and the best part of coming back to Singapore is……ASIAN WOMEN

….. I mean, aside from not being the only one in the room/poetry night any more…..being part of AN ENTIRE POETRY COLLECTIVE OF THEM.

This year I was inducted into a crazy, amazing and what I think I can safely say is the ONLY ALL-WOMEN spoken word troupe in Singapore: THE SEKALIWAGS. And we have a show this Sunday, 6 April at 8PM-9PM at the Arts House.

Pronounced ‘suh’-‘kha’-‘lee’, they (we!) derive the name from the word ‘SEKALI’ [Malay word for ‘suddenly’] AND ‘WAGS’ [the English word for movement a thing makes when it goes from side to side…see also, tongues, tails. the dog].

SEKALIWAGS was set up in 2013 as part of the Lit-Up 2013, a Singapore spoken word and indie arts festival. Last year they performed a half-hour set as part of the festival headline show SHE WALKS LIKE A FREE COUNTRY (is this not the most amazing name for a show ever) in conjunction with spoken word poets from Kuala Lumpur (international poetry collaborations ftw) and consists of  four amazing Singapore poets who are blazing a trail in the local spoken word scene:

  • Nabilah Husna—sardonic feminist, honorary Londoner, co-founded Singapore’s funkiest poetry/open mic night Destination:INK
  • Raksha Mahtani-–queer activist, forum theatre organizer, irreverent, mindblowing, first person to stage a play on a Melbourne tram
  • Jennifer Ann Champion—improv comedian, artist, actress, educator, dynamic performer, breathtaking writer, started performing poetry in 2013
  • Victoria Lim—2013 National Slam Champion, winner of the Golden Point Award for Poetry 2013, started performing poetry in 2013

…..and myself.

So for the past months I have been writing and planning for this show called RUDE (SIOL!) my first show with them, its my first time part of a spoken word collective  (in this life anyway) and its been a wild ride. The show will be part of the Arts House (former Old Parliament House) 10th Anniversary Celebrations, a weekend of free events. And yes it will be free. But come early to avoid disappointment.

HERE IS THE WEBSITE FOR THE EVENT: REMEMBER 8PM. SUNDAY. 6 APRIL.

AND YOU CAN LIKE OUR FACEBOOK PAGE HERE 

and IN CASE you’re not convinced, here are some videos in just to show how awesome they are (here’s to hoping i don’t detract from the overall experience…)

 

 

MORE THINGS

Three of my poems are going to be in an anthology of Singapore women writers called BODY BOUNDARIES– the Etiquette Anthology Volume 1. Its been two years in the making,  being published by the Literary Centre, and produced by this great woman-centred art collective/platform/showcase called Etiquette SG which is run by the inspiring artist & writer Tania de Rozario.

it also features many inspiring writers such as Ovidia Yu, Jaclyn Chan and JY Yang.

etiquette

The launch is tomorrow at:
The Play Den
the Arts House at the Old Parliament House
1 Old Parliament Lane
Singapore 179429

here is a description:

Because our history has been limited by frameworks of inequality and privilege.Because our stories speak of the good, sometimes the bad, but never the reality in between. Because everything women write does not have to fit into genres of feminine or feminist. Because bodies are boundaries. No, because they are not. Because being and becoming woman is never the same for any two individuals. Because our voices are many…

Body Boundaries is an anthology of words by twenty-seven woman women writers from Singapore. Comprising works of poetry and prose, the collection breaks down barriers between public and private, personal and political, to reveal both collective and diverse experiences threaded together and defied by identity markers of gender and geography.

…oh all right heres the facebook event details

but if you can’t make it to that you can get the book at Books Actually.

but if you’re not in Singapore anyway, have a look at this which was my poem that i wrote and performed for International Women’s Day in Singapore 2014, at Speakers Corner in Hong Lim Park, an AMAZING rally/day out for gender equality & great people organized and filmed by Action for Women’s Education and Research (AWARE). A really powerful gathering of women’s organizations and friends, with speeches by survivors and activists, a procession, chants and belly-casts and a candlelight vigil.

A SAD maximalist POEM ABOUT THE SADNESS OF MISANDRY

[spoiler: the first comment describes it as ‘horrible’ SUCH CONTROVERSY.]

*if you’re interested in this particular style MAXIMALISM, it was invented by some Australian performance poets, one of whom was Australia’s Nimbin Poetry Slam World Cup Champion 2013/all-round poetry legend Scott Wings who introduced it to poetry stages in Singapore in January 2014. It basically involves saying stupid things really loud in a monotone and can be used for a variety of topics. Here are two more examples of this genre performed by Scott on MISOGYNY and WHY IS THERE NO WIKIPEDIA ENTRY FOR MAXIMALISM and maybe this might help you understand it better than me.

….and finally, a really cool/cute recap of the Queer London Zine Fest 2014 with The Interactive Monster Unit. My friend Squid designed the cover of my chapbook Where Are My Starshoes so got to sit at the Cool Table & flog my book with him & other Interactive Monsters.

this is also happening

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Taking over hosting SPEAK from the beautiful poet Deborah Emmanuel who’s leaving for Brisbane…so she and I will be featuring here, and I will be hosting along with Vanessa Victoria, and Deborah will also be performing with her dub band Wobology afterwards. It will be intense, it will be a party, it will be emotional, it will be my first big poetry set in Singapore in 2014, it will be glorious. 

also….I got a really nice review in Sabotage Reviews for my last UK set of 2013 at the Quiltbag Cabaret in Oxford! 

and it was something of a stonker, my notes at this point being punctuated with little doodles of hearts and emphasis given by liberal use of the adjective ‘fucking’, as it wasn’t enough to say it was ‘wonderful’, I apparently had to say it was ‘fucking wonderful’…..And it really was fucking wonderful. With Dogfoot‘s poems conjuring a kind of matter-of-fact magic, full of warm, everyday rhythms and rhymes – aspects of life exaggerated or distilled to their most joyous, beautiful and/or ridiculous.”

oh yeah and another thing

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So I am i currently working my arse off for this freaking amazing production called Mass Hysteria, a spoken word show with 7 incredible talented women. Its on 23RD JANUARY THIS THURSDAY at the Substation an part of the Singapore Biennale. One night only, $15 per ticket. Its all about growing up in girls’ schools in Singapore, from etiquette classes to detention to being caught for black sports bras, so if you went to school with me you will probably be offended. But don’t let that deter you.  https://www.facebook.com/events/659961320708568/

….and the day before ON JANUARY 22nd WEDNESDAY…. I have become a host for SPEAK: a spoken word/open mic night at the Home Club. This will be my first hosting a gig in Singapore. But not the last. Featuring Victoria Lim, Singapore Slam Champion of 2013 and National Arts Council Golden Point Award Poetry Prize winner, and Scott Wings, one of Australia’s top slam poets from Brisbane now on tour in Southeast Asia.

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2013 The Year of All The Things

Here are 13 really, really,mindblowingly Nice Things to do with Poetry that I was blessed/lucky/privileged/deserved to be/really really fucking glad to be part of in 2013:

[in semi-chronological order wherever possible]

[massive massive thank you to everyone who remembers and/or was part of any of the following and for making it great]

1. Featured at the Singapore Arts House’s New Word Order Series
Someone at the Singapore Arts House decided to invite me to get interviewed by and answered questions with poet Marc Nair and performed poems in-between. It was my first paid gig in Singapore with most of my family there, plus old school friends, new friends, and random strangers. Someone called me a cultural icon (NO YOU CANNOT GO AROUND SAYING THINGS LIKE THAT FARHAN) Felt really really a lot like a Legitimate Poet.

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2. Forget What You Heard (About Spoken Word) bloody took off in a huge way.
It went from a small, humble cozy one-month old open mic night in January to an explosion of awesome. THANKS A MILLION EVERYONE BUT ESPECIALLY MATT CUMMINS FOR MAKING IT HAPPEN. We had our first review in Sabotage Reviews, and word of our reputation as ‘London’s friendliest open mic night’ spread far and wide. We had a Saturday afternoon show, pulled off an Edinburgh show, killed it as a spoken word segment of a Freshers Party at SOAS Freshers Week, and had poets from as far away as Vancouver, Singapore and Oxford come and feature. Most of all, we grew a sweet community around us and made some incredible friends this year that we couldn’t have met otherwise. The night now has a podcast, website and a legendary banner. Leaving it as a host was kind of like letting a small bird you raised from an egg fly away. But how it flies. Fly far, Matt and Rikki.

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3. The Poetry World Cup (Coupe du Monde), Paris
Had the huge ridiculous opportunity to go to Paris to represent the UK in the Poetry World Cup, to perform poems in English front of lots of French people in a big theatre in the heart of Chinatown together with lots of poets from different countries in over a dozen languages. Also, get really ridiculously inspired, eat oysters with a Swedish poet, laugh at dead people at that famous cemetery with poets from Finland and Portugal, look for mattresses to sleep on and find wine instead at 4AM with the poets from Israel and America, get trapped at an intense French party with the Norwegian poet, laugh at Monty Python references with the Danish poet, make some cool videos, perform a poem while French Contemporary dancers danced to it through interpretive dance, paint poetry on fences and drink large amounts of really cheap Leffe Blonde beer in the sun with everyone else and Matt Cummins.
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4. The Mind Gang
I was a poet-terrorist superstar for a season or two. Teamed up with Jason Pilley to write, choreograph and perform The manifesto, in what someone described as the Grand Theft Auto of performance poetry. Toured almost all the London poetry stages to bring it to the masses, ending up in a warehouse in Ruislip where my  friend Sky managed to catch us on video.
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5. ALL THE FESTIVALS
Arghhh…somehow ended up performing at the Glastonbury Festival’s Poetry and Words Stage this year. I didn’t believe it until I was actually there. It was kind of nuts camping with some of my favourite poets in the world at the most massive music festival in the world, and meeting new poets who would soon also become my other favourite poets in the world, walking/running/dancing/slipping through this great huge fantasyland with more poets. Also performed at the magical  Small World Festival Tribal Voices fire for the first time in May, then August with Space Girl’s Poetry Salon where I hosted a poetry bonfire containing poets much greater than me, and stayed up till dawn with all kinds of characters (real and fictional), made a totally worthwhile great escape from Montenegro to get to slide in more mud in my sandals at the rollicking poetry takeover of the Nozstock Festival, and ended the summer amidst rain and shadow puppets at the Over the Moon Festival with Kate Walton and the Poetry Salon.

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6. Edinburgh Free Fringe, v.2.0
Went back to Edinburgh with an improved show with the same title as last year, and killed it, even if I stopped caring who saw it. Stayed in a flat filled with poets who had a knack for randomly breaking into spontaneous 90s dance parties. Brought a suitcase full of law text books to Edinburgh. Studied for law exam re-sits during my free afternoons at the Fringe. One of the above is a lie. I swore I would not return, but my second time round in Edinburgh was a lot more fun, and less frightening. It helped that I knew many more people from last year and took it all a lot less seriously. Did my show, hosted Forget What You Heard’s Edinburgh edition, did tech for David Lee Morgan’s show (and basked in the glory when it got 4 stars), loved on the sisterhood of the Other Voices Cabaret, ran around to like a hundred other open mic spots and the BBC Slam and spent my first twenty-pound bucket donation on a round of overpriced Carlsbergs organic aubergines.

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7. Judging the Roundhouse Slam
Spent three Wednesdays stressing with the legends who are Zena Edwards and John Berkavitch over how to decide which of many amazing talented young poets was best. Then we had to explain to them how to get better. We all gave different answers. Go figure. But I was blown away by so many of them, especially since I didn’t start performing till I was about 21, and the Roundhouse is a sweet place to perform.

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8. Performing in Different Cities in the UK
I wanted to see where and how many places in the UK this poetry thing could take me to in 2013. A fair number, it turned out. I saw Bristol (performing then staying in a re-purposed school with Space Girl and others), Birmingham (Kate Walton’s I am Blackbird, U of Birmingham’s Grizzly Pear with Ben Norris, Hit the Ode with Bohdan Piasecki), Oxford (Hammer & Tongue and the Quiltbag Cabaret), Aberdeen (Demented Eloquence, a really cool scene and they want more poets from southernly places!), Manchester (Black and Asian Writers Conference), Margate (Big Talk in the 2nd smallest theatre in the UK [apparently the smallest is too small to see]).

9. The Black and Asian Writers Conference
I got invited to speak on a panel for the first time at the 7th Cultureword Black and Asian Writers Conference. A panel called ‘Women in the Spotlight’. It was freaking powerful discussing race and exclusion and gender and how it is being a person of Asian descent performing in the UK honestly in a safe/inspiring environment with lots of other writers. I never got to do that all that much in London, come to think of it. Also, getting to meet the cool people who run the Commonword organization which promotes and publishes writers of colour. Also, saw a double rainbow.

10. Germany Tour
Went on a tour of Germany for a month because the German poetry scene is MEGA HUGE AND AMAZING AND THEY LOVE INTERNATIONAL POETS SO EVERYONE SHOULD TRY AND DO A POETRY TOUR THERE. Was a sacrificial poet and stayed up till 4AM then watched a poets football match at 7AM at the German National Slam, performed in about 11 cities, rode many trains, got used to getting free alcohol/accommodation/Euros for performing poetry, hung out with Harry Baker in a forest, made a ton of new friends, figured out the organized-chaos way that poetry nights just come together epically in Germany, played a lot of table football, learnt that German poets are some of the friendliest people in the universe, learnt that ‘dogfoot’ in German is ‘hundesfusse’, found that you could tell a lot about a poem by the audience reaction (expressions, type of laughter, type of silence) without understanding a single word. Oh yeah, and unicorn and gorilla mascots are a thing among certain German slam teams.

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11. Hammer and Tongue Hackney
Co-hosted and promoted bigged up the Hammer and Tongue Hackney Slam  figuring out by trial and error and much hilarity how to host with a huge variety of wickedly talented poets like Sam Berkson, Raymond Antrobus and Adam Kammerling. Got to do a feature at it in April, supporting Tim Clare. I think we were described as representing ‘the full spectrum of awkwardness’ in one night. If that is not a compliment I don’t know what is. Also got to see a huge range of incredible performers including Ross Sutherland, Kat Francois and Ian Keteku. Also saw Errol McGlashan smash everything and win the championships. It lives on.

12. Bang Said the Gun
Was really cool to be the Bang Said the Gun’s Poet-in-Residence in April, a chance to be part of the Bang Said the Gun night for a month and get to know the crew especially Rob Auton, Peter Hayhoe, Dan Cockrill, Laurie Bolger and lots of other poets. Not to mention, David and his baked goods. It was also a great honour to get to do a feature set there as my last gig in London.

13.  Reims European Slam, France
Possibly the best way to spend a last weekend in London: leave for a European Poetry Slam in Reims, [pronounced ‘kharms’ the last time I checked], France, part of an annual European Poetry Festival, straight from the last-gig-in-the-UK in Oxford on zero hours of sleep, meet like 20+ poets from Sweden/Spain/Turkey/Belgium/Italy/Germany/France/Estonia/ Poland and Harry Baker, rep the Britain in the most intense slam of my life in a library then visiting a cathedral then running to an opera house to put on a corset and make up and a skirt and a glass of champagne as part of a Poetry Boudoir (imagine a brothel in Paris in the 1930s, but with poetry instead of sex) (and if anyone even thinks the phrase YOLO ever crossed my mind once in this time, I will personally slap you), ending with a sweet party at someone’s house with dancing and French onion soup. Learnt this great phrase “if you can’t understand the poem, FEEL the poem.”

reims

the Seriously-Back-In-Singapore-For-Realz Post

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this is Fiddle, one of our cats. he lives in Singapore, too.

Yes friends I am no longer in London. I have made it back to Singapore safely and I shall be living, writing and performing here for the next few years. Its still too early to comment on ‘what its like’ here because I have only been back 2 weeks but I have met some pretty freaking amazing inspiring people and am meeting more and more every day. I have been to two poetry nights so far, destination: INK and SPEAK (which I am going to start co-hosting in the coming months). One thing I will say is, the poetry scene in London and the people in it were awesome but it is a whole other mind-blowing experience getting to hear poetry/stories from people who grew up in the same place you did, with similar accepted reference points, (OCCASIONALLY) similar accents and not to have to explain myself. Interestingly, the Singapore spoken word scene seems to be quite female-dominated. It will be an exciting ride ahead.

Oh, and I am going to take part in a  slam that will take place over Skype that is organized by poets in  Portugal on January 10. So essentially, a Poetry Slam in Portugal over Skype. This is a good reason for me to get Skype at last. When I get it I will let you all know my Skype name so we can all chat on Skype like regular proper globalized members of the 21st century at last.

I also have a gig next Saturday. Its a benefit for a poet here that I have not met yet whose name is Jocelyn Suarez who is suffering from Steven-Johnsons syndrome and has been in the hospital for a month, to raise funds for her hospital bills. I do, however, feel as though I have met her  because I have said hi into phones recording videos for her at the two poetry nights that I went to that she couldn’t be at.

If you’re in Singapore, its:
4 January, Saturday
3.30PM-9.30PM
The Home Club 20 Upper Circular Road, The Riverwalk B1-01/06, Singapore 058416
Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/579301542142675/

Finally, London nostalgia! If you liked the 29 poem, here is  a musical ode to the 29 bus that my friend/comrade/fellow poet/the first person I butchered and ate roadkill with wrote and filmed last June. It was a brilliant night. See if you can spot me! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgyZPePy9Q0

all roads lead to Bielefeld

you know how you show up in a German city because someone told you you could perform there, and its in a concert venue, and you find yourself surrounded by 7 amazing German slam poets, and an audience of several hundred, and then it occurs to you that er, maybe you should have learnt some German before you got there?

Yeah that.

Anyway I am on this tour of Germany until the end of November and it is amazing and insane. The thing I like about about Germany is that I can say “yah” here instead of “yeah” and no one judges me. And the phrase “fly like an eagle” is a joke here because eagles sounds like igles, which are hedgehogs. And you can be wandering around somewhere like Munich and wander into something awesome like a CAT CAFE. I have performed in Ulm, Munich and Mannheim and am now in the little city of Bielefeld where the German National Poetry Slam is happening.  There is apparently rumour in Germany that the city doesn’t actually exist. But it definitely does, at least for the next few days because over 100 slam poets from around the country have descended upon it to compete and party. The finals are said to have an audience of 1200, and that is small compared to two years ago in Hamburg where there were about 4000 people watching.

Yes, the German slam scene is big. Really big. Big on a scale that still cannot be fathomed by someone who has mostly performed in the UK (ie, me). Big on a scale that poets I meet here cannot fathom how ” the UK is such a big country and English such a beautiful language! what do you mean you don’t have hundreds in your national slam? or thousands of people in your audience? or money to send slammers on nationwide tours?!”

Big in the sense that many people here actually do see poetry slams as  worthy weekend entertainment, as the might standup comedy, and in some cities people were queuing up for an hour otuside of clubs and libraries to get into some of the gigs I went to. To the point I had a moment of panic like “argh! I’m not actually that entertaining! I am not worthy of this! I thought slam poets were supposed to be unpopular and unknown and awkward and begging for audiences! What is this?!”  But maybe thats the point. We ARE worthy.

Basically, shit works here. Long story short, spoken word poets have managed to convince the general public that they are awesome and deserved to be seen. And they deliver, work together, network and people love it. The result is that you can make a living as a slam poet here, and be respected, and audiences are massive. And someone like me can go from city to city to perform. The word people in other countries use to describe here is ‘organized’. Its not. It just less rubbish than other places. Poets here can be as chaotic as the those the UK, but they are also more chilled out, and things seem to sort themselves out in the end. At least, that’s how it looks like most of the time. I dont actually know the magic ingredient to why slams are so popular here, but I do know poets in Germany take the competition aspect as lot less seriously than people in the UK. Of course they want to win, and of course it sucks to lose, but ultimately, I think a lot of it is about community, and friendship as much as it is about entertaining an audience. I think I remember someone saying last night something along the lines of how he thought the German Nationals were a lot about a chance to meet old friends once a year and party with them for four days, more so than being The One Champion On Their Own.

I think its for this reason the closest experience I have to compare this massive national slam to (maybe, if forced to find one, the closest the UK has to this kind of feeling) would be the kind of mad kinship I experience at the Edinburgh free Fringe Festival each year when like over half the spoken word and slam poets from London go up toScotland to gig and do shows and commiserate and celebrate and actually get a chance to talk to one another, and meet poets from other parts of the UK and remember that amazingly talented slam poets exists outside of London as well, and of course party until 5AM every night and plot world domination and go back down south with new friends and memories .

So far I am getting by with my English poems and minimal German, and have a lot to thank last years champion Pierre Jarawan for organizing this for me. Its been an exciting, nerve wracking experiment in figuring out what audiences with English as their second language will enjoy and get. I guess I have experience doing this in slams in France and Belgium, but its a different thing performing sets or being a sacrifice each night. Surprisingly the 29 poem is going down quite well, and more German people than you think know of the Daily Mail.