I’ve set myself this task many times over the years, and I’ve always been amazed at the creations along the way. Poems have emerged onto the page that I didn’t even know were in me and needed expressing.
So today I come to the page with an open heart and a rough idea of the themes or issues I want to explore. But who knows with the creative process. Anything could happen.
Anyway day 1 – PAD/ 001
Trying to understand “the difference between poetry and rhetoric”
After Audre Lorde
The contested site of black settlement in England
is shrouded a heavy fog of amnesia. The wrong colour,
the wrong body, the wrong sound.
Read the history books, you’d think we just landed
the day before last. 400 years of being here, lost
in the mire, weighted down with size 10, Dr. Martens.
Like transplanted birds of paradise, West Indians
struggled to put down roots. Alien soil. On corners,
skylarking and limin’, jobs, homes and a little bit of peace
denied; harsh whispers on the bitterly cold wind.
The contested site of black settlement in England
is captured in stills. Images speak for themselves.
Black faces filling the frame; black blooms pressed
against hothouse glass. But still an absent presence in failed memories.
Spring’s in the air. Filled with love. There’s magic everywhere. When you’re young and in love- The Flying Pickets ( well that’s who I heard sing it first and I’m sticking to it!)
April is just around the corner. The blossom will be blossoming. And I’m returning to my first love; poetry.
We’ve been in and out of love over the years, poetry and I. Sometimes she hasn’t treated me well, while other times I’ve neglected her and gone off with some other genre of writing.
I don’t even know if we’re good together, as I was brought up on dead white men’s poetry and I could never measure up to them and their creations. And then somewhere along the way, I gave up trying to.
But when I’m facilitating writing workshops, I say poetry is just ‘playing with words’ in order to break down the fears and insecurities we may be bringing into the creative space. ‘Playing with words’ eases the pressure and injects a bit of fun into the proceedings.
So I’m taking my own advice and going to spend April playing with words each day on the hope of creating some kind of whole at the end of each day.
For more ease of creation, I’ve decided to base my creations around one theme/ focus/subject which is loosely around Black British history through the photographs of the past that are in the public domain along with an exploration of the Race Relations, Commonwealth and Immigration Laws which came into effect during the 60s and 70s.
I’ll also be touching upon the uprisings that also happened during these turbulent times as a demonstration of push back against the messages of go back home even though for the second generation of immigrants onwards this has been the only home most of us have known.
So this is the intention, as I also attempt to tap into the surging, fresh Spring energy of the season, to reconnect my ancestors’ bodies with nature through the process of playing with word to create poetry this April.
I hope to document some, if not all of my creations here as a means of accountability and in the spirit of sharing stories.
At the back end of 2021, I put in for an Arts Council England, Developing Your Creative Practice grant. I didn’t get one but I made a promise to myself to follow the project plan I had to submit with this application for the first 6 months of 2022.
Things just didn’t go to plan from the very beginning of the year, with family illness and myself getting ill etc. I was knocked off course and never got back on during the year.
Until now. London Writer’s Salon ran a 100 Days of Writing Workshop last night. Then there was 100 days left of 2022. Where has the time gone?
I attended along with over 300 other people, working through the workbook to get recommitted to my Mixmoir. And it worked.
I’ve set myself some goals and targets for the final 100 days of writing for 2022. I figure, I can turn it out for others when I have to or need to, the recent BALTIC commission being a prime example. Well now I want to use this commitment to others and their demands to my own advantage and complete something that is important to me instead.
My goal is to complete the Mixmoir in the final 100 days of 2022. I figure it’s about 3 essays and about 15 poems I need to get it into a completed state by the end of 2022. And I might even place in the word ‘shitty’ first draft of the whole thing there too in order to ease the pressure off for perfection.
My guiding words for this process are fun and play and experimentation. I want to enjoy the process and I figure these values with help me a lot with this task.
I’ve been wanting to write this Mixmoir now for about 5 years and I think I’ve just been taking it and myself far too seriously. So I’m inviting in the fun and joy and excitement about the project again.
And I’ve got the last 100 days of 2022 to crack on with it. And these final days of the year are not empty. I’ve got plenty of outside commitments, family responsibilities and travel plans to keep me busy. But this might be the kick up the arse I need to just finish the damn thing.
This Mixmoir is an important step in establishing myself as an expert in the field of Black Nature. I want to use this text as the basis of the Earth Sea Live CIC business. As a speaker and facilitator and expedition leader. But it’s doing nothing to further the cause if it’s not finished or published yet.
So here I am biting the bullet, getting my head down and ploughing on through.
No hold up! I said fun and play and experimentation in order to enjoy the process.
So my shoulders are back, my head is facing the light and I’m skipping off into writing pleasureland for the final 100 days of 2022.
I started my Patreon Page in April 2018 with the focus on Slow Writing.
The Art of Slow Writing
“When our lives change, when the world changes, we must reinvent ourselves as writers.” – Louise DeSalvo.
Taking inspiration from Louise DeSalvo’s book, The Art of Slow Writing, I’m choosing to create fine writing; writing of quality and writing of worth. I believe in order for this to happen, I need to find my way back to slow writing.
Slow writing is a meditative practice, creating time and space for understanding my relationship to my writing, the writing process and working towards my best work.
I envisioned it as the space where I wrote the memoir ( memoir then, Mixmoir now).
I’ve been writing a creative non-fiction memoir which includes personal essays, poetry, quotes, paintings, photography etc and this continues as this piece of creation centres the black woman’s body with/in nature. What I envision now is this piece taking on a more critical and political perspective with climate / environmental justice taking up space as this is my reality, our reality, even if there are systems in place which would lead us to believe otherwise.
Using my art is my resistance, is my activism and I just see it as time to start owning it. Blatantly so.
All that I’ve been wanting to achieve and working towards has morphed into one – this idea of black / brown bodies with/in nature. This is my full-time obsession and I’ve been making big changes in my personal life to reflect and accommodate this. This includes Patreon.
It was within this space that I created the term Mixmoir to describe what I’m trying to create. There, here, everywhere.
When you take on a project, a writing project that is arduous and long and messy, there’s a tendency to get lost along the way. Get tangled up in the details, get into your own head and manipulate your own weaknesses and doubts to the point of stop writing and just spending your time and energy just wishing.
I’ve got to the point of feeling sick and tired about feeling/acting/behaving this way. This inactivity within a writing project I feel so deeply about. Which is so vital to my being.
So this is me attempting to change the story and get the damn book complete on my own terms by any means necessary by glueing my arse down to the seat and just writing.
I was brought up to treat books as sacred. They were a source of knowledge. You get your education and you’d have choices in life. You’d move on in the world. Have a better life than your parents before you.
Books were the gateway into this Paradise.
Each week, we would walk into town from our maisonette, along the busy dual carriageway. Once in town, we’d go to the market, to the one book stall and pick out a book. They were the tradition fairy tales with pictures and text.
If not them, then Enid Blyton books. For some reason, I felt the importance of books and the connection of them to my dad. He’d read us bedtime stories and I’d just love to be in his presence then. As he was softer and loving. Different from the angry man he was at all other times.
For some reason, who knows what goes through a child’s mind, I took to doodling in one of these fairy tale books. I want to say it was Snow White, but I could wrong.
A whole heap of scribbles and doodles took over the pages of this book. Why use the book when I had plenty of blank white paper? As I said who knows what goes through a child’s mind.
I just know that my father found the book and shouted at me with rage. And beat me. I’d done something wrong. I’d ruined the book. I’d ruined my chances of getting on in the world. I’d gone against the unwritten rule( or was a spoken one?) around how to respect books.
Older now, I hunt for books. I buy my own books. I read then. Some I don’t. Some I keep or give away. And some I purposefully, consciously make the decision to repurpose. Reclaim them.
I tear out pages and I cut these up. I smear paint on the pages left in the book. I stick images in them, tape, stickers. And yes I write in them. I write out my hopes and fears. My desires and dreams. My memories and traumas.
I think I was brought up right. To treat books as sacred. But it’s what you do with those books that count, I think. And a book has multiple uses/ purposes. I think. Multiple ways and means of instilling knowledge and opportunities and freedom.
It’s been a long journey for me to get to this point of choices. But I claim them all.
At the moment, I’m using an altered (romance) book as my visual journal. I go with my moods when it comes to deciding what to use next for my visual journal. I listen to my gut and what she’s calling for in terms of size, shape, texture of page, of journal she needs in order to show up daily for the next month or so.
So with an altered book as my journal I was calling for space to explore colours but also layering, composition and found text.
There will be pages that are heavy with colour and my handwriting while others I’ll crave colour with space and some text cut ups applied.
I’m using Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye at the moment to create found poetry for double page spreads. The Bluest Eye was the first book I read in which I found someone who looked like me and who felt the same self-hate I was experiencing around growing up in a predominately white society being within a Black body. It was revolutionary for me and my personal development to find this book when I did.
I suppose using a copy of the book now to cut up and repurpose is saying something about how I’m feeling at the moment and how I want to see myself on the page. How I want to take back the space, take up space and be validated. But on my own terms.
I love how powerful visual journaling is to my psyche and how I move my body through this world but does so through such a simple process. It never ceases to amaze me what comes to light and fruition through this practice.