Archives for posts with tag: Polish

13512027_10153907518773401_286957910405027_nI’m a poet. I ‘m trying to write a poem about the sea for the lovely Beautiful Dragons Not A Drop project. I wanted this blog to be about writing. I’m also a Pole, by birth and heritage. I have always felt a European. After 2 world wars, the war in Ireland and then the war in what was Yugoslavia it’s so obvious to me what Europe needs is to build even more closeness within itself while at the same time reaching out to other continents, cultures around the world, working together to help refugees who have lost so much, working together for civil liberties, for equality, for a sustainable, healthy environment .

This morning the results of the U.K referendum came in with a shocking (albeit narrow) majority wanting to leave Europe. I say Europe because I don’t for a second believe the vote was about the merits or defects of EU institutions. Will those on the Left or feminists who naively thought they were voting against a capitalist or patriarchal club now realise who they have jumped into bed with? As for those who voted to leave in order to curb immigration I have never known what to say to them. They never wanted the likes of me to enter Britain in the first place. They have conveniently been offered an Other to blame and jumped at that offer. Without Johnny Foreigner everything will be all right.

Today I can’t sit still, can’t concentrate on anything. Walking to the shops from work I wanted to stop everyone I passed & say have you heard? How can you just carry on as normal? Two men behind me were saying to each other: we could move to Scotland… The exercise of the referendum has back-fired on the Tory Prime Minister who has resigned today. David Cameron should have read his history books. In the 1930’s the German Right believed they could use and manage Hitler.  Before long he had outmanoevered, over-powered or simply got rid of them.We already know Cameron’s successor will be even worse than he was. This referendum campaign to leave Europe was conducted by stirring up xenophobia and racism – perhaps these forces were never that far below the surface. That’s what’s so frightening and upsetting. Now they have been given a green light.

In this climate the Labour M.P Jo Cox was murdered last week by a man reportedly shouting ‘Britain First!’ who has alleged links to white supremacist groups and in court called himself : ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’ . Her husband urged people to fight ‘the hate that killed her’. I can’t imagine what he and her family are going through.

13497858_10154493451523646_7489450108758851598_oMy phone hasn’t stopped today with everyone I know feeling some version of absolutely gutted. What should we do, as the clocks get turned back further and further, not only in the U.K but elsewhere? I don’t know. Grieve, feel shocked, feel our hearts break, go numb, feel tired? Remember how we were once bullied as children (in my case for being different/Polish) and find ways to heal and feel less helpless as adults now, have parties, paint, build, have sex, sing, dance, swim, grow veg, play ball, play music, paint our toe nails, go for walks, hide under the duvet, sleep, swear, spit, watch TV, turn off the TV, organise, protest, eat ice-cream? Raise money, love each other, hug our kids, hug each other, stick together, let off steam, be angry, get furious, livid, raging, think together, cry our eyes out together, believe in love, in friendship, translate, talk to each other, reach out, read books from other countries, write more poems? In what order? I don’t know. Maybe the order doesn’t matter. But let’s not shrug and say ‘Oh well..’ Let’s not be British about this.

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A New Year! It’s a whole new year and I have been busy launching my new book At The Library of Memories published by Waterloo Press as well as being involved in Queer in Brighton the exciting new heritage project. That’s my excuse for not doing all those things like detox/exercise programs people do in January. Now it’s February, so it’s probably too late to start them anyway…

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But I have been making lots of public appearances, which is how I’ve come to think about what (not) to wear. If you are reading this you too may be wondering what to do about that old blue jumper or even whether artists should concern themselves with fashion…

All these questions will be answered but first I must digress. There is a scene in the Devil Wears Prada where the ingénue intern, hapless Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), makes a throwaway remark to her formidable boss, Miranda Priestly (the wonderful Meryl Streep), suggesting she (Andy) doesn’t really distinguish between fashions. Miranda rounds on her. In scathing, icy tones she explains the history of the fabric, particular type of blue colour, shape and style of the very jumper Andy is wearing – its progress from designer to catwalk to high-street and second-hand shop –  making it clear that there is no free or random choice involved. A Marxist historian couldn’t have done a better job.

So no throwing on any old thing, ahistorically. We are constantly responding (hopefully sometimes creatively) to someone else’s agenda – whether in our checked shirts and DMs, monochrome tunics or frilly shirts and pixie boots…

It all goes back to that internal censor (previous blogs) who is so influential in our obsession with appearance.  Luckily, while we make choices based on a top-down communication things also happen from the bottom up. Governments get toppled, systems change, people’s perceptions change. There’s hope.

So what should you wear (to next the party, reading, event…)? Please excuse the binary nature of this advice, I know full well that gender is not binary, so you will need to self-define (always best) or read between the lines… Let’s just say I go to a lot of poetry events.  From my long observation of such occasions: Guys, do shave/trim and do ditch that baggy (blue or otherwise) jumper. Dolls: wear what the hell catches your eye and do believe you are gorgeous.

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Photo at top of page courtesy of Michaela Ridgway.

HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL

A funeral and then a visit to Warsaw since my last blog.   All that is another story…

…for now I’m still thinking about the censors inside our own heads.  Every creative workshop is about trying to outwit them. How easy it is to spoil an idea with anxiety about its success or failure.

I have two friends – let’s call them Tom and Jerry. Tom’s book has just been short-listed for a prestigious prize.  On the strength of that he’s been offered a book tour and is meeting authors and festival organisers and getting more invitations.  His confidence is buoyed up and he’s already started a new manuscript.  Jerry thought he’d got the big break when a renowned agent enthusiastically approached him for his manuscript and said he’d get a publishing contract in no time.  Three years down the line the agent is no longer returning Jerry’s calls while other agents say the book is excellent but it’s a difficult time… Jerry decides to give up writing altogether.  Life’s short and the sense of failure is making him too miserable but he then finds he can’t actually stop writing.  Something makes him keep going even though he isn’t getting anywhere…  Which of these two artists will do better in the long run?  Is it a foregone conclusion?  Will Tom become complacent and stop honing his skills or he will he blossom with all the encouragement and attention? Will Jerry become so depressed he can’t see his projects through or will rejection spur him to write even better?  What’s next?

I expect you know Tom and Jerry too.  Maybe you identify with one of them?  Tom-everybody’s-darling or Jerry the also-ran – or maybe with both of them?

We artists like to think we’re above all that.  Surely all we want is to focus on our own creativity, not worry if our work is a) any good and b) marketable.  But we do.  And there are electricity bills to pay.  And we’re living in a society utterly obsessed with success and failure.  (It should be a double noun: Successfailure.) Singing, ballroom dancing, baking, going on a date, putting an outfit together, bush tucker trials, losing weight, living in a house – everything is a competition.  One of my favourite recent books is The Hunger Games, a young adult novel by American writer Suzanne Collins – thrilling social commentary on competitiveness taken to its extreme.

So there’s something very gratifying knowing J.K Rowling got half a dozen rejections from publishers before placing Harry Potter and – at the other end of the spectrum – that Polish poet Wisława Szymborska, who died earlier this year, referred to winning the Nobel Prize as the ‘Stockholm tragedy’, because it held up her writing for a few years while she was fêted by all the media.

Why write about this slightly embarrassing and ignoble topic?  (It’s a bit like talking about an itchy infection with a nasty smell.)  Why admit to my own sleepless nights of corrosive anxiety – feeling I am the only one foolish enough to be worrying this much whether I have truly ‘nailed it/made it my own/given it 110 per cent etc’?  Why?  Because it’s there.