Cinderella held her slippers
like a ruby pair of kippers

She was always trying to leave them places
in a room and under cases

but someone always bought them back
gave them to her in a sack

expected her to give them thanks
before they went their way.

Cinderella held her slippers
like a ruby pair of kippers.

She’d rather have a rubber ball
or a bugle perhaps a horn

But people always gave her shoes
Birthdays, Christmas back to school

She had a house-sized wardrobe full
of trainers, boots and shiny mules.

Cinderella held her slippers
like a ruby pair of kippers

and then
she put them on.

The Box

July 26, 2008

Once there was a box
but no one ever opened it
because they didn’t know what was in it.

They put it on top of a very high cupboard
where no one could see it
and it wouldn’t be a bother to anyone.

The box waited.

It waited all day and all night.
and all day and all night
and all day and all night

for years and years and years

until one day, they –
(the people in the house)
had a child – and the child
grew into a boy.

The boy loved exploring.

He explored in the kitchen and in the hallway
in the laundry and in the bathroom,
in the living room and in the bedrooms.

He explored under the stairs and in the garden
in the shed and in the parlour
under the beds and inside all the wardrobes

He explored whenever and wherever he could
and when he thought he could explore no more
he went into the spare room –

and that was when he found the box.

The box
was on the top
of the wardrobe

where the boys parents had left it

but for some reason –
even though the boy was pretty brave
he didn’t want to open it.

The boy thought of all the things
it might contain – like –

a crocodile with yellow fangs
an annaconda with a plan.

a monster made of cardboard boxes
or one made of rubber foxes
a monster made of shadowy creatures
or one made of lots of teachers

And the box waited
and the boy waited
and the box waited
and the boy waited
AND THE BOX WAITED
AND THE BOY WAITED
AND THE BOX WAITED
AND THE BOY WAITED

until at long last neither the boy or the box could wait any longer
and one night – when everyone else had gone to bed
the boy walked from his room
into the room with the box
and put a chair
up against the wardrobe
and stood on the chair
and reached up to the box
and slowly,
very, very slowly
using a blunt knife to cut the tape
opened the box up….

The Box

July 25, 2008

Once upon a time there was a box
and no one ever opened the box
because they didn’t know what was in it.
They put it on top of a very high cupboard
where no one could see it
and it wouldn’t be a bother to anyone.

The box waited.

It waited all day and all night.
And all night and all day.
and all day and all night

for years and years and years

until one day, they –
the people in the house
had a child.

The box waited.

It waited all day and all night
and all night and all day
and all day and all night

for years and years and years

until one day
the child
grew into a boy
of 12 years old.

and the boy went exploring.

He explored in the kitchen and the hallway
and the laundry and the bathroom,
and the living room and the bedrooms.

He explored under the stairs and in the garden
and in the shed and in the garage
and under the beds and inside the wardrobes

He explored whenever and wherever he could
and when he thought he could explore no more
he went into the spare room –

and that was when he found the box.

The box was on the top of the wardrobe
where the boys parents had left it
and for some reason –
though the boy was pretty brave as boys go
he didn’t want to open it.

The boy thought of all the things
the box might contain.

He thought it might contain –

a crocodile with yellow fangs
or an annaconda with a plan.

The more he looked at it
the more he felt certain that it might contain
something that he wouldn’t want to find –

like a monster made of cardboard boxes
or a monster made of sharp knives
or a monster made of shadowy creatures
or a monster made of lots of eyes

And the box waited
and the boy waited
and the box waited
and the boy waited

until at long last neither the boy or the box could wait any longer
and one night – when everyone else had gone to bed
The boy walked from his room
into the room with the box
and put a chair against the wardrobe
and stood on the chair
and reached up to the box
and slowly,
very, very slowly
using a blunt knife to cut the tape
he opened the box up….

I’m currently (would you believe) at my parents’ in Leicester. I’ve come home for my mother’s 60th Birthday, but I’m going back to Stratford tomorrow morning.

Earlier today, this afternoon, we all fed our co-lab pieces back – which in my case went better than I’d been expecting. The sex and gender group – which had started up at the open space session last week – had got very big indeed. At 14 or so people strong, all working in pretty different ways, I guess I’d been a bit worried about how we’d manage to produce something cohesive together. I’d also worried about the Cinderella Foot Fetish coming off ok.

Me and Niven (the other poet) had been working on the sections for it, whenever we could find the time – but it’d been a squeeze. The last scene was done in the tube on the way in yesterday and we hadn’t even read it through (let alone practiced performing it) until this morning. The structure of the showing we’d planned was to weave the Cinderella sections through the sex/gender themed pieces others in the group had created – but we hadn’t had time to plan how the different bits of the stage would be moved around to accommodate that. In the end we had to work that out live in front of the audience!

So, it was a worry – could have fucked up – but happily went ok. Obviously the whole thing was just a rough working of what we might do, if we decided to go further with it – but it seemed to get it across. We stuck a scene in with Saad (the amazing comedian from Pakistan) as our sex therapist, which I think really worked;) here’s an extract:

Saad
“So, Mr Charming – I’d like to try something: when I say a word I’d like you to respond with the first word to come into your head, Ok? Ok, here we go….‘Food’

Niven (as Charming)
“‘Shoes'”

Saad
“‘Home'”

Niven
“‘Shoes'”

Saad
“‘Vagina’.”

Niven
“‘Boots’.”

The man is just so good, you should have seen him – he can’t do anything without making 100 people fall in love with him! The Theatre Royal have recorded the whole thing, so I might be able to post up a bit of the live recording here.

What was good was how well all the disparate stuff seemed to fuse together. Dan (the Scottish fiddler) and Ayanna (London Cellist) played this wicked spin the bottle music game thing at the beginning, with some of the rest of us spinning the bottle for them to play to. After that everyone stayed on stage – the dancers took a partner and Dan and Ayanna played courtly ballroom for them to dance to – me and Niven came on and it started up the first Cinderella scene – with us doing our monologues in the midst of it all – it was so much fun! We ended in a similar way – but it’s really hard to explain without just showing you.

At the moment, I think it might be nice to stay with the idea and develop it further – but we’ll have to see what the best way of doing that would be. It was certainly really nice to work with the dancers and musicians – and even just looking at the Cinderella stuff me and Niven wrote, having them all in it was really, really effective.

Right, should really go to bed I guess. Weird not being at UEL to sleep. Bet the guys are up late partying again…it’s almost like I’m staying up to join in! Very sad Lydia;)

Hello everyone. So much for my well intentioned plans to post up Stratford Royal progress on a regular basis! A week in and let’s just say it’s been pretty busy. Here goes…

First of all, I’m on a train. It feels pretty groovy to be typing this as opposed to telling you on my phone ‘hey, I’m on a train’ that’s what people do though – they ring other people up on their phones and tell them. It makes the journey more interesting. For them at least:)

Anyway. I’m on a train to Gateshead. I’ve been in London for a week (which I’ll talk about in a second) but today we’re going up north. I think the plan is to do lots of creative things there – more masterclasses, co-labs (collaborative sessions), show watching, cake eating – and this is pretty much what we’ve been doing in London. It’s kind of like IFEA saying ‘look – see you do stuff in London…look – now you’re doing stuff in Newcastle! No hands!”

You’ll have to excuse me if I’m not making much sense . I haven’t really slept much since being here and was up at 5am this morning. Let me tell you what I’ve been doing:

Get up 8am. Breakfast. Leave for Stratford Royal (then, depending on the specific schedule for that day, the following, in one or other order) … masterclass, 3hrs co-lab session, see a play, see another play, lunch, dinner. Finish ‘day’ stuff at around 10am. Scratch sessions in the theatre bar. Go home and get drunk with my new homies in the kitchen. Go to bed between 2 and 3.30am. We have an impressive collection of beer and whisky bottles.

So, we’ve all been burning the candle somewhat. The drinking bit probably sounds a bit irresponsible. In a way it is but it’s also kind of part of the culture here: a device to get to know each other better, quickly. Everyone sits around in the kitchen, we play games, talk about the day, play music – on one occasion play all the kitchen cupboards and utensils like they’re instruments to jam with (20 of us) and in general get stuff out of our systems and gelled together – a bit more every night. Drinking isn’t compulsory, it just seems to happen. This week I will try and be moderate!

There are 52 of us, of which 2 are poets – myself – and a very gifted young man from Manchester, Niven Ganner. The rest are dancers, choreographers, theatre makers, playwrights, puppeteers, muscians – you name it, we’ve got them. They are also the best – or at least the top of what their country has to offer in their artform. Two French guys – Steeve and Sophian – are able to move in a way that almost defies belief. In France they are national body popping champions, and it shows. There’s a comedian from Pakistan, Saad, who has made me laugh continuously since being here. He’s just constantly hilarious and incredibly quick. We’ve got an amazing fiddler from Aberdeen who’s fiddle seems like a third arm – and a sickingly good cello player, Ayanna – who I can’t even begin to describe. As well as being one of the most attractive women I’ve ever met, she’s almost prodigal in talent. She carries her cello on her back wherever she goes like a hunter, picking her way through a forest, reaching for it like a bow and arrow. She can find the notes for anything – words, moves, looks. Everyone wants to work with her.

The days – if a bit packed, have been incredible. It’s really hard to know where to start. I’ve seen my peers show some amazing work – both their existing material but also, stuff they made in co-lab sessions. At the end of each of these we have to perform the results to everyone, so they’re not without pressure – but I’ve also not had as much fun in a long time.

It’s a hard thing to tell a large group of people to just work together and make stuff – so that’s not what the facilitators have done. Last week started with an open space session where lots of topics and areas of work were thought up. People joined individual groups (which they don’t have to be fixed to) then in the co-labs collaborate around those areas.

I’ve been working in a sex and gender group. I’ve danced the Rwanda dance for selection and seduction – and said I love you in the same language (da – goo – cunda!) I’ve done improb with a mover/mime from Amsterdam, and co-written a piece with the other poet.

This co-writing was done in yesterday’s session and is a kind of ‘Cinderella Foot Fetish’ dialogue. I’m cinderella, dealing with the deviant, foot loving leaning of my supposedly perfect Prince Charming. We’re still writing it and plan to go deeper. At the moment it’s pretty funny – but she’s going to catch him looking at foot porn on the net – and then comes the sex therapist. The aim is to start light and in the (twisted) spirit of the fairytale..but then get darker and realer -what do you do if the person you love wants something physically that you don’t?

In our co-lab session, we started to write the piece, but also worked with Dan, the musician to give the characters their voices. The words and music weave together, stop and start, change or mirror mood and tempo. It’s just been so fantastic! Before coming here I never thought so much could be achieved in 3 hours – but this process has proved that it can be.

The sex and gender group is also called “The Tantric Room”. This is Linar’s (the amazing mover/mime’s) idea from something he’s wanted to do in Amsterdam for a while. I think the group’s it’s set to get even bigger in tomorrow’s session as more people want to join it – but that doesn’t matter. We’ll work out what to do with it all later!

There is so much more to say. SO much. I haven’t even mentioned the London Liming and other spoken word things I’ve been to see at The Southbank – and I haven’t mentioned the masterclasses in any details, and oh god! – there’s just been so much that has happened! I’ll get to it in another post.

One last thing though. sorry to all those people who haven’t heard from me. I’ve wanted to get in touch – and meet those people who might have been in London – but their just haven’t been any spaces in the schedule – this train trip has been the first.

Hope you’re all good and ok with whatever’s happening where you are. Will post again soon.

Bad Days

July 2, 2008

Don’t tell me that you’ve not
had days like these,

when sun’s come up
and you’ve been

dead in blankets,
breathing dark

as sky’s blue,
shines a fist of morning hours.

Don’t tell me that you’ve never felt
your insides twist like plastic bags

your heart hammer
in its rags, your breath thicken.

Don’t tell me that the world is safe
that nothing bad will ever happen,

no ones ever left you,
that you’ve never felt

your centre crack, but –
don’t tell me that there aren’t days

to lift up in like open parks.

Where sun hangs
a golden charm – and you

won’t feel it on your skin.
Don’t tell me that sometimes

you won’t hear beats,
or cups of tea or soft sheets and

people that you love
who love you back.

Don’t tell that there’s no point.
Or tell me that –

but don’t tell it me forever.

On Route

July 2, 2008

These photos
were taken by Red Riding
on her way across the forest –

they start in summer,

(lizard green and yellow
like a salamander’s gullet)

end in Jan,

(bright teeth, lodged against the
black mouths of curved paths.)

You can’t see the girl
in any of them.
She was behind the lense.

There’s one –
that’s opened up a bowl
of tangled roots.

She took it as the wolf
had got her by the throat.

But can you see the shadow in the last?

It’s a photograph
of the blossom scattered ground –
and the detail is lost in the twigs,

but there she is –

she’s a dark shape
picking the fur
from off his skin –

sewing it in-
to a bloody coat.

Photography Show.

July 1, 2008

I was in Aberystwyth a couple of weeks ago and as I’ve done when there before, went to see an art show at the local arts centre. The show was of photographic work produced by an artist called
Pete Davis. Here’s the first piece I’ve written about it:

Photography Show.

They’re just trees: frame after frame
of photographic prints, forestry coppicing
mostly in summer – verdant, kharki,
burnt sienna, brick,
you get the picture: trees,
just, trees; yet –

I could roll my back over that hill.
Hug that horse leg stem
that’s dressed in moss,
weave a dress from grassy rugs
and wear it while I swam
in that black river.

I could bind myself in those weeds,
hang myself from those trees.
I could be Ophelia
in that brook – stream, lake, lung –
of water if I could
just press myself against

that gloss of colour –
if the guard
was in another
room.