At the start of the year, I answered a call for submissions to join Billy Pilgrim and his ragtag collection of poets on the third volume of his successful Words With Friends projects. Following a series of phone interviews with Billy Pilgrim and The Heartsease Kid I was asked to join the project and I couldn’t have been happier.
Before the project I had been trying to make the move back toward music but everything I did kept coming up short, making me very apprehensive about putting anything out. After hearing the beautiful beats produced by The Heartsease Kid, I knew this was a project that would work for me and that I would be able to lay vocals atop beats with as much confidence as I did when I was 14 ( this time it will be good I swear).
Last weekend I met all the other poets as we began recording the album. The other artists are all phenomenal and I have no doubt the album is going to be a masterpiece. I
We are in the process of planning a tour and more details on this will be announced shortly. In the mean time you can head over to the BPTHK website to listen to the previous entries in the Words With Friends series. Try not to be too sad that I am not featured on them.
A full transcript of the “Wander” poem can be read below;
All I ever hear is footsteps, footsteps, footsteps.
In front of me there’s nothing, and behind me there’s much less,
I’m calling this the future because history is dead,
but I still had to hear the screaming as those evil creatures fed.
I watched them tear limb from limb, separate bodies from heads
but they’ve since gone extinct, in rotting pieces they all rest.
All I ever see is hurt, hurt, hurt.
In front of me there’s rubble and behind me there’s just dirt.
We could not foresee the trouble that was lain upon this Earth
all this pain and struggle is probably less than we deserved,
because we thought ourselves as kings, when these godlike things emerged.
All I ever taste is pain, pain, pain.
Through the days I trudge forward but the nights turn me insane.
And so, I roll this dice and play this existential game.
But no matter how much I move, the view remains the same.
The best songwriters have an amazing gift, to work beautiful profound messages in to their music and create songs that resonate with audiences for decades. This list counts down 11 times musicians wrote truly poetic words and worked them in to their music. These are all artists and songs I really admire. Let me know what you think in the comments, and if I left any of your favourites out.
11. Watsky – Lovely Suite Things: Roses
“but you wont hold on to a shadow just by grabbing it tight, set it free and let it back in the light.”
10. Simon and Garfunkel – The sound of silence
“The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls and whispered in the sound of silence”
9. Pink Floyd – Welcome to the machine
“It’s alright we know where you’ve been. You’ve been in the pipeline, filling in time. Provided with toys and ‘scouting for boys'”
8. Scroobius Pip – Broken Promise
“when we were fighting, there used to be thunder and lightning. Ferociously frightening, a clash of the Titans. Emotions heightened, every single muscle tightened. An addiction to the thrill of the fight, the excitement.”
7. Don Mclean – Vincent
“Starry, starry night. Flaming flowers that brightly blaze. Swirling clouds in violet haze. Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue.”
6. Lupe Fiasco – Pick up the phone
“and in our prehistorics, the flowers was rooting for us. Brontosaurus ate the flowers, T-Rex are the Brontosaurus.”
5. Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
“She tied you to a kitchen chair. She broke your throne, and she cut your hair. And from your lips she drew the hallelujah.”
4. Kanye West – Homecoming
“You got a new friend. Well I got homies, but in the end it’s still so lonely.”
3. Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven
“Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on. And it makes me wonder.”
2. Andy Williams – Moon River
“Two drifters, off to see the world. There’s such a lot of world to see, we’re after the same rainbow’s end.”
1. Tupac Shakur – Starin’ through my rear view
“I will never understand this society, first they try to murder me, then they lie to me, product of a dying breed.”
13 Reasons Why is the hottest thing on Netflix right now. The show, based on the book of the same name, tackles the subject of teen suicide and the specific reasons why the protagonist, Hannah, chose to take her own life.
I WIll BE TALKING ABOUT POINTS FROM SERIES 1 EPISODE 8 SO POTENTIAL MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
In the show, Hannah attends poetry readings to help express herself, she writes a poem which is selfishly published in a school magazine by another student. The poem in the Netflix series is not the same poem from the book. It is longer with a slightly different focus. Below is the poem written by Hannah, (Penned for the show by New York based poet Sarah Kay) along with my annotations.
The first thing that stood out to me was the poems structure. It is free form and reads like the author is conversing with herself. She is allowing her thoughts to escape her mind but she is analysing each one as it does. The poem starts with “Today” which puts us in the present, at least for the author, this reinforces the idea of this being a running commentary of self-analysis. It is instantly followed up by the sexual imagery of ‘black lace’, and the affirmation that the sexuality exists only because the author wills it. This however, proves to become more untrue as the poem continues.
The theme of sexuality, and exploitation is a driving force for the poem. The statement “You just want to hear about what my fingers do in the dark” suggests a battle for existence and acceptance, without being hindered by the desires of others, who see her as only an object, or sexual being. This is further reinforced when she likens herself to the “ground.” She accommodates the “well” which provides the satisfaction in the form of “water” but that is all she believes she is perceived as. The author does not see herself in this way though, she sees her fragility and questions the intentions of others, likening them to animals. “You are licking your lips and baring your teeth.” The licking of the lips denotes a sexual act again but this line signifies the animalistic nature of humanity, more specifically canines. It is safe to say that this is supposed to represent wolves; hungry and on the hunt. This metaphor is particularly potent because of the mentality of the animal in question; wolves hunt in packs and using the wider knowledge of the show this is symbolic to the way in the author feels attacked by the popular ‘jocks’. She has not been wronged just by an individual but has been preyed on by a large group of people. The wolf comparison can also be seen to mirror more familiar stories such as ‘Little red riding hood’ which also suggests a loss of childlike innocence, reinforced by the earlier references to a “jungle-gym” and the “story.”
The second and more prevalent theme is the struggle for identity. In the second line in the poem, the author tells us she acts for herself, this may be true but she follows it up instantly by exposing to the reader exactly who she believes she is; “I am absolutely naked.” This is more than skin deep, it at first feels like a sly joke at the expense of those who have sexualised her, but it speaks more of how fragile she is emotionally. She is emotionally weak and she worries that she makes it too visible. “Like Saran Wrap that you can see through to what leftovers are inside from the night before.” The author wears her heart on her sleeve and she knows that what she does or thinks to herself in isolation does not stop there, she is transparent and exposed to those around her. Despite this the author understands that she is human, the repetition of “Skin” reaffirms her mortality and the sibilance of “skin is soft, and smooth, and easily scarred” shows her frailties and the limitations, she feels, of being alive. This is the first point where self-harm is hinted at.
From the first few lines of the poem we can see a deep melancholy within the mind of the author but it is not until the poem progresses that we see the damaging effects of her depressed state of mind, “but what if all they do is crack open windows? So I can see lightning through the clouds.” This is destructive imagery, firstly to crack a window suggests fragility again. She does not open the window with conviction instead she has to be careful, she opens up enough just to get a glimpse of beauty. The “lightning through the clouds” is a very telling sentence. Contrasting the silver lining usually looked for behind clouds, the author instead sees lightning, a powerful force, but not one of good, rather a violent and destructive thing. This is a perfect metaphor for the mind of the author, she has dark clouds prohibiting her from feeling but if the clouds clear too much there is certainly disaster.
The final six lines of the poem could be the most important in analysing the emotions of the author, “How many circles can I walk in before I give up looking?” This question is important; throughout the poem the author has posed a series of rhetorical questions that exist only to reinforce her own view of herself. This one however seems genuine, she is showing signs that she is looking for an escape but is unable to do so. Her destination, happiness, is unclear to her and thus she cannot navigate towards it, she continues in a cycle of depression. The next feeling conveyed from the author is a fear of becoming indistinguishable. The use of “drowning” shows that the author knows she is out of her depth in her suffering and it is beginning to define who she is, “It must be possible to swim without becoming water.” The author feels as though the more she wallows in her mental instability the more she becomes it, and the further away she drags herself from society the more she will fade in to the background, thus becoming insignificant.
In conclusion, the poem is a deep exploration of the authors slip into depression and her outcry against the torment she is suffering. It shows a fractured mind that has been exploited, sexually and emotionally, and how she is coming to terms with that. The poem is rife with violent and destructive imagery and suggestions of self-harm, but it does not overtly express suicidal thoughts, an issue of contention within the programme itself. It is a powerful and moving piece that explores the darkest corners of the authors psyche which she bears with brutal honesty.
What did you think of ‘13 Reasons Why?’ Did you enjoy the poem? Do you agree with my analysis? Let me know in the comments below.
If you know me, you know I love poetry and films. One predates the other by thousands of years but in this day and age they are becoming increasingly similar. Here is a list of 14 times films used poetry to awesome effect.
14. 22 Jump Street
Oscar Wilde said “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” so I am gonna apply that here. I am sure everybody is aware of this, and honestly only 60% of open mics are actually like this. Jonah Hill does a wonderful job here, my second favourite part of the movie, beaten only by “My name is Jeff”
13. So I married an Axe Murderer
So I Married an Axe Murder features a brilliant original poem performed by Mike Myers (Shrek, Austin Powers). In this spoken word piece Myers character throws shade on all the women in his life that left him feeling blue.
12. Blade Runner
You may have been expecting “Tears in Rain.” That final monologue has become one of films greatest soliloquies. However, Blade Runner actually borrows a few lines from famous poems, when the Replicant’s use these quotes with their sinister tone it adds an eerie intelligence to their characters. I have chosen to use a purposely misquoted William Blake’s America: A Prophecy.
11. Ill Manors
Awesome movie? Maybe not. Awesome Poetry? Definitely. I am not a huge fan of Plan B’s directorial debut, it’s essentially an urban Lord of the Rings where Francis (Yeah from Deadpool) walks around to find his phone. I respect this film massively for the inclusion of John Cooper Clarke, reading his poems at a pub open mic. That is the experience of a spoken word artist right there, maybe not those as famous as the big JCC though.
10. Four Weddings and a Funeral
I love John Hannah. I think it was his wonderfully Scottish portrayal of ruthless roman Batiatus in Spartacus, which you loved when you were 18 but now is just an over-sexed, super violent, less intelligent Game of Thrones. Anyway, here is John Hannah reading Auden in its entirety. What more do you need?
9. Dangerous Minds
I was really tempted just to post the music video to Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise, now that’s poetry. In Dangerous Minds, Michelle Pfieffer (Good) has to teach some poor kids (Bad) about words and stuff, she used poetry, music and…karate?? It all works out in the end and if it doesn’t feel satisfactory just bump that Coolio track again.
Skyfall is a great film. It’s even a great James Bond film when you judge it against the Daniel Craig embodiment of Bond. Here, M quotes Alfred Tennyson’s Ulysses , a harrowing reminder of the constant clash of the old versus the new, a key theme throughout the entire film.
7. Death Proof
Tarantino says it’s his worst film. If you’re somebody (like me) who spent their teenage years trying to watch every horror film ever starting at Numero Uno (The Devil’s Castle, 1896) then Death Proof may have a place in your heart for the way it pays homage to it’s wonderful grind house predecessors. What makes it extra sweet for me is Stuntman Mike quoting Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening in a super creepy but somewhat manner.
6. Apocalypse Now
T.S Eliot’s The Hollow Men appears in Apocalypse Now. Read by a still wonderful Marlon Brando, I don’t really want to say much more. If you haven’t seen the film, do not watch the above clip instead get yourself down the blockbuster and rent the video immediately Granddad.
Holes was genius. You read it for GCSE English, it starred a not yet viral Shia Labeouf and the main character’s surname was his first name spelled backwards. Admit it, when you were a kid you loved it, and they even snuck in some Edgar Allen Poe. You know before you knew who he was in your goth stage.
4. 10 things I hate about you
Remember Kat? Remember Kat’s Sonnet? Yeah that’s a love poem and you know it, you can tell from how many times she uses the word “hate”. On reflection I feel like my entire literary career may have been inspired by this piece.
3. Kindergarten Cop
The ultimate action film for 90’s Kids. For years film makers had been posing the question “Can Arnold Schwarzenegger act?” but only Kindergaten Cop had the gall to ask “Can Arnold Scwarzenegger read?” Here he is reading some poetry from A A Milne.
The second sentient robot film on the list, but this one is a Spielberg masterclass. Its a half crafted fairy tale mixed with a sci-fi fable. Here Yeat’s poem The Stolen Child is shown to David by Dr Know.
1. Citizen Kane
Considered one of the best films of all time, usually by people who haven’t seen it, Orson Welle’s 1941 drama. I mean it is great for the the time, it is kind of complex and will hold your interest but does it have giant robots fighting monsters, or any of the current Marvel/DC roster? It does not. It does have some poetry though, which is a strong second.
Disclaimer; I couldn’t find the clip that uses Coleridge’s Kubla Khan but I found a Minecraft remake. I think it’s what Welles would have wanted.
It is the greatest fear of all writers, those days when you just cannot get your ideas out on to paper. I have created a list of the most useful tips I use when I am experiencing writers block.
1. Get outside
Imagine, you have been sat for hours staring at your laptop. The blank word document looks back at you, your frustration mounting every time the text cursor flashes. Breathe, put down your laptop and head outside. Take a walk around your local area, look at it in detail, as you walk choose objects, places or people you see and imagine their stories, where they have come from or where they are going.
2. Play word association games
This works best with a friend at your side. Pick a word and take turns to find a rhyming word for it, build your pace as you go along. Once the rhymes become too hard change to finding as associated word. If you say tree, they may say apple, hit them back with gravity and see the game progress. The more creative the links get the sooner the ink in your metaphorical pen will be flowing again.
3. Play “That’s not true”
I love this game. Play with a partner, you start by making a mundane statement, it must be true. Continue telling your friend the story, they can say “that’s not true” at any time and you have to think on your feet to keep the story going. They can say “that’s not true” at any time but your goal is to bring the story to a satisfying coherent end without too much thinking time. Below is a brief example.
“I was at the launderette today and I had forgotten my soap”
“That’s not true”
“I had my soap but I thought the lady behind the desk was attractive and wanted to speak to her. I asked her if she could give me some soap.”
“That’s not true”
“I grabbed her by the hand and told her I was bored of laundry and we should go on a date. We left the shop and got on the bus.”
“That’s not true.”
“As we left the shop, a meteorite fell from space and demolished the entire building. She saw me as a hero and we are getting married tomorrow.”
This one is simple. The best way to improve your writing and the amount of words you are getting out is by reading. Try and read one or two things similar to your project for inspiration but also things entirely different so that you can pick up on literary techniques and story structure.
When you can’t write, you feel stressed. Sweat that out. Go for a run or get to the gym, you will find the moment you stop concentrating on the writing ideas will pop in to your head. Make sure you have your phone so you can write any of that potential greatness in to your notes for later.
6. Change your form
If you write poetry try prose and vice versa. This can be a fun exercise and it pushes you to try and think in a totally different way about your writing. I have gone from poetry to song lyrics, kid’s stories and comic strips. This allows you to think up awesome ideas you wouldn’t usually give time to, the writing may not be up to scratch but you will find after your brain has been focusing elsewhere, it will be much easier to fall back in to your current project.
This is probably the question I am asked the most. What inspires me to write? And how do I decide something is worth writing about? Honestly, for me it has become impulse. I used to sit down with pen and paper with the aim of writing about a specific subject but the poems would often be too contrived and fail to include any real emotion or experience. Experience is the main factor in my writing, I write about what I know and what I see around me. I often just start with an opening line or a word and think up all the rhyming possibilities, then I sculpt my story from there.
How did poetry help with depression?
Both writing and reading poetry helped me with my depression. When I was alone at night and couldn’t sleep, I would capture all my thoughts on paper. Writing them down helped them escape my head and meant my mind was not riddled with bad thoughts until morning. I also read a lot of poetry books during this time and so many of the authors had similar struggles. This reiterated to me that there was an end to my problem, even if it wasn’t in sight. I like reading but I find myself easily bored of novels but for me poetry is such a succinct form of story-telling and it manages to capture my attention and imagination in its entirety.
Why is poetry important?
I don’t know that it is important. Poetry is important to me because it is a way for me to express how I am feeling and talk about issues I am facing. I think a lot of people look to poetry when they aren’t feeling great because it is full of honest human emotion. I have had people come to me and tell me that they have related to my work and hearing it has helped them re-evaluate some of the things in their life. Knowing I have helped that person, even in the smallest way is extremely satisfying and perhaps this is what makes it important.
What is poetry about?
My poetry is mostly about myself. I try not to talk about topics that I have not experienced because it wouldn’t be honest and more than likely would be ill-informed. There are so many poets out there writing unique pieces every day, I do not know that we can say “this is what poetry is about.” My best guess is that poetry is an honest expression of a person’s emotionally connection to what they see around them.
Is Spoken Word different from normal poetry?
Spoken word is poetry but it is written to be performed. Half the work is writing the words and the other half is perfecting the performance so that it is powerful and impactful. Sometimes these poems can lose their edge when written down. That is main difference between spoken word and traditional poetry.
Should poetry be confined to grammar rules?
I think this links back to the traditional vs spoken word debate. Often when I am writing I will use words that complete my rhyme scheme but may be grammatically incorrect, in this medium I think it works and it adds something to the piece. If you are writing traditionally and want the work to be read then it would serve you best to keep it tight in regards to literary law. Art is art at the end of the day, so really you can do what you like. Subjectivity FTW!
What Poetry should I read?
There is a whole host of talent out there. You can just search #Poems on Instagram and you will see all the great artists putting their work out. There are always more scholarly recommendations however, below is a list of some of the poets I really enjoy.
Today is World Health Day and this year the focus is Depression.
Worldwide, over 350 million people suffer with some form of depression.350 Million.That’s almost six times the population of the UK.
And I’ve been one of that 350 Million. I talk about it a lot in my poems because writing them helped me through the two years I suffered. I’ve rarely spoken to people about this, but I’ve learned that talking can be the best relief for someone when they feel the pressures of depression, so I’m going to share my experiences.
I don’t know why my depression started. I could give you a list of factors that probably fed into it, but they’re things that people go through every day while keeping their minds healthy. Maybe inside they’re miserable. I was.
I was suffering a bereavement, a break up, I was homesick and abusing alcohol. That was when my depression was at its worst.
Looking back, I think I had some mental health issues throughout my teenage years. I would often have these dark thoughts followed by episodes of intense hyperactivity. But it wasn’t until my 20’s that everything turned black.
When it happened I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. And when I finally would I’d wake up in dangerous predicaments or places I hadn’t been before. I was breaking down in supermarkets, refusing to leave my room while swallowing mouthful after mouthful of whiskey. What was probably worse was that I thought this was normal and rational behaviour.
Then, the darkness became infinite. I could no longer see hope in anything or anyone. It was then that I decided to seek help. It was a doctor that sent me to the therapist.
I sat in the therapist’s office, I was there to change but was unwilling. He was kind, patient and he did not judge me. I told him I didn’t know why I felt like I did, but I knew it wasn’t normal.
I told him my only escape was writing words on paper and performing them into my bedroom mirror. He said this was a good practice.
Then he prescribed me anti-depressants. And they helped. At first.
But after a while the dosage just wasn’t enough. I was eating them like sweets, three times my recommend dosage and getting refilled just as quick. I was completely dependent on them.
Partly because they showed me glimpses of what a “normal” life could be, and that’s what I craved. Looking back now, it wasn’t really the drugs that gave me those glimpses, it was the close friends I had looking out for me, hanging with me. Letting me be hyper one moment and moody the next without abandoning me.
I took the pills day after day for well over a year…but then suddenly I wanted to stop.
So I washed them all down the sink. Tried to live like I had while I was using them.
I don’t know what happened but it was as if something in my brain just clicked. I felt happiness, and sadness and boredom and love, and hate. It felt good to feel.
So from that day on, I never looked back. I have still had repeat episodes of extreme sadness, but my emotions have been more balanced, and the dark thoughts no longer haunt me.
This was just my experience, and everybody deals with depression differently, but even just typing this I feel a huge weight off my shoulders.
If anybody out there needs to talk you can contact me through this site and we can work out your problems together.
For more professional help please contact your GP or call 0800 58 58 58 to speak to a member of CALM or visit their website.
You will always be beautiful even when the world is not, and the best way to get over the bump is with somebody helping you along.
On the 21st March 2017 we celebrated World Poetry day by launching my debut collection Thoughts of a Dying Youth at Waterstones Brighton.
There was a fantastic turn out and I could not be happier with how the event went. I want to say a big thank you to all those in attendance and I hope you enjoyed the event as much as I did.
At the start of the night there was an open mic and all those who performed blew me away with their amazing work.
After that I performed a some poems from my book. The poems I performed were;
Losing My Mind
To Aaron Dugmore
Once I finished performing I shared a drink with all those in attendance and spent the rest of the evening chatting and signing books. I could not be happier with how many people bought my book and let me know honestly what they thought of my work. I just want to say one more thank you to everyone who came and shared in the celebratory event .