces. A kind of apt metaphor for these times. 

At least he leaves us with an extensive body of word full of his wit and wisdom. Some of which can be accessed here



#amreading the Live Canon 2021 Anthology, Tongues of Fire by Sean Hewit and Why I Write edited by Ian Humphreys 

#amwriting about the ephemeral, impermanence if you like, bunch of poem about climate change including one about scorpion invasion, with the intervention of the Goddess Selqet, during a recent deluge in Aswan; the latter a poem I’d promised to send Dale

Signing out til 2022. Apologies if this post is a bit sweary, am grieving. Love yourselves, love each other. Let the light shine. Life, tenacious as the vines that cling to the black volcanic slopes of Lanzarote, fed only by the the dew that condenses of the basalt gravel, brought by humid trade winds, and soil protected by that peculiar lava form. Life, desperately transient, desolately temporal, snatched away so suddenly it leaves you breathless. Breathe, be present, we only have the moment. And yet a future to bequeath, and it really is up to us what that future holds and if the earth will continue to hold us. It’s in our hands. 

November 2021

So this month felt forced, with some reluctant, by dragging health to sit out COP 26 which took place in Glasgow, which commencing on the 31st October and ran on until 13th November, a day later than planned. The day, when bleary eyed, the final draft of the Conference of The Parties 26 Decision -/CMA.3 Glasgow Climate Pact was famously tweaked and phase out became phase down (of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.) Everyone blamed Modi in a shoot the messenger disgrace. Don’t get me wrong Modi is no friend of our movements and certainly not his own farmers who recently won a spectacular victory. 

I participated, as far as possible, virtually. The COP 26 Coalition hosted a series of events on and offline. While Poets for the Planet presented Earth Song which can be seen herehttps://www.youtube.com/embed/hKNLwSciCTE?feature=oembed

An event which came about after poets and spoken word artists from around the world were matched with researchers from Imperial College London to create science inspired poetry against climate change in a range of languages. “The result will be a cross-cultural feast of poetry and science, investigating the danger our natural and human landscapes are facing across the globe and what we can do about it.” Broadcast with live Q&A. 

The event involved Santiago Acosta, Adnan Al-Sayegh and Jenny Lewis, Luca Bernardini, Annsh Chawla, Moya De Feyter, Harry Josephine Giles, Tammy Lai-Ming Ho, Robin Lamboll, Yang Lian, Ian McLachlan, Jérôme Pinel, Pieta Poeta, Jacqueline Saphra, Marvin Thompson, Anton Trubaïchuk, Debra Watson, Tamar Yoseloff, Sindiswa Zulu.

Elsewhere 12-15th November sees the annual Aldeburgh Poetry festival details here

I’ll be honest I find this time of year tricky at the best of times as the days shorten and the light fades so early. I left all my clocks on BST until the end of the month in an attempt to hang onto the light. It was partially successful. Am planning an escape from all this that will involve at least yoga,  tai chi and sunlight and hopefully much more. 

Nevertheless here on Cressingham we have organised a post COP event Let’s All Go On A Tree Hunt for Sunday 21st November to be led by the engaging and informed Steve de St Croix of the Brockwell Greenhouses. 

The Cressingham Rotunda as viewed from the gate into Brockwell Park. Shot with my iphone. 

#amreading New & Selected Essays by Denise Levertov and by Mama Amazonia by Pascale Petite and Poor by Caleb Femi 

#amwriting about bugs, some of the absurdities of modernity and the contradictions of COP26 including drawing on some autobio 

October 2021

It’s the end of October already! The year has slid past and yet at the same time stretches out. My birthday picnic in the park in early June seems a lifetime ago while it’s already two months, almost to the day, since the onset of the shingles encounter. Though some symptoms remain that seems like ancient history too. 

Let myself sleep in til 11.00am. Still somewhat in recovery mode. Feeling a bit split; yesterday as excited as a child who has caught a butterfly to discover the essays of Denise Levertov on poetics. Today find myself asking why poetry? Is is my soul yearning or just a box I’ve carved myself into where I’m holding myself prisoner? 

I started reading Ben Okri’s The Famished Road recently I can’t believe it’s sat on my bookshelves untouched for so long. I find it’s so rich in imagery I can only manage a few chapters at a time. Sometimes only one. I find I have to put it down and digest it slowly. 

Why do writers write? Why do I write? Recently I wrote on a neon pink post it, “because it makes my soul sing.” It joins others that read things like, “may I know the joy of living,” “it’s about the journey,” “it takes as long as it takes” and a counter perfectionism note to self “80% is good enough.” 

My writing process, closely aligned to the state of my mental health, has changed as I find myself more stable. I used to only really scribble in a state of manic frenzy then subsequently tried, and more often failed, to craft the scribbles into, into what, into something.

These days have a modicum of discipline. Generally words still tumble out fairly swiftly and I feel merely the witness. This is an example. Though for your sakes I correct the spelling,  typos and confusing syntax. There’s always a shadow of a fear this might all just stop. And then what? When I’ve pinned my identity to this? In general I prefer as description; human, or female bodied soul ( after Dom Bury) or child of god (after Marianne Williamson.) 

Some days I’m not even sure about human. As a child I felt so other. I remember when everyone was out ransacking the bureau at home. (A piece of furniture the size and shape of an upright piano with a writing desk which opened out.) It was where mum and dad kept stationary and documents. I was looking for my birth certificate. I figured I may have been adopted. When I found nothing I concluded I must therefore be an alien. 

A bit of a leap on reflection. It may well have been influenced by my fascination with The Unexplained – a magazine I subscribed to – the 1970’s equivalent of the X Files and an enchantment with Star Trek and The Sky at Night; the latter hosted by the monocled Sir Patrick Moore. That said, the feeling of otherness is rarely far away. 

I wonder if this is what makes an artist? Being somewhat outside holding a tension between wanting to fit in and stand out? I always felt at home with Poets Know it and by extension my Brixton family —perhaps as we all in individual ways were or are a bit other. One night many moons ago a group of us round a table in the Prince Albert shared how we were all the last to be (reluctantly) chosen for the team on the school sports fields. 

Possibly this otherness feeling is a symptom an inner non-acceptance of self or aspects of the self. In meditation the other day a strong image came to me. In my lap lay my perfect baby self. Meanwhile I extended my arms outward and embraced other parts of myself; present were at least the harsh critic, the driver, the fearful saboteur. And the alien? 

So it occurs to me The Way/ the road less traveled/ the spirtual path, whatever you want to call it, is as much a journey to God/ the source/ a higher power, as a journey back to the self.  

Nothing less than an acceptance of the muddled, flawed, damaged selves that we all are. How can we not be when we live in and emerge from a traumatised world shaped by wars, inequality, injustice, poverty and untold human suffering, (ironically in this state move into the climate emergency.)

I still have to confess to not feeling unlike Okri’s narrator who feels he is here on earth as a kind of penance or mistake, reluctantly. Though part of me feels – what a time to be alive!  We have the very real opportunity in the heat of the climate emergency to forge this world anew. I believe it will not change in a just and permanent way unless we all act together. 

Even the smallest change to behaviour is a radical repositioning towards the planet. Logically, in our individual and collective action, as we take action not only does it necessitate and demonstrate a change in consciousness it invites the possibility of transforming our relationship to each other, to non human species and to the earthy and watery aspects of this planet. This is my hope. 

So there’s a whole bunch of stuff coming up in the poetry world

Find Poets for the Planet at COP 26 at https://www.youtube.com/embed/hKNLwSciCTE?feature=oembed

Also worth checking out 

Human Impact on Nature, Landscape and Climate kicks off via Zoom on Sunday 7th Nov from 12-1pm and of course takes place during #cop26 

This event brings together four poets all exploring in their own way our human relationship with nature, landscape and climate, conscious of our footprint, and the impact of our lives on our environment. With Sarah Westcott, Steph Morris, Anna Saunders & Dom Bury 

Book your FREE ticket herehttps://www.poetryinaldeburgh.org/festival-programme 

Also the Forward Prize and Booker Prize will be awarded at the Southbank some time in November. Info here https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/festivals-series/london-literature-festival?type=literature-poetry

Special mention Malika’s Poetry Kitchen Friends and Family are at the Southbank Centre for the London Literature Festival on Saturday 30th October at 1pm presenting poems and in conversation with Malika Booker and Nick Makoha, Katie Griffiths and Kostya Tsolakis, Yomi Sode and Kareem Parkins-Brown, hosted by Jill Abram.

Here’s the link for info: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/malikas-poetry-kitchen-friends-and-family

September 2021

In my last post, a self portrait as fragments of ear, eye, mouth presented in a triptych i mentioned some bizarre and very painful sensations in my ear, eye, head  that i was experiencing the entire weekend with only my breath and a few aspirins to manage https://seedsandfuses.wordpress.com/2021/08/21/photography-self-portrait/ After a trip to Kings a&e, the following Monday (which incidentally has been rebranded Emergency Department,) this transpired to be the onset of shingles! As a result have been pretty much out of action creatively or in any meaningful way beyond managing the pain.

It’s now day 28 of this painful affliction. The name, shingles, doesn’t do it justice, suggesting to me a pleasant isolated nudist beach, perhaps a little uneven underfoot but nevertheless one where one can fling off clothing and be entirely care free. A far flung vision from this encounter which has left life has been soooooo limited, so discomforted. This post took daaazzze to write as for some reason screen time has been super pain inducing. Please forgive any typos, dodgy syntax or poor formatting. 

It is deduced the excruciating pain associated with this condition, (particularly with the ocular version; surrounding the eye, which i have) is the result of the varicella-zoster virus, the same that causes chickenpox but without such dire consequences. Apparently the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may be reactivates as shingles. 

The name of the virus brings to my mind in its addled state both a varieties of pasta and Nietzsche‘s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, of this I remember little, though there’s a copy sitting around someplace. Wordplay is all i have trying to find a word or series of words that adequately describe these sensations im subject to. I cannot. The words tingling, shooting, stabbing, burning and bruising oft mentioned in descriptions don’t do it. Don’t come close. No way. 

On the subject of words i can report my poem Singing in the New, based on observations on Cressingham Gardens estate, (my home,) during lockdown one, appears in The Other Side. A copy of this dropped through my door last week. It’s a new publication from the No Planet B environmental film show.  More info about that here https://mycommunitycinema.org.uk/cinemas/no-planet-b-film-club/ 🌎

Getting back to the shingles encounter I think it has helped that right from the beginning, forced to cancel the wellbeing retreat I’d booked, I decided to take an attitude of curiosity and acceptance towards the experience this sounded like, “Okay im not going to make that journey but this is just another journey, not one i choose but lets see what can I learn here, lets see what is the gift in this. I think this has helped to develop a kind of sense of detachment or separation from what is going on. 

In a recent meditation class our teacher, Tim Dyson, talked about dropping into a state of equanimity when suffering, i think that what it was about i wasn’t able to be entirely present at that time.

I’m not sure if this is the same thing I was doing or attempting to achieve and defo can’t say I’ve sustained it throughout. There have been times I lost the calm acceptance resulting in anxiety bordering on catastrophizing, particularly regarding the eye pain, which on one occassion took me back to an eight hour wait in a&e, feared the eye was reinfected, which can cause sight loss, an outcome which can be quite unnerving. (No pun intended.)

A less dramatic form of non acceptance took the form – I’m determined not to get this again – so I look up causes, I look up remedies, I look up vaccines, rather than be in the moment with the experience. 

Mind you I have to say rather like these folklorist remedies which for me reflect somehow the ghastly nature of this condition and provided some much needed light relief. So here we have from the Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine, compiled by Gabrielle Hatfield, 2003

“This painful affliction has attracted diverse remedies in British Folklore Medicine…  In the Isle of Wight an ointment was made from the verdigris scrapped off church bells…. Blood taken from the tale of a black cat was a cure in Ireland….In Lewis in the Scottish Highlands the blood of a black cock was recommended, or the blood of a person named Munro…. “

Hmm. Look out Munro! 

The science is not exactly reassuring, according to studies. “About one in three adults will get shingles. A shingles outbreak can take weeks to heal, and the illness tends to follow a similar pattern, moving through several phases before becoming dormant again.”

My emphasis. Dormant again. So never defeated as such. Never complete free. You can contract shingles and still not be immune. You can get a vaccine and still not be immune. Since so much is unclear about this condition, i reckon best to take this attitude of equanimity.  

Equanimity, i discover, is a concept in many spiritual traditions; defined in Buddhism as “a gentle way of life, a state of conscious wisdom and freedom—the great protector of love and compassion.” A bit wow, this definition goes on to add, ”Buddha describes a mind filled with equanimity as abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility, and without ill-will..” see https://www.yogitimes.com/article/what-is-the-meaning-equanimity-define-how-buddhism 

Here’s a version of an ancient story, Equanimity in Adversity: A Zen Story about Wild Horses, ive always rather liked, which kind of illustrates the attitude. 

So its been four weeks into this journey on this rocky road, with fear at many turns, much pain and discomfort; i still have a feeling of numbness, not unlike when one has been given an injection at the dentist, around my mouth and decimated eyebrow, still have to wear dark glasses to get through a movie of an evening, it wasnt long ago i was only out of bed a few hours a day so celebrate the progress! 

Most of the alarming swelling to both sides of face has subsided ( reaction to antiboitic!) Blinking feels less like scrapping sand paper over my eye. Sometimes there seems to be a hiatus between thought and speech. When the pain killers kick in im still back in substantial but no longer excruciating pain, but theres always the breath. Had i been really hardcore i guess would have managed the pain entirely by breath and by now perhaps entirely escaped the wheel of samsara  who knows! 

it has all nevertheless brought me here. I actually feel a sense of contentment and gratitude. Kinda exalted. I felt this keenly at the wake for our beloved dj and all round special human being Offshore which took place today. It was the first time ive been out in a month besides trips to Kings A&E and eye clinic, defo felt i had sea legs! (Well past the infectious stage.) Will this sense of peace last? Perhaps is just relief at at absence of constant pain though i feel I am growing a calm acceptance about myself and my life i dont think ive known before. And what is next? 

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all my spirtual teachers over the years which i belief has got me through this with something i believe comes close to equanimity. And of course those who messaged me with words of comfort and kindness, those friends and neighbours who kept me supplied with food, numerous prescriptions, love and understanding.

Outside the yoga studio Casa Amrita, Abruzzo, Italy, September 2020 

Nothing for the diary as such going forward. ive not exactly had the radar up and screen time still really limited which i find hugely frustrating, not very zen i know! love and light to all. 

August 2021

This month saw the ✨live✨launch of the Malika’s Poetry Kitchen anthology Too Young, Too Loud, Too Different at the Publication Day Party. We celebrated our 20th anniversary anthology entering the world! With readings from many MPK members and a headline set from our co-founder Malika Booker. In all took place at the rather glam and eccentric Temple of Art and Music near Elephant and Castle.

Finalised and circulated a call to attend Holding the Earth: Writing from an Open Heart. This is a series of writing workshops aimed to enable participants to write with an attitude of playfulness and curiosity about experiences in the climate emergency and related activism. This is initially to be offered to members of Lambeth XR but may be extended further so watch this space. 

Summer, such as it is, is not complete for me without a trip to the Southbank. So Pablo (friends child) and me had a day out. I learnt some valuable adult skills on the way.1) Whatever the child says you will end up carrying the scooter. 2). Walking away when a child lies on the ground in I-want-candy-floss-defiance actually works. 3) Saying no occasionally is not gonna be held against you forever. 

We had such fun though, a glance at the beach which was closed much to Pablos consternation, checked out the book stalls and the skatepark, the giant bubbles, ate ice cream, Pablo insisted I take pics of him with ice cream on his nose, had a whirl on the carousel and ate chips. Yeah, just love the Southbank. 

Booked a holiday/ retreat. Going to be away for two weeks including a week of tai chi/ yin yoga /chi gung in Fuertaventura. I note from some research “nudism is permitted through out Fuertaventura except on city beaches.” Yay! How very civilised! I so need a break. 

Of course this means flying and I don’t exactly feel good about that. Had it been the mainland I could have taken the train. The only way I can think to resolve this is to make a donation to a reforestation project, but even then I ask myself to salve my conscience or save the planet?

#amwriting it’s hard to say what I’m writing, the words come and I’m often surprised what comes, writing I guess about this time…

#amreading The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad, Rite of Passage by Dom Bury and the sea refuses no river by Bethany Rivers

July 2021

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. 

Botany Bay

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.

June 2021

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.

May 2021

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. 

Looking forward to Writing, Rights and Literature organised by Birkbeck University as part of their Arts Week 2021 Tuesday 18th May 6pm, register here https://eu.bbcollab.com/guest/b15effd71c974df7a6da94f96c9bf398 
and hearing Roger Robinson talk about gentrification at the Cities Imaginaries Lecture 2021 Thursday 20th May at 6pm, register here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/x/roger-robinson-cities-imaginaries-lecture-2021-registration-148901948737?

The following week hope to attend Living Net-Zero in Herne Hill Thursday 27th May at 7pm, and would urge anyone who wants to reduce their carbon footprint, but like me not quite sure how, to attend, register here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/x/living-net-zero-in-herne-hill-tickets-149456158393?

Herne Hill resident, Jeremy, gives a free talk with Q&A. He says by way of introduction
“Two years ago I was shocked to discover the true environmental impact of my ordinary life in Herne Hill. Motivated to turn this around, I went on a journey of discovery. Analysing scientific data, I measured the environmental impact of every single aspect of my life, and what I found was astonishing. 
I now have a new way of living, where consideration for the environment and future generations is built in to all that I do. This has had a profoundly positive impact on my happiness, finances and wellbeing. 
Join me for this friendly evening talk where I’ll share my journey and some essential truths about living net-zero in Herne Hill, and you can ask me your questions.”

#amreading Waking The Tiger by Peter A Levine, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Craft edited by Rishi Dastidar

#amwriting the odd poem sporadically and an outline and session plans for a series of workshops Into the Light: writing with an Open Heart (working title). What this space for updates about the latter. 

April 2021

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.”

March 2021

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….

February 2021

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

January 2021

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