Monday, 8 July 2019

Welsh Tour with Nescio Ensemble

It's too easy to throw yourself into new, scary experiences and muddle yourself through instead of truly throwing yourself in head first and absorbing everything you can along the way. When the experience is over, it feels natural to quickly snap back into reality so that the experience settles into a far away half-dream, and you go on unchanged. Writing this post is a way for me to reflect on the recent week I spent with Nescio Ensemble, a 13-person classical string orchestra from the Netherlands, on their Welsh tour.

We spent the week at Chapel Cottage Studio, a beautiful self-built open home and artists' retreat nestled in the middle of the Welsh countryside. Spending the week outside of my city-reality, surrounded by farm animals and the sounds of violins was idyllic. It also served as a reminder of the importance of stepping outside of yourself, to talk and eat with strangers from different walks of life to you, and the ways this can enrich your perspective of your own life and environment. 

Before our first gig, we spent an intense day and a half rehearsing. Taking my poetry and their music apart and working to make them fit as one coherent performance. We worked to modify the music and my words to accommodate each other. We were all surprised by how naturally they fitted together; their instruments amplifying and complimenting my words, my words adding another layer of meaning to their set. The more I write and perform, the more comfortable I am with sharing this part of myself with people who are complete strangers — I thrive on this strange intimacy.

Over the week we performed 9 gigs in different parts of Wales; from small village churches to city architects' offices. Before the tour, I knew nothing about classical music. To be honest, I thought of it in a generalised, stereotypical way as being snobby, intimidating and 'not for me', an attitude I think many share. Nescio, though, an innovative group of passionate and talented musicians, have encouraged me to think of the genre in a different light. The ensemble break down the barriers between performer-audience and challenge the formal conventions of classical performances. Each song is introduced to the audience and explained with a personal approach. Nescio also seek to collaborate with artists of different mediums on their tours (luckily this time they found me!) and aim to create something unique to bring to their audiences. They were all clearly very passionate about bringing classical music to everyone, especially those, like me, who viewed it as not for them or inaccessible. I think their personal approach, performing outside of the typical concert hall environment and the fact that most of the gigs were free to attend helped to make our performances more accessible. 

Performing with the ensemble was a completely different experience to how I'm used to performing. Instead of just getting up, reading a piece from start to finish then moving onto another, my pieces were picked apart and spread out between musical interludes. I had time to really savour the experience, to reflect on how the music was informing the words and how the audience were reacting.   It was a challenge for me to bring my work to people that may not be my typical audience, or knowing that many would have been attending primarily for the music and not for my poetry. But our audiences listened intently and gave useful, positive feedback post-concert.

Lately I've been lucky to work on some collaborative projects. This year I've worked on other music collaborations, made videos and co-written an audio story. It's opened me up to the different ways in which my work can grow and develop under the influences of others. With the ensemble, my performance was more than just standing up and reading but a shared experience between us as performers and our connection with the audience. I'm certain that my work and myself personally will benefit from the tour and everything I learned along the way.

You can watch Nescio's Vlogs of the tour on their channel

Monday, 20 May 2019

Exciting Announcement!!

I'm super excited to be joining the team at Where I'm Coming From Cardiff, alongside the inspirational Hanan Issa and Durre Shahwar. WICF is a Cardiff open mic that was created to predominantly promote the work of local BAME writers, but also includes everyone. I've been attending the open mic since it started a couple of years ago, and it's been a big part of me finding myself as a writer and helping to build confidence in reading my work aloud. At WICF I'll be managing social media accounts and generally helping to host and organise events... we're already planning some exciting events and projects. Below is a quote used on the WICF page to introduce myself as the newest team member!

Sunday, 12 May 2019

In Bloom Music Collaboration 

I'm super excited to share my poem, In Bloom, transformed into beautiful, ambient music as part of a collaboration between Goodparley and Lucent Dreaming! In Bloom featured in the debut issue of Lucent Dreaming, and the project will see 5 other creative writing pieces transformed by the talented Oli of Goodparley. We launched the collaboration at Lucent Dreaming's first birthday event, where I read some new poems and Oli played a mesmerising music set. You can read a cover of the event on Creative Cardiff

You can also stream In Bloom from Spotify below. The poem was inspired by the old wive's tale that many of us were told as kids - that if you ate a seed or the pip of fruit it would grow inside of you. I experimented with the idea of this in a literal sense, as in the poem two sisters eat sunflower seeds and wait patiently to bloom, before sprouting stems and petals from their skin and mouths. The lovely illustration that sits with the poem is by Jannat Ahmed. Thanks to Goodparley for transforming In Bloom so beautifully, hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

On Feeling like You're not Good Enough

The make ups of the society we live in, with all the instant access to information we carry around in our pockets, can make it difficult to feel confident and value your achievements. Spending 3 hours of your day on Instagram or Twitter (thank you Screen Time for telling me how many hours of my life I will never get back) tells you that everyone is doing better than you, looks better, is achieving things you'll never achieve. When self-care has become another marketing tool for bath bombs and face masks, how do we learn to genuinely nourish our self worth?

Confidence is a tricky thing to master. Particularly when it comes to withstanding the inevitable setbacks of life. Egos are fragile, and when things don't go your way, the easiest option is to either put the blame on someone else, or yourself. As an aspiring Poet, rejection is something that I'm going to have to get very cosy with. Submitting my work to journals and entering competitions can be a difficult process, with most submissions ending up as rejections. I'm certainly no master of confidence, but here are some things that help me along the way.

Check yourself. That niggly voice in the back of your mind thrives on anxiety. Whatever you're feeling nervous about, it will latch onto. Writing this blog post, part of me is thinking that nobody cares what I have to say. In social situations, it tells you that you're an outsider, that people just tolerate you. It wants you to think your work is never good enough, that you shouldn't even show it to anyone for fear of pure embarrassment. Its focus on what is lacking can suffocate the positives. It's important to recognise that nothing will ever be good enough to satisfy the voice. After poetry readings I often feel a weird mixture of feeling both dejected and exhilarated, wanting to do it over again but better, because I'm disappointed with my performance. This energy can be turned into a positive thing, a way of figuring out where there's room for improvement. Instead of putting a lid on this voice and trying to stifle it, why not confront it? Reason with it. I feel this way after a reading because I can do better, but I'm still learning and improving each time. So I might not be the best performer but how about how much better I've got at projecting my voice? People just listened to me talk for 15 minutes straight and actually looked interested! 

Celebrate all of your achievements. Even the tiniest ones. When you achieve something it's easy to look around and think your achievement is minuscule compared to what others are achieving. But every single achievement is progression that is getting you closer to where you want to be, and everyday achievements are important too. Completed your first post-uni job application? Had a particularly bad mental health day and managed to take a shower? It's important to take a moment to think about what you've achieved, and reflect on how far you've come.   

Practice true self care. This means different things for everybody, but I think it mostly comes down to taking time to yourself to re-charge and re-fuel. Don't let yourself get burnt out. Feed yourself properly. This is easier said than done, but there's this toxic ideology that glamorises the idea that you need to be constantly grafting to be a good worker, up at the crack of dawn doing yoga and drinking a freshly Nutri-bulleted Kale smoothie, never taking a break, working into the night. This may be your bag, but I know that for me, I need to take some time to gain a new perspective when I've got a lot on my plate. I'm definitely going to write a better 500 words of that essay after 8 hours sleep than I would sleep-deprived at 3AM after completing a load of other tasks I've set myself for the day. 

See rejection as part of the process. Setbacks are inevitable, and sometimes they hit where it hurts. Being able to take on board criticism and use it to grow and improve is only going to move you forward. Sometimes things happen which put you on a different trajectory than where you thought you were going, and it's ok to wallow in it for a little bit. But ensure that you're able to pick yourself up, adapt to new changes, and you'll still get to where you need to be.       

Your voice is unique and valuable. Probably the most important thing I've started to learn this past year is to have confidence in my voice and my perspective. Everybody battles with imposter syndrome. Your voice is truly unique to you, nobody else has all of the same little components that shape you, therefore what you bring to the table is always valid. Having confidence in your opinion is such a vital thing to carry forward, both socially and professionally. Others may have more authority than you, speak with greater assurance and experience or have a louder voice than you, but this shouldn't silence you. Your perspective needs to be represented and understood. 

Friday, 8 March 2019

International Women's Day 2019

Happy International Women's Day! In celebration, I'm sharing my poem, Lady in Pink. The poem explores the ways in which women are connected to each other, through the lens of a chance encounter on a train. You can find the video of me introducing and performing the poem below, which was shot and edited by Matt Ashwell. I'll also be reading poems this evening at Lush Cardiff's Goddess event!

I think it's really important to emphasise how International Women's Day should be celebrated intersectionally, inclusive of all kinds of women, including women of colour, trans women, non-binary people, disabled and neurodivergent women, as well as everybody in between. Fighting against the odds is hard enough as it is, we're stronger together. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

In Bloom

My poem In Bloom was originally published in the debut issue of the beautiful Lucent Dreaming magazine. When writing it, I was thinking of the old wives tale that many of us were told when we were young, that if you ate the pip of an apple or other fruit, it would plant and grow inside of you. You can also read my interview with Lucent Dreaming here. Hope you enjoy!


In Bloom

In the summer, we would eat 
handfuls of sunflower seeds.
Wait patiently for them to plant
themselves into our intestines,
root, feed, grow.

My sister wanted to sell hers
on Portobello Road.
Bouquets for men to take home
for their wives,
a piece of herself blooming
in stranger’s homes.  

Hers grew first,
green shoots sprouting
from the skin of her forearm.
She said she could feel the stems
intertwining with her spine. 

I imagine her now, 
her curls under a straw hat,
at the flower market
on Portobello Road.
As I pick yellow petals
from the gaps in my teeth.

Latest Instagrams

© Taylor Reads & Writes. Design by FCD.