Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

h1

words.

March 20, 2013

Without realising it, because it’s something so elemental, my whole life has been intrinsically tied to words. While others may excel in numbers, images, gestures, movement; I’ve always been best with words. My continued studies of modern languages (French and Spanish at university, and now Italian) complement my multi-lingual heritage; as a toddler, I used to babble in fake-Italian down the phone to my great-aunt because I wouldn’t understand what my grandparents’ generation were talking about to one another. It was like a secret code to me, and as I’ve grown older I have been more motivated to crack those codes.

Language is an attempt to codify human existence; it doesn’t always work, but we have great fun trying. Words can be used to communicate and express ourselves (both to create barriers and to break them down); to motivate and inspire; to entertain. On a basic level, this blog is my way of communicating and expressing myself. I write songs and poems to express myself once again, but also to entertain others; furthermore, I am writing my first novel (very early stages) in the hope of creating something that people will enjoy reading. Learning Italian has allowed me a new insight into my family heritage; I love learning and I seem to have a natural talent for languages. There is something about romance languages (particularly Spanish and Italian) that captivates me and holds my attention. I can’t really explain it, but right now for example I am watching Volver on a rare night home alone and I just feel very happy and ‘at home’.

I haven’t written much on this blog lately, because I am now of the feeling that if I don’t have something new or useful or valuable to say, then I’ll wait until I do. There’s enough filler in the world. So I apologise if my updates are sometimes infrequent (as they are lately), because I hope that the quality will prevail over quantity. As a child, we learn to use our words to express our desires; in the schoolyard (and elsewhere, but this is an early example most people can relate to) we then become aware that others may use their words to bully, hurt and provoke. As we become older and our understanding gets (hopefully) more sophisticated, we embellish our reasoning and almost forget that at the end of the day, we should be judicious with how we use our words. I don’t necessarily mean sparing – there are many moments when I am reminded of my mother’s saying that “there is a tongue in your head, so use it!” Words are there to be used. Just not abused. I hope that my forthcoming projects (album, novel, continuation of this blog, learning of Italian) and my lifestyle in general will make the best use of the words I have at my disposal and open my eyes to new things along the way.

h1

my gay online adolescence.

January 28, 2013

Just the other week, Harry Hitchens (from BBC’s Young Apprentice) posted a video on Youtube coming out to the world.

He states that his main motivation for doing this was so that other young people who were learning to accept themselves and their sexuality did not feel so alone. I wish that there had been more of these videos when I’d been growing up, because my gay adolescence was quite lonely; and although I knew I wasn’t the only one, it was a long time before any of my peers were willing to expose themselves so publically and so deeply.

In my youth, we had no Youtube or Twitter. Facebook didn’t arrive until the end of my first year of university. As a teenager, all I had was Faceparty and MSN (and AIM for a brief period, but few in the UK used it), and Myspace (which I used primarily for my music, but I was fortunate enough to meet a couple of people via that medium who have ultimately become good friends). Otherwise, to talk to other people, there were online forums and bulletin boards; awkwardly enough, for a year and a half I navigated my adolescence writing cathartic and experimental poetry on a largely Christian bulletin board. Eventually, for a range of reasons, we drifted apart (although amicably so).

My father took a long time to cave in to broadband; over dialup, I used WinMX to download music one song at a time; occasionally I would download brief gay porn videos that would take HOURS for just a couple of minutes’ worth of footage, that I would then delete upon logging off the net for fear of my dad seeing them. A couple of times late at night once my parents were long asleep, I also cybered with randoms I found in chatrooms on WinMX. The screens of these chatrooms were black, and the writing for different people would be in different colours; it looked much more aggressive and raw than the internet looks now, but there was no permanence to the interactions; the words spiralled into an abyss, into nothing. In the present, every single thing you do online has ramifications; thankfully, I didn’t have to navigate my sexuality and my youth online with the fear of my words being screenshot, paraphrased, used against me at any opportunity being a realistic one. (I know it could still have been done, especially with my father’s IT expertise, but it wasn’t prevalent the way that it seems to be today.)

During the year I spent living in Spain, I used to spend a hell of a lot of time chatting to Hannah on MSN, and a site we explored for a little while was called MeetYourMessenger, which was a combination of Faceparty and MSN. It was not very fruitful however; I remember having one conversation where a guy spoke to me exclusively through ostentatious, glittering animations and smileys. He was blocked after that conversation. I also used to read gay fanfic on Nifty, and I actually got talking to a guy on there; we even met up a couple of times! We also used to cam, and all of these memories remind me of how when flirting on all of these different sites, people were desperate for pictures, for videoed conversations. Separate USB webcams are now a thing of the past, but back then they were an indispensable part of the online experience for some, threatening symbols of sexual predators for others, and a laugh for the lucky rest of us in between.

A lot of people don’t know this, but I originally found Toby through Fitlads, a gay dating site that intimidated me far less than Gaydar. I didn’t have an iPhone at that point so I have never used Grindr, and I think I’d probably find that too intimidating too. Anyways, after a couple of successful conversations on MSN where we both proved to one another that we actually had thoughts in our brains, once we found out that we both were attending UWE for our postgrads, we decided to cut the online stuff and just meet in person. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I had forgotten a lot of these things until I started looking back over my teenage years in detail, and thinking about all of the websites I used to visit. They sound almost quaint compared to what sites are around now, and at the same time as the internet became faster, sleeker and more commonplace, I thankfully became older, wiser and more prudent with my actions. At the age of 11, 12 or 13, I don’t know if I would have been savvy enough to evade every pitfall Facebook (let alone more adult sites) has to offer. From my time at Cirencester College, teaching young people about how to be intelligent about what they share on the internet is important – especially in a culture of digital natives where there is a lot of pressure to share everything (from peers and otherwise). In this same way, just as I discovered the internet as I grew older, is the right to privacy something young people of today will only really discover and understand in their twenties – once it’s, perhaps, a little too late?

h1

return to internet.

October 31, 2012

After 3 weeks without the internet, and a lot of DVDs being watched of an evening, last night we finally got to enjoy a broadband connection in our new flat, as well as a phone with a landline! Very exciting stuff. So I’m back – and I realised that I have some catching up to do. Two of my friends are giving university lectures in the near future, which is so thrilling because they are my age and I am so proud of how far they have come. My father is on the verge of publishing his first novel – I have no idea what it’s about, but he is an intelligent man and so I have high hopes – I’ll definitely be purchasing a copy. As other friends start new jobs or higher education courses, I wonder about my own next moves.

My EP / album, 2526 is more or less ready and I’m planning to upload it in the next few days – I want to see if I can finish another song before then! I have started writing my own novel, which I’m not 100% sure about yet, but we’ll see what happens with it. I used to write poems and I am sure that a handful of them were decent (at least by the laws of probability), so perhaps I should consider doing that. My body really needs to benefit from the leisure centre across the street, and I swear I’m going to start swimming to try and buff up.

At work, I deal with people who are millionaires on a regular basis, and while I am neither ready nor willing to sacrifice my entire life in pursuit of money, it’s a reminder that the world is my oyster and life is what you make it. Now that Toby and I have our new flat and it’s shaping up to be pretty decent (although furnishing it is an exciting work in progress that I am going to relish), it’s time to get back to me, and making my life what I want it to be – successful, vibrant, dynamic and most of all, happy.

h1

hidden memories.

January 22, 2012

Lately I have been in situations which have triggered me to remember things that were long buried in my childhood and adolescence. These are things that I had basically forgotten about, and aren’t really important but they make me pause and think “did I really do those things? I was evidently such a different person back then!”

Toby recently bought a book about fonts called Just My Type, and he has really been enjoying it (I might be borrowing it from him afterwards, though I have two books queued up to finish first!) and we have been noticing the uses of Century Gothic (our favourite), Helvetica and so on in the public domain and media. We were in Starbucks in Richmond yesterday and Toby observed the use of various fonts on the menu boards, napkins and articles on the walls – it was a little bit random and I think that it is probably down to different things being created at different times. I subsequently remembered that in Year 7, I had an IT lesson where we actually created our own font and we had to engineer the spaces around the letters so that words didn’t look too spaced apart etc. It was interesting, but not really anything in itself to write about. The thing that interested me is that I was 12 years old when this had happened, and yet it felt buried in my past and when remembering it, it was dim and cloudy like I was remembering the life of another person.

I suppose this is proof for the fact that at 12 years old, although we feel like young adults and don’t want to be referred to as ‘children’, we still have a lot of growing up to do and by the time we are fully-formed adults, we have changed a lot. Recently I was working on some lyrics for some new songs, and I remembered that when I was a teenager (12-14 years old), I spent quite a lot of time on the internet writing poems and sharing my poetry on forums. Now, these poems were probably frequently bad, but it didn’t matter – at the time when I was still only allowed on dial-up internet for half an hour each night (remember the days?!), it was the most important way for me to express my innermost thoughts and creativity, and read others’ as well. As I shared things that I had written, I made friends and ended up being invited to another forum where I would contribute regularly, and I also remember most of these people being quite Christian and I believe from the southern USA. At a time when I was still questioning my own beliefs as well as discovering my own sexuality, there were certain things I could talk about and others that I couldn’t, and from a place where I had been granted freedom of expression without judgement, I found myself (even at 15 years old) being careful about what I could and couldn’t say for fear of backlash from people I didn’t know that well and yet knew intimately. I didn’t stay on the forums for much longer after that (although I wrote poetry infrequently and headed up the St Anne’s Creative Writing Society with my friend Daria in my second year of university) because I could tell that I was headed on a different path to the other people on the forum, who were all adults and knew themselves already. I didn’t leave on bad terms, and I think that the forum fizzled out naturally shortly afterwards, but to think that for a substantial period of my teenage years this was one of my main hobbies, and yet now I barely remember it and it feels like I am looking at my adolescence backwards through a telescope. How far I have come is a very good thing, but it’s something that I can only really appreciate when I compare it to where I started from.

h1

wrong. (poem)

April 28, 2011

So after reading Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf, I remembered all the poems I used to write. I was getting pretty good! And then, I focused on songwriting and forgot the joy of expressing myself in free verse. It used to be liberating, cathartic and thrilling. So this is the first poem I have written in a long time – I have promised myself that I am going to get back into writing poetry, and hopefully I will improve my skills again (I feel somewhat rusty and I am sure I will reread this and cringe!). But this poem is dedicated to myself and to anybody else (everybody else) who has ever felt this way – I hope you can all empathise.

wrong

i’m so tired of being wrong
it wears me down like a stone
i try and do right by myself and by you
but as long as i’m ok with me
that’s what matters

what do you get from pointing out my faults
does being right keep you warm at night
can you take your criticisms of me and sell them on the market
to put coins in your pocket?
if one-upping me gives you life
then i wish you had more to live for

because i’m so used to being wrong
i’m exhausted by it
and paranoid about it
sitting duck, easy target
feel like my default position
but
i’m so used to it
that i realised
i am no poorer for it

your yardstick does not measure my success
and for every small victory you claim
while you’re intent on keeping me down
i’m focusing my energy on keeping me up
afloat and moving
the days are hard enough to get through
without competing for the prize of gain-saying you
you can have all that
because: newsflash!
THERE IS NO PRIZE
my life is not for sale or accreditation

i’m working on being alright with me
and if you would rather be right
then i will choose to be all right
through my expertise in being wrong
i am learning to be strong


h1

Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (album review.)

May 23, 2010

I literally don’t know where to start with this review.  Comparisons have been made to James Brown (the lead single “Tightrope” has a funky, dirty bass and backchat with Monáe’s band), Judy Garland (“Oh, Maker” features a stately purity of voice in its verses, only to give way to a joyful exaltation of a chorus, and is one of the album’s highlights) and even Erykah Badu (Monáe sings with a knowing voice, sometimes sounding wise well beyond her years while not even connected to this cosmos).  But Janelle Monáe is undeniably her own woman: crazy hairstyles, performing in black-tie tuxedos, employing ethereal instruments coupled with double-time beats, composing her material in suites… It would be audacious enough if it didn’t succeed, if Monáe were above her station with this Metropolis, 28th century high-concept shit.  But she’s not.  Although at times The ArchAndroid feels a bit like it’s overreaching, the vast majority of it is exciting, mindblowing and more than a little bizarre.  This makes it one of the boldest releases to come out in quite a while.

I’m not going to attempt any detail of the story behind this album; it’s only vaguely important to the running order of the songs.  In very brief, Cindi Mayweather was an android who fell in love; the cyber-hunters were invited to hunt her down; she has since discovered the ArchAndroid helmet which displays the city of Metropolis on the top – yep, that’s the album cover above! – and has transformed from pariah to messiah for the robot population of Metropolis.  Monáe creates a textured evocation of this hyper-space reality within her music, and it’s appropriate that The ArchAndroid sounds nothing like anything else in current popular music.  However, its melodies are still catchy, its production tricks are still appreciable (although the music sounds far removed from anything Sean “Diddy” Combs would touch, Monáe is signed to his BadBoy imprint, whose releases normally display impeccable production values – if, at times, little else), and the meanings behind the inventive, often poetic lyrics (from “Say You’ll Go” – “Love is not a fantasy / A haiku written in Japanese”) go beyond the specifics of the Metropolis concept to speak more generally of love, society, and human emotions and situations.  In other words, Monáe hasn’t concept-ed herself into oblivion; the songs can still have meanings to each individual listener, which is important because we still need to relate in order to truly engage with the music.

Moving to the specifics of the music on The ArchAndroid, it’s a hefty album, comprising two suites that are much weightier then Monáe’s The Chase EP; that disc had three songs which were swift, exciting and irresistible.  The special edition had two extra non-concept tracks; a plea to the President for social consideration, and a beautiful, restrained cover of Nat King Cole’s “Smile”. Monáe may not be a vocalist in the same way as Beyoncé, Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera, but she has an extraordinary control of her instrument, and displays its versatility when songs require it (similar, in a way, to Toni Braxton or Sade).  On The ArchAndroid, Monáe alternately displays grace (“Oh, Maker”), subtlety (“Sir Greendown”), uninhibited release (“Come Alive (The War Of The Roses)”) and an old-school sensibility that fuses scat, Broadway and Latin rhythms (epic closer “BaBopByeYa”).  Suite II (the first suite of The ArchAndroid) is generally more immediate and accessible to the uninitiated listener: after a classical intro (although its concept hangs together flawlessly for most of the album, the instrumental interludes may be slick but they are still unnecessary filler!), Monáe gets straight down to business with the help of spoken word artist Saul Williams for “Dance Or Die”.  Beats fibrillate below Monáe’s haughty poetry, and before the listener knows it, the song segues into “Faster”, into “Locked Inside”…; before you know it, you’ve reached subdued ballad “Mushrooms & Roses” and Suite II is nearly over.

The seamless melting of one song into the next is a neat production trick, but one that we have seen before.  It has its risks, since the listener has to pay attention to his iPod, CD player or media player of choice in order to determine where one track ends and the next begins.  If the songs are dull, they risk totally going over the listener’s head.  Luckily, the majority of The ArchAndroid has enough memorable hooks, production tricks and bizarre sections to stick in the mind and merit repeat listens.  Suite II is far stronger than Suite III for this however; Suite III, although shorter, is much denser and ethereal. Although Suite II had some lovely slower material (“Oh, Maker” and “Sir Greendown”), Suite III seems weighed down by the lack of upbeat or midtempo songs.  “Make The Bus” is an ok effort but hardly lives up to the breathtaking pace of Suite II; “Wondaland” seems altogether too precious.  However, Suite III comes into its own as it reaches its conclusion: “57821” (the serial number of the robot Cindi Mayweather) begins to engage the listener with its subtle, undulating backing, before the majesty of closing tracks “Say You’ll Go” and “BaBopByeYa” unfurls.  In all, Suite II is stronger and more addictive listening, but Suite III has its moments despite its more downbeat demeanour.

Why does it all work? It’s beyond me, as Janelle Monáe seems to have thrown everything and the kitchen sink into this album – in terms of lyrics, vocal approaches, production tricks, musical genres, concept… It’s a miracle that it doesn’t sound overblown, desperate or self-important, but for the most part – it doesn’t.  Only on “Wondaland”, “Mushrooms & Roses” and “Neon Valley Street” does Monáe sound a tiny bit like she’s faking, stalling while she scrabbles for a new idea with which to blindside us.  The vast majority of The ArchAndroid is not only severely impressive, but sounds genuine.  Which makes Janelle Monáe a hugely talented, innovative young woman, and one of the best new artists to emerge in recent years.  Take a listen to The ArchAndroid and prepare to be both mentally and aurally stimulated.

h1

statement of purpose.

March 7, 2010

I was sitting in Caffé Nero in House Of Fraser in Cabot Circus with Toby today, reading the newspaper (quite uncharacteristic of me – what’s more, I was reading the news and doing the crossword!  Not even the gossip pages!) and I came across an article about being an author and how it’s not the easiest way of making a living. I said to Toby that I’d like to write a book one day, though I don’t really know what about; I don’t even know if it would be a novel, or more a reflection on life and love. And I thought back to when I started writing this blog 9 months ago – how far I’ve come from my first entry! How quickly time has passed, and how much I’ve grown and how much my life has changed.  I’m glad to say I am in a much happier space now, and better is yet to come!

Reading that first entry, I knew almost at the time that the misfired sense of whimsy I was aiming for (in the style of Bai Ling, who tbh is quite insurpassable) wouldn’t last, but I didn’t know how seriously I would end up taking this blog, nor how important this blog would end up being for me, for my sanity and my self-expression; as well as for my music.  Not only have I got a lot better at writing, but being able to be utterly honest in a public yet private and near-anonymous forum has been freeing. I’ve made new friends through writing, and some of the comments I receive let me know that my writing has touched others, that I’ve not been alone in going through some of the emotional, romantic and self-esteem struggles that I’ve experienced.  That alone makes writing this blog worth it, and I thank you for reading it. I hope that I can make a difference to someone’s life, even in a small way.  That makes it worth it.

So returning to the question of what kind of book I would write, I prefer to think of myself in the style of a columnist, I guess something Carrie Bradshaw-esque.  I am sure it could be done (and perhaps in time my mind will grasp a format that works), but right now I couldn’t imagine my writing fitting into book form (other than a diary). But like in Sex and the City, I would almost prefer to write for a newspaper (not quite like the one I was reading, but certainly something a few steps above your average tabloid or glossy magazine – how’s that for snobbery? 😛 ) because this blog is a way for me to keep track of my own journey through life, my own development.  I grow and change through time, just as we all do – we all experience new things over the course of our lives, and this blog is a way of chronicling that.  So in short, I don’t honestly think that I would change anything about the way that I write now – I just hope to get better at it.  Perhaps in time I’ll focus on one consistent topic or theme, but right now the mixture of ruminations on music, love, sexuality, self-esteem, fashion, fragrance, dream analysis, family, friendships and relationships is perfect for me as it perfectly encapsulates who I am.  Perhaps in the future I’ll go back to writing poetry, to sharing some of my new song lyrics once the Quiet Storm album campaign is closed and I’m recording new material – I haven’t done that in a while.  Who knows what the future holds? But life is for living, and we’re all living it right now… so on with the show! 🙂