Friday, 6 April 2018

Pessimism Is For Lightweights at the Arnolfini ... Thank you




Hello! 

Just a quick post today to say a huge heart felt thank you to everyone that made it to the Arnolfini Gallery last night. I made the pilgrimage to Bristol yesterday and had such a wonderful time and met some beautiful people. I was so excited to see my poem there for myself. Thank you to Pete Bearder for introducing the event and warming things up. Very brilliant kind man. 

Last night I read from my new work PESSIMISM IS FOR LIGHTWEIGHTS: 13 PIECES OF COURAGE AND RESISTANCE which will be published by Rough Trade Books in a few weeks. After the gig we all gathered outside on the harbour side and the Arnolfini audience read the Pessimism is for lightweights to me. The whole thing was very moving ... my heart exploded.

I am going on a retreat now. I've been invited by Neu Reekie to be the April writer in residence at Bill Drummond's Curfew Tower in Ireland. I hope to return refreshed with all that sea air, with renewed energy and with the new book completed. I'll probably get into having Guinness for my dinner too. It is a monster task to face yourself in all that solitude, I am nervous and excited, looking forward to lots of skying and reading and writing binges. 

My next big gig is May 18th at The British Library with The Last Poets!!! 

See you here and see you there, thank you! 









Books - Spring 2018


Pessimism Is For Lightweights - 13 Pieces of Courage and Resistance 
A selection of new poems, Pessimism Is For Lightweights, pieces of courage and resistance, by Salena Godden, will be published by Rough Trade Books in spring 2018. Rough Trade Books is an exciting new publishing venture in the mould of the pioneering record label. 


Out now! Woman poetry anthology was published last week on International woman day 2018. 16 international poets, edited by Rita Osei and Michelle Olly, 50 poems on themes of birth, growth and adolescence, available at amazon now. 

Mrs Death Misses Death is a work in progress, a fiction with a soundtrack composed by Peter Coyte. Early drafts of this book were shared at a sold out show at Last Word Festival, The Roundhouse, June 2017. This project is in development, supported by Blah, Blah, Blah at The Bristol Old Vic and The Society of Authors. A BBC documentary Mrs Death Misses Death is in development and scheduled for broadcast later in 2018.  


New anthology successfully crowdfunded with Unbound, with all net profits going to charity. 
A collection on the theme of ‘other’ and a spectacular line up that includes work from Damian Barr, Noam Chomsky, Rishi Dastidar, Salena Godden, Colin Grant, Matt Haig, AL Kennedy, Kamila Shamsie and many other-others, edited by writer and psychologist, Charles Fernyhough, due for publication later in 2018.


NEW: The Dizziness Of Freedom 
Published by Bad Betty press. New juicy poetry anthology on the way, a myriad 50 poets on themes of mental health, this collection is gonna be amazing, read more about it all here: badbettypress.com




Salena Godden and Peter Bearder 



Friday, 16 March 2018

The Red Suitcase | Excerpt from Springfield Road




The Red Suitcase 

Under the bottom bunk was my mother’s red suitcase. It was battered and covered with peeling old stickers of foreign countries. Occasionally, on rainy days, I’d remember it, drag it out and go through its secrets. There was an old photo album with Cyprus written on the cover in gold lettering. Inside were photographs of my mother as a skinny teenager, her cocked head looking too big for her body and her face not yet grown to fit her big smile. She was dressed like Nanny, the two of them in identical outfits, wearing lace gloves, standing side by side, squinting in the tropical sun.

My favourite photos were a sequence of pictures of a wild looking fancy-dress party. I didn’t recognise anyone but my mother. In one picture she stuck her tongue out at the lens. In another, a man with a comic moustache picked her up, twirled her around and he nearly dropped her. The party people were all laughing and moving, their elbows stuck out like chickens dancing the twist. My mum was dressed like a pirate, wearing a beard and an eye patch. I wished I could turn the volume up on these images, and hear all the laughter and the music. And later in the album there were the few photographs of us as babies with Dad.

A flat yellow envelope held all my mother’s stunning modelling shots and contact sheets. She was so beautiful; in some she was lying on sand dunes and in others she was dressed in go-go dancer’s clothes – a waistcoat, top hat and black, short wig – and looked like Liza Minnelli. And I remember there was the silk, burgundy and pink, paisley cravat that had once been my father’s. The material was crumbly and worn, I sniffed at its musty perfume of roses and cinnamon.

That red suitcase was like a Russian doll with hidden pockets and bags within where I’d discover: Theatre programmes and old bus tickets; silver glitter stick-on stars and gold eye shadows; handkerchiefs folded around lost single earrings; bags of beads and hippy jewellery and four-leaf clovers wrapped in tissue. There was a bag of wigs, a pair of knee-high banana yellow boots and a tiny black PVC mini-dress.

This was the evidence of my mother’s life before I was born. Her triumphs as a young athlete in the All England championships; her Olympic dream and her Royal Ballet dream; her Gold medals and Swan Lake dreams; her teenage years in Hong Kong and Cyprus, and also her wild go-go dancing days. My mum used to hint that she had partied and performed with a cool sixties crowd, mentioning the likes of Englebert Humperdinck, Tom Jones, Stevie Wonder and Georgie Fame. With her best mate Leslie, Mum was the tall skinny dark one and Leslie the tall blonde and the way my mum tells it, the world was oyster-like for the pair of them. 

The truth was it always felt as though my mother could drag her suitcase out from under our bed and slip back into herself if she wanted to. I thought of these things as her superhero costume. That she could stick the glittery stars back on her face, put on the yellow go-go boots and use a bus ticket from before to get back to then and who I knew she really was.

***



This shared thanks to REWRITE for #womensmonth  
find REWRITE on twitter here




Thank you to all who made it down to LIVEwire #heforshe #artsweekldn poetry party!!
Thank you UN Women and thank you Second Home!  Thank you to my comrades 
Joelle Taylor, Inua Ellams, Dzifa Benson, Matt Abbott, Michelle Fisher, 
Selina Nwulu, Connor Byrne, Lisa Luxx and Sabrina Mahfouz 
T H A N K  Y O U  











some excellent events coming up, booking essential 











Spring 2018 - 
new work and new books 


In collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra and Jerwood Foundation composer Jasmin Kent Rodgman. HUH will feature a brand new work, plus a performance of Shade from The Good Immigrant with interactive soundscape and music. This exciting line up of poetry and music and live performance premieres at LSO, St Lukes, Shoreditch on March 17th 2018. 


A selection of new poems, Pessimism Is For Lightweights, pieces of courage and resistance, by Salena Godden, will be published by Rough Trade Books in June 2018. Rough Trade Books is an exciting new publishing venture in the mould of the pioneering record label. 


Out now! Woman poetry anthology was published last week on International woman day 2018. 16 international poets, edited by Rita Osei and Michelle Olly, 50 poems on themes of birth, growth and adolescence, available at amazon now. 

Mrs Death Misses Death is a work in progress, a fiction with a soundtrack composed by Peter Coyte. Early drafts of this book were shared at a sold out show at Last Word Festival, The Roundhouse, June 2017. This project is in development, supported by Blah, Blah, Blah at The Bristol Old Vic and The Society of Authors. A BBC documentary Mrs Death Misses Death is scheduled for broadcast later in 2018. 


New anthology successfully crowdfunded with Unbound, with all net profits going to charity. 
A collection on the theme of ‘other’ and a spectacular line up that includes work from Damian Barr, Noam Chomsky, Rishi Dastidar, Salena Godden, Colin Grant, Matt Haig, AL Kennedy, Kamila Shamsie and many other-others, edited by writer and psychologist, Charles Fernyhough, due for publication later in 2018.








Saturday, 3 March 2018

Gatherings and gigs: March/April 2018



COURAGE IS A MUSCLE #MARCH4WOMEN 2018 





EVENTS  - MARCH/APRIL 2018 
















Due to very popular demand we’ve added more tickets and more poets 
and moved across the street to take over the bigger venue  
Second Home, 68 Hanbury Street 

LIVEwire poetry party 
Curated especially for #HeForShe#ArtsWeekLdn by Salena Godden 
Award winning, game changing poets, new faces and headline names! 
Joelle Taylor, Inua Ellams, Dzifa Benson, Matt Abbott, Michelle Fisher, 
Selina Nwulu, Connor Byrne, Lisa Luxx and Sabrina Mahfouz.



Join us for an evening of powerful LIVE spoken word as part of #HeForShe #ArtsWeekLdn. This line-up includes phenomenal prize-winning poets, rising stars and live spoken word to raise awareness for UN Women.

The night is curated and hosted by Salena Godden author of Fishing in the Aftermath: Poems 1994-2014, and literary childhood memoir Springfield Road. Her live spoken word album LIVEwire was released with Nymphs and Thugs and shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award 2017. New work, Pessimism Is For Lightweights, will be published by Rough Trade Books in June 2018.

Joining Salena's line-up for this very special one-off LIVEwire event are headline acts:

Joelle Taylor award winning poet, playwright, essayist and author, and the founder of the Poetry Society’s national youth slam championships. She has performed her poetry in venues ranging from the 100 Club to Parliament, and is the host for Out-Spoken poetry and music club in London. Her highly acclaimed new collection Songs My Enemy Taught Me was published in July 2017 by Out-Spoken Press.

Inua Ellams Award-winning poet, playwright and founder of the Midnight Run and author of award winning Barbershop Chronicles. Identity, displacement and destiny are reoccurring themes in his work. Inua has just been announced as the Tower of London's official poet 2018.

Lisa Luxx is a British Syrian writer, performer, philosopher and activist. Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, VICE, TEDx, BBC Radio Leeds and heralded as one of the UK’s top four queer poets by Diva magazine.

Sabrina Mahfouz Her prize winning plays include With a Little Bit of Luck and Clean which transferred to New York in 2014. The poetry collection How You Might Know Me was published with Out-Spoken Press and the literary anthology The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write is with saqi Books and has been longslisted for the Grand Prix Literary prize.

Michelle Fisher Writer and performance poet from Glasgow. Resident Artist at the Roundhouse. She has supported some of the UK's top performers including Kate Tempest and Hollie McNish.

Selina Nwulu writer, social researcher and campaigner, who has recently finished her tenure as Young Poet Laureate for London. She is currently Writer and Creator in Residence at the Free Word Centre and Wellcome Trust.

Matt Abbott spoken word artist, activist and founding owner of independent spoken word record label Nymphs & Thugs. He is the founding owner of Nymphs & Thugs, and his Two Little Ducks show won 5* reviews during a full run at Edinburgh Fringe 2017.

Dzifa Benson Multi-disciplinary live artist, currently studying for an MA in Text & Performance at Birkbeck and RADA. She is also a Ledbury Emerging Poetry Critic.

Connor Byrne has been writing and sharing his work for two years, including at Trans Pride Brighton in the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringes. He was Roundhouse Slam finalist in 2017.


This evening is just one of the many amazing events happening as part of UN Women's HeForShe Arts Week with all proceeds going to charity. Visit www.londonartsweek.org with listings of more events for London artists and audiences to challenge the old stories, create a new narrative, change mind-sets and raise funds to change the reality for millions of women and girls through discussion, debate, dance, music, theatre, exhibitions and experience.



































Spring 2018

Salena Godden is one of Britain’s foremost poets whose electrifying live performances and BBC radio broadcasts have earned her a devoted following.

Author of poetry collections Under The Pier (Nasty Little Press); Fishing in the Aftermath: Poems 1994-2014 (Burning Eye); literary childhood memoir Springfield Road (Unbound) and Shade published in the ground breaking essay anthology The Good Immigrant (Unbound). Her live poetry album LIVEwire was released with indie spoken word label Nymphs and Thugs and shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in 2017.

A pamphlet collection of latest poems Pessimism Is For Lightweights, pieces of courage and resistance, will be published by Rough Trade Books in June 2018. Rough Trade Books is an exciting new publishing venture in the mould of the pioneering record label.


Mrs Death Misses Death is a new work in progress. This will be Salena's debut novel, a fiction with a soundtrack composed by Peter Coyte. Early drafts of this work were shared at a sold out show at Last Word Festival, The Roundhouse, June 2017. This project is in development, supported by Blah, Blah, Blah at The Bristol Old Vic and The Society of Authors. A BBC documentary Mrs Death Misses Death is in production, scheduled for broadcast later in 2018. 




Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Excerpt from 'Springfield Road' | Hold Me Safe




Excerpt from Springfield Road | February 
'Just so she’d hold me safe, for just a little bit longer.'

It was a bitterly cold day in February when my mother was rushed to hospital to have the new baby, prematurely. I remember being excited to have a new baby sister or brother, but I was desperate for my mother the ten days or so she was gone. My mother had miscarried a baby before this new child and so I was very afraid to see my mother broken like that again, to find my mother in darkness, her eyes red from crying. There was a depressing darkness and a stuffy warmth in her bedroom that day and I never forgot it.

My brother and I were left to fend for ourselves. We went to and from school as usual and helped ourselves to cereals and toast. The house was empty without her, silent and loveless. The idea that this could be permanent was too horrible to contemplate. After school I shivered and waited, sitting on the back doorstep in the gloomy dusk, fearing the worst, waiting for my stepfather’s car to light up the drive.

There were complications with the birth. We had a new sister, but she was premature and she came out fragile, tiny and blue. She was in an incubator and there was a blood transfusion. This was all I knew and a horrible dread consumed me. During those long, dark February nights I steeled myself for the possibility that my mother might die. In the books I loved to read this happened all the time, the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, Brothers Grimm and Charles Dickens were filled with stories of orphans whose mothers died in childbirth.

I remember waiting, always waiting, for news, for my mother to come home safe or for Paddy to come to let me in after school and to pass time I started walking, blowing on my cupped hands to keep them warm. It had started getting dark and was spitting with rain when I knocked on Mrs Sharkey’s door. I wanted to be less pitiful, but the sight of her kind face and the gush of warmth at the open door made my eyes hot with tears. She was wiping her hands on a tea towel and I could see she was about to say she was busy and about to send me away. I was hungry and cold and as my eyes filled I looked away and down at my shoes.

What’s wrong? she asked and I looked at her and then down again into my upturned coat collar when I felt my lip quivering. Through a blur of hot tears I saw her face change and she asked me inside. I was grateful but awkward because this time it wasn’t a game, this time I felt I needed her. Once inside I began to cry, regurgitating the things I had been told but didn’t fully understand. I told her that my new sister was smaller than a doll and that she came out blue and had to have a blood transfusion. She’s in an incubator and my mum’s really ill and...and what if…?

Mrs Sharkey put her arm across my shoulders and listened and assured me that my Mum would be all right. She made me dry my eyes with a handkerchief, then took out a pot and heated milk to make her special milky coffee. She made me a ham sandwich – the most delicious sandwich I had ever eaten, neatly cut into four quarters, on moist white bread with creamy butter and soft pink ham that was ever so slightly salty. I found it difficult to eat carefully and with all of my manners. I was self-consciously hungry and I ate too fast and the sandwich stuck in my throat. I tried to sip hot coffee to dislodge it. Mrs Sharkey watched me. She told me to take my time and that I could stay for a while and get warmed up. Then she walked to the corner cupboard in the kitchen and her grin made me chuckle as she said her lovely catchphrase Cakey?

Mrs Sharkey asked if I would like to warm up by the fire and led me into the living room. I thought I must be a very trustworthy person to be allowed to sit in the proper front room and eat my cake and drink my sweet and creamy coffee. I felt shy and awkward, I hadn’t sat in there before, our chats were always at the kitchen table or by the back doorstep. Mrs Sharkey told me to take my shoes off to warm my toes and this embarrassed me, making me feel like I was really welcome to stay for a while longer. I was grateful and in no rush to sit on the cold doorstep at our house anymore. I fumbled nervously with my laces, acting as though I had somewhere else to go in a bit, acting as though I thought she was the one who might want some company - because asking for comfort when you really need it can be the hardest thing.

The blue glow of the electric fire was warm and inviting. Mrs Sharkey switched all the bars on high, until they glowed orange and ginger beneath the coals. I took my shoes off and, suddenly aware of my odd grey boy’s socks, I tucked my cold feet under me. She put a tartan blanket on me, she had bought it on a caravan holiday she’d had in the highlands of Scotland, she said. The room had two armchairs but we sat side by side on the big green sofa. There were lace curtains and doilies on the glass coffee table, my coffee cup sat neatly on a Cork, Ireland coaster. She told me about Ireland and about her family pictured in gold and silver oval frames above the mantel piece, she told me the names and ages of all of her nephews and nieces that lived in the long ago and the far away.

As Mrs Sharkey explained her family tree I pretended to go to sleep for a joke and I snored loudly. Mrs Sharkey played a lovely game with me, she pretended to be offended. She said
Oh how rude to fall asleep when I’m in the middle of telling a story…

I pretended to sleep and snored on and she held me, I was enveloped in her warm bosom, and pillowed in her arms. Then she pretended to fall asleep too, and snored even louder. With our eyes clenched shut, we peeked at each other out of one eye and then belly laughed, as we whistled, snorted and made pig snuffling noises together Well, well, what a big snore for such a little girl, she said, blowing a raspberry on my neck to wake me up making me laugh and wriggle.

With Mrs Sharkey holding me by the fire, we became still and gentle. Eventually I let myself go and drifted off for a little while. I was so comfortable in the glow of the fire, the soft heat of her arms, I fell into a lovely warm haze. Just so she’d hold me safe, for just a little bit longer.
***


When they came home, my mother and sister were fine after all. My mother once told me that she had had nightmares in the hospital and got up to sleepwalk the halls in the night, dragging her drip along with her. We sat on the bed and whispered, watching my newborn sister sleep. Jo-Ann was very small, a living, breathing doll, with black silky floppy curls. I measured her against my Tiny Tears doll and Jo-Ann was smaller. Her skin was the colour of my palest inner wrist and she had a penny plastered over her belly button. Sometimes in the evenings when my parents were watching television I risked sneaking into their bedroom to her cot-side. I wound up her lullaby toys and soothed her when she cried. I liked the way she grabbed my finger with her tiny hand. I sang to her, Goodnight Mister Moon, come again and see us soon… Jo-Ann cried a lot, but when I was with her she’d go quiet and it made me feel as though I was her special one. 

Springfield Road by Salena Godden


Just wanted to share this February memory and a good hug on such a grey day....
Happy Birthday to my beautiful sister Jo!!




My sister Jo-Ann was born with Williams Syndrome. It is a relatively rare developmental disorder and means she has moderate learning difficulties. Jo was born with a number of missing genes on chromosome 7, only one person in 20,000 is born with WS. But there is more to her than her than this and I can never hope to fully capture the energy and infectious laugh of my sister Jo-Ann, but I hope to try, and this will be published in OTHERS, a new book which has been successfully crowdfunded and published by my trail blazing publishers Unbound, with all net profits going to refugees and stop hate charities. 

OTHERS will be a collection of essays, stories and poetry on the theme of being 'Other'  - I will be joining other-others in a spectacular line up that includes Leila Aboulela, Gillian Allnutt, Damian Barr, Noam Chomsky, Rishi Dastidar, Peter Ho Davies, Louise Doughty, Salena Godden, Colin Grant, Sam Guglani, Matt Haig, Aamer Hussein, Anjali Joseph, AL Kennedy, Joanne Limburg, Tiffany Murray, Sara Nović, Edward Platt, Alex Preston, Tom Shakespeare, Kamila Shamsie, Will Storr...   #Wetickother #othersbook

LOVE CONQUERS HATE! 
Order a copy here: https://unbound.com/books/charles-fernyhough-others







LONDON, MARCH 2018













LIVEwire out now: www.nymphsandthugs.net

Salena’s Bookshoppe: http://salenagodden.bigcartel.com