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Gremlins and molehills

My home is the stage, or so I thought. Nobody wants to hear me, besides, I’m not allowed to say what I think.

This was me, aged 21 after discovering that performance poetry was the one place where I couldn’t be shot down. The one place where I wasn’t being told that I wasn’t good enough. The one place I wasn’t compared to someone my family or peers knew. The only place where I could speak my mind and people had to listen.

The stage is my home, I don’t get nervous, I come alive when I’m centre stage. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Having written and rewritten my piece for Man Up, my confidence level was always around 8 – 10 on any given day in practice mode. I’ll be just fine for the shows, do what I gotta do.

Somehow the closer I got to the shows, an old gremlin spoke up and asked, “What if I mess up?” Fear of failure, fear of not meeting expectations, fear of letting others down had all shackled me for most of my years. Despite my confidence in my ability to deliver, it caused me to practice even harder right up to the last minutes before I was to step into the limelight.

Despite controlled recovery from a few stumbles, I beat myself up for the rest of the first show. I told myself it was awful, that my part was the weakest out of the solos. I told myself that the crowd didn’t want to hear me talk about race and masculinity, they came for the stories from people like them. They didn’t want someone to rhyme at them with all those hand motions. I told myself a lot of things. Somehow the rest of the cast didn’t see it like I did. They told me they saw me come alive, they heard my passion, they told me they had to remember to hold their applause.

I arrive at the mid-point of a series of performances, so far two nights, two sold-out shows. I was better this time, not perfect but better in the second show. Self-awareness can be destructive at times, yet with 3 shows to go, I realise the importance of embracing the bright. Take the microphone away from the gremlin and make your voice count in a good way.

I’ve got two shows in one evening before the final performance a day later. What matters most? The simple truth is my story is being heard in a way that only I can tell it. At some point I’ll tell it again without the production values, I might even give you the extended version. Simple truths about the best of what I’m doing matter more than amplifying minor faults. Knowing the mountains from molehills will take you far.

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Bucket Lists & Passions

Though for many it the season of Coca-Cola trucks, mistletoe and Mariah Carey on repeat. It has become a tradition for me to look back at the year then choose a new playlist of sorts for the next 12 months. The aim? To get used to the new or improved grooves ahead of schedule.

2015 has undoubtedly been categorised by the word “expansion”. While poetry has been a muscle exercised a little less this year, I have experienced joy in unexpected areas such as fitness and photography.  Having taken pictures like the one below (see more photos here), it seems I am stumbling into another of my father’s footsteps.



This year, music has been a trumpeted passion that has somewhat overtaken my poetic inclinations.

Through my 8-month-old music review blog 7ish, I now know more about myself as a writer and the scale of knowledge required to grow during the next season.

Of the bucket list aspects of the year, a handful of concerts that encompassed two of my all-time influences namely Kirk Franklin and Talib Kweli means they can be ticked off. To see Saul Williams would complete the triumvirate of my creative bucket list.

As poetry is a muscle that must be exercised to be maintained, a greater output is on the cards.

Thanks for sticking with me


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It’s been quiet.

Since posting my last piece “Clock watching” you may be forgiven for thinking I’d dropped off the face of the planet.

That said, I was in preparation for my 3rd assault on the poetry slam at the Audlem Music and arts festival which took place on May 21st. Like a boxer going to training camp before a fight, I too go into a period of hibernation. In this period where the focus is solely on the pieces that I would use for my rounds, the biggest battle was between those crafted with a strong metaphoric presence, and simpler content sprinkled with poetic elements. In the end I delivered 3 rounds of poetry that showcased my versatility as a writer and performer.

The internal battle raged despite choosing the 3 pieces early on, the temptation to chop and change my poems was hard to resist. At one point I had 5 poems with a further two as back up if nerves caused me to forget one. For once I stuck to the plan!

Although I found myself in a constant cycle of editing 2014’s “Flagged Offside”, a poem written for week 11 of the 52 week challenge, it was the highest scoring poem of the first round. In honesty, I thought it was my least creative piece of the 3 and might see me scrape through.  Maybe it was the perfectly timed action of ripping open my shirt to reveal a Manchester United jersey that swung it in my favour.

My 2nd round performance was of Clock Watching, a poem that hasn’t seen an open mic yet one that took me through as best runner – up. The best poem of that round belonged to a poet called Nick Lovell with his tightly written war tale. As classic spoken word rhyme patterns go – he had that round in his grasp. Nick eventually finished 3rd.

If you’ve seen me perform live then typically my poem Dear Caramel will make an appearance. This was left for the final round as I decided to trust my newer work and then bring it home with that one. Yet like Usain Bolt pulling up with a muscle injury with 5 metres to go, I knew I’d lost it when I stumbled at penultimate line.. I’d wanted to win so badly, though with this only being my 4th slam, I was encouraged by many that  being 2nd is an achievement that I should be proud of.

Legendary Liverpool Football club manager Bill Shankly talked of first being first and 2nd being nowhere. That is precisely how I felt for a few days after.. On reflection, losing by half a point, to “Spoz” a former poet laureate that I’ve known since 2004 when I was new to spoken word, is a “good” loss. He was flawless and that has to be applauded.

A slam victory remains on my poetic bucket list amongst other things. For now, the ink has been allowed to drip again and I’m hoping it doesn’t stop this year.

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End of Season Wrap

Welcome to my end of year wrap, by the time you read this, it may well be 2015 where you are. If so, blessings of the season to you.

For me 2014 has been the punchline to 2013, a season of reaping and new seeds sewn.

On July 27th 2013 I got engaged, like the obligatory red rag to a bull, the creator in me was fully immersed in all creative aspects other than the wedding dress. Feel free to read the story of the engagement and see highlights of the day.

Late on 2013 I also realised that I’d been in a creative hole topically. In order to rediscover my creativity, I made the decision to mine something other than my relational past for poetry. The feeling of emptiness and reduced output was short-lived as I dipped into the 52 week challenge, a Facebook led year of weekly prompts. Although the ghost of relational past made a brief appearance with “19 stone smile”, I was able to dip into childhood and cast an eye on nature amongst other things. In the 2 months, I also returned to my early topical roots with Oscar Pistorius, Mike Brown and Eric Garner being referenced.

With the wedding planning being my 24/7 occupation, poems such as “The Invitation” and “Ivory Blues” were born.

Knowing that friends and family would expect poetry to feature in my subsequent speech, I wanted to craft one of my best ever pieces. Having resisted the urge to use lines that came to me on poems that could turn out to be the new “Dear Caramel” or “Inception”, it seemed to go well. I’ll post the text of the full 20 minute speech and some of the audio in another blog.

I hope you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read this year and hope you continue with me during the next.

I leave you with two words that encouraged me today “Be purposeful”


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Xpressions Radio – BAD BOYZ KITCHEN – OPEN MIC

I haven’t performed poetry to an audience since my last poetry video but after a twitter recommendation I checked out Xpressions Radio – BAD BOYZ KITCHEN – OPEN MIC. I listened to some great poetry called in and blessed the mic with “Dear Caramel” a piece that needs to be heard if you’ve not heard it already. I hope to bring something as often as I can so poets, lets support each other.


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