Monday, March 02, 2015

200 on voice: losing it / finding it / hating it

Talking to yourself is a sign of madness: conjures old women, stacked up one above the other in high rises, talking out their days to budgies, cats, to photos on bureaus—who they saw, who wore what, what needs to be done, what doesn’t. I’m early. Fifty-four & talking to the dog, to the stir fry, to the dead. Call it pre-writing, the planning out of poems and plots. I’m talking to myself. In a mangled accent: London submerged under fifteen years of America. 

Dinner at the President’s house. High art & wood paneling. Everyone talking: “snow…frozen in high schools...stand up, stand up against ignorance…ignorance. I’m chewing/rehearsing: jump in, say something now, no, now, no, now, now, no, now, now, now, no...

3:30pm interview for Bone Song. 3:23 Want to vomit. Presenter plays opening bars, introduces me, my name, my book. Dig down into Britishness, my voice for strangers. I conjure Judy Dench…Maggie Smith. Maggie, Maggie, Maggie. I jump in, say something, feel its clipped consonants, its shortened vowels. Said something else. Said something else.  Said something else.

Friends said I sounded comfortable. My sister said I sounded British…and then American.

One day I’ll sound like me. 


Monday, February 23, 2015

200 on…Listening in the Classroom

Beginner, begin with life. Don’t forget your mother,
your meds, bees. Be quiet under critique. Incredible.
“Hard to Believe”: Bone Song

It’s week three: time for Def Poetry. I need to balance the Yeats and Kinkaid I played them last week. I tell them we need to hear poems coming from poets’ mouths. watch them watch the poets. They smile at Mos Def’s sexy Shakespeare, laugh with Mali at “What Teachers Make”: they’re keen to be part of this writers’ club, to try on for size its in-jokes and distain. 

They get tense with the anger inside Yellow Rage’s “Listen, Asshole.” I love this tension. I want them to love it, too. Flow Mentalz “They Call Me Drama” moves them from tension at social commentary to tension caused by turds and semen stains and blood on white jeans. Anything’s game when it comes to subject.

When we hit Sanchez’s  Poem for Some Women,” they’re eager but unsure of how to react to this crack house, to the word Pussy, to a woman whose pussy is too loose, a woman who swaps her “pretty little girl” for crack, who returns days later with a cheap denim jacket…rape’s consolation prize.

They leave like workers from a hive, buzzing down the corridor with Def Poetry, about what poetry might be. I listen hard; I keep struggling with that question and its answer.

(Photo from

Monday, February 16, 2015

200 water bottles and childhood

Now join the silent girl and feel this breeze
that squeezes through the pane and frame and sneaks
beneath the velvet drapes.
“Point of View”: Bone Song

I was Facebook bitching about the cold evenings (will they never end?) and how mine were awash with cups of tea and hot water bottles: the marriage of a freezing house and frugality has forced a habit of tea-making with half the kettle’s boiling water hitting the teapot and the remainder topping off a hot water bottle. My evenings are eternal tea ceremonies—often a cooling hot water bottle forcing me into the kitchen before a desire for PG Tips.

Julie, an ex pat, chimed in on the thread. “Ah, the hot water bottle! Did Americans know what they were missing?” She shared her story of trying to buy one in Lynchburg and being directed to the enema section. It seems Americans don’t crave hot water for their feet; they crave it for …well, let’s just say their cravings are satisfied elsewhere.

When I was a kid, my mum, if she hadn’t caught the kettle before a full boil, would wrap the scalding rubber bottle in an old hand towel before slipping it into my bed. I couldn’t resist unwrapping mine, preferring dangerous seconds and the scald of hot rubber to the safe but unsatisfying warmth of the towel’s buffering.