Containing Myself

I love what I do and I do what I love  though I am not sure what it is that I actually do. I write books of poetry  it seems. The last book I wrote was seven years ago. The second half of my  manuscript of poetry  is due  for Canongate Books this month but will probably go  next month.   I write poetry. The last poem I wrote was a few weeks ago for BBC radio. I write plays. I have just, last night, got off stage at The Hammersmith Lyric for an exploration fifteen minute piece directed deftly by John McGrath. It was paid for by commission by ten theatres around britian and largely by Hammersith Lyric. I suppose I also act cause I acted in it too. I write radio plays. The last  I wrote was  the narration  last week  for a docudrama called The Lost Boys of Africa.

I present  radio documentaries.   On Tuesday I will be meeting a new producer for a documentary we will make for BBC Radio Four and  I read my poetry on stage to public audience too. I have been all over the country this past month reading on stages and at
conferences. This following week I shall be reading iat a conference in Kendal and Leeds. 

I’m a writer in residence.  Part of my role as writer in residence at The South Bank is to curate. This month I curated an  event – 24 hour party people – in The Spirit Level at The South Bank.  The event was a resounding success.  I write poetry for public art.  The latest commission is a poem  will be laid into sculpture in The City, Londons financial district. I perform poetry with music. Last week I read on stage of The Purcell Rooms at The South Bank, with jazz musician Byron Wallen.  

My next play is to be published next year.  The  manuscript must be ready next month – it’ll be out in March.  I do the occasional interview on television.  I love teaching.  I don’t do too much cause as a visiting writer (in teaching terms)  I never want it to lose its shine. There’s been some very special teaching experiences this month. When it stops being special for me I will stop doing it. The teaching I mean.     Today  is the first free day I have had for at least a month. It’s been busy.

These examples are only of what is happening right now.  The future holds many many projects and proposals of work from  organisations and individuals. I wish there was a central place to memorise these developments.  I have a nearly decent filing system  but my workload should have a central point where the details are recorded.  For what?  I said
early in this article that I wonder what I actually do.  But I  know what I do.   I am a writer and artist who has lived in London now for two years and previously Manchester. 

I perceive myself a very self contained person and yet I  perceive myself  an open person. There is a contradiction here. The bridge between these worlds is, friendsip.  I tell myself I don’t have the  time to commit to friends. I have friends but I do a good  line in avoidance. I wonder what this is about?

So I’ll tell you what I am going to do. I am going to call a friend right now and ask her if she wants to come to see a show at The Soho Theatre. I have just called her. She said yes. So now I am going to go do some Christmas shopping on Oxford Street and then the show. I swear that writing this blog has just totally turned my mood around.

13 thoughts on “Containing Myself

  1. Hi Lemn,
    been lurking for a while and just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying the blog.
    24-hour-party-people was a blast (AHW room). Thanks to all involved.
    I kind of orbited around the Hac in the late 80's having been introduced by some of my more hip friends.
    Loved the music, loved the people, the time the place.
    I preferred red stripe to the chemicals and would usually slink off at 2am leaving my pals dancing, eyes-closed in the multitude. Those late night walks back to Levenshulme were the culmination of my evening – gazing up at the lights in the buildings of the sprawling UMIST complex, feeling part of some great shared secret.
    So – last week after the event at the South Bank I decided to take an unknown long route back to my hotel looking up at the lights in an unfamiliar city.
    Thanks for the memories.

  2. Hey Lemn, wasn't there a question about whether you “think” too much here before? I had glanced through this and was going to answer!
    In case I have not lost my mind, here is my answer. How can you “think” too much when you also “feel”. You think AND feel, therefore you are…… Lemn S

  3. Lemn,
    Speaking of poetry, what's your opinion about Ethiopian poet writers? Any favourite? Have you done any workshop, teaching in Ethiopia? I'm looking forward to read your new book (i've not read your 1st book yet, though), but i'll.

  4. hey lemn,
    just stopped by and found this entry. the thing is, not always being so self-contained also means allowing friends to be there, fun or other wise. basically means, allowing them to love you. I'm not preaching here, not at all but I think sometimes we people as such can be so self sufficient but then we miss out.
    Just had a diffcult phase and decided to share it with all my good friends while it was going on. the most amazing part was not that they could actually change anything or not even the talking easing sress but to be showered with so much care and affection. I think they were relieved and happy to be allowed to be close for once and not hear the summary afterwards.
    fundamentally the lesson was that so much love is available but often we cut ourselves off it. don't miss out because of time… but I might also just be rambling here 🙂
    Hope all is well.
    warm wishes

  5. Hi Alem
    Here's an Ethio writer I came across recently
    Mengistu Lemma
    Mengistu Lemma (1928-1988) was a playwright and poet of the post-1941 period in Ethiopian Amharic literature. He was steeped in traditional literary culture having undertaken a church education in his early years, and was very much influenced by his father. However, he was part of the socially committed trend in literature and was concerned in this with popularizing indigenous culture which included a collection called Yabbatoch Ch'ewata (Pastimes of the Forefathers). His plays, which were predominantly comedies with a strong social message, became very popular and he translated one, Yalacha Gabacha, into English as A Marriage of Unequals (London, 1970). YeGit'im Guba'e (Synod of Poetry) was a wonderful collection of poems which moved the style of Amharic poetry forwards, building on the pioneering work of figures such as Kebbede Mika'el whilst still retaining a flavour of the traditional poetic style of oral poetry. This poetry was, and still is, highly thought of, and it is one of these poems which has been translated for the Poetry Translation Centre.

  6. Hey Olumide
    You make total sense. I did call a friend and we did go out and it was just what I needed. By the way, didn't we play Belgum or Norway or somewhere with The Last Poets?

  7. yes norway. might see you at the saturday club. one of my class mates has some material on there. ima try to make it
    hope all is well

  8. Lemn,
    Thanks for taking your time to reply. I appreciated the tip! Three months ago i got two of Kebede Mikael's beat up books from Ethiopia and i'm very happy. It took me many months to own it, though (I guess, they don't publish it anymore and it was very hard to find even used book). Where should i find Mengistu Lemma's book? I'll check online Amazon or major book stores online today. If you know where i can find it, please send me a link. Do you've performance plan in D.C area? If you do, inform us and me and my husaband would love to hear/see your work (we love poetry). Actually, once in a while we write short poems in Amharic and post at I'm not sure if you know Amharic or not.

  9. Thanks!
    By the way, whilst I am thinking about it, I am technically “up the road” (as opposed to down) in terms of degree of latitude, altitude and name…
    Mary x

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