After months of writing, poem selection, editing, planning… tonight was going to be the night all my hard work would come together and I would share the fruition of my labour in the form of… INSPIRED, my first book of poetry and to make it all the more worthwhile the joint opening night of a new fortnightly spoken word event for West London that I would be co-hosting with Mz Blu of Hot96.3 FM (www.hot96.co.uk) called I:Poet ( the features) and OD:Poetic ( the Open Mic).
The 3 weeks before, had me so busy at work and even busier in the evening. Editing INSPIRED, getting it to my publisher Mad Jock on time, promoting the event, looking for features, getting together the track-listing for the CD's we'd be giving away, printing labels, burning CD's and sorting the prizes out with Mz Blu. I was completely exhausted and surviving on about 3hrs sleep a night but I kept it moving. I kept focused, kept motivated and stayed positive because there was no-one else that would make it happen apart from us.
Sunday saw the check of the venue, dressing it; putting up balloons, organising the layout of the chairs and tables, the sound and mic check by the DJ. The balloons and streamers were the most labour intensive things and all of us who went had cut cuticles – isn't there an easier way to knot a balloon? It turned out to be a bit of a late one as we finished off by about 11pm. I came home and sorted out my last bits and pieces; burned off a few more CD's, made a few more hand-made calendars cards, laminated some more bookmarks featuring my poetry to sell, taking on the love theme of Valentines. I retired to bed around 3am and surprisingly had a restful sleep for that short a time.
The morning started at around 6.00am for me. I'd booked the day off work because there was no way I'd be able to fit everything I needed to do in an afternoon. I had to drive to Ipswich to collect the book. You can't have a book launch without the books can you? I'd never been there before and don't own a sat nav device yet so it was mapquest all the way for me! I picked a few cd's I'd bought recently and hadn't yet heard and popped them in the player and so started my journey, jumping on the A406 then picking up the A12 all the way there. It really was a pretty straightforward drive that enabled me to let my mind wander and focus. The only bad thing about the trip was the fog that came out of nowhere most of the A12 and the idiots still trying to do about 90 miles an hour on curves and bends with about 60 metre visibility.
Nothing can describe the feeling I had when I held my book in my hand for the first time, a tear came to my eye which I held back until I sat in the car to go home. I felt such a sense of pride and accomplishment in that I had set out to do what I said I would because normally I start many things and never finish them so this time was going to be a lot different.
As I sat I remembered that it was almost a year ago I had stepped on stage for the first time at a slam. I didn't win, I haven't yet won any but somehow I don't think it really matters anymore, but I've been features in other showcases. I had my whole world turned upside down months before that, my brother dying suddenly, and being made redundant from my job, not knowing what I would end up doing, Trying to come out of my industry but somehow ending back in a different part of it and thoroughly enjoying it. I used that time constructively when I decided to write the book and the encouragement I received from all around me kept me going when I thought it wouldn't be possible. Someone telling me that a poem I wrote really touched them, like I had written it just for them. Perhaps that was true . I write what comes to my mind or my heart. I put pen to paper and sometimes it flows straight away and sometimes I really have to work at it. Sometimes I feel I am just a conduit for a higher power. But really I see my self as just an ordinary humble girl trying to do something a little different than the rest.
On the drive back and it was completely different, the sun was shining and I could see the fields and the flora and fauna. I got home and relaxed a little. Perhaps a little too much (lol) because then it was crunch time, I was running a little later than expected, organising my family who at the last minute decided to all wear t-shirts with the book cover on it, I had family over from the USA who also joined in too. I tried not to get stressed but keep the calm focus I had accumulated on the trip back. Hoping everything was going to be alright, we'd had no indication of numbers so didn't know how many people would show up. Not knowing what to expect from the night, but somehow deep down I knew that things would work out just the way they were supposed to and I shouldn't really worry, but of course it's natural that you would do.
Reaching the venue a little later than I wanted to, it was a bit of a mad scramble to get things ready, but friends and family the helpful lot they are brought it together like putting up posters and fixing balloons in place. The two other features were of great assistance too. It was the first time I'd met them in person, but we'd had many emails and telephone conversations prior, so it felt like we were old friends straight away. With everything sorted (just about!) the night got going with the arrival of DJ Bully B to whom I have to give credit to as he did a fabulous job the whole night through, setting up the right vibe.
Mz Blu & I mingled and waited until there were enough people in the place. We even had a few people who'd heard the radio advert a good friend had done for us to promote the night and decided to pop down and see what was what. We had a little meet with the other poets who'd also be performing and then it was time for the showdown.
I was hyped, calm and nervous all at the same time. I couldn't believe that little old me was about to jump on the mic and start the event off with Mz Blu, one we'd only just decided to do at the start of the year. The lights were dimmed and we spoke. I can't really remember what I said exactly, but Mz Blu & I introduced ourselves, explained our hopes for the night and me for my book then I kicked off with 'A Love Session remixed', followed by 'I Do Not Fear', 'Inspired' and Mama's Kitchen' which seemed to be a firm favourite. After that I introduced James Famous a young poet who had written a response 'It's Like This' to one of my poems 'What's it Like' which we performed at the end of his set and which I decided to include in "INSPIRED". He had people captivated and appreciating his pieces and had a very warm response.
We had an intermission as people sampled the amazing array of cocktails and desserts Flirtease have to offer (so a big thank you to Natasha & Ali Bandali for having the trust and belief in us to allow WE:Poet to hold our event there and hopefully the first of many to come). Mz Blu took the lead for the second half and introduced Future Poet, an amazing talented poet who hadn't performed in 6 years, but has been writing in that time. I was so glad she decided she wanted to read a few pieces as she was so very nervous and I greatly admire her work. Once she had the mic in hand you would never have been able to tell. My favourite of her pieces 'Getting It Back' went down really well with everyone and again she too had a very warm reception.
We had late comer Ra Naz E, who travelled all the way straight from football practice in East London to perform. Word is bond as they say and he'd promised me ages ago that he would come no matter what and do a set even if he was a little later than expected. But as far as I was concerned – right on time. It's unusual to hear male poets going on about love and relationships but Ra Naz E has his own unique take on the subject and everyone was enraptured. As he finished Mz Blu took back the mic and did her own little piece on love that she'd written that week. I came up to join her and we read the poem that we'd written together that week called 'I, Me, We' that described what we as 'WE:Poet' are all about.
Then came the finale – the prize draw. On entry, every one was given a strip of 5 raffle tickets which would go into a draw. 1st prize was a bottle of champs, chocs, a copy of my book, 3 cd's (my music selection, Mz Blu's and DJ Bully B's) and a mystic ball, 2nd and 3rd prizes were mini bottles of wine, 3 cd's, chocs and mystic balls, we had a 4th prize a writing kit (pens, letter opener, ruler etc in a lovely case), a mini bottle of cava, 3 cd's and another mystic ball. We also gave our 3 performers a surprise gift (cava & 3 cd's) DJ Bully B has yet to be sorted but he will be with something special. We still had loads of cd's to give away and so proceeded to pick more winners from the raffle. As time ticked on we just decided to give anyone there who hadn't won anything yet a cd. So everyone ended up taking home a little reminder of the night. We thanked everyone for coming and sharing this night with us, admitted that half the people there were my family but that the other half we now considered family too and that everyone would always be welcome because we wanted this event to feel like you were at home with family, that anyone could grab the mic, share their work and not feel intimidated in anyway and that it would be an atmosphere conducive to creativity and inspiration.
With all said and done, soft music playing in the background, I went to the little table near the bar, set up to promote INSPIRED and I had my little book signing ceremony until the night reached its conclusion. It was in a way a little sad to see my books some of them signed floating off into the ether but I knew they would be going to good homes. To people who were my friends or family and simply those who appreciated the written art form of poetry. So I was very surprised at the end to realise I had sold all the 29 books I'd collected that morning.
Family and friends helped clear everything up, took down balloons and posters, someone dimmed the lights where we were downstairs until it was just Mz Blu & I in the silence. In the shadows we looked around and then looked at each other, smiled, hugged and said at the same time – 'This event was a success!'. There was no trouble (not that I expected any from the people that attend these things), it was truly a blessed and positive atmosphere where everyone said they had a really good time which included us. That we have to do it again is a must, to find and showcase the talent we know is out there and hope more people will be able to attend the next time. Events like this only work when we have the support and regular attendance. People couldn't make it for various reasons but being honest they did miss the start of something special, but WE:Poet hope this something special will be one that will continue to be repeated every other Monday starting 10th March 2008 and continue to grow.
As a note, one of my very good friends admitted to me that she used to write too, didn't want to tell me for fear of jumping on the poetry bandwagon. But I say the more the merrier – because there's space for everyone and I will encourage her to no end and she felt because of me was inspired to write again. This week alone she has written nearly 10 poems – all brilliant and heartfelt as far as I'm concerned so you heard it here first watch out for Queen Parky… book coming soon!
So in conclusion for me, if one person is doing something they never thought possible before because INSPIRED now exists, then I think I've done something right, wouldn't you agree?