A sweet little story about poetry for poetry’s sake, for National Poetry Day.

Last Autumn, I was struggling with everything. As I’m sure you’ve noticed there is not much light around in our socio-political climate, and in the bad news we contend with daily. I felt (still do feel, much of the time) full of despair witnessing the cruelty and carelessness with which some of the humans on this planet treat their fellow kith and kin. On a personal level, my husband and I were getting approved to be foster carers, which although incredibly exciting was also fraught with terrifying questions, difficult decisions, and going back over the most traumatic experiences of your life with strangers. It was a lot. Also, I just wasn’t having many triumphs in my writing life. Its not really cool to admit that, but I honestly must have submitted to over a hundred magazines, journals, writing competitions and funding pools over the course of about 18 months and had zero successes. I was feeling ready to knock writing on the head, wondering if maybe my work just didn’t really have anything valuable and useful to offer anyone at the moment. But I still had a notebook full of poems from a trip I’d taken to New York in the Spring (to look after my friends’ kid while they made a record – I know, great work if you can get it!) so I slowly and methodically got to work cutting and sticking the poems into a zine, to self-print, publish and distribute in the old-fashioned way.

I’ve always loved zines. I have baskets of them which I’ve collected over the last decade or more, tiny testimonies to the passions, cares, thoughts and secrets of friends and strangers alike. All collated on a living room or bedroom floor somewhere in this world (the furthest one away I could find was from Alaska) and run off on a photocopier or home printer to be shared trustingly with fellow humans. Making the zine was therapeutic, to say the least. Doing something creative and methodical with my hands, putting together words and pictures without any pressure of wondering what a prize judge or editor or funding board might think of it, creating a space for magic and curiosity and my own thoughts, for the sake of it. For its own sake. I really needed to do that, and I was pleased with the results, in a zine-y kind of way. I sent it out into the world on National Poetry Day 2017, with a full heart and a expecting nothing in return.

 

 

Things picked up a little after that. I mean, Faber didn’t call or anything but I had some offers for some lovely poetry readings over the winter, I enjoyed posting out copies of the zines the friends and even a few strangers who expressed an interest, and I also picked up the confidence to put myself out there and book myself a few shows in Sweden the following February. The trip was about the adventure as much as the poetry for me. I went the whole way over land on trains and buses which gave me so much time to think, read, talk to strangers and stare out of windows in preparation ahead of my impending new life as a foster carer. It was a magical experience for me, and I was lucky enough to catch up with some old friends, as well as make some new ones and experience some incredible kindness from a person I have still never met, who trusted me to stay in their beautiful apartment while I was in Gothenburg.

 

 

A few months after I got back, I received an email from a woman who had bought the zine at one of the shows in Gothenburg. She was kind enough to share with me that she had read it recently whilst in a long, dark night of illness and despair. She asked for me to send her 5 more copies so she could distribute them around the world to women she loves. I don’t have the words to describe what this meant to me, for so many reasons. Being on the edge of delving into this strange kind of parenthood, and learning that my words had managed to provide someone with a little comfort and solace was so very encouraging to hear. Also, having been feeling so helpless and isolated and unable to reach out and support my fellow humans in so many ways, the small victory of a little zine that I had made prompting women in different countries to contact each other and remind each other that they are valued and important very like such a special tonic. I sent the zines off on their way around the world, hoping for the best.

Over Spring and Summer I made a little more progress. We became foster carers which has been its own glorious, terrifying, rollercoaster. I was also elected as a parish councillor in our strange and beautiful little Forest town. Such a small step in terms of being to affect any social change, but I have always found so much solace in the old adage ‘think global, act local’, so I put my money where my mouth is and ran for the post. And while I’m really nowhere further along in terms of any on-paper successes in my writing career, I have discovered the joy of it again, just finished editing the script for a new show that I’m developing, and I am a good chunk of my way into a writing new novel (written in between packing lunches and doing school runs and washing school uniforms and doing crafts!). Why? Maybe just because. Because writing is fun and soothing and a valuable use of my time and thoughts. It helps me figure things out, and makes me feel more open and courageous when communicating with the people I love. Of course I hope for the show to be booked and the book to be published, but that’s not why I’m writing them. I’m writing because I’m a writer, and no amount of packed lunches to dirty dishes are about to change that.

As a wonderfully-timed and curiously neat closer to this extolling of the values of writing poetry for the sake of writing it – yesterday, on the eve of this year’s National Poetry Day, I found myself lurching through a dark day of ground-spinning, head-swimming virus. The kind of virus that makes your ears and your throat and your joints ache, but also makes you question your value as a human, as a partner and a daughter and a parent and a friend. And friends, its was in the midst of this temporary darkness that THIS ARRIVED!!!

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A zine, made by the fair hand of Anni in Sweden, who had been kind enough to read my zine and buy five more. It is full of love and positivity and hope and most importantly, strong women. It reminded me that there are few things more powerful that open-heartedly, simply, vulnerably sharing your thoughts and fears with the people around you. Yes, you leave yourself open to mockery and even hurt, but you also open up hesitant little streams and sometimes wide, grand canals of bravery and common ground and understanding in yourself and others.

 

Thanks Anni, thanks zines makers, and thanks sad and brave people everywhere. Especially the women. Here’s to getting better. This ones for you xxx

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Like The Water

Like The Water

I am currently developing my new show ‘Like The Water’ with music and composer Nuala Honan. You can read about it here as it develops. I have included photos and a blurb below. April 2018 saw our first public scratch at The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol where we received valuable audience feedback to bring back to our development process. We are actively looking for a producer. If you would love to discuss the development of the show with us, please drop me a line on sallyjenkinsonpoetry@gmail.com. Thanks!

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LIKE THE WATER (show) – Homesick Productions Press Pack

Later I Am Talking To A Boy And

I do not say
that I am hot and swollen all time
with anger and love,
that I cannot forgive you

for leaving me here
to go to parties on my own
and hide in the room with the coats
because it was always you
that did the talking.

Bee’s sister is dead. But she’s still got a lot of things she wants to say to her. Plus, there isn’t really anyone else to talk to when you’re a teenage girl and you live a seaside town in the north of England which is twinned with The End of The World.

Sally Jenkinson and Nuala Honan (Homesick productions) are currently developing their new show, Like The Water. It is a poetic, musical journey through grief, adolescence. sexuality, and the enduring, transformative love which can exist in all kinds female relationships.

The show is built from Sally Jenkinson’s poetic novella Like The Water, forthcoming from Burning Eye books, and written whilst she was Artist in Residence at The Gunnar Gunnarson Institute in Iceland. Alongside Nuala Honan’s improvised sonic landscape, using an electric guitar and a whole mess of pedals and wires and weird and gorgeous sounds.

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Homesick Production’s previous show, Folly, toured the UK in 2013 and then won an Artists International Development Grant from Arts Council England and The British Council to tour Australia, and run for two weeks at the Adelaide Fringe, in 2014.

BOV Ferment Front Postcard

Trailer for Folly: https://vimeo.com/66896904
Praise for Folly:

‘There is a visceral sense of authenticity which draws the listeners further into the world.’ – 4 **** Krystoff Magazine (AUS)

‘Jenkinson’s words offer many lyrical highlights, painting some appealing and vivid images along the way… Honan’s inspired playing ranges from the lightest of touches to driving rhythms that match the vocals for power. It’s also quite lovely to look at; inexplicably visually lush.’ – Rip It Up Magazine (AUS)

‘The poetry, from Sally Jenkinson, a Yorkshire wordsmith with an endearingly idiosyncratic style, riffs on the impulse to flee… Behind and around it is an impressive and powerful soundscape from Nuala Honan, a dynamo solo artist in her own right. With all the taught energy of a caged musical lioness her harmonies, rhythms and percussions provide an atmospheric backing that conveys all the barely contained emotions of the jilted lover, the lost soul, the wondrous traveller, the jaded backpacker’s despair and the explosive joy of a new resolution.’ – Talk Fringe Reviews, Adelaide Fringe (AUS)

Twitter @sallysomewhere

Instagram @sally_jenkinson

Facebook.com/sallyjenkinsonpoet

The Poetics of Support Work

As I work slowly on my new poetry collection ‘Sensory’, which aims to explore my experience as a care and support worker over the last decade, I have been trying to write more openly about that other side to my working life. In December last year I wrote this piece for the Morning Star exploring the poetics of support work. There’s a link to the actual article here, but I’ve also included the text below along with some of my favourite photos of support work-in-action (used with parental permission). Big love to everyone at the coal face of social care, staff, service users and families. Things are so hard right now as we face cut after cut to the vital funds we need to do the work we do together, but I SEE YOU. We are all working so hard to keep our heads above water, and I hope and pray everyday that things will change soon. xxx

 

The Poetics of Support Work

Care work is rarely poeticized. It is often perceived as drab, underqualified and underfunded. Of course, it can be all of those things. But it can also be a secret universe of otherworldly interactions – of wonder, achievement and triumph. It is a journey in which learning and discovery are a constant, for both worker and client.

I am a support worker, working mainly for children with learning disabilities. I have been doing this work for over a decade. I am also a poet, working on a collection of poems exploring the support worker experience, sensory interaction, and the incredibly complex relationship between support worker and client. In the process of working on these poems, I discovered such a deficit in the celebration of the intricacy, tenderness and creativity of our sector. There is not much precedence for writing about the support experience in a poetic way, which is surprising because it can be cosmic, surreal, visceral and tender – all ingredients that I look for in my favourite poetry!

Writing about social care experiences is a delicate process, because confidentiality is paramount. As support workers, we are supporting another human with their private life, so many of the particulars are inappropriate to share publicly. I am finding creative ways to explore the poetry, magic, and sensory wonder of my experience as a support worker, without revealing any exposing information about the people whom I have supported over the years.

Every day, we are asking our clients to trust us implicitly – to support them properly, to keep them safe, to respect their privacy, their homes, their bodies. And when we are trusted, when we are truly supporting someone to access the life they want to live, it is alchemic.

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Mega professional home support action shot with beautiful R, who I had the privilege to support a few years ago.

And there is love, make no mistake. We don’t call it love because we are performing a supportive service, a job, and to say love is inappropriate. And because it is not the kind of love we are taught about in books and films and pop songs. It is not Agape or Eros or Storge. Philia is closest, but still not exactly right.

But just because there is no appropriate word for it, does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Love keeps us striving to provide a good service – despite bad backs, no sick pay, zero hours contracts, minimum wage, and being able to earn a better salary in any supermarket than by delivering this complex and skilled care. Love keeps us learning and arming ourselves to be almost-nurses, almost-teachers, almost-social workers, and almost-PTs, when our job demands it. Because of course, all these ‘higher level’ service providers are also desperately underfunded and in short supply, so the overspill of responsibility inevitably trickles down to the people who are there every day, providing the day-to-day care. The support workers.

Are we underpaid and undertrained? Undoubtedly. Is there nowhere near enough funding and resources to provide our clients with the quality of service and life that they deserve? Yes. Yet it is anything but miserable work. It is humans, in difficult circumstances, striving to communicate, to understand each other, and bring each other peace and light. We are out here – client and carer – working hard to make it work, every day.

Sally Jenkinson - support work action shot.jpg

There is a problem with media representation in our sector. People with disabilities are often portrayed in films as being defined by the misery of their disability. Disabled characters are often played by able-bodied or neurotypical actors. Support workers are either not portrayed at all, or we only reach the media in a news scandals about poor care or mistakes being made.

I would never presume to write about the experience of a person with learning disabilities from their perspective. But the relationships between the people being supported and the support workers, the ground we cover together, the sensory explorations and communication successes (and failures) that we encounter as a team, I know something of those.

The narrative of people with learning (or indeed physical) disabilities must be shifted. I see this happening, slowly. I see artists with LD telling their own unique and complex stories in creative and original ways, in organisations as diverse as Misfits Theatre Company in Bristol and the incredible Stopgap Dance Company, who I was lucky enough to see perform recently.

The narrative of support work as unskilled and unimportant must change too. I long to our sector championed as complex and proficient, and our work funded to pioneer new and creative ways of supporting our clients’ needs and desires and passions.

The poetry in my line of work is in the collaboration between carer and client – the trust, the communication, and the hard-fought, unsung relationships that we work so hard to build together. Those relationships deserve to be celebrated.

The Poets Our Kin / These Poems Our Stories

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Poem by Alfred Thananchayan. Originally from Sri Lanka, and calling Doncaster home for the last 4 years.

Doncaster is currently hosting the first ever poetry exhibition in a commercial shopping space in the UK, possibly even the world. It has been lovingly curated by Doncaster poet Dan Ryder. I am so very proud to be part of it. Doncaster is my home town and it fills my heart with joy to see great big community art projects happening for everyone to enjoy. See the photo below of my poem ‘Not So Bad’ up 10 feet high on the wall of the bus station in my home town. That’s my step dad there having a look at it. Good light, hey?

Poets our Kin

Scratch performance of new show ‘Like The Water’ THIS SUNDAY in Bristol

I am currently developing a new piece of spoken work theatre called ‘Like The Water’, with musician Nuala Honan. I wrote the original manuscript for the show whilst I was artist in residence at the Gunnar Gunnarsson Institute in East Iceland in 2016.

The story follows a teenage girl, Bee, as she processes her grief following the death of her step sister Ember, whilst simultaneously trying to navigate all the usual challenges of adolescence; body worries, parties, social anxiety, boys, and her own sexuality.

I tried to approach the tone of the story in a way which empowers its majority female characters, showing their triumphs, challenges, mistakes, conflicts and (ultimately) love for each other as a journey of growth and exploration, without shame or sensationalism.

It is set by the sea in Morecambe in Lancashire, where I worked as a waitress when I was 18, and where the idea for this story first started to germinate.

If you are a Bristol local then I would LOVE you to come along this Sunday to The Wardrobe Theatre on Old Market at 7.30pm to watch our first public scratch of the show and give us your feedback. Its Pay What You Feel and we need your in put!

With love Sally x

LIKE THE WATER (show) – Homesick Productions

Press pack

Later I Am Talking To A Boy And

I do not say
that I am hot and swollen all time
with anger and love,
that I cannot forgive you

for leaving me here
to go to parties on my own
and hide in the room with the coats
because it was always you
that did the talking.

Bee’s sister is dead. But she’s still got a lot of things she wants to say to her. Plus, there isn’t really anyone else to talk to when you’re a teenage girl and you live a seaside town in the north of England which is twinned with The End of The World.

Sally Jenkinson and Nuala Honan (Homesick productions) are currently developing their new show, Like The Water. It is a poetic, musical journey through grief, adolescence. sexuality, and the enduring, transformative love which can exist in all kinds female relationships.

The show is built from Sally Jenkinson’s poetic novella Like The Water, forthcoming from Burning Eye books, and written whilst she was Artist in Residence at The Gunnar Gunnarson Institute in Iceland. Alongside Nuala Honan’s improvised sonic landscape, using an electric guitar and a whole mess of pedals and wires and weird and gorgeous sounds.

Homesick Production’s previous show, Folly, toured the UK in 2013 and then won an Artists International Development Grant from Arts Council England and The British Council to tour Australia, and run for two weeks at the Adelaide Fringe, in 2014.

Trailer for Folly: https://vimeo.com/66896904
Praise for Folly:

‘There is a visceral sense of authenticity which draws the listeners further into the world.’ – 4 **** Krystoff Magazine (AUS)

‘Jenkinson’s words offer many lyrical highlights, painting some appealing and vivid images along the way… Honan’s inspired playing ranges from the lightest of touches to driving rhythms that match the vocals for power. It’s also quite lovely to look at; inexplicably visually lush.’ – Rip It Up Magazine (AUS)

‘The poetry, from Sally Jenkinson, a Yorkshire wordsmith with an endearingly idiosyncratic style, riffs on the impulse to flee… Behind and around it is an impressive and powerful soundscape from Nuala Honan, a dynamo solo artist in her own right. With all the taught energy of a caged musical lioness her harmonies, rhythms and percussions provide an atmospheric backing that conveys all the barely contained emotions of the jilted lover, the lost soul, the wondrous traveller, the jaded backpacker’s despair and the explosive joy of a new resolution.’ – Talk Fringe Reviews, Adelaide Fringe (AUS)

Twitter @sallysomewhere

Instagram @sally_jenkinson

Facebook.com/sallyjenkinsonpoet

Upcoming readings, shows and workshops for 2018.

Well well well. Its 2018, and the seemingly endless month of January is over. Here’s a run down of the readings, shows, and workshops that I’m up to in the coming months. Very exciting things afoot at the beautiful London Roundhouse, IN SWEDEN at Göteborgs poetry slam, at the ever-glorious Bang Said The Gun, and with musical megababes Nuala Honan and Honeyfeet in Bristol. However it looks like I’ve currently got NO SHOWS in April, so if you are a poetry event organiser and you need a poet in April, I’m yer gal!
PS Also working on a new show, its called ‘Like The Water’ and I think its gonna be really good. Look out for more info and dates for that soon. x

  • Sunday 28th Jan – Young Blah poetry workshop for 19 – 25 year olds @ Bristol Improv Theatre, St Paul’s Road, Clifton, BRISTOL. 4pm.
  • Sunday 28th Jan – Young Blah poetry showcase @ The Room Above, The White Bear, St Michael’s Hill, BRISTOL. 7pm.
  • Sunday 25th Feb – I’m doing a quick poem at: Poetry Slam @ Musikens Hus, Djurgårdsgatan 13, Gothenburg, SWEDEN.
    http://www.musikenshus.se/poetry-slam-deltavling-2-4/
  • Wednesday 28th Feb – Folkteatern, Olof Palmes Plats, 413 04 Gothenburg, SWEDEN.
    I’m SO excited to be performing at this. Looking for any other opportunities to read while I’m in Sweden, or in Hamburg where I’m stopping off o the way there and back. Please give me a shout if you have any ideas!!
    https://www.folkteatern.se/evenemang/spoken-word-1
  • Saturday 10th March – Creative Facilitation Training for Poets @ The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, LONDON
    I’m running a session developing skills to support people with a learning disability to engage with and create poetry. There is a whole program of different sessions running throughout the weekend. Open to anyone who is interested in, or currently a practitioner of, any kind of poetry in education.
  • Monday 26th March – BANG! Said The Gun @ The Soho Theatre, LONDON. Alongside hero of our time Jonny Fluffy Punk! 7.30pm
    https://sohotheatre.com/shows/bang-said-the-gun/
  • Saturday 5th May – Fundraiser for Misfits Theatre Company @ The Trinity Centre, BRISTOL.
    I’m hosting this glorious evening of music and fun, featuring my actualy favourite singer / songwriter (Nuala Honan), and my actual favourite live band (Honeyfeet), and my actual favourite DJ (DJ Dad). And all the proceed go to my favourite theatre company led by people with learning disabilities (Misfits Theatre Company). Its a perfect storm! Its going to be the best night of all our lives! Get more info and BUY YOUR TICKET here: https://www.3ca.org.uk/whats-on/2017/honeyfeet-misfits-fundraiser

If you would like to discuss booking me for a reading, show or workshop, please do get in touch – sallyjenkinsonpoetry@gmail.com

 

Photo credit Tilly May. Shambala 2017.

Massive Attack Reinterpreted for BBC Introducing (video poem).

Last year I was comissioned to write something for BBC Introducing In The West, as they ran a project to celebrate Massive Attack’s return to Bristol for their big show on the downs. We were invited to write a re-interpretation of a song from Blue Lines, and I went for ‘Five Man Army’ which always felt to me like a celebration of being young and excited and skint and creative and having a crew that you love making stuff with.

I worked in Cosies (a bar in St Pauls in Bristol) for more than six years in my twenties. Its a place that has held such a significant place in the music scene in Bristol over the years, but is also a litte tiny underground dive that you could walk past without noticing, surrounded by grand georgian buildings most likely built with merchant money from the slave trade. Bristol is a complex and confronting place comprehend when you start thinking about its history, and how much of its current vibe it owns to the immigrant communties that have made it the incredible and multi-layered and beautiful place it is today. The battle continues. Gentrification continues. I am gentrification.

But I was also a skint artist trying to get by working in a bar, and was so grateful for the traces of beauty left behind by all the skint artists that had started their fires in St Pauls before me. Massive Attack being an obvious example. So this piece is an attempt to distill at this, plus my adoration of St Pauls, plus all the passion and heartbreak of my early twenties, plus my ongoing (unsuccessful) attempts to learn Somali, plus an homage to the Bristol poetry and music scenes (past and present) all in one piece. Simple eh?

Its not perfect, at all. But it was a rewarding and thought provoking experience to write. And I did an OK job of reading it out in the end. And I only just found out they’d made a video of it! So, here it is: