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Poetry under self-isolation: virtual readings

I’ve been self-isolating since March 17th as that is when I found out that I was classed as high-risk. I was aware of it prior but it hadn’t been official before then, at least as far as I was concerned, and after it was I did a final shop before not setting foot outside for five days straight out of concern for my wellbeing. By the end I felt like I was going a bit mad, leading me to realise that it was important to find a balance, and that balance involved taking walks down side streets – which would sound ominous if they weren’t so painfully quaint. Though there is also much to be done indoors, and while it may be more difficult to poet (v.) in these times, poeting has continued and adapted nonetheless, and wonderfully so.

I recently contributed to the International Poetry Circle, started on Twitter by Tana Skurtu, in which I read a poem from Mouth: Eats Color by Sawako Nakayasu and Chika Sagawa, as well as my own dogwalkslowly from the streetcake experimental writing anthology. Featuring subtitles/CC, a builder’s laugh, and an unmade bed (apologies, it’s comfier that way):

The collective of works is really wonderful, with readers sharing both their own writing and the writing of others. I actually found it quite refreshing to read someone else’s work aloud. You can find a lot more readings under the hashtag on Twitter.

I also experienced my first virtual poetry reading as part of Stay At Home Fest, reading for streetcake magazine. My observations of virtual readings, at least via Zoom, are as follows:

  1. Normally during a reading you only feel like people are looking at you when you’re reading, because people are looking at you when you’re reading, as you would presumably hope. But in Zoom, even when you’re not reading you’re in a small box above the person who is, and as such may feel like you have to be more of a person than you would usually in these settings.
  2. While you’re reading, everyone else’s mics are muted. This means that if you’re like me and tend to talk around your poems a bit and make moderately terrible jokes, rather than polite to sincere laughter you will be met with silence. Unless you happen to catch a glimpse of a fellow reader smiling from their tiny video feed, you will have no idea whether it went down well or if people are hoping that your WiFi connection fails. The first time I realised this I did take a moment to process that silence was not (necessarily) disapproving, and I was able to carry on as I normally would, but it is something that might be helpful to know ahead of time.
  3. Before readings started, there was this guy who came in twice to shout things. It was a very uninteresting performance.

But overall I genuinely enjoyed reading and being present for the readings of others, even though I did feel a little impolite sipping my cup of tea in my tiny segment of the screen.

I’ve got two more performances scheduled in May, but at the moment it’s uncertain as to whether they’ll be able to be carried out in person or not. One of them definitely has a virtual option, and honestly I’d be more than happy to do many more online readings.

I actually feel a lot more connected to the poetry community since the pandemic than I did prior. It feels a lot more inclusive at the moment. I really hope this feeling will be maintained even after we’re able to interact in person again.

forthcoming 2021: Broken Sleep Books Immigration Anthology

I received an email that three of my poems will be featured in the Broken Sleep Books Immigration Anthology, to be published in January 2021.

“The poetry anthology will feature poetry by immigrant poets, poets born to immigrants, grandchildren of immigrants, or people living in a country that is not their own. BSB editor Aaron Kent’s grandad was a war refugee from Hungary and the greatest man he’s ever known. We want to do our bit to help immigrant voices be heard, especially under a government that champions xenophobia.”
(pieced together from several Twitter statuses)

I sent a messsage beforehand asking if I was eligible to submit as the granddaughter of a prisoner of war. Aaron (I presume) replied confirming that I was able to submit and told me a bit more about his intentions with the anthology – though I’ll leave it to him to share as and when, but I really look forward to seeing how it turns out.

My grandfather was Romanian and came to England as a PoW following the Second World War. I honestly don’t know that much about his life when he was younger, particularly before and during the war, and what he did tell he would sometimes change after the telling. There’s a lot to say of him and also not nearly enough. I’ve always found national identity to be complicated and I think he felt the same.

The poems of mine which have been accepted, historical inaccuracy and veer, discuss place and location, while We do not discuss the origin of foxes is about language or lack thereof.

The anthology isn’t out for a while but I’m really interested to see the final product.

 

 

two poems: fallout and coalescence

Two of my poems have been published in Issue 5 of Homology Lit.

From fallout

[…]   the acrobatics of feathers
dangling soft into eyelashes, masks are a
kind of rorschach test for unwearers.
how foolish   […]

From coalescence

the wellbeing of childhood insects
as though they didn’t pull the legs off you
& how does it feel to disrecall
waitlisted for internality

The poems are available to read in full here.

 

 

A note on my whynow illustrations

For the actual posts I kind of just wanted the images to be standalones, but I decided I wanted to expand a little on what I produced. In all honesty I was a bit nervous about taking on the commissions, having not drawn anything “properly” since sixteen or so, but I’m really glad that I did of course, and it’s actually made me want to use more illustrations in my work.

 

On BOX 18 response

Fabric, hands, and fingers. This is one where I had an immediate concept in mind, namely two hands holding a piece of draped fabric like that of curtains across a stage in a theatre. Hands can be quite an expressive tool when communicating with others, both while acting and while being sincere, or feigning sincerity, and I thought about the ways they can be used to convey different things. An illustration of a hand is what lead me to be commissioned in the first place, so I felt quite comfortable with the imagery I’d chosen, though I did struggle a bit with the positioning of hands in terms of balancing perspective and minimalism. Hands are quite strange things when you think about it.

After being told what text I was responding to, I bought a copy of B O X at the Small Publisher’s Fair. Any excuse to invest in more poetry, but I also thought it might help me to elaborate my interpretation. I can’t say whether or not it did, but I certainly enjoyed reading it.

 

On lilith (night demon) response

I tried to merge religious imagery with femininity. I have a pretty stylistic drawing style when it comes to faces, even when restraining myself from more exaggerated features (typically far more forlorn looking faces with oversized eyes gazing upwards; I’m unsure as to how this became my default but the margins of old notepads attest to it) I worried that it felt too unpolished, but I think it fits my intent.

In terms of why I chose to draw what I did, I’m not able to articulate myself as well as I’d like. Minimalist chapels overlayed with floating female heads. The illustrations wearing lace head coverings are scribbled over because it’s complicated. A few symbols are scattered about, crescent moons with crosses beneath them, the symbol of Lilith. The asemic writing kind of brings it together, and again, something complicated that I can’t quite put into words. On another subject, one of the faces in particular was drawn after Nicole Dollanganger, who I’m sure if I ever finish writing planned essays/articles will end up cropping up, as she was very much key to my formative writing years and I still admire her voice in every sense to this day.

 

I’m very grateful to Astra Papachristodoulou for the opportunity to create these pieces and hope that I’ve done the poems justice in my own strange sketchy way.

 

forthcoming: Blockplay pop-up

blockplay poster

From Poem Atlas:

Join us for the launch of Astra Papachristodoulou’s pamphlet Blockplay (pub. Hesterglock Press) in a poetry evening themed around childhood games. Come and play with interactive poems at the Poetry Society’s Café and see a limited pop-up exhibition at the Cafe’s basement featuring contemporary UK-based poets. The event will also feature brand new performances created for the night  from some of UK’s most exciting visual poets. 

This Poem Atlas event will feature new solo and collaborative work by Russell Bennetts & Colin Raff, Patrick Cosgrove, JD Howse, L.Kiew & Mike Weston, James Knight, Yvonne Litschel, Stephen Mooney, Lizzy Turner, Nick Murray, Simon Tyrrell, Konstantinos Papacharalampos, Luke Thompson & Sarah Cave, Michał Kamil Piotrowski, and Astra Papachristodoulou.

I will be preparing a performance and an exhibition piece with both linking to the string game cat’s cradle and incorporating the idea of the red thread of fate.

The event will be held at the Poetry Society Café from 7pm on 5th December.

More information available on the Poem Atlas website.