Bards Without Borders

Those of you who have visited my About page might have noticed that I am a supporter of the local charity Global Fusion Music and Arts. At the moment they hold, among so many other things, open mic evenings once a month. Yesterday’s opens mic had Bards Without Borders as the special guest.

Bards Without Borders are a group of poets and writers who all have the experience of being refugees or immigrants. Currently, they are performing a set in respons to the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. It was really special to experience this group of poets. There was much to take in; their experiences of fleeing their home countries, their amazing poems and what kind of influence Shakespeare has had within their native cultures.

The most enjoyable part was to hear them read favourite passages from Shakespeare’s complete works in their native languages. It really brought out the beauty of Shakespeare’s words. Even if I cannot understand Swahili or Spanish or any of the other languages, there is a beauty in the rhythm, the word flow and the articulation of the text that makes it wonderful to listen to even when you don’t understand.

The next Global Fusion open mic night will be the 29 of July. Anyone near or far from Greenwich, London is welcome to come by. The special guest will be Cheng Yu, a Chinese Pipa player.

If you wish to find out more about Bards Without Borders you can find them on Facebook.

 

Bards without boarders

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So You Want to Be a Playwright?

I’ve been trying to curb my  frenetic writing to get some order to what I do. The result has been that I’ve finished translating and doing a first edit of my children’s theatre play. I’m not sure I’m happy with the result but it’s now been sent for an initial assessment. The first hurdle toward the play being produced has been cleared.

While I prepared for the edit, I started reading So You Want to Be a Playwright? by Tim Fountain. It’s been really helpful and I can recommend reading it if you are planning to or are writing a play. Without overloading with details and writing exercises, it goes through Fountains own process from starting to write until finished production. There are lots of handy advice and you can absolutely have it next to you as you work through different stages of the play.

So now I try to get back to my short-story. I still debate whether I will go straight for self-publishing or whether I should try all the literary magasines and online writer’s sites to see if anyone is interested. I find the process of sending out your material to be very time consuming, not that self-publishing is not, but at least I’m in control of what’s happening. Maybe any of my fellow writers have another view on this?

Back to writing…

When We’ve Become Strangers

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Street art. Picture taken in Pisa.

It saddens me to think

that one day you

will grow in to the man

you’re supposed to be.

You will become

that awesome person

I have glimpsed you

have the potential for.

But by that time,

I will no longer be around

to witness your bloom.

Someone else will

get to marry you

and have your children.

Someone else will

cheer you on in your

musical endeavours

or whatever else you chose

to direct your talents to.

By then, you will be

someone I used to know,

while I,

hopefully,

will have reached

my full potential and

live happily wherever

it is I am meant to end up.

How revealing should your writing be?

I had a comment to my recent post about my current writing frenzy. The question was how much of yourself you reveal when writing about past experiences? It referred to the poetry story I am writing that follow a recent relationship from beginning to end.

My personal view when writing something that is mostly autobiographical is to be brutally honest. The whole point, for me, of a biography as opposed to fiction, is to give a subjective view of events and therefore you should not hide how you perceived things or the way that you remember them. I wrote 95% of the poetry for this story as it happened, as I was trying to deal with the relationship. As such, the raw material is what I felt at that given point in time.

The question that follows is naturally, once you have vented your feelings and created this piece of work, do you share it? I have mixed feeling about that. At one hand, I genuinely think there is a story there worthy of being told. It is also a story not often told as films and songs etcetera tend to focus on how the couple fall in love. Books are slightly better at covering the whole spectra of relationships.

On the other hand, if you are brutally honest in your biographical writing, you are exposing yourself to other people’s opinions, prejudices and criticism of you and your past actions. Not only are you exposing yourself, but other people – in this case my ex. You can to some extent protect others by never naming them but as the creator you cannot protect yourself. Do you want that random strangers know that much about your feelings and perceptions?

I believe you must be able to answer that question before you make a decision to publish. The alternative being to write a fictional story with the same themes but moving away from real persons and events.

Books About Town

The National Literacy Trust currently has a Books about Town event that will be running until September 2. Special sculptures, in the shape of book benches, have been design by local artists to celebrate London’s literary heritage and that we read for enjoyment. There are 50 benches scattered around London to combine into four walks, each bench with its own literary theme.

I love this idea and I have already completed three of the four walks. I would think book worms are rather sedentary people, favourite places being either a spot in the shade or curled up in a sofa – where we read. These walks are an excellent way to get us book worms moving. If there is something we like just as much as reading, it is to connect with our favourite characters – one way or another. Some of the book benches are a little childish in their design so suite my taste, others are a real treat, while yet others are plain funny. Most depict their theme brilliantly.

A few weekends ago, Mary Poppins were handing out books by her bench outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral. I was vaguely hoping to get a free copy since I have never read Mary Poppins, but the gifts were clearly reserved for kids. To watch the kids interact with Poppins though, made it worth going without a free copy myself. Afterwards I walked around finding the other benches on the City Trail – Peter Pan, Fever Pitch and Bridget Jones, among others. Dickens’ were a bit tricky since some morons had decided to have their lunch on his bench. Note to readers – the benches are sculptures and not actual places to sit. Apart from running the risk of them being ruined, other books-about-town-walkers will not be able to see the bench.

There was another happening, the other week, as Sherlocks gathered by the Sherlock bench in Bloomsbury as part of a Guinness World Record attempt with the most number of people dressed as Sherlock. As I was in the area, I walked the Bloomsbury Trail to see the other benches nearby.

To see the benches all you have to do is print or download the trails from the internet and head on out for your own literary walk.

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The Mary Poppins bench

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Poppins handing out books

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Mrs. Dalloway

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The Importance of Being Ernest

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Sherlocks gathered by the Sherlock bench

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Jeeves and Wooster

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Aslan from the Narnia books

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The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe

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Dr. Seuss

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Dr. Seuss

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The Paddington bench

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Paddington himself

Poetry & the End of Van Gogh

I have just reached the Arles period in the Vincent van Gogh book that I am reading, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh selected by Ronald de Leeuw. I both love and hate reading about that time in van Gogh’s life. It is with a sense of doom one reads about his workaholic life style, the paintings, Gaugin and Vincent’s illness. It saddens me; I want to stop the process or at least slow it down. Van Gogh has been my muse for a long time now and influences much of what I write.

“If one carries on working quietly, beautiful subjects come of their own accord.”

Vincent van Gogh, November 1889

I have been writing a fair amount of poetry lately. A good thing as the National Poetry Competition is coming up soon. A creative surge in poetry always occurs when I have a lot to deal with emotionally. The more emotional turbulence the more poetry I produce. It is a good way to channel emotions. I either try to capture a given point in time or describe the emotional turmoil. The other day I read through the poems and at least two of them I was really pleased with. Here are the first lines of Never Enough:

“Never good enough
I have never been
Clever enough
Quick enough
Never been relaxed
Always too serious
Always too rigid”

I have also applied for a writer’s working stipend. If I get it I will devote some weeks solely to publish Finn, the Farmer’s Son. I don’t expect to be one of the lucky ones to win, just like I do not expect to win the short-story competition I am going to entre, but if you do not entre then you certainly cannot win. I have written a romantic love-story. Yes, you heard right. Do not laugh my dear friends, even I fall for that genre at times. Another project I recently entered into is a Christmas book that, the writer’s club I belong to, is going to publish for next Christmas. It will be an anthology and I intend to contribute. I am still searching for ideas but I have already started writing a first draft.

Sooner or later it shall all be published – one way or another.

I, A Liar

Recently, I made a new acquaintance. When I said I was a writer his response was: “So you are a liar”.
I suppose in a sense he is right. I make up stories, change the reality I encounter, and dream up situations the way I would like them to be.
There is one truth I sometimes tell that no one ever believes. The simpler the truth, the more difficult it is for people to accept it; the more outrageous the lie, the more believable. Just take the most common of all questions: You alright? Now be honest, do you always reply that you are ok or do you actually tell people how you feel?! It is handy to tell my particular lie – sorry, truth – since no one ever calls my bluff and therefore never questions how much or how little of it is true.
Good stories are rarely questioned either. Take Hamlet for instance, he speaks to his father’s ghost. Although, few of us believe in ghosts, most of us will accept the ghost as part of the larger story. In the theatre we are expected to believe that the world of the play is real even if we can clearly see that the things on stage are not for real. But we accept it to be able to embrace the story.
I shouldn’t really say that I am a write, even if that is my preferred form; what I really am is a story-teller. For me the world that exists in my head has always been more real than the physical world around me.
I like the music I fall in love with because it triggers something in my mind. There is a story within, a scene perhaps, that I can build on and continue. I have even written short-stories and film scripts inspired by lyrics. Nothing unusual, I am sure.
The things I feel when I read a book or see a film, is often more true and genuine than things that happen to me. Somehow it is easier to relate to the told story; emotions are focused, simplified, put in context, and not muddled with confusion, opposing emotions or lost among all other things that happened at the same time.
Even in lighting design, I would like to tell stories. I am happy to plot lighting symbols on a drawing but it does not excite as much as when you feel the lighting, experience the space and, hopefully, are transported to another place – at least in your head. Theatre use it all the time – enhancing the story with light colour, light patterns, or just helping you focus on the key element in the scene.
Perhaps it is superficial to let stories take such a key role in my life, but that is my reality and I would love to play it forward – telling tales, lies if you like, just like man has done since we had languages to communicate with.