Tuesday, 21 May 2013

At the Library of Memories: Glow Worms and Bumble Bees

Normally when I read poetry, I dip in and out of a collection, but for some reason Maria Jaztrzebska’s book At the Library of Memories, inspired me to read the poems in chronological order from front to back. And then I started to dip in and out, re-reading my favourites.

Perhaps it was the subtitles (starting with Foyer followed by Children’s Area) that seemed like different chapters to me, and made me think of a novel. And even though each poem can be read on its own, the poems become stronger when you have the full picture. A bit like looking in a photo album and connecting up memories. The collection can also be seen as a meditation on memory itself. ”By night children’s memories flicker like glow worms”.

Maria was born in Poland, but has lived most of her life in the UK and I love it how she jumps back and forth in time between her first memories of England and also thinking about her heritage. Now and again Polish words sneak their way into the poems, enhancing them. Overall I find it effortless to read the poems, the author manages to keep the poetic flow without complicating things.

There are also some very sensual poems about love as well as sexual experiences. My all time favourite is The Room of Smells, an interior garden, where the narrator is high on post sex feelings at a bus stop: ”she hates you comparing her scent to food or plants. You can’t help the way your mind runs, bumping into one fragrance after another like a great bumble bee”.

So, If you’re longing to read poetry, don’t wait. Go and find a copy of At the Library of Memories now.

Maria also has a blog.

Monday, 20 May 2013

National Poetry Slam Championship in Malmö, Sweden

The Teams in the Final: Göteborg, Malmö, Gotland & Huddinge
Amazing performances! Brilliant lyrics! Extraordinary people! No, I’m not talking about Eurovision Song Contest. I’m talking about what happened in Malmö in Sweden the weekend before Eurovision. I’m talking about the National Poetry Slam Championship. (SM = Svenska Mästerskapen = Swedish Championship)

I was happy to be one of 48 poets competing for 3 days and that I didn’t go through to the final 8 didn’t upset me too much. The point is not the point – the point is the poetry as the US poet Allan Wolf once pointed out. I had fun on stage and people found me entertaining. Just to be at the Nationals was a great honour as you had to win or come second at a local slam to be able to compete nationally. Above I’m performing a poem about shyness and the fear of saying hello.

Jamila Woods & Robbie Q Telfer
What I enjoyed most was to perform and watch the team pieces – there were 12 teams consisting of at least 3 people that were up on stage together. (I was part of the Växjö team.) You get it all: drama, a bit of singing, comedy, tragedy – and above all poetry. On top of that there were guest poets from Chicago: Jamila Woods & Robbie Q. Telfer, and for the brave ones there was an improv slam, a speed slam and a “Eurovision” slam where you were allowed background dancers and producers. Other highlights included the release of Oskar Hanska's poetry video and "the metaphor wrestling show".

"Metaphor Wrestling" 
If only media would focus half as much on the National Poetry Slam Championship as they do on Eurovision, I believe the world would be a better place. In Eurovision you’re not allowed to sing any political messages – when you’re poetry slamming no subject is too big or too small. It’s hard to write a good political poem, but some people are “naturally” political, like the National Slam Winner, Nino Mick, who is transgender and often writes about LGBTQ topics.

I find the Swedish Poetry Scene very open-minded and am truly impressed by the quality of the poems. I feared that I would stop performing poetry if I decided to stay in Sweden for a while, that it wouldn’t be possible without the support from the Brighton crowd that I’ve been part of for so many years, but now I feel inspired to write poems in both Swedish and English. And on a national level, I believe the Swedish Poetry Slam scene is better established than the English scene. As far as I know the National competitions aren’t as big in the UK. Next year the European Slam Championship is coming to Malmö!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Dress Rehearsal before the Swedish National Championships in Poetry Slam

Today I'm travelling to Malmö for the Swedish National Poetry Slam Championships. Last night my team (Jens Börjesson, Ann Dahlström & Erica Engdahl) did a dress rehearsal at Acoustic Stage in Växjö and it was all good fun trying out our team piece!

Photo: Marie Nilsson