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Gratitude and Remembering What Works For Us

 

October 2015

Summer came and went. The days are gradually getting shorter. Towards the end of June, some were hotter than normal, but incredibly, not as hot as I would like (yes, I am a fan of more tropical climates).

It’s great to look out the window at 9:30pm or 10pm and still see the shady, baby blue skyline over the silhouetted roof tops, knowing in a few weeks, this spectre will not be available. I make the most of these long evenings by either going for a short run (illness recovery permitting), and hanging out in the gorgeous Horniman Gardens, sitting on my woven-straw mat, bare feet, to write until groundsmen charge around in their yellow-and-black-wheeled green buggies, ringing their bell, its tolls signalling the 8:50pm closure of the park.

The park allows me to feel grounded, coupled with the intricate sounds of summer nature, and the swish of the lush trees, clothed in their dark green leaves.

The expanse of peace, calm and well manicured vegetation, gives me the mental and emotional space to write, while as usual, I juggle the many balls, skittles and any thing else that represents my life. On some of my juggling apparatus, are inscribed the words ‘bereavement’, ‘writing and editing my chapbook’, ‘freelance workshops’, my ‘freelance life coaching job’, ‘sustaining and marketing my services’, ‘church life’, as well as ‘sustaining health while recovering from illness’.

Death and coping with loss has been a theme around me for the past six months. In particular bidding farewell to those who would normally have the rest of their lives ahead of them, but instead had their lives cruelly cut short.

In dealing with the grief, at first it I find it difficult to write or journal about, but eventually I am able to write about it, normally several months, sometimes years down the line.

Managing health while there are a lot of changes and emotional upheaval around me, allows me to utilise my life coaching skills. It is sometimes very interesting to take your own advice, or at least practice what you preach.

Buying a high-speed nutrition extractor blender and eating more nutrient dense foods, has helped me to rebuild my health and get back on the road to recovery, allowing me as well to create a routine for my writing and find a work/life/creative balance.

I was also baptised on Easter Sunday, so am adjusting to a new way of filtering the world around me, as well as the new relationship between my inner and outer worlds.

In a recent article, I mentioned how a writer’s life is not linear. Nor is it a Hollywood film type storyline, where the female lead overcomes her foibles, while heading toward the proverbial sunset. I do, however, sometimes feel like a warrior-high-kicking type of female, who somersaults off buildings, fights the baddies, jumps over every obstacle possible to reach her destination. Probably a little too clichéd, but I have definitely been jumping over many obstacles in recent months.

Without wanting to sound too sorry for myself, during all the changes around me, I feel it’s important to celebrate accomplishments, as well as express gratitude to address the balance. During the International Women’s month of March, I was honoured with an award for my poetry contributions to art and culture in the community. I was very overwhelmed and felt so grateful to all from the writing community who were instrumental in me being able to receive this award.

June also saw the last two shows of our six show ‘Family Matters’ tour. Myself, along with Agnes Meadows, Janett Plummer and Linda Shanovitch shared unique, true stories, which left audiences opened mouth, following each word we delivered. it was an immensely rewarding experience. The audience feedback was incredible. Watch this space regarding more projects spawning from this tour.

Another poetry highlight from June was watching Jazz Verse Juke Box, hosted by Jumoke Fashola at Ronnie Scott’s on June 14th, then hanging out afterwards at the end of the show with featured performers and friends Roger Robinson, Francesca Beard and Jacob Sam-La Rose. Also present were more friends, including spoken word-in-education supremo Peter Kahn, Janett Plummer and ‘Jazzman’ John Clarke. Writers who have been heavily instrumental in my poetry and writing experience over the past fourteen years. A reminder of my journey thus far. A reminder, to celebrate and be grateful.

 

 

The Underused Art of Storytelling

April 2015

One of the best orators I know, is my mother. With Mothering Sunday and International Women’s Month having in March, I couldn’t help but think about the family tales, that she regularly shares, that have a world of meaning.

Many of  the poems that I am putting towards my first collection, as Sable Poet-Residence, are based on stories that have been shared with me by my mother.

I feel extremely honoured to have had the opportunity to hear the rich and often hilarious accounts of her childhood in Jamaica, the meals she observed her mother making and how she had to grow up quickly in the absence of her mother, mourning her passing at a young and crucial stage of life.

For many years now, I have sat with my mother and asked her as many questions as humanely possible about her siblings, school, her friends and what it was like as a young girl in 1940s and 1950s Jamaica.

I regularly encourage my nieces and nephews to ask, my mum  – their ‘Nanna’  – questions, as we sit down and delight in the answers and ensuing stories, that paint an amazing vista of Jamaica. 

I have also unearthed a lot of previously unheard of stories about my Auntie Mavis, a formidable woman who died, only moments after I arrived to see her in Jamaica in 2009. I ended up giving the eulogy and discovered so much during my research about her.  My findings about her her will become part of a story I am writing, to be used for the new show I will be touring in soon called ‘Family Matters’, with Agnes Meadows, Janett Plummer and Linda Shanovitch.

*****

I recently entered one of my regular hangouts, the fabulous ‘Calabash of Culture’ in South East London, a delightful, earthy store of African cultural artefacts, books and jewellery, swathed in the ridiculously spicy vapours of vegan food from its cafe. On entering, the owner Ra, immediately introduced me to Ben Haggerty, founder of the renowned The Crick Crack Club, ( the storytelling organisation that has been in existence for over 25 years), breaking away from their deep conversation to do so. The owner shared with me that by coincidence, he had just mentioned my name to Ben, as a local poet he knew. The next thing he knew, I came in through the shop door. We were all flabbergasted by this synchronicity.

An an in-depth conversation between Ben and myself began about the underused art of storytelling and the diminishing role of the oral tradition. Ben also shared that with me that he was the first person to bring the legendary Jamaican storyteller Louise ‘Miss Lou’ Bennet to England to perform.

It made me think about the rich oral tradition I have been able to experience from my mother, father and a variety of uncles, aunts and elder cousins, many of whom are no longer with us.

It also made me realise the many ways that storytelling finds its way within many aspects of my day to day life, from poetry readings to public speaking and consider what an underused art form it is.

 

 

January 2015

I have decided that my New Year resolution this year is… I won’t be making any. I am also resigned to the fact that I won’t be making any New Year resolutions any other year in the near future. Why choose January 1st to commit myself to doing something new, for an entire year when I can set myself targets and goals to meet at particular points throughout the year.?

I realise that it is more useful and productive to make a statement of intent, based on what I plan to do, whether it is has been scheduled or not. I then ensure that the statement, statements or intentions I profess manifest. This works great for me, as I know that once I put it out there, especially on social media for all to see, I will need to follow it up, to make sure it happens. As a life coach as well, I also look at setting goals that are realistic, finding the necessary steps towards meeting them.

As 2015 is in its first few days, I’ve already been setting a few things in motion for this year, with regards to my post as Sable poet-in-residence. Before the Christmas holiday period, I had a few meetings with Kadija to set up exciting projects and events for this year ahead. I also, before the Christmas took steps to organise my poetry chapbook, editing rewriting and submitting poems.

As the end of the year is usually a time for me to be reflective, one of the notions I finally surrendered to and came to conclude, after an unbelievably prolonged time, is that the life of a Writer, Creative or Freelance professional well never be Linear. Now, people may be correct to comment “well, why state the obvious? “. By Linear, I mean the so called straight line dictated by a 9-to-5 career, relationship or marriage with 2.5 children or white picket fence existence. I mentioned this only a few days ago, to a fellow creative friend, who laughed in agreement.

The life of a Writer, Creative, and for myself freelance Coach can at times, be a lonely, insular one. Sometimes this lonely road can veer off to the left, make unexpected right turns and can be dark and cold, as well as joyful and exhilarating. As a member of a big family, relatives are aware of my creative and freelance commitments and understand that I may not, at times, be able to slot into the existence of our collective, normal family life. Staying up past midnight to meet a deadline, is not uncommon for me. Meeting a writing deadline on the train journey into to my part-time day job (yes, I have one of those), or using my tablet or smart phone to do so, on the return, bumpy bus ride home, is indeed a normal occurrence.

So I am therefore, resigned to living by the flow, ebbs and tides of the creative life.

With the recent spate of murders of young, unarmed black men and boys in The USA, a new campaign of support and videos have been created in the US, under the hashtag #blackpoetsspeakout. Further information can be found out from the Twitter account @blackpoetsspeak. Sable will organise an event this year to also support the campaign. I will post and share information regarding this very soon.

Keep up to date with ‘Patricia’s Moments’, my Sable news, event information, musings and reflections during my residency. Feel free to follow my Twitter account @Ms_P_Foster as well as use the hashtag #SablePoetInResidence to know what I am up to.

Have a great 2015,

Patricia Foster.

The first column from our first poet in residence! Patricia Foster

(December 2014)

With the rapidly transitioning seasons, winter is already upon us. The evenings shorter, but at times uncharacteristically mild for this time of year. I seemed to have missed the change from summer to winter, as I was away in Jamaica, both in August (for a wedding) and in October, for the Every Woman Inspired conference, running a writing workshop. When I returned to the UK at the start of November, the awaiting winter temperature was as unwelcome as the bumpy landing at Gatwick airport.

I have also been through a personal transitioning process; welcoming my new role as Sable Litmag Poet-In-Residence. I am still humbled and at the same time honoured to be chosen as the first Sable Poet-In-Residence. I am aware of a mental transition that will take place, where my writing and writing activities will need to be more structured and my approach to writing less laid back.

Changes to my responsibility as a writer, being pushed in a positive direction, disciplining myself, preparing for 4th December first ‘Sable Reading Series’ event, working towards my chapbook, as well as planning ahead for the wonderful activities I will be participating in for my year long residency, have left me finishing 2014 on an incredible high.

The moment I found out about my new role, was when the lovely Sable editor Kadija Sesay surprised me with the invitation to undertake this new, exciting position, at the St Lucia ‘One Last Lime’ event on 12th June of this year. I was the guest Jamaican poet, performing alongside internationally renowned St Lucian Poets Jane King, Kendel Hippolyte and UK based Gemma Weekes.

At first, I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly. After gathering my composure, I had no choice but to say, (if my memory serves me correctly) “oh, er, yes please!” How could I refuse? I was in a daze for a few hours, of course – possibly days. My desire to share my great news was irrepressible, but I somehow managed to contain my excitement until the formal announcement was made in July 2014. The moment the announcement was made, however, I used every social networking portal known to me to share the news. I was deeply touched by the too numerous to mention congratulatory messages sent my way.

The past few months has enabled me to reflect on my role, as well as the wonderful gifts attached to being a writer. As I use Social media a lot, it will be a great opportunity (and an unashamedly good excuse) for me to post messages and share anecdotes, regular insights and any other useful writing information and tips, during my year long residency, which will be known as ‘Patricia’s Moments’.

I look forward to sharing the journey of my residency through my monthly column, as well as my ‘Patricia’s Moments’ Tweets. I am also excited about the many events, activities and initiatives that Kadija Sesay and Michael Chilokoa have been working hard behind the scenes to bring to life.

I hope that 2014 ends incredibly positive for you. Best wishes also for the holiday season.

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