Friday 16 February 2024

Springtime gigs and events....


Hello loves, 

How are you? I hope you are doing ok. Here is a blog post of things to look forward to and to share some of my first live shows of 2024 and dates for March. I will add more shows as they come in, so keep an eye on this page. I haven't performed since November, it feels strange, it has been a long and dark winter hibernation. I am looking forward to seeing your faces again and sharing my two new books and hearing your new poetry and work too. This spring I am honoured to be asked to be a judge for the Nibbies - British Book Awards 2024 - and so I will have lots of reading of new books to do over the next few weeks. As usual I'll keep adding gigs to this page as new dates are confirmed. I kick off this year with an incredibly powerful WOW event for International Women's Day on March 8th, this will be my first gig of the year, supporting and launching the audiobook of 'A History of Women in 101 Objects' and raising money for Refuge and WOW charities, please scroll down for all tickets and info and links... I am slowly getting ready to leave my cave and come find you all. See you back out there, see you in the festivals and fields, see you in the bookshops and libraries, see you here and there, keep dreaming the big dream, keep fighting the good fight, forever love, peace and justice, forever onwards...


March 8th - WOW | IWD - One Night Live In London 

International Women's Day, WOW, Shoreditch Town Hall, London. I am honoured to support the very brilliant Annabelle Hirsch and her glorious book ‘The History of Women in 101 Objects’ Come join us on #IWD2024 to launch this exciting audio book. I am just one of many friends and supporters coming together for this beautiful audio book and the Refuge UK and WOW charities.

March 15th | Hollie McNish 'Lobster' | Hackney Empire 

Congratulations to Hollie on her new poetry book 'Lobster' - I believe tickets for her London launch at the Hackney Empire are very nearly SOLD OUT. I'm so excited to support Hollie alongside the wonderful Michael Pederson for this brilliant event. This will be a real treat. Catch us if you can!

March 18th | 'Strange Things.. at The Social'

Delighted to join White Rabbit to celebrate the launch of this brilliant Richard Norris memoir. Richard Norris in conversation with Salena Godden plus guests Harry Sword, The Soft Bouncers, The Hardway Bros and more... 

March 23rd | National Portrait Gallery | Poetry

"Photographers Francesca Woodman and Julia Margaret Cameron are two of the most influential women in the history of photography. They lived a century apart – Cameron working in the UK and Sri Lanka from the 1860s, and Woodman in America and Italy from the 1970s. Both women explored portraiture beyond its ability to record appearance – using their own creativity and imagination to suggest notions of beauty, symbolism, transformation and storytelling. " 

Join award-winning author, poet and broadcaster, Salena Godden for a poetry performance in the Galleries. Drawing on magical realism and the notion of a dream space - themes explored within the upcoming exhibition, Salena will be reading a selection of her works exploring similar themes. 

April 13th | Raise The Bar | Lyra Festival, Bristol

Excited to be back at RTB in Bristol in April. The incredible line-up includes UK poetry stars and heroes of mine, Nikita Gill and Cecilia Knapp. This is part of Lyra Festival 2024, it will be a wonderful evening, tickets on sale now... 

please donate and share 

Raise the Bar returns to Bristol Beacon for a Lyra Festival special, featuring legendary UK poet Salena Godden alongside a lineup of dynamic performers.

Raise the Bar returns to Bristol Beacon for a Lyra Festival special, featuring legendary UK poet Salena Godden alongside a lineup of dynamic performers.

Friday 19 January 2024

January and poetry...

Hello my January friends,

How are you? Here's my face. Long darkness, wintry silence, cold night skies. I’m clocking into the 4am Writing Club. I’ve been in here every morning for quite a few weeks now. Winter. Writing. Watching for first light. I’m like a surfer waiting to catch a wave on night oceans. I don’t know why I take these lonely pictures, maybe to document the isolation. The feeling of now. Maybe so when it is another era and another time and things are different and changed, I’ll see it and know how this time is gone. How nothing changes. How everything changes. One day these pictures will be in the past and long ago, and we will be in other worlds, I don’t know what that will look like yet, but I have faith in it, and I hold onto it, and want to meet you there.

I am just popping onto my blog to say hello and share some poetry and quotes and to belatedly wish you and all a peaceful and healthy and happy 2024. For those of you that subscribe to this page you'll know I always write a personal blog post like this in January, often with a piss take of my new year resolutions and a run down of everything that happened over the last 12 months, but I'm just not feeling like it this year. I feel quite quiet and introverted, and although lots of significant things happened, I feel like I just am already looking to the future and trying to visualise and picture it and even that in itself is hard right now. This winter I'm mostly hibernating and hiding in books. I am deep in creation, swallowed up in the real work and proper madness of book making. Talking to fires and moons, trying to make sense of this unreal real world and seeking the light. I have been doing lots of work to prepare to launch two beautiful new books this May 2024, and I'm also completing a new novel due for publication in 2025. More about the novel later...

On May 2nd 2024 Canongate will double launch these two books together: the revised edition of my literary childhood memoir  'Springfield Road - A Poets Childhood Revisited' almost twenty years since it was first drafted - I was in my 30s when I wrote this memoir and I could never write this now or remember being a child so clearly and vividly as I have here. Plus we will also be publishing the new poetry book  'With Love, Grief and Fury' which is a full 2020s collection, containing 80 new works on themes of love and peace and joy and gratitude and compassion and empathy and identity and age and womanhood and wisdom and hope and healing and survival and rage. I am nervous that both books are so deeply personal and confessional of then and of now. Also both books launch on the same day and so it will seem fitting that we'll have to have a lovely big party gathering booze up boogie for that, watch this space. I will be back on the road and touring these books throughout spring and summer, and I hope to see you at lots of gigs and festivals and bookshops. I cannot wait to share this work and go on adventures and reconnect with old mates and to see all of your faces again, we have so much catching up to do. Preorders are available now, they really help a new book on its voyage, so I thank you all so much for all preorders so far. Remember: choose bookshops and support independents, preorder links below.

I started the year sharing a performance film of a poetry show I did back in October for Apples and Snakes at the QEH, Southbank. There are four poems captured here: three pieces are from my 'Pessimism is for Lightweights' collection and one exclusive from the forthcoming 'With Love, Grief and Fury' check it all out below. I have lots of films in my archives to share, I am so behind with things, but I want to remember to try to remember to film more of my new poems and performances this year, I have even started trying to share things on tik-tok, but I am not very confident on there yet, but if you can find me there, come say hello. 

I will  post my 2024 tour dates and more book news soon. For now I just wanted to say hey and share some poetry and some hope and some love and urge you to remain whole and hopeful and soft hearted. There is so much pain and sorrow and grief and anger and war and bombs and death and hunger in the big bad world right now. We must all fight to stay soft and strong and resilient all at the same time, to not get despondent, to not get bitter, to keep fighting the good fight. To hold the line. 

More than ever, I love the poets, I just want to say thank you to the poets. Thank you for your powerful words and messages online and offline, for sharing petitions and letters and posts for ceasefire, for your sense of community, for your moving poetry and books, for sharing your truth, for sharing your light, for showing us what you see and feel and know, for narrating the times, thank you for your humanity. Follow all the poets, follow the poets I follow, follow more poets, follow all the poets, have a look at some book recommendations here: 

Poetry is medicine. Poetry is food. Poetry is protest. I'll leave you with some images and poems by incredible poets, shared in solidarity with all freedom fighters and peace seekers and hope punks. Please keep the faith, share when you can, donate where and when you can, I'll add some links below...

Keep writing and keep reading and keep loving,
More soon comrades, 



Sunday 17 December 2023

Eulogy: Benjamin Zephaniah


Photo taken backstage at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Eulogy: Benjamin Zephaniah

As read for The Black Writers Guild, Brixton, December 2023

I come with a few notes to say. A feeling to share. I come to show you some broken pieces. In fact I feel like a child showing you a broken thing. Yes. That is what this feels like. If you ask me to speak on the passing of Professor Benjamin Zephaniah I hurtle back in time and am reminded how it felt to be a child, like I am pointing to a hurt and broken world, and hoping an adult and grown up or someone in charge will come and kiss it better, glue it back together, make it whole again. The world is so scary right now. My heart is properly broken. Please excuse my clumsiness. I am not very good at this December. I lost sight of the lighthouse and I am rowing my boat in dark water right now. We lost Shane Macgowan. We lost Benjamin Zephaniah. Punk. Rasta. Ireland. Jamaica. Rebel. Anarchist. Activist. Big heart. Spirited soul. Trailblazer. Pioneer. This week is also the anniversaries of the suicide of my Irish father and the deaths of both of my grandmothers. May they all rest in peace, in power, in paradise. I need lots of Guinness and rum if you're asking. 

I have learned that when people go, your mind takes you back to the beginning of the story. You go back to when you first met them. So standing here to speak is not me, I am not here, it is not the 50 year old Salena, but standing before you is the 20 year old me. Fresh from Hastings. Leaping around early 1990's London like Tigger in Winnie the Pooh. The time before iphones and the internet. A city vibrating with grunge and punk and house and rave and drum n' bass and hip hop and jungle and reggae music. I was a kid that came to London as a seeker, wanting to know what this writing poetry stuff was all about and finding so much inspiration and fire and life in the poetry community, in the smoky back rooms of pubs, with velvet flocked wallpaper and thick sticky carpets, when we chain smoked fags indoors and nothing was really filmed or photographed. You had to be there. It was fantastic. We all belonged nowhere, but found home and family in poetry. I remember roaming London just looking for mischief and rebellion and books and parties and fun and hope and truth. Benjamin symbolised of all of this, this meaningful words place, this shape of things to come, this wave of courage and resilience, this bold and changing tide. So many of us have followed the path that Benjamin cut through, the path made by going first, by being the first, the path that is so well trodden now. Poetry back then was not what it is now. It wasn't really funded. (haha) It wasn't seen in the same way. Back then it seemed more DIY and home made, poetry was printed in photocopied zines and recorded on cassette tapes. I have boxes of these archives, scrap books of gig fliers and posters, poetry art and recordings. These spaces and stages and platforms were made for the love of it, for the passion of it. Everything we take for granted now was fought for. We can never forget that. 

Benjamin Zephaniah meant the world to me. And I know he meant the world to you too. He was like everyone’s big brother, a guide, a someone to look up to. I admire and love Lemn Sissay in the same way. I am honoured and humbled and feel very lucky to know so many great poets as mates for the thirty years I have been here in London doing this thing. Whatever this thing is. The bottom line is Benjamin was always gentle and kind to me. As Maya Angelou once said “We may not remember what people say or do but we remember how they made us feel” we never forget kindness. I never forget kindness. Benjamin welcomed me, he held the door open to me, this scrappy wide-eyed idealistic ska-punk potty-mouthed poet. 

Looking back now I learnt so much from Benjamin, I learnt how it feels to be regarded, to be seen, to be heard, how to dream bigger. We must copy this example, make space, fight for platforms, hold the door open. Hold the line.

Professor Benjamin Zephaniah was so many things to so many people, mentor, educator, hero, teacher and leader with integrity and spirit, he is soulful, warm and encouraging and generous in every memory I have stored. But above all that it is the laughter I keep returning to and his laughter that I want to bring your attention to. 

In one photograph I have shared online: we are recording an episode of BBC Radio 4's Loose Ends. It was Benjamin that started it and he isn't here to defend himself so I will blame it on him. We started mucking about and put our names on yellow post it notes on our chests, so they would remember our names. Then we swapped our name tags, Benjamin laughed, let's swap them, see if they mix the brown people up. We made the programme like this. Laughing. Benjamin with Godden on his chest. Me with Zephaniah on my heart. I don't think I ever took it off.

In every memory I have stored of Benjamin Zephaniah, he is cracking up laughing. He used to say my name, like this, he'd tilt his head, grin and crack up laughing, which would make me grin, and crack up laughing. This is my medicine right now, this is the medicine I want us to share, remembering his laugh, I share the memory of it and hold it. I replay it, his smile, his laugh, like the way you might play a piece of well-worn vinyl. I know every single one of you can remember it now, his laugh, his smile. I think that is what he would want us to to all do right now, and today, for us all to smile, hold space for his smile, the sound of his laughter, hold that, share that, in our minds and hearts. 

I was gonna write that I cannot believe I wont hear him laugh and say my name like that again. But I can hear it now and he's saying ok ok ok Salena that's enough. Let someone else speak. So I will go now. 

Viva Zephaniah! Viva the great poets! Viva the revolution! 

Photos taken whilst recording Loose Ends BBC Radio 4

Photo taken on set of the BAFTA award-winning Life & Rhymes
with Benjamin Zephaniah and Lemn Sissay

RIP Shane! This looks like it was maybe taken in 1990's Filthy’s, maybe, but that’s how I always remember seeing Shane, drinking at the bar of Filthy McNasty’s with Jock Scot, so here’s raising a glass to that love and laughter, and those raucous and colourful memories. photo: Danny Elwes, Evening Standard, 1994.