Sunday, 28 June 2015

Flags: Kanye And Kayne


So no, he didn’t name check Bree Newsome,

Or burn the flag she ripped down from the sky,

He didn’t ask for prayers for Charleston,

An end to police brutality, gun violence and crime,

No. He didn’t seem to notice it was gay pride,

Nor draw a rainbow on his cheek,

He didn’t make us take a minutes silence,

For the American black churches burnt down this week.

He paused. And I thought he’d say just one thing

For social justice, for peace on the street,

But instead he said "I’m the greatest living rock star"

Like Muhammad Ali, hip-hopping on two left feet.

"Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee

My only fault is that I don't realize how great I really be."

No. Nothing for equality

And no peace prayer,

I watched racists on social media,

Debating his right to be even there.

Kanye and Kayne trending,

As the debate gets convoluted,

Glastonbury all chanting nigger

As though the toxic N-Word is diluted.

Strange Fruit. Strange Fruit.

That song rang true as a bell through the night,

That was one bright clear moment,

I felt he got it so right, alright.

Blood on the leaves,

Blood on the roots,

We’ve still got a long way to go,

And that’s still some strange fruit.

See him singing nigger in a fruit picker,

To a white crowd filled with expectation, privilege and goals,

I don’t see any of your greatest living rock stars,

Climbing flag poles.

(c) Salena Godden / Glastonbury June 2015

Come see me live on stage, coming up this summer you'll find me at:

July 8th: Tongue Fu, Udderbelly, London Wonderground

 July 11: Unbound Books, Cornbury Festival, Oxford

July 14th: Inside, L'escargot, Soho

July 18-19: Lovebox, London

July 22: Jawdance, Apples and Snakes, Rich Mix, London

July 31: Ways With Weirds, Port Eliot Festival

August 14-16: Green Gathering, Wales

August 21: Edinburgh International Book Festival 

September 4-6: Festival No.6, Portmerion, Wales

October US tour and road trip: Louisiana, Texas, Nashville and more...

latest youtube clip: Salena Godden live at Tongue Fu 
improvisation of 'Voodoo'   - an excerpt from Springfield Road 
published by Unbound Books -

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Blog: Be brave, be too brave


Salena Godden on stage Stoke Newington Literary Festival photo by David Green

This weekend I was at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival. The @stokeylitfest is such a highlight of the London summer and literary festival season for me. I had a brilliant, boozy time at The Mascara Bar for Tim Wells RISING...Fancy! event. It was awesome to hear my friend Francesca Beard perform some fabulous new work from her new solo show and also to catch new talent Jack Jones do his first poetry gig too. Make sure you visit Tim Wells 'Stand up and Spit' project page here!!

On Sunday night I was opening for the comedian and political satirist Mark Thomas. This was my third time being invited to play the big stage and the main hall. As poets we don’t often get to speak in big spaces at literary festivals, I was thrilled to be asked to contribute and it was a sell-out show. Mark Thomas is compelling to listen to and I highly recommend you check him out if you haven't before. 

The Stoke Newington Lit Fest goes from strength to strength, I have been every year and every year it offers us a spectacular line-up of new voices, superb authors, independent publishers and fascinating talks and debates and this year was the best ever. This year there were two panel debates on the hot subject of diversity. On Saturday afternoon Influx Press and Media Diversified hosted a panel exploring the experiences of writers of colour, examining what makes our work distinct and discussing how we can nurture and develop talent and literary expression. The panel was chaired by Chimene Suleyman and featured Kavita Bhanot, Courttia Newland and Sunny Singh – you can watch that debate on youtube here!!

Crystal Mahey-Morgan, Courttia Newland, Sarah Shaffi, Salena Godden, Sarah Odendina by David Green

On Sunday afternoon I was asked to contribute to The Booksellers panel discussion about diversity. Our chair was Sarah Shaffi and my panel comrades were Courttia Newland, marketing director Crystal Mahey-Morgan and publisher Sarah Odedina. Today there is a piece about our debate and the festival in the bookseller, click here!!

I was quoted as saying that publisher should "Be braver, be too brave." and that "publishers need to think about the fact they are making books for the next 100 years and not just for now."  I'd like to take some time to expand on that a little and recall some of what I was trying to say here.

I remember we talked about tokenism and I spoke about competition, that competition is healthy, but I feel that if you're a writer of a certain box and label, there's a sense that there's only so much of a small slice of the pie available to you. I talked about the romance of the *outsider. We like our writers to struggle, to be outsiders, but there's only so much you can do on the outside and from the outside.

The writing life is a strange life, sometimes it can feel like you are on a raft, making life changing decisions, financial sacrifices and long shots, based on navigating the tides of whims of people in offices who haven't even been to see the sea. When there is too much focus on lists and prizes we create a playground, a pressure of who is in and who is out and what is the next big copycat thing - An X-Factor or high-school popularity contest dominated by one narrator and from one perspective, just exactly like history being written and edited by the winners and victors. We must focus on more broad and diverse publishing, all across the board, from the decision makers to the writers in the trenches, we need more women, more flavour, more spice and more colour, to reflect and document this life, through fiction, poetry and memoir. I worry that if we continue like this, in one hundred years from now our books of the early twenty-first century will feature mere ghosts of the invisible; smudged shadows of other stories, token whispers of other voices that were once existing in this community of humanity that we are now and here.

I remain positive about the future, I believe things are changing. I am published by Unbound and Burning Eye Books who both publish a high number of diverse books, books by women and people of different backgrounds. It has been two decades since I started writing, getting published and performing, but back in my early days I was often the only girl and often the only brown face too. Now in 2015, I am performing alongside the likes of powerful poets like Vanessa Kissule and Deanna Rogers and Paula Varjack, to name just three, and I love what these strong women are creating and saying. It is important to keep positive, as I always say, feed the hope and not the fear.

Looking back, this last few weeks, this latest run of gigs have been nothing less than epic; I’m still buzzing about the fantastic WOW festival in Liverpool, The Poetry Reincarnation at The Roundhouse and the excitement at Tongue Fu’s sell-out show at The BritishLibrary with Saul Williams. I just want to say I’m enjoying work at the moment, I feel very alive and excited to be now and here and taking part in such lively and memorable events. Thank you. Please scroll down for more listings and summer festival dates. And before I sign off a massive salute and halleluiah to Malorie Blackman who has just come to the end of her term as children’s laureate, what a lady and what a beautiful trailblazer. 

electric blue shoes photo by David Green

Salena Godden and Tracey Moberley photo by David Green

Monday, 1 June 2015

Poetry Reincarnation: The Roundhouse, Camden

Hello! Wow! We had such a brilliant night on Saturday at Poetry Reincarnation at The Roundhouse. The evening was hosted with excellence by Dan Cockrill, the line-up was diverse and exciting, young and new voices and poetry old school all gathering to perform and celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the first most infamous Poetry Incarnation.

Here are some pics and a youtube clip of my bit. I read two poems 'Tick No Box' and 'My Tits Are More Feminist Than Your Tits' - Thank you to all who were there, cheering and singing along 'All we are saying is give tits a chance'

It was an honour to be asked to contribute alongside some of my favourite poetry comrades and friends. I'm still buzzing and I salute you all. Keep fighting the good fight and thank you so much xxsg

Gwyneth Herbert, Cecilia Knapp, John Cooper Clarke, Adam Horovitz, Third Man Books, Elvis Mcgonagall

 Salena Godden, Dan Cockrill, Gwenyth Herbert

Adam Horovitz

Dan Cockrill

Steven Berkoff

Salena Godden

Salena Godden

Michael Horovitz and friends

Salena Godden

John Hegley

Francesca Beard

Dr John Cooper Clarke

Come see me at these gigs and festivals...

June 2: Word, Y Theatre, Leicester

June 5-7: Stoke Newington Literary Fest

June 17: Inside, L'escargot, Soho

June 18: London Short Story Festival

June 19-21: Salon, Also Festival, Warwickshire

July 11: Unbound Books, Cornbury Festival, Oxford

July 18-19: Lovebox, London

July 22: Jawdance, Apples and Snakes, Rich Mix, London

July 31: Ways With Weirds, Port Eliot Festival

August 14-16: Green Gathering, Wales

August 21: Edinburgh International Book Festival 

September 4-6: Festival No.6, Portmerion, Wales

October: US tour, road trip, bluegrass festivals, book fairs...