Quarterly Creative review April-June 2021

July 12, 2021

I need to write this. I need to write this before I forget everything that’s happened, before it gets lost in a wave of July. And July has been A Lot. If you’re reading this and wondering why I’m not speaking about the Hammer & Tongue UK slam final and the recent Verve news, that’s because they are July things and belong in the next blog post, although the Verve news was confirmed behind the scenes before July. Confused?

Every month is A Lot at the moment. April was one of those months I just had to get through day-by-day because of massive fatigue. I was filling in several applications simultaneously when I found out that I’d been longlisted for the Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Performer along with several people I hugely admire. I’m never sure how I feel about public votes but honestly, that’s because I always do terribly in them. I don’t have people power. But… these people voted for me! These people recognised something in me that was working hard and was improving. That’s incredibly important to me. It felt at the time like one of the best things to ever happen to me, even though there was a dark shadow on it. Isn’t there always?

I’d been toying with plans for a while. Post-pandemic plans. Plans of living in a gorgeous community with like-minded folks when community meant anything again. When social could be social. My ideas were half-assed, as lockdown dreams tend to be. A city. A cool city. But then my ideas gradually began to take shape. A city with a university, to give me some institutional structure. A creative writing MA. Wasn’t I thinking about that last year? Hadn’t I vaguely explored the idea of doing it in Belfast? Belfast has an excellent MA, after all. But I wanted to try somewhere else. I badgered a friend for a reference and applied to Bath Spa and Birmingham then tried to forget about it.

Other things happened. My poems in Anti-Heroin Chic and Stone of Madness were published. Each poem contained a small typo. These typos were absolutely my own fault and come from using the same document to edit and submit. Let that be a lesson. But having poems published online meant I could start taking part in TopTweetTuesday on Twitter and you know, against all odds, people have begun liking my posts and following me. It’s the little things, isn’t it? I received my copy of the CAP anthology and got acceptances from Kissing Dynamite and Pink Plastic House (forthcoming in September). I feel I’m doing a lot better, acceptance-wise than I was last year. I also had a poem longlisted by The Rialto and along with my earlier longlisting for Butcher’s Dog I began to feel I was getting somewhere.

It’s roughly around then that Bath Spa got in touch and asked me to attend an online interview which, of course, happened the day before I started in my new part-time job, because nothing is ever simple. And the interview was good! They said my poems seemed like they were designed for the page, that they seemed mature. That… had I considered that I might be overqualified for their course? Yes, I had considered that, to be honest but I didn’t think they would agree. They agreed. I am pondering that.

I also had to reallocate some of my funding which I had earmarked for a trip to Leicester. The trip technically would still be on as the event is still happening but when Stobart Air went into liquidation and my flights got cancelled, it made it a lot trickier. Had I still been unemployed I feel I would have went for it but a new job and two trips and the Seamus Heaney Summer School in a month would have knocked me for six. I dropped out of the event. And, you know, I’m not sure the event really cared. I asked if I could defer my place until next year. They said no. Some of the reallocation is going towards books so I’ll have lots of reading material this summer.

What’s that you’re asking? What’s the Seamus Heaney Summer School? Well, it’s a week-long poetry course taught by the people behind the MA at QUB. I generally see this stuff as not for me and too expensive, but I had some more funds to reallocate because the Edinburgh Fringe looked unlikely to be happening in person, so I put the money towards the SHSS (and some sound equipment for live looping, but more about that in my next post). The SHSS consisted of editing workshops, 1-1s (with Padraig Regan, Manuela Moser, Dane Holt, Scott McKendry amongst others) and lectures on different aspects of poetry. I felt like a valuable member of the feedback-giving crew. I felt respected. I also felt exhausted, but, well, that’s life. I made notes on all the advice I was given and am slowly applying it to my WIPs.

Did I gig? I also gigged. I had a wonderful night at Incite (by Forum+) being spooky and exploring some new ideas/work about sexuality. I was a little less spooky at Lime Square Poets, but still mildly unsettling. I also open miced at Allographic, Dear Listener, Tonic, Yes We Can’t, Orchard Speakeasy, Studio 3 Arts, Grizzly Pear, Scribal Gathering… I attended several workshops (Red Sky Sessions, Mark Granier at Irish Writers’ Centre, Caroline Bird for Lyra Festival, Tina Sederholm, Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa) that honestly, were all very close together and I probably should have arranged my schedule a bit more wisely, but that’s life (again).

Chaotic post gets even more chaotic when I remember that my interview in BND Magazine was published and I received my copy of the magazine, my interview on David Ralph Lewis’s blog was put up. I had a photoshoot (technically three photoshoots with three photographers but I’m only really counting one) with Debbie Deboo and got some amazing shots from it! I shot a poetry film with Frontier Pictures and although I haven’t seen the finished product yet, the edits are very exciting.

I’ve majorly cut down on slams this year but I finished off my first weekend in work since March 2020 with the Belfast Book Festival slam, which I’ve competed in five times and placed second in twice. And I managed to win it for the first time! I haven’t received the trophy yet as the previous winner still has it, but I feel sure I’ll see it soon.

As for the University of Birmingham? They didn’t invite me to interview. No, they just made me an unconditional offer. I have a decision to make…

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