to Seeds and Fuses
– the poetry and other makings of Anne Enith Cooper aka aniseed
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.
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 power.
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 to create small 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
As what we used to call autumn approaches winter we come out of lockdown only to enter tiers. I get the impression few understand what it implies, I too am a little hazy though I understand we can still carry our tasks for On Our Radar who are collaborating with Groundswell, the homelessness team, gathering stories of those in precarious housing or with none at all. The vote in the Commons over tiers happens later today. Wouldn’t hold your breathe after all recently the government gave us the logic defying ruling over the Christmas Break. Recent storms in my process have calmed somewhat though Christmas can be fairly triggering, Am in Scrooge mode, nothing new here, this happens every year, it too will pass.
In other news Poets for the Planet have a new YouTube Channel and you have find the first offering here https://youtu.be/MB_8P3IyeUE a screening of FRESH: An EcoPoetry open mike.
Sunday December 13th Joining Poetry From the Grassroots on the open mike This is a zoom event join at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3998944394?pwd=Smtzei9EeWpudU5weWoxTDQ2a2k0UT09 Drop a line to email@example.com to sign up for the open mike.
We are all virtual now, there are many other events that look interesting and can be joined from your sofa see more at https://poetrylondon.co.uk/listings/ here’s one that looks interesting
December 6th 7.00pm to 8.30pm
“Poetry Lit! is a monthly online reading series for international poets… and their fans. Each month Poetry Lit! hosts a Zoom event where folks share in poetry.
Each month there are two featured poets who’ll read a selection of their work. After that there’s an open mic where about 6 poets step into the limelight.
If you want to join our open mic, please send and e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Open mic spots are 5 minutes max.
If you want to attend and listen to some great poetry…. welcome! Please register, so we know how many people are coming. We will send you a link to join nearer to the event.”
Recent blog post Wellbeing: A Time to Transform https://seedsandfuses.wordpress.com/2020/12/07/wellbeing-a-time-to-transform/
I’m late with this as since the first day of lockdown I feel I’ve been thru a storm at sea. Great winds pulled at my sales, waves repeatedly washed over the deck threatening to wash all provisions overboard while I and the crew struggled to keep our footing. In this metaphor the crew are my younger selves I guess.
During the storm I visited some of my younger selves to heal the hurt made then. As the storm subsides finally I drop anchor and with the sky blue and gentle waves washing against this battered vessel I see she has held true though some sails will need repair.
I find grief can be like this. At first devastating then after a while still ever there are the comforting ripples of remembrance yet at times even then a huge wave or even a tsunami that wipes away everything in its path, hits sometimes when you least expect it.
I should know by now that November brings these storms though this year something like a tsunami came early. I cried for 10 days straight in October following the yoga retreat in Italy.I was ok with that. I felt cleansed of so much pain. I thought the rocking of the ship had settled down. Best to look to the horizon at these times I might have seen the new storm approaching.
As a result half a month has slipped by already, I managed to get to the amazing Bridge of Fire/ Puente de Fuego, curated by Nathalie Teitler though missed the Siren Poets anthology book launch of What if we can’t save the Earth But if the Earth could save us? Edited by Liv Torc. I have the book and recommend.
On the poetry scene also Louise Gluck, won the Nobel Prize for Literature, she is the first American woman to win the prize since Toni Morrison and only the 16th woman to receive this honour. I am not over familiar with her work but what I’ve read resonates with me, her poems of family life in particular, from: A Fable, “Suppose / you saw your mother / torn between two daughters: / what could you do / to save her but be / willing to destroy / yourself?”
I like this review in which Fiona Sampson concludes quoting Gluck, “‘’The fundamental experience of the writer is helplessness,’ she tells us in the essay Education of a Poet; their life ‘is dignified, I think, by yearning, not made serene by sensations of achievement. In the actual work, a discipline, a service.’ Gluck’s poetry, for all its huge distinction, its vibrant intelligence and its beauty, has never lost the ability to serve society, or the reader.”
This looks worth checking out, the Poetry in Aldeburgh online festival, “The festival events (readings, talks, performances) do not overlap and there is an hour-long gap between them. Each event is of 60-minute duration with some leeway to overrun in the evenings. There are two daily slots for workshops at 10:00am and 1:15pm with two 90-minute sessions running in parallel.
New blog post here
Thursday 1st October is National Poetry Day. The theme is vision. They’ll be a whole lot going on. Write, read or #ShareAPoem more info
Monday 5th October 7.30pm Poets for the Planet meeting
Sunday 11th October 7.30pm joining Poetry from the Grassroots: Spoken Word for social Justice this month with with special guest Mr Gee, hosted by Mark “Mr T” Thompson and Steve Tasane
So it’s back to the U.K. which is in my opinion becoming increasingly dystopic. As if the “Rule of six” wasn’t sinister sounding enough. I don’t sense much disquiet, but then IVe been away and haven’t been scrolling. Maybe being away is giving me a different perspective but it all sounds very dark. What’s this I hear about a curfew?
As I prepare to return; I’ve been in Rome and Pineto on the Adriatic coast either side of a yoga retreat at the idyllic Casa Amrita. I can’t help thinking wa guarn? I mean it really- what is going on? Yesterday read in Brixton Buzz about panic buying of toilet roll due to the threat of another lockdown. Have we learnt nothing?
In a searing piece by John Crace in the Guardian he notes 47 regions are under strict lockdown measures at this time.
Caught a pronouncement live from BJ mid retreat but didn’t wanna engage with that at the time. Looked like he had got a memo to drop the clown act. Heard him wrap the words humanity and spiritual around the threat of £10 000 fines and if necessary the army on the streets like wrapping a semi automatic in cotton wool. And you’re still cracking jokes like this?
The experience of the lockdowns and post lockdowns have given us the opportunity to come together in a new way, to build the foundations of a new world; in the recognition of the value of previously undervalued workers, a focus on health and wellbeing, on those we love, new skills, new habits, the extensive mutual aid. A reboot if you like or perhaps just a refrag, I guess a reboot would be full system change.
Im wondering what has been the reaction to this? What have Liberty had to say? What about trade unions? What about the Labour Party? What about communities? Really don’t wanna see a return to the lockdown semi Stasi attitudes and behaviour, rare but there nevertheless.
I don’t know who said it, though it was repeated in Tahrir in the autumn of 2011, “We either go backward or forward. We cannot stay here.“ Of course not as “Nothing is constant except change.” So what will it be?
I was hoping August would be down time, but in a world where everything was on pause, in a funny kind of way though we were stopped it felt nothing stopped. I was plotting to escape next week to a wonderful retreat in the mountains in Andalucia, but the tutor got sick. So that was that. Perhaps for the best as am still experiencing significant fatigue, a bucket of self doubt and a pretty negative perspective on my life thus far.
Stop press: Am off to Italy! It’s all been last min but going to a yoga retreat at Casa Amrita in Abruzzo. It looks amazing.
Dates for the diary
September greets us with an XR rebellion in London, Cardiff and Manchester. All month long. The message is simply – we want to live! Central to this is a call to Parliament to back the The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill with actions in Parliament Square 1st September 12.00pm – 5th September 5.00pm. For a list of all events see https://extinctionrebellion.uk/act-now/events/ See my comment on the climate emergency below.
Sunday 6th September 4.00 – 5.30pm
Live from the Butchery presents Sophie Herxheimer, Rishi Dastidar with Kevin Reid
This is a pay what you can event with live poetry from some dear friends. Here’s the link: https://paypal.me/pools/c/8rZuZvDpqM Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82269359284?pwd=RE9TS2grbmhRYVVCU1NjeHdZbGI4QT09
14th – 2!st September 2020
The Tell It Slant Poetry Festival A new one on me but again with “slant” in the title gotta be worth check out.
Hosted by The Emily Dickinson Museum “The schedule is out now and includes headliners Ada Limón, Jericho Brown, Kimaya Diggs, Franny Choi, Shayla Lawson, and as is tradition, the Emily Dickinson Marathon!
Space is limited, so make sure to sign up for individual programs in advance: bit.ly/TellItSlant2020″
#amwriting mostly about wellbeing
#amreading The Craft: A Guide to Making Poetry Happen in the 21st Century Edited by Rishi Dastidar on sale at the mo at Nine Arches Press for £9.99
If you feel Covid has disrupted our lives, and sorry to lapse into cliche, you ain’t seen nothing yet! I don’t want be the harbinger of doom, gloom and disaster but we all really gotta get real. There’s gonna be no baking of banana bread to get us out of climate change gone unchecked. The disruption it can bring will make Covid disruption look like a walk in the park, which it kinda was for a lot of us, except of course the bereaved, the essential workers and many, so many in the global south.
Recently I’ve been wondering what the wild temperature swings could be doing to crops. Like one day it’s 35 degrees next day it’s 19. Not too mention our bodies. This article, Cereal yields set to hit 30-year low as weather takes toll explores the effect of the extreme weather variations across the year and the results. Think a few days of supermarket stockpiling at the beginning of lockdown was bad? What if there’s nothing to fill the empty shelves?
There is a solution and it’s simple. #ActNow. This is an emergency!
The effects of the climate emergency are being felt right now all over the world. The last ice sheet in Canada was lost a few weeks ago. California is on fire, floods in India are of an unprecedented size. In the Amazon, the lungs of the world, more and more land is being lost to loggers every day. I won’t be surprised if the plagues of locusts swarming over at least three countries in East Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia) is done to the mad global weather. And in the midst of a pandemic do you think war has stopped? Look at Palestine. Look at Yemen.
Man it almost feels biblical. What makes the end of days a new beginning? Us! Just us! Justice. Social justice, equality, dignity, empathy, peace and a just transition to a low carbon, fossil fuel free world. We are the 99.99%. Mother Earth is screaming for help. Or we can just take the attitude fuck it all, our children are the last generation, so what! Or we can act.
Some days I wonder if we deserve this planet, y’know that scene in the Matrix I when Smith is torturing Morpheus??? We have a choice. It’s as simple as that. We are all Neo. I know deep down everyone feels love in their heart, everyone loves someone, love is what we need now. And love is an action. Love is an action. Love is an action. Love is the way #ActNow #Unity #DemandAJustTransition
Some after thoughts
In addition to this we are seeing how we will have to fight to see our way out of Covid to hold onto decent jobs, pay, dignity and justice. Nurses have been carved out of the public sector pay review. They have been on the streets. While culture workers are taking on the might of the Southbank and the Tate. Workers in out cultural institutions need our support. You can donate to the strike fund for the latter here. Poetry on the Picket line are all over this check their Facebook page for updates https://en-gb.facebook.com/PicketLinePoets/
And the beloved poetry library on the Southbank has been put on ice! National Poetry Library SOS #NPLSOS
“We, the International Poetry Community, have grave concerns about the future of the UK’s National Poetry Library in the wake of Southbank Centre’s ruthless redundancy programme. The imminent job cuts and operational plans will ensure the library’s physical collection remains inaccessible to the public until at least April 2021. There will be no remote enquiry service. This will seriously undermine its essential operations along with its mission to collect all poetry published in the UK…”
Please circulate and sign this Poetry library petition https://www.change.org/p/southbank-centre-national-poetry-library-sos-nplsos
Some dates for the diary
Tuesday 4th August, 6.30pm
Poets for the Planet meeting see https://www.facebook.com/groups/poets4theplanet/? ref=share
Thursday 13th August, 7.30pm
Gonna check out Talks from an Empty Bookshop with Booker prize winner DBC Pierre at the Bookseller Crow on the Hill Crow https://youtu.be/PmfTZu98cqk
Friday 16th August 8pm
Joining Poetry from the Grass Roots again on the open mike. The format is five open mikes either side of a special guest. On this occasion the special guest is the talented ShortMAN see https://facebook.com/events/s/poetry-from-the-grassroots-fea/739610353274864/?ti=iclfor the zoom link nearer the time
At a recent meeting for Poets for the Planet we discussed promoting diversity and our #BeginAfresh campaign. I have been slow to come to this as I’ve been having a Twitter break for the sake of my mental health which is still a bit shaky but much improved. We’re writing and sharing poems about how we change our lives to combat the climate crisis. You are welcome to join us. It’s also a place to share nature poems, eco poetry by yourself or others.
More info poetsfortheplanet.org/begin-afresh/
I recommend reading this eloquent and inspiring Q&A with poet John McCullough and Extinction Rebellion https://writersrebel.com/johnmccullough/
And so it goes on we stare at an uncertain future. Life goes on but it’s not life as we have known it before. Following months of government intransigence, incompetence, we now see sudden and what I can only call back of the envelope decisions with little evidence base and absolutely no regard for the chaos it causes people regarding local lockdowns and travel corridors.
Meanwhile I take much joy in seeing the fruits of my labour in the garden, not that my labours have been that arduous. In fact I take little credit for what I see emerge. The growth I witness seems little short of miraculous to see the effect of water, fresh air, soil and sunshine. I’m responsible only for the watering, the rest is I guess is divine intervention and science, yes of course a bit of science. Gardening is the gift that just keeps on giving.
As lockdown eases I reflect on lockdown achievements which pretty much boil down to getting an even tan, growing a sunflower to the heady height of three foot (so far) and mastering the yoga headstand. Ok there has been a few poems, a couple of open mics, a couple of black lives matter protests.
I entered lockdown with a considerable amount of anxiety, depression, IBS, insomnia and fatigue. Much of this has abated due to a cocktail of daily meditation and yoga, bit of walking, smoothies and supplements. Going anywhere is still an achievement given my current energy levels, the fatigue is the last symptom of my recent malaise to shift entirely. Nevertheless this month sees me returning to Groundswell working from home on their citizen journalism project with https://onourradar.org/
While pubs and restaurants are due to reopen we are urged by the clown that masquerades as our premiere to show restraint, his actual words being, “Let’s not blow it now,” So just when you thought government advise could not get anymore fuzzy than the lamentable, “Stay alert,” here you have it. And of course if it all goes horribly wrong it’s all our fault for getting carried away. That message is coming over loud and clear.
Though pubs comes only second only to hugs (and perhaps the hairdresser) as things I missed during lockdown can’t see myself in a pub anytime soon but am boosted by the announcement that international travel is due to open up and I allow myself the luxury of contemplating a return to Cortijo Romero Andalusia, Spain, due to reopen this month, for some spiritual sustenance. Perhaps in the autumn…..
Dates for the diary
Hope to get along to the Poets for the planet meeting taking place Tuesday 7th July, waiting for a link. Recently found this link to our Poets for the Planet visit to Resonance FM on international women’s day about a week before lockdown https://m.mixcloud.com/Resonance/poets-for-the-planet-8th-march-2020/
Image by Henry Beaumont
Taking some poetic wisdom to Brixton Bookjam at the Virtual Lambeth Country show in the Literature Village https://lambethcountryshow.co.uk/Sunday July 19th from 6-7pm alongside Ashley Hickson Lovence, Bryan Beadyman, Elizabeth Okoh, Zelda Rhiando and others. More info http://www.brixtonbookjam.com/ To join go to http://tinyurl.com/bookjam use password ‘hello’ or Facebook Live #brixtonbookjam
#amreading Nine Gates: Essays by Jane Hirshfield
#amwriting a bit more about wellbeing, watch this space
May slams into June in a blaze of protest originating in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a black man called George Floyd dies after being held with a knee against his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Black Lives Matter protests sweep across the USA, through Europe to Hong Kong and Australia. They are large, they are young and they are racially mixed. More than solidarity the protests respond to their national and local issues. We meet in Windrush Square Brixton to take a knee. Statues fall and a million conversations blossom.
Health still not great and as the sunshine that had been sustaining me gives way to bleak grey skies my mood drops. I hear the air ambulance less often of a night. I plant a herb garden and feel abnormally proud of it. I’m given a tomato plant and find myself on trend if the number of tomato memes are anything to go by. Watching the miracle of growth is an antidote in the presence of so much death. Only the USA and Brazil exceeds the U.K. in coronavirus deaths at the time of writing.
The lockdown appears to be easing but are we ready? Non essential shops open 14th June because the shopping experience is so vital, like air, like water, like what? Like non- essential items one assumes. We are all so easily seduced it would seem. I include myself in this. On the way home from a routine blood test I buy a day glow pink football in Poundland -because it’s pretty – along with knickers and hand sanitiser, non essential hard to define.
The UK strategy is under scrutiny yet still the blustering and blathering prevails. Our test and trace, which barely exists, is world beating we are told. Yeah right.
Some articles of interest
And of course it is the 36 month anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire on the 14th June. Still so many in temporary accommodation, still so many homes with unsafe cladding, still no arrests, no prosecutions.
Some dates for the diary
On the solstice weekend we have We Love the Betsey 20th June 6-10pm https://youtu.be/4sHxUi7Day0
and Poetry from the Grassroots 21st June 7.30 – 10pm https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3998944394?pwd=Smtzei9EeWpudU5weWoxTDQ2a2k0UT09
#amreading The Temple of My Familar by Alice Walker and Natives by Akala
#amwriting about the breathe, about liberty and justice, but if I’m honest it’s not exactly flowing.
One month of bad hair enters another, health is on the mend finally after the lifting of excruciating abdominal pain which has plagued me since February though the mood lift I anticipated with this still eludes me. Time is no longer measured in minutes and hours but a daily death count, one that is disputed daily though to my knowledge no one has yet used the expression cover up.
The sentiment, “Isn’t it strange” long Ago gave way to “isn’t is awful” as figures of the deaths especially of key workers emerge. Those that risked their lives and did not give the ultimate sacrifice, no, whose lives were taken cruelly by a combination of a deficit of PPE and bad planning. Easy to see how the figure of death as a ten foot black clad, bent backed, androgyne swinging a scythe emerged in popular culture.
Zoom seems a poor substitute for the emotional support and physical connect we all need at this time but it’s pretty much all we have. Looking forward as XR put in in a recent newsletter, “But if there is one thing that this crisis has made clear, it is that there is no going back. No going back to business as usual that pushes us further and further into the abyss of a climate and ecological loss.” This will be, imo, not automatic but something we must fight for.
Wednesday 6th May
Attending our first virtual poets from the planet meeting see Facebook for details.
Sunday 10th May
Spoken Word for Social Justice by Poetry from the Grassroots 7.30pm – 9.30 for an evening of poetry that bites back. Mc Mark Mr T Thomson, featuring David Lee Morgan and open mikes. Am joining as one of the open mikes.
Worth mentioning Lambeth Libraries have an online quiz every Wednesday at 5.00pm https://zoom.us/j/92888207892 and Lambeth XR have an online Poetry cafe every Tuesday at 1-2pm https://zoom.us/j/519122466
BREAKING: Roger Robinson has won the RSLOndaatje Prize 2020 for his collection A Portable Paradise that picked up the TS Eliot prize earlier this year when we were all able to get out and about. Love Roger for his earthy wisdom and generosity. I have turned to his Think Like an Artist, a free series of tips and advice, many times.
The Royal society of Literature said in their facebook post, “Only the second time in the Prize’s history that a poetry collection has won! A big thank you to this year’s #RSLOndaatje Prize judges: Peter Frankopan, Pascale Petit and Evie Wyld and to the Prize’s sponsor Sir Christopher Ondaatje. bit.ly/RSLOndaatje”
You can buy ‘A Portable Paradise’ directly from @peepaltreepress https://www.peepaltreepress.com/books/portable-paradise
Three months since what felt like a head first plunge into the void, was just seeing glimpse of the light again around the time the WHO declared the virus a pandemic. I wake that day aching all over, which is nothing new, and with a mild sore throat though after a coffee that’s gone. Head into Brixton to see Amina, my mental health support worker. She asks if I’d like to co-facilitate a poetry workshop and takes some notes to refer me to a psychologist. So it’s all good. There is hand sanitizer in the waiting room.
Hardly notice March slip into April in the stream of corona updates. At the mo am okish, I guess. Bolstered by daily mediation, yoga and conscious breathing. See my post https://seedsandfuses.wordpress.com/2020/03/14/covid-19-a-time-to-breathe-well/ how you can soothe your nervous system and boost your immune system with the breath. Though energy, motivation and concentration are severely limited. This would be so much harder if it weren’t for my neighbours and friends. Keeping in touch with nearest and dearest. My brother and I had a virtual cafe “date” recently which was fun.
Tech rules! Seems everything has gone Zoom, a couple I hope to attend are
Monday 13th April
“Feed your brain with our congenial, intelligent, unpredictable event for readers and writers” featuring
Stuart Maconie, Daniel Ruiz-Tizon, Anna Maconochie, Morton Valence, Andrew Mueller and Venetia Welby”
Friday 17th April 8.00pm
Cath Drake’s launch of The Shaking City
With guest poets Kate Potts (currently shortlisted for The Moth Prize) & Karen McCarthy Woolf
Join the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/209088623708461
#amreading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and The Dalai Lama’s Cat and #amwriting a bit, now and then…
It is now two months since I was ambushed by a shocking and sudden deterioration in my mental health. Until recently there were still periods of meaninglessness and times when my gut stiffens, thought becomes frozen and only absence and lack appear to remain. This ebbs and flows and for a few hours a day I function. I feel stronger though motivation is a rare visitor. My inner critic, Cruella is quieter, less like an aggressive stranger, more like a poisonous passive aggressive acquaintance you wish you’d never met. Besides a new meds regime have been dealing this with daily yoga and meditation, walking, shiatsu and movies and as the earth edged into more light there was a shift.
Sunday 8th March
On international women’s day join fellow wordsmiths Andrea Robinson, Caroline M Davies, Sue Johns, Kate Noakes, and Emma Roper-Evans from Poets for the Planet for a show on Resonance FM chaired by Carys Hannah chairs a discussion about this new collective of poets and eco-activists. 6.15pm-7.15pm https://www.resonancefm.com/
Am pleased to announce the launch of the website The Matchgirls Memorial https://www.matchgirls1888.org with a poem by yours truly here https://www.matchgirls1888.org/don-t-you-know-about-the-matchgirls The website aims to bring attention to an often overlooked history of the tremendous victory with historic repercussions and to campaign for recognition for the strike leaders.
On 5th July 1888, 1400 girls and women walked out of the Bryant and May match factory in Bow, London and the next day some 200 of them marched from Mile End to Bouverie Street, Annie Besant’s office, to ask for her support. A Strike Committee was formed and rallied support from the Press, a few MPs, the London Trades Council. The A Strike Committee of eight Matchgirls, met with the Bryant & May Directors to put their case. By 17th July, the demands were met and terms agreed in principle so the Strike Committee put the proposals to the rest of the girls and they enthusiastically approved and returned to work.
The action also led to a change in legislation. In 1908 the House of Commons passed an Act prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in matches. The action by the match girls led to an increased militancy across the working class, as Lyn Brown notes, ”The received wisdom is that the heroic London dockers of 1889 led the way towards social justice, greater equality and spurred the foundation of the Labour movement. In fact it was London’s working class women, a year earlier, who were the vital spark that lit the blaze that showed the way to trade unionism. The men learned how it was done from their mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and neighbours.”
Tuesday 17th March
Another opportunity to catch a screening of the film We The People by Virginia Nimarkoh & Fan Sissoko which features activists in Lambeth included myself and Helen Carr from Save Cressingham. Taking place 6.30- 8.00pm at
Museum of London, 150 London Wall, London, EC2Y 5HN
A new month brought a new and disturbing phase of the malady that commenced in January. it become embodied in my gut which is frequently tense and painfully distended. Each mean utterance of the inner critic, whom I have named Cruella, feels like a small electric shock. She comes to me at dawn after a broken nights sleeps and refuses to leave until I drag myself out of bed to face the grey day shattered. My shrink describes this as mild to moderate depression. Uh-huh! I am unlikely to get out much for some time so I offer my recommendations.
Before I get to that last summer I had the honour and privilege to be interviewed by Naomi Woddis on her show The Two of Us on reel rebels radio. It’s a show that explores creativity and well being. Our conversation covers spirituality, activism, community, poetry and much more and is available here.
Thursday 6th February
Reel News present the Premiere of Catalonia is is Anti-Fascist at 7.30pm
Effra Social, Brixton, 89 Effra Road, London, SW2 1DF
Reel News spent two weeks in Barcelona last autumn in the wake of an explosion of protests over the draconian prison sentences handed down to Catalan politicians and civil society leaders. What we found was a very young, very angry movement that has radicalised dramatically since the astonishing scenes around the referendum for independence two years ago – with the anger being directed as much at the Catalan government as it is at the Spanish state.
The 40 minute film shows the occupation of Barcelona airport by 20,000 people immediately after the sentences, an unprecedented general strike called by just two small rank and file unions supported by 1.5 million people in Barcelona alone, and continued daily protests by a people who, with their entire government either jailed or exiled and with violent repression of peaceful protests, see no alternative but direct action and civil disobedience.
Saturday February 8th
The launch of Poets for the Planet Verse Aid: Poems for the Earth, an all day event with performances and workshops at
The Society of Authors, 24 Bedford Row, London WC1R 4EH
(Nearest tube stations: Holborn and Chancery Lane)
Illustration © Henny Beaumont
More info https://poetsfortheplanet.org/events/
At the beginning of this month, with no apparent trigger, my mood tumbled and plummeted into a place of darkness where meaning, purpose, emotion and motivation absented themselves. Needlessly to say the anxiety that often accompanies bleak moods kicked in and my energy dissipated on this unbidden journey. Alternatively I stood outside and within this void, in the former state I can ask – am I becoming, in the latter – am I broken. I wrote the poem a ring of fire in the early stages of this perhaps to cling onto some sense of being in the face of this lack of meaning and mental torture.
a ring of fire
– a lament for Australia January 2020
people flee to the beaches
huddle in boats
roads are closed and power lines fail
fuel tanks run dry
the blood red blaze rips through homes and forest
while contracts and denial ensure
the rape of the rich red earth
in Sydney cricket players don black arm bands
as high winds threaten to close the ring
animals die in silence
this is what hell looks like
Image: Greece November 2019 by George Natsioulis. Instagram george_natsioulis
A bit more bio
Born upside down, born blue, 51°57’0″N, 0°16’55″W, a little after the witching hour, six months before the Cuban missile crisis, guess life was bound to have it bumps. Diagnosed bipolar 34 years later. Somewhere in between I immersed myself in punk, science fiction and socialism.
I have been an antiwar activist since the Malvinas/Falklands war and was thrust into the world of housing activism following Lambeth Council’s unfortunate decision to demolish our homes on Cressingham Gardens.
Grew up in a council house in Stevenage, went to the University of East Anglia leaving with a Ba (Hons) in Development Studies and after some years working in Welfare Rights, graduated with an Ma in Film from The London College of Communication.