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01 Jun 2011

Mark Grist - Poet in residence Blog 8 - Jun 2011

Please excuse the pyjamas, the fact I'm shivering and my sore eyes. I've spent the last three days in bed. And not in the good way; more like the shaking and feeling I'm going to be sick way. It turns out that spending about 5 hours a day on the train and sleeping on sofas most nights isn't fantastic for your health. Particularly when combined with lots of late night networking/boozing after readings. Urrr...

Still, it has been a pretty cool month. I visited a load of schools, and talked about the relationship between poetry and rap till I was blue in the face. I also got to do some work on oulipo techniques with a load of students in Wyndham students. I'm currently working on a project with Writers' Centre Norwich - a fantastic organisation! - who want me to help four schools in Norfolk develop their extracurricular provision. It's been a really interesting project and has given me the chance to speak with lots of great teachers about what makes kids want to read/write. I've also been touring with Mixy in the evenings, doing our Dead Poets show around the country. It's been really good fun, although I think we're a bad influence on each other and we've been hitting the cider way too hard.

Cough cough...sniffle sniffle...

Aside from that, my MA course is coming to an end and I've got the launch of our online journal in the heart of Bloomsbury tomorrow night. I'm quite nervous about hosting the event, but I'm really looking forward to seeing the performers do their thing. Aside from that, I've been asked to create a tour for the National Poetry Archive, which is kind of cool. And I've also been offered a column for my local paper, The Evening Telegraph. I'll be putting the first one together this afternoon during my train journey to London for another reading.

Yes. Another reading. There seem to be so many right now. I'm honestly doing at last 4 paid readings a week these days, which is fun but is definitely spreading me thin. Back when I left my teaching job I was pretty certain that I'd be struggling for work. I also worried that I'd just be slacking off. It turns out that I've been slightly more successful than I had anticipated, and what I need to do now is get used to saying 'no'.

Well, we'll see how that saying 'no' thing goes. Just had an email with another gig offered for a literary festival. I could probably make it. For now, I'll just going to concentrate on sipping this Lemsip and then keeping myself moving. I'll get enough sleep at the end of things, I guess.

Here's a spoken word piece I wrote a little while ago. It's being featured in my new show, 'Shetland Boy.'

Michael Tabu

Once upon a time, in a rural market town
A boy with rich foreign skin
cracked our fairytale; black as charcoal
With sasquatch hooves that thumped our tarmac.

Taboo, Taboo, Taboo

Back then we'd been drifting, A school of white knights
And dreamy damsels.
Taboo became a chant, a spell
To summon on your enemies
Something to fear when you were alone

Within weeks he grew in the dark,
Lurked in detentions, Belched fire in the toilet block.
The tennis courts slowly became his lagoon.

Years later, on break from Uni
I took a job as a manager in a pizza parlour.
When they led me through to the office,
past an dimly lit kitchen
I stopped,

My way blocked
By Tabu.

His white eyes looked me over.
His pink tongue flicked.
Slowly, he asked whether I knew
Who he was.
Mouth dry, I don't know why
But I said
'No. I don't. Sorry.'

It may have been a lie,
But the air left his body like an old witch's curse,
Tabu smiled. grew dimples,
Offered his warm, dark palm
And said
'Nice to meet you, My name's Mike.'
I smiled back as we shook
But shuddered at myself
And the scales that had been growing
Thick and pale across my hands.

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