Tag Archive | Girls

A Journey Through Mixtapes And Wilderness Years Led A Nearly Wed Girl To A Decent Proposal (A Review Of Fifty Grades Of Shame By Sophia Blackwell )

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

Gayle X

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No Room For Rainbows

In my latest poem I look at what it meant to be a young trans woman in the very conservative 1980’s. To set the context to this work I should perhaps explain that as we started this  decade homosexuality wàs still illegal in Scotland and though this changed in 1981 bringing the law in to line with England and Wales where this had been the case since 1967 it was at a time when there was a climate of fear against the LGBT community and when homophobia and transphobia as we know them today didn’t exist and merely thought of as normal everyday behaviour. 

Seriously, that’s how it was back in the day.Thankfully times have moved on since those dark days and now living permanently as the woman I’ve always known I was I’ve taken a retrospective look at that part of my story and I think I’ve gained a better understanding of my mother’s issues with my trans identity by doing so. I honestly believe that my mother was a good woman who was probably afraid for my safety and that’s what shaped her views on it. 

As is the case with some poems I had difficulty in deciding the title because I had thought of more than one potential option for it. Bearing this in mind I asked my virtual villagers to make the choice for me  and it was Michelle Campbell SNP councillor for Erskine And Inchinan who was first up with her suggestion of No Room For Rainbows which I think is the perfect fit for a poem written about darker days than now. So I’ve to run with it and I hope you enjoy the read.  
No Room For Rainbows 

In the 80’s I danced to Madonna 

and sometimes to a bit of Donna Summer 

well much to my mother’s consternation 

there were some things from the 70’s 

I just couldn’t give up.  

 I wanted a bit of hot stuff 

well though this material girl enjoyed her freedom years 

dancing in my fishnets and body suit 

in the peace and quiet of my room

was the closest I could get to being me

in the days when myths and misconceptions 

were par for the course if you were LGBT

due to the climate of the time 

anti gay hate crime was worse then than now

and trans women were figures of ridicule 

so I can understand my  mother’s attitude 

in trying to wish my identity away 

write it off as a phase

but all the wishing in the world 

wasn’t going to make me straight 

at least not in the male sense of the word 

the very idea of it is completely absurd 

though I get why she hung on to it 

tighter than any child clings to a comfort blanket 

the 80’s were uncomfortable times 

for anyone considered different 

she was probably scared I’d be attacked 

as Thatcher used force 

to unite her Britain under a union flag 

made of second hand rags and material concerns 

with no room left for rainbows 

© Gayle Smith 2017

Secret Cinderella

With Glasgow Pride coming up next weekend it’s no surprise that this month’s edition of Extra Second is focusing on sexuality. As I’ve been billed to perform I thought I had better get cracking and write some poems on the topic. In this one I travel back in time to the summer of 1974 and recall the day I  started secondary school and the first real stirrings with regards to boys and being aware of being a socially awkward trans teen before I knew the term for it. I’ve given it the title Secret Cinderella, I hope you enjoy the read .

Secret Cinderella

It was the day that Nixon resigned 

and the Bay City Rollers made number one on Radio Clyde 

when I started high school

I tried so hard to fit in and be cool 

it didn’t work 

I wanted skirts not the trousers that were my fate

I hated being made to be a boy 

I couldn’t play the part 

my heart wasn’t in it 

there were limits to my acting skils 

I tried to play football but would sooner hang out with girls 

talk about what really mattered 

make up, boys, and teenage dreams 

the centrefold in that week’s Jackie magazine 

but when you lived in the schemes 

these stirrings had to be calmed if not completely quelled

Catholic or Protestant both guilt trips 

had the same destination 

a one way ticket on the road to hell 

and a child of a mixed marriage would be condemned to it twice 

secretly I would wear tights and dresses 

when nobody else was watching 

well Scotland was a different place back then

where men were men and no boys were ever allowed to cry 

even if denying the truth would have them climbing bedroom walls 

the secret Cinderella’s who never even made it 

to the school disco let alone the ball 

and wouldn’t kiss Prince Charming till their 40’s 

© Gayle Smith 2017

One Of The Girls 

On day 27 of NaPoWriMo I look at teenage memories as made by magazines we read as girls and how what we learned between the covers of our favourite magazine went on to play a significant role  in shaping the women we’ve become.

 I was inspired to write this poem after visiting the Scottish Memories Facebook  group where members chat about what we remember growing up and after chatting to members from various demographics within the group on the topic of childhood games I decided to ask the women of the group what was their magazines of choice growing up. Needless to say I was inundated with comments and it was those comments which helped me to write this poem. 

 On completing the poem I had to find a title for it , and having came up with a few suggestions I  consulted with friends on what the most suitable selection should be. On putting it to the vote, the will of the people  decided that the best and most appropriate title  was One Of The Girls and being a believer in poetry democracy in action that is the title I’m going with. I hope you enjoy the read.  
One Of The Girls 
I was a Jackie girl. 

this was the magazine

 which shaped my formative years 

concerns and fears about not being cool enough for school 

briefly removed as I was transported to a place of dreams 

Donny Osmond would never visit the scheme I lived in 

not even on his tours of Britain 

but his posters adorned my bedroom wall 

and turned it in to shrine for my first crush 

the puppy love who made me realise I was one of the girls 

and made me go funny inside 

I blushed the impure thoughts 

I wasn’t supposed to have 

but could never hide from my mother 

I kept my secret stash of magazines

 hidden under the bed in a box filled with memories 

for older generations of girls 

 titles like  Romeo and Valentine 

reminded them of a more innocent world 

whilst those younger than me 

were caught up in the celebrity culture 

created by top of the pops 

and the weekly chart shows on the radio 

Smash Hits and Number One 

were the best sellers for the girls who just wanted to have fun 

and knew that Madonna sang songs that were made for dancing 

potential Prince Charming’s would need to have cold hard cash 

to be the material girl’s Mr Right 

and the mum’s who were brought up with Judy and Bunty 

were far removed from their daughters reality 

as some in the media expressed disdain 

that the new teens were reading stuff on sexuality 

progressive parents thought it was better 

to know the facts of life 

rather than have pregnancies due to ignorance 

changing times meant changing tastes 

on the magazine rack 

and when More arrived 

Jackie’s days were numbered 

well photo stories couldn’t compete 

with  groundbreaking content like  position of the week

it made some of my teenage reading 

look so meek and mild 

there was no longer a market for  the magazines I grew up with 

and part of my childhood died 

as I became a new woman 

with a taste for company and glamour. 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Speak To The Night

On day 26 of NaPoWriMo my poem looks at women’s safety and is based on the story of what  happened as I waited for a bus on my road from an enjoyable Last Monday at Waterston’s and why I was grateful to have the companionship of another woman at the bus stop as drunks and beggars stopped to give us their chat. Like it or not I do feel vulnerable in this situation and if there is one thing I’ve noticed since I started living as a woman it’s the fact that  you never see men get this kind of unwanted attention. This is as every woman knows one of the perils of living in a blatantly patriarchal society. Believe me the need for feminism in 21st  Century Scotland/ Britain is as strong or maybe even stronger than it’s ever been, I wish it wasn’t but it is. 

 As you can imagine thinking of a title for this poem wasn’t easy which is why I called on the services of my friend and National columnist Nadine McBay who suggested the title should be Speak To The Night which I think describes perfectly how my companion and I felt as the drunk guy approached us, so that is the title I’m running with. 
Trust me when I say that this is a very difficult topic to talk about as no woman should ever feel vulnerable on any streets in a so-called civilised society but the fact is many of us do and that’s why I had to write this poem.   I hope you find it  a challenging and thought provoking read.  

Speak To The Night 

At a bus stop, two women wait 

for different buses to take us

on homeward journies 

in the distance a drunk man appears 

we show no fear 

but hope he won’t stop for a chat 

unfortunately, he does exactly that 

evening girls he says you alright 

the silence broken he speaks to the night 

I worry my tartan tights may attract attention 

he slurs words beyond my comprehension 

my younger companion assures him we are fine 

 eventually he gives up  taking the hint 

we just want to be left alone 

he staggers on convinced we are either lesbians 

or a mother and daughter out for some women time 

as he goes in whatever direction

the wind blows him 

a begger approaches asking if we have any change 

we politely say we have none 

he shuffles on his way 

as we both complain about the unseasonably cold weather

we enjoy a blether 

 about what men would call women’s stuff 

finally a bus arrives 

I feel  guilty on leaving 

a girl I don’t know 

to face the night alone 

and like a mother I pray 

she gets home safe 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Hidden 

On day 23 of NaPoWriMo I take a wander back in to my 1970’s youth and look at the  world of gender roles and how they impacted on me and girls like me who were growing up knowing we were different from the so-called societal norms. Though it would be  easy to look back on those days with the rose coloured glasses of time it would  be a misrepresention of the truth . Trust me in days less liberal than now there were Secrets you had to keep hidden which is why I’ve titled this poem Hidden I hope you enjoy the read. 
Hidden
Rebel teen 

was never punk 

too much of a boy thing

don’t you know 

loved stage shows and any kind of songs 

except heavy metal rock 

folks would be shocked 

if they knew how much she liked 

summer nights 

 loved grease and wanted to be Sandy

but the beauty school drop out 

was too cool for school 

or the rules that went with it 

she couldn’t cope with limits 

it wasn’t her scene 

though expressing herself as a dancing queen 

was strictly for her bedroom 

with the door firmly locked 

the family would be shocked 

if they saw the  lipsticks and leotards

she kept stashed away 

in secret hiding places 

the boys would blush 

if they saw the smile on her face 

when she thought of them 

but these were less enlightened days 

when Rising Damp and The Walton’s 

were the stuff of teenage television 

ambitions to be different 

were best kept hidden 

or reserved only for the rich 

meanwhile down at the football pitches 

she tried to fit in 

but was never picked for either side 

instead she watched from the back of the goal 

as sweat soaked would be football stars

never knew what she thought of their talents. 

or who she would like to be man of the match.
© Gayle Smith 2017 

Private Property 

On the day the UK is plunged in to political uncertainty and Prime Minister Theresa May decided to go the country and call a General Election despite claiming there would be no such election till 2020 you may be surprised to know that my poem for day 18 of NaPoWriMo is not about my thoughts on the upcoming election but on something which I see as far worse and degrading to women and that’s the sex for rent scandal which has come to my attention through the work of National columnist Vonnie Moyes. I have to admit I was genuinely repulsed when I heard of this practice and the fact is happening in the early 21st century in a so-called developed country is something I find both bewildering and sickening. Indeed such was my anger at this act of Victorian style barberism that I had to write a poem on it to make my feelings clear on the issue. I have given the poem the title Private Property I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read.

Private Property

 

It shouldn’t be allowed 

not in a civilised society 

but this is the horrible reality 

for young women in Scotland and Britain today 

we can’t just wish it away 

it’s happening and it’s happening now 

as women struggle to get on to the housing ladder 

unscrupulous males are acting as  landlords 

offering sex for rent

accepting only girls who show pictures 

maybe a flash of leg 

 or a page three shot in  bra’s and knickers 

they and only they will be given a bed for the night 

they will gain this reward 

in  return for satisfying 

their owners pleasures and demands

this is a picture too disgusting to paint  

yet these men ask us to understand 

that they are doing women favours

I disagree,

 you see, I believe every women has the right to shelter 

it is a basic human need 

we cannot condone those who use greed 

to exploit the housing crisis 

for their own immoral ends

we can’t  let this go on 
if we do how long will it be 

before someone is killed by this madness

my sadness on hearing this story 

has given way to anger 

and those who believe

 they can have their own private dancers 

must be shown the error of their ways 

this is not a business arrangement

it’s human trafficking 

 and it needs to be called out for what it is 

we need to tell the guilty 

you can’t get away with this

no man has the right to take 

a women’s kisses 

we do not live in caves 

we will never be slaves 

this crime has to end and end now 

no woman will ever be a cash cow 

we should never be rented out 

our bodies are private property

© Gayle Smith 2017