Something deliciously clandestine and geeky has been taking place in my world since late July. Myself and a bunch of local poets have been meeting up in an independent bookshop after hours, to write poetry about Winchester, under the tutelage of Jonny Fluffypunk, who is the resident poet for Winchester Poetry Festival this year. We often started the workshops by writing several poems, consisting of six lines, in just over a minute, with a titles given by Jonny. We wrote poems about the places, memories and moods of Winchester, and we shared whatever we had written that we hated the least. I’ve loved it, and have been surprised by what I clung to about Winchester; my birthplace, home of my grandparents, and the place I spent nearly all of the school holidays in growing up….followed by a twenty year gap whereby I did all of my ‘important years’ in London, having little to do with the place. Now it is my home again, and I’ve been able to rediscover it in a way that I don’t hate.
I took August off. Went to Edinburgh to visit friends and climbed a mountain, house-sat for another friend in Hampstead Heath and ate too much cheese, supported some local music events, got to know a very tall man…I described the feeling to him of performing ‘Testy Manifesto’ in July like all the clogs inside me clunking into place, like finally turning a corner, like two and a half years of struggling with PTSD finally making sense.
In the last blog I wrote that the friend I had shown a very early version of the full ‘Manifesto’ to in Yorkshire had asked if I would ever be prepared to do the show without the costumes and theatrical stuff. I got that opportunity in September, when I did a stripped back version of the show for the Veg Out Cafe in October Books in Southampton. Lots of people came, and I was not expecting them to be so transfixed on me as they put vegan food into their mouths. A lovely lady who I had met the month before came and spoke to me afterwards. She said something so beautiful about being defined but not controlled by events from the past. Another lady who I didn’t know asked me what one of the stories was about. I asked her what it meant for her; saying that I could tell you but it would seem so silly to define it with a particular meaning. She said for her it was about transmutation. I said yes, that’s exactly what it was about. And it was.
In October last year I asked for my bloodstained sheets from the night I was beaten up by my abusive ex boyfriend to be returned to me from the police station, where they had been in custody for over a year. I boil washed them three times, and then cut them up and dyed them lovely colours, out of which I sewed bags and fabric roses. Some of the stains wouldn’t come out, and I burned these scraps on a Halloween bonfire, along with the rest of the paper trail from that time. I’ve gifted those bags and flowers to people over this past year, never telling of their original source, but knowing that I turned something hateful and painful to see again, into something pretty AND useful - everyone needs a bag for something! And then I watched the stains that wouldn’t go get burned up.
The story the lady I asked about wasn’t about my crafternoons however, it was about another transmutational moment from well after that time ended. But I am a private person; despite how personal my performances seem, and how confessional this writing is, very few people really know.
I did a few poems from ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ at The Railway the other week, and as the trial of Sarah Everard had been in the news, I included the ‘One Who Got Away’ which was about a very scary night I had when I lived in London and was walking home. I was accosted by three sets of men, all with differing levels of threat, and it shook me up. Circumstances aligned and I left London not long afterwards. A man in the audience spoke to me after the gig about a friend of his who had been murdered on Seven Sisters Road, which the poem mentions, and he had thought that the poem was about her. I told him that it was about something which happened to me, but I got away. He said ‘Well my friend didn’t.’ And seeing the pain and struggle in him as he told me about this awful thing, which had happened four years ago, really moved me and made me realise a few things.
Some of my words are powerful, and I have no way of knowing what affect they have anyone listening, unless they tell me.
Time is irrelevant when getting over a trauma.
Violence against women affects men.
I agreed to a hug, apologised for triggering a bad memory, and asked him how he would be able to move on from this. He said ‘I’m so sorry that happened to you.’ I didn’t tell him about the domestic abuse, that was beyond the scope of an outside the pub conversation.
And then in stark contrast, I took part in the Mayflower MAST Studios ‘Festival of Loveliness’ 48 hour challenge, over the second weekend in October. Ten artists met for the first on the Friday night, we were split into three groups and then devised a piece that was performed on the Sunday night. I was nervous about working with new people, but the group I worked with were delightfully silly, and I was so proud of what we managed to produce with the provocation of the word ‘Home.’ And so massively impressed with the work of the other two groups. Lovely people and fortifying creativity. Working as a solo artist for so long…well it’s convenient, but it’s lonely and limiting. I discovered a lot about the way I like to work over that weekend; the need to find my pleasure, how I like to run things through to find the natural timing, how important it is to not be afraid to be weird, how authenticity will always trump perfection.
Being where I am, and wowed as ever with how beautiful Autumn is.