Sunday, 28 June 2009

SYD: Day 4

Yesterday (fourth of the festival, I think) was a weird/good un. I had a bad dream in which I was cutting off my own arm (my writing hand, as I later realised) and woke up with a really bad crick in the neck. Walking slowly sideways to breakfast, I discovered I also had (1) a blister, from new flip flops (2) sore legs, from gym OD and (3) general bodily stress, from not having my boy about to give me impromptu massage, and from the daily performance-ing, I guess.

So, I went to see a little Chinese man who massaged me to within an inch of my life (including arse area - Ive heard this is normal) then used the whirlpool, angling my body so that the jet stream hit my neck (as well as fatty bits - to help reduce em, like). To no avail, so I then took some medicine at the festival site. I told the audience at our afternoon poetry stomp that I was under the weather, and, perhaps because of this, won the stomp, and consequently the use of a rather un-fetching plastic fake-eisteddfod "chair". Joy.

After the meds had kicked in, I was feeling a lot better, so I decided to go to Artomatic ( - an unjuried art show covering 5 floors over by the river here in Washington. Wow! A brilliant standard of work on show, some really amazing artists. Since Lady Luck likes me, there was then a poetry slam on the 6th floor of the building by Busboys & Poets, the cafe/poetry group that us Welsh lot will be performing with next week! So, I met the MC ("Two Deep") and listened to their work... Wow again. A VERY high standard of stuff, kinda confession (to the point of discomfit - "my daddy dont come into my bedroom no more like he abused to") but, still, and maybe because of this, VERY powerful, captivating...

On the way home, then, I had discovered that my drink had slightly leaked in my bag, causing my name (nothing else) to be wiped off from the front of the notebook (writing book) I was carrying with me. Added to the dream of cutting my writing hand off, I wondered if my subconscious was trying to tell me something... (???)

I got home at 2am, anyway, and that was my day done. Am now to wash out some pants and then off to the festival site again. Tally ho!!!

Saturday, 27 June 2009


I wrote this poem yesterday after hearing about Michael Jackson's sudden death. I then read it to an American audience a few hours later - it went down well. This is very definitely a spoken piece, as the rhythm changes several times (I have tried to indicate change by keeping space between sections). I hope you like it.


Michael Jackson's dead
What a taxing life he lead
All that moving and shaking
But now the pigs will have his bacon
All that dancing and singing
But now his false friends will be grinning
All of those world tours
But now those lawyers are licking their jaws
All that money he made
But now there are vultures who need to be paid

Blood hounds lying in wait
To pounce and devour Michael Jackson's estate
Leeches waiting to suck
The death of a star to them's a stroke of luck
Wild dogs sniffing about
To get what they can from this, while I don't doubt

That Michael Jackson was strange
He never acted his true age
He had a very squeaky voice
He liked to hang around with boys
He had a monkey for a friend
Called Bubbles
Still now in the end
His troubles

Were no more or less than ours
He did not have super powers
Like us, he felt pain and stress
Like us, yearned for love's caress
Like us, he was full of feeling
Like us, just a human being

Son of a mother and brother to others
He had some children and he had some lovers
In bed at night he would pull up the covers
And dream..... us
Of what might have been..... us
Of what is, and what will be, and what was

"Wacko Jacko"'s just too easy
Like a pack o' wolves the sleazy
Media will take his life
In his death and with a knife
Like a chef cut it up finely
To sell papers speak unkindly
Of his capers, what a thriller
Now that Jackson's in the chiller

And they'll beat it, just beat it
Now Mike's not here he cant delete it
They'll take his odd personality
And add to his inhumanity
By pointing out his impiety
And giving him notoriety
Immortality, maybe even
But whatever you read, dont believe em
The press will impress just to sell
If there IS a heaven or hell
Then its not up to us to make judgement or say
If Michael Jackson went this or that way

All human beings get confused
All human beings make mistakes
We never walked in his shoes
We never knew his heartaches
In Neverland this Peter Pan
Who never quite became a man
Mightve been happy, mightve been sad
But we'll never know all the feelings he had
Except that he had em
And we have em too
He was a child of Adam like you
So although the papers will run his heart through -

I wish his troubled spirit well
I hope his heart's now free
That Michael Jackson is up there relaxing
With angels and our deity
Because life CAN be too taxing
So I hope that he WILL R.I.P.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

SYD: Day 2

There are lots of differences and similarities between Wales and the US, and I am making new discoveries daily. Here are some things I have noted so far:

(1) American toilets have bigger seats, and the water level is much higher up (so, more danger of "splash-back"), than our own. Logically, I guess this means (a) that Yanks have larger bottoms than ourselves, and (b) that their detritus is - a different density (!?)

(I am sorry to put this first, but it IS the first difference I discovered when I got off the plane!)

(2) When you enter a store, staff will say "hello, how are you?" - but, you are not expected to answer.

(3) Americans are more curious, and more friendly, than I would have supposed :)

(4) If you say something funny, Americans will say "you're so funny" - every time.

(5) Americans are very fond of wearing 3/4 length trousers, a little bit like combat trousers, made with quite thick material, and ofter khaki coloured. Its like a sort of summer uniform.

(6) Americans DO understand irony!!!

(7) They have bigger everything here, and more variety - people, plants, animals, etc. I have eaten yellow watermelon and chicken thigh as big as my own, so far.

(8) They are very polite here, and even young people will move out your way saying "I'm sorry", without any trace of resentment/sarcasm. (wow!)

(9) If you express even a slightly negative opinion, then you are "cranky". Positivity rules aok.

(10) People tend to follow the rules. They dont break them for the sake of breaking them (unlike me). However, the rules in many instances are more relaxed than our own eg in art galleries, where there are less "watchers" (staff) and you can go closer to the exhibits. Everyone assumes the art work will not be touched. But, they assumed wrong...

Im off to the National Gallery now, frends. See ya!!! x

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Sporadic Yank Diary: Festival Day 1

Since internet time is limited here, I will be writing about each day after it has taken place, the following morning. Today is the first day of the festival proper, but I will be writing about the "prep-day" we had yesterday.

Most people here are very busy. All craftspeople/demonstrators have to be in their tents for the whole day (11-5.30) - so, thats like a REAL job. Next, musicians have several performances each day. Then, there's the poets/storytellers - we have maybe one or two (sometimes 3) slots per day, of 20 mins up to an hour. So, either we are the least busy - or, we are the most relaxed - both I think, and of course this means we will get to see all of the festival for ourselves, unlike the poor cooks/Welsh teacher/clog-maker etc etc

Yesterday there was an orientation in The Dragon Tent for all participants. This took about half an hour. The rest of the day was our own! I spent some time talking to this really interesting guy, Pat McGee, who is a veritable knowledge of offbeat, quirky knowledge. I now know about Manchester comic poet Les Barker and understand the Scottish drinking phrase "a wee drop of the creature". Awesome stuff. :)

Later on I DID sample said creature - a reception/party took place on the top floor of our lovely hotel (s'posh, like) and first minister Rhodri Morgan flew over to join us. Apparently, there is a "trade mission" riding on the coat tails of this here Folklife Festival - 80 Welsh companies are over here right now, making presentations/contacts/sales/propositions... Not sure where they are exactly, but they are here. Apparently.

Speaking of propositions - it was free booze at the reception, and I spied more than a few participants participating in some improprietous behaviour... Naming no names (though I COULD if I wanted to; or even start up a profitable blackmail sideline) but, due to the fact that they dont seem to understand the concept of "spirit measures" here, quite a few people took a tiny tot too much of the demon drink. As I did myself, in fact - I then ended up drunkenly chatting with some near-7 ft tall submarine engineer who was wearing enough gold and designer linen to suggest he was bloody LOADED (plus the fact that this IS a swanky hotel). I - think I scared him off with my quantum physics rant, however - "everything is made out of ENer-geeeee". I then made some new "friends" amongst the other participants, and they were deadly impressed with my psychic abilities, the greatest of which is the power to tell people how old they are, "spiritually" - "you are 11"; "youre 12, you are"...

Oh dear. :(

Needless to say, this morning I was a bit Nevada-mouthed (desert - geddit) and a lil cactus-bloom-cheeked. But! Live and let live. And, I intend to.

More to follow!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

My (Sporadic) Yank Diary!

As some of you may or may not know, I am in America at the moment, taking part in something called the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC. It's an annual festival that focuses on a different culture each year - this year, that focus will be on Wales.

The festival itself receives about 1.5 million visitors and runs for a total of 10 days (spread over 2 weeks - it closes for 2 days in the middle). It's a very big hoo-hah, and I am one of 6 poets representing our country.

WAAAAAAAAH!!!!!! *gulp*

I arrived here yesterday and am in the hotel lobby now waiting for a shuttle bus to the festival site. The festival proper begins the morrow, today there's an orientation in "the Dragon tent" on the site. The site is the size of several football pitches stuck together, which will undoubtedly assist in the acheivement of one of my current mini-aims - firmity of thigh and "middle area".

I was told by several people not to worry, as Americans generally are overweight. So far, I am unable to confirm this as per my own experience. All I CAN say, is that I had a very cliche-type mind image of what a Native American person would look like. And then I saw one, standing outside the elevator in the hotel lobby. She looked to weigh at least 20 stone - in no way the slender Pochahontas I had been expecting (or, hoping for - I dont HONESTLY take Disney characters as anything close to resembling reality!).

In any case, that is one "want-to-see" ticked off in my mental book. There are a lot of other things I want to see too, and so far there have been myriad small happenings that I could fill whole pages of writing with.

What has happened so far? Well, the flight itself was only 8 hours, and most people representing Wales were on there. If the plane had gone down, that'd have meant no festival what so ere - luckily, it didnt and we got to Tulles airport just outside DC safely.

Safely, but not sanely. Some of us were pushed almost beyond a healthy mental state by the huge queue we then had to wait in to get through US customs. I had accidentally brought an apple and an orange off the plane (I put them in my bag, remembering how they'd been put ito the toe-bit of our mum's-tights-turned-into-stockings at Xmas)- unfortunately this meant another half hour of waiting for me as I was re-routed into Aggricultural Insprection just so they could dispose of the fruit "safely" (?!)

Poor Clare Potter (fellow poet) was subjected to an actual interrogation due to the fact she still had her permanent residency card/status from when she lived in New Orleas some years ago. Of course, terrorism comes in many guises, and poetry itself can be pretty political... but the "interview" they gave Clare was apparently a bit heavy-fisted, and I was glad my American visit began only with the fruit-related palaver rather than anything more serious.

It was cool seeing Gillian Clarke on the plane. Since she is national poet of Wales, I had decided to keep a vague eye on her as I was slightly worried about getting lost. Gillian, I thought, is going to be a priority - if I follow her, I will get to where I need to be. And, sure enough, I did.

She has no idea who I am, but then, most of the time, neither do I.

The weather here is hot, though not as humid as I expected. I think living in Japan (temperatures up to 40 degrees) meant I was maybe more prepared than the average Welsh person (by which I mean, my Ely-based, havent-travelled-much, Tenby-is-our-favourite-holiday-destination family - bless em).

The meals here have been, as I anticipated, HUGE in size and calorie-heavy. My thighs are only slightly bigger than the chicken pieces we had for dinner last night (and, I have BIG thighs!). On the festival site, there will be special places where we can get food: two places in the Welsh section (which is the main focus of the event) but two others also, one in the African American Spoken Word section (wow!!!) and another in the Latin American Music section. These are the smaller programmes showing this year.

Really, everything has been v v V exciting so far, and Ive only been in the US less than 24 hours! It was great to meet so many artists, poets, musicians, craftspeople etc on the plane... There are no big-heads or full-of-themselves sorts in those Ive met, and Ive met most due to a pre-festival gathering we had in Llandrindod Wells some months back. Everyone is open, friendly, positive... My dark heart feels actually gladdened - the creative spirit, it seems, is not a stingy one. Everyone is talking, collaberating, sharing stories and information. Despite the slight grudge Ive always felt towards the (to me) insular-seeming Welsh-speaking community (and, yes, most people here speak Welsh, and everyone knows everyone)Ive had some lovely chats with people, and havent felt excluded at all. I - might even learn the old mother tongue when I return (the Welsh language, I mean - my actual mother's tongue is a foul-spouting beast of a thing...).

So, am beginning (and ending)on a positive note. Am off to the festival site now, and will write again shortly!

You can find out more about the festival here: