As always seems to be the case I was a wee bit late on arriving on the last Saturday of the fringe. Note To Self: This is not a tradition it’s a habit I need to get out of.
My late arrival meant I missed the opening few minutes of Sophia Blackwell’s excellent show Fifty Grades Of Shame . It was perhaps no accident that the first poem I heard her perform was titled Mad. In this poem Sophia invokes a woman’s right to scream at the injustices we face due to a combination of sexism, glass ceilings, and attitudes which should have been left in the days of the cave dwellers.
Sophia followed this with a piece written in her childhood which was better than some material I’ve heard I’ve heard from many so-called adults and perhaps showed just how good the childhood Sophia was destined to be.
She then performed a poem which transported me and the rest of the audience in the banqueting hall of the Banshee back to a simpler time when we had no mobile phones, or Facebook , or Snapchat to entertain us and had to rely on more basic pleasures like making mixtapes in an attempt to impress the one we fancied.
In her poem entitled Mixtapes Sophia (Pictured Below) looks back on those days with a mixture of fondness and honesty and the lines ‘ The language of tapes was pure interpretation . Songs were the flags you hid your face behind’ . were in my opinion particularly revealing and disclose the kind of teenage truth we will only admit when the passing of time makes it comfortable to do it.
Picture (Sophia Blackwell rocks the Banqueting Hall of the Banshee Labyrinth during her show Fifty Grades Of Shame )
From this our poet moved on from her teens to her twenties with the kind of effortless ease only a gold star performer can posses with her poem The Wilderness Years. In this poem written in the form of a conversation to her gran, the poet shows that her rebel spirit didn’t die on her 20th birthday. Indeed if anything, it grew stronger and has gone on to shape the woman I know and am proud to call a friend In the opening lines of this poem Sophia boldly sets the mood with the words ‘No granny no maybes I’m not getting married or toeing the family line’ By doing this she is telling the granny she loves that she is her own woman and will make her own decisions on how best to lead her life. In this brutally honest poem Sophia Blackwell has the confidence not only to admit her mistakes but to own them. Later on, in the last verse of the poem she looks on with empathy on her granny’s issues with her lesbianism with the lines ‘And I like how you ask how she’s doing sometimes , I know what it costs you I do’. This demonstrates the poet’s understanding of the generation gap on LGBT issues in a way which enables her to be sympathetic without being patronising.
Having tackled her early years, Sophia moved on to explore the complex dynamics within lesbian relationships in her poem Everyone I’ve Ever Slept With where she writes candidly about those awkward situations which lesbians sometimes find themselves in where they go to dinner parties and realise that they have slept with a significant number of those in attendance. As the poem progresses you are taking on a journey through the teasing and tempting back to a place of faithfulness where the count goes down from what ever number she had in her head to the only one who matters.
Talking of faithfulness Sophia addresses the issue with some poems on equal marriage and starts this section of the show with a poem about an ex girlfriend. The kind of ex she describes as the one only who communicates with you by passive aggressive texts who said when Equal Marriage was legalised ‘Now that we could I would have ‘ . In the name of god I ask you what kind of attitude is that to show to a former lover ? Not a very nice one in my view but it motivated Sophia to write the bitingly brilliant poem Nearly Wed. This one hits the ground running right from the get go and opens with the lines ‘ You said you nearly married me , that’s really not a thing. I must admit it worried me, what would nearly married be? This is something I’ve often thought about and I came to the conclusion that it would be like nearly winning that race in which you eventually came second by quite a distance.
Still on the subject of matters matrimonial Sophia told us that weddings were her biggest unpaid gigs as many friends had requested wedding poems to commemorate their special day. To illustrate the point she shared a poem she wrote for a friends wedding. The poem entitled When It Finds You Celebrates the ordinariness of love and by doing so explores the very depths of human emotion.
Finally, having found the woman of her dreams and decided it was the time they should marry Sophia wrote her own proposal poem for the woman who would become her bride and as she said she wanted it to be better than any she had written for her friends. Personally I think she managed this with effortless ease, and her poem which is appropriately titled Proposal, contains the kind of heartwarming imagery that gives you that warm, fuzzy, feel good kinda feeling from first word to last.
This was followed by what I think was the final poem in the show entitled Christmas In July. This to me is one of the best love poems I’ve ever heard some of the imagery contained within its verses are absolutely stunning in their simplicity, authenticity, and beauty. I particularly like the opening lines of the third stanza. ‘So let the years go by because that’s how years behave, and from cradle to grave these are the days that we save’ I selected these lines because whilst they acknowledge that times move on they also remind us of memories made by sharing precious times with loved ones.
At the end of a show which I thoroughly enjoyed, I look back not so much on a spoken word event but a look at life as experienced by a powerful and passionate poet. Indeed if I were to summarise it in a sentence, I would say that a joutney through mixtapes and wilderness years, led a nearly wed girl to a decent proposal.
Till next time