PLEASE UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DISTRIBUTE THE POEMS FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE WITHOUT SEEKING INDIVIDUAL POETS PERMISSION FIRST
“We’re a bunch of gobby idiots, I say that as a highest compliment (laughter) If someone called my a gobby idiot I would take that as a compliment so no offence to any of the other poets who feature on this podcast”
MUSIC – (Short sequence of musical beeps) (Pacey baseline) (Two-step drum beat)
Singing – (Cassette Tape Radio) (Cassette Tape Radio) (Cassette Tape Radio)
Welcome to Cassette Tape Radio, I’m your host Talia Randall, how you doing?
In this episode we’ve got more poetry, from me and from eleven other poets. The last few episodes have been poetry focused because, why not.
Today we are featuring UniSlam, an organization that uses poetry as a tool to engage, inspire and empower. UniSlam runs a yearly poetry slam for UK universities, and for those who don’t know what a slam is it’s basically a competitive poetry performance.
UniSlam also runs writing programmes for people who aren’t at uni including a scheme that they’ve called a mid career post emerging development programme. What does that mean? What does post emerging / mid career mean?
Basically it refers to people who may have been doing their thing for a while, be it poetry, or theatre, whatever and who are now ‘in the middle’ – so they may have a few significant things behind them – a book, or a show or a tour – and hopefully a few significant still things in front of them.
The UniSlam post emerging, mid career group has around 15 poets in – including me – and today you’re going to hear from 12 of us. We’re each going to read one poem each and that’s it. Just simply lush contemporary poetry for you, you absolute lucky bastards
I’ve also recorded an interviewdwith Toby Campion who is the director of Unislam. You heard a tiny snippet of that at the top of the episode where I call us all gobby idiots, sorry about that.
In the interview we chat about how problematic and confusing the terms ‘emerging’ & ‘mid career’ are. We talk about the importance of honouring our collective spoken word history & also how some of us artists have been dealing with the lockdown. I’m gonna be releasing that interview as a special bonus episode and that’ll be out very soon so watch out for that.
But back to today’s episode. We go 12 poems by 12 poets.
Little Content Warning, some of the poems deal with quite heavy themes sometimes, you know us poets, we love to talk about is sex & death. Other poems are more lighthearted & uplifting.
I think its best that I do a blanket content warning for this episode because sometimes a person might be triggered by something that feels quote unquote ‘obvious’, other times something that is seemingly subtle can feel horrendous to someone else.
So, if you’re feeling a bit tender feel free to choose another episode from Cassette Tape Radio – if you’re in the mood for a belly laugh I highly recommend episode 4 – Fax Me Up.
But enough from me, the poems are about to start…
Hi, I’m Shruti Chauhan and I’m a British Indian poet, performer and radio presenter from Leicester. This is a poem from my pamphlet, That Which Can Be Heard.
They said Indian patterns would be best:
the peacocks, the paisleys, of course the girl-boy faces,
and they said his name should be a whisper
in your hand and that the rose-petalled sheets
would wait until he traced it, and they said
you should seal it with lemon and sugar,
and even if it itched and the smell of wet made you sick,
you should sleep with it on, and they said, the next day,
you shouldn’t wash as water weakens the stain,
and they said, instead, you heat your hands over a stove,
and the darker the coppered hue,
the deeper his love.
And you on that red stool in the middle of the room,
Hello I’m Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, poet and editor of the Fenland Poetry Journal
A poem addressed to my younger self
I’m going to redact your teenage story
with blue-handled scissors.
All damaged edges will be rounded
with childproof blades.
The roses you snipped, but forgot to water,
will uncurl themselves from little fists.
I’ll give you an extended arm
with a giant hand to slap the bad boys away.
I’ll craft versions of your world
filled with butterflies, birds and horses
and you’ll never cut yourself.
My name’s Jemima Foxtrot and I’m a writer, performer and a theatre-maker
A huge and bulbous yellow mug.
A dragonfly, bluebottle blue.
A veritable rainbow of Wilkinson’s ring binders, just 99p each.
Bart Simpson’s catapult. Blossom, blossom, blossom.
Squeezing pus from a waspish spot.
Sometimes it hides behind a huge moustache, a dipped trilby,
a nibbled field of sheep.
And sometimes I’m stuck on a hillock like a nipple, all alone.
Enclosed in the moat of my flesh.
Standing up short in my useful, mottled legs.
The town square is alive with ants and goats and
teenagers snog on the opposite bench.
Yo my name is Jamal Mehmood, I’m a writer of poems and short stories
Take me some place where wet black kohl
is painted around my eyes. Let it run down my face,
let me run at pace. Let me get somewhere
when I am out of breath. Give me the satisfaction
of a terminating joy – all the grandeur of small victories.
There is something false in the big ones, like a falst claim
at divinity. The men who claim to be gods are just
lowercase g’s. A celestial laughing stock, the dust
on the back of a stolen slipper in the mosque courtyard.
Give me freedom from this child’s play.
The abandon you feel for a second playing in a warm sea.
The weight of the blue expanse, your back to the world,
the world’s back to yours. Water holding your skin
with the care of a new lover, under the eye of a jealous sun.
If all daybreaks were so kind, perhaps this wouldn’t be earth.
You’re listening to Cassette Tape Radio, a mixtape style podcast featuring comedy, poetry & interviews like this:
“Poetry before us was kind of quiet. You might have had tea and crumpets, you know, sat round and maybe whispered to each other, not talk too loud. We put brass knuckles on it, punch you in the face with poetry, we gave it a rowdy sound, we turned up the volume and it became a war cry in many ways, for a lot of people”.
Episodes are out every other Thursday, so like, subscribe & carry on listening.
Hello, my name’s Ben Norris, and I am a poet, a playwright, and an actor, and currently sitting amongst my housemate’s clothes rail in their bedroom because it is the quietest room in the house – I hope it works.
This is my poem called
Bull In A China Shop
I do not have a proper Nottingham accent,
but I do not sound like I am from anywhere else.
This is what I trained for, why I holed up in the comfortable
ignorance of other places – spent ten grand on my hands
and nine grand on my mouth. Borrowed myself.
So I could come back changed – capable now
of disappearing entirely, and of telling professional truth.
I didn’t know what a proper Nottingham accent was
until I left, like you don’t know the sound of your own
voice until you phone your own house when no one’s in.
Like you have to stand back from a mirror, or ask
a stranger to take a picture. Like no one says
you don’t know your own strength until it’s done
some serious damage, until it’s landed
on somebody else.
Hello, my name is Maria Ferguson and I am absolutely obsessed with pandas.
You showed me the whole of London and I wanted to eat it all,
so I snapped off the tops of the buildings like breadsticks and made them a part of me.
I ate all the pods on the Eye, those lions in Trafalgar Square and the river and Tower Bridge.
The view went on for miles, a buffet at an expensive wedding.
The belly of St Paul’s shaking with fear in the haze of an August sky.
My mouth opened and closed several times and you thought I was lost for words, but I was trying to swallow it up; the roof of the pub and the buses and the dogs and the foxes.
I ate a man in a suit and tie on his way home to his wife and a girl in wellington boots.
It is only now, button popped off my jeans and forcing my zip with a hanger,
it occurs to me that, actually, I may have gone too far.
Hi everyone, my name is Bryony. When I’m not writing poem I work at a community centre and as a workshop facilitator. This poem is from my pamphlet Giraffe which came out in 2017 with Seren Books; I hope you enjoy.
When you feel better from this — and you will — it will be quiet and unremarkable, like walking into the next room. It might sting a little, like warmth leaking into cold-numbed hands. When you feel better, it will be the slow clearing of static from the radio. It will be a film set when the director yells cut! When you feel better, you will take: a plastic spoon for your coffee foam, free chocolates from the gleaming oak reception desk, the bus on sunny days, your own sweet time. When you feel better, it will be like walking barefoot on cool, smooth planks of wood, still damp from last night’s rain. It will be the holy silence when the tap stops dripping. The moment a map finally starts to make sense. When you feel better, you will still suffer, but your sadness will be graspable, roadworthy, have handlebars. When you feel better, you will not always be happy, but when happiness does come, it will be long-legged, sun-dappled: a giraffe.
Hi my name is Hannah Gordon
On the day of his funeral Becklow Gardens was shut
and QPR had postponed all their fixtures. People wore masks,
kept their distance, cradling something tribal.
Uxbridge road was deserted, but a line of traffic on South Africa
slowed toward the stadium. The funeral director marched Victorian
ahead of his hearse. The Loft, like his coffin locked.
People stand guard in blue and white and black
The cars stop. A flag is placed and we clap.
Slow and sombre hands heavy with the weight of honour.
His mum stands strong, obvious in her grief,
it speaks a language we know deep and un-consoled,
the matriarch of a tribe of black taxis containing the loss.
I catch a glimpse of Reece and I know him from his grief,
Richard mouths thank-you, our eyes lock in shared sheen
A woman films it all beside me for her son on a screen
We all stand in socially distant silence for Dean
I’m Toby Campion and this poem is from my debut collection, Through Your Blood. It’s called
Notes from Mykkonos Beach at 4am.
On the other side of town, where graffiti and stray dogs rule,
a church sits on a cliff, waiting for the purple ribbon horizon
to pull up a new day, refusing to acknowledge the men
gathered in the shadows under its nose. The gentle sea
laps as if it doesn’t know what they are doing, either.
Salty waves falling against rock face. Bodies swallowed
by darkness. Silhouettes standing, knelt. Writhing in worship.
I wonder which of these midnight disciples
have mortgages, or families back at their hotels.
How many wives are lying in resort bedrooms,
remembering the man who named each breast
on their honeymoon. How many are dreaming
of a husband who can sleep at night.
Hi, my name’s Alice Frecknall, I’m a poet, short fiction writer, and fine artist.
they found their way in left the door ajar left a baby no a child
dying on the lawn out front face down.
I did not go to her blame the fog of summer whatever I waited for stillness for the rise and fall of her body to cease before looking to see what was lost.
This morning, all the tower blocks have their curtains drawn nets dirtied by tired glass so high up the only prying eyes belong to God or the birds anyway.
It’s hard to know whether day is trying to begin or end sky so heavy with grey it closes in as if the ceiling has been let down.
I think that child wore my features that had I rolled her for CPR perhaps I would have found myself.
I woke swallowing attempting to take her into the depths of me.
On the grid of boxed-up balconies windows have been left ajar opening inwards they take up a little space of their own.
The steady air finds its way un-intrusive scent of frying meat
leaks satiates sweet rich spices share their passion for summer
heat solitude could never exist here.
Hi, my name is Talia Randall I am a writer, comedian and poet.
Some people invent
a mythology for their rudeness
instead of bothering to know a person
need an outhouse
for all their
no but… I was only…
act out kindness
only when they think the heavens are watching,
here we all are on the bus, being god to each other.
Some people auntie themselves to strangers in the toilet,
smear peanut butter into all of their fractures
then forget to ask for the spoon back.
Some people bury worms
under their beds
in preparation for the afterlife.
into the mouths of women
forget the atavism of pussies.
Have they never licked their own philtrums
after a dip in the ocean?
Some people exchange their pain
for nectar points. Cash them in for tins of peas
& keep them in the basement for when the big one hits.
I’ve even heard that someone collects the names
of all the daughters whose births were never written
in the records. Where do you think she keeps them all?
Hello! My name is Cecilia Knapp and I’m a poet and playwright.
I Used to Eat KFC Zingers Without Hating Myself
Order cat litter off Amazon. Light a fig
candle. The clouds are a paper mouth.
Another Tesco express. Someone else
has died on Facebook. The cat licks me.
Feel endorsed. Wonder if my therapist
thinks I’m a brat, imagine her telling me
I’m her favourite. Get sad that cancer
got Alan Rickman. Spray some vitamin d
under my tongue, buy a Himalayan rock
salt candle holder. Get milk drunk
off my oat latte. Man on the Luton train
pushes into me. I ask him to hold me
till I’m gorgeous again. Handle my cat’s
shit. Listen back to my own voice notes
several times. Speculate how carpet shops
still make money. Dreams of dying.
Watch the world’s strongest man.
Imagine my father’s angry prostate.
Most men on this train could kill me.
I’m a pig. I need a pat on the back.
I need a thigh gap. I use emojis to
avoid conflict. Worry I’m a gentrifier.
Watch docs about murdered women.
Mortgages. Cognitive processes. Search
for wifi extra in between tube tunnels to send
a gif that everyone’s seen before. Someone
I know has won an award. I have a memory
of your love like a lodged fish bone. Before
you died, I cut your hair.
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. If you want to know more about the poets featured there is a link in the episode description, please check out them out, follow their work & if you enjoyed them, let them know, who doesn’t like a well intentioned compliment.
There’s also more info about unislam in the episode description along with a link to the transcript – useful if you want to read the featured poems too.
A little reminder that Cassette Tape Radio is an open sketchbook by me, Talia Randall, with music & audio by Jamie Payne. It’s an eclectic mix of comedy, poetry, short stories & interviews. and this is your first time tuning in here’s a little taster of a previous episode:
(tight rhythm synth + 4/4 funk beat)
(fax machine noise – sounds like internet dial up tone)
I wanna, I wanna wanna fax you.
I wanna, I wanna wanna fax you.
Baby relax, fax to the max.
(climbing chords in a 1980s electro pop synth style + fax machine noise)
What’s your number? What’s your name?
Push my buttons and scan my page.
Lets make a date, to modulate.
Fax me up I’m not engaged.
– end –