“What is the purpose of resisting corporate globalization if not to protect the obscure, the ineffable, the unmarketable, the unmanageable, the local, the poetic and the eccentric? So they need to be practiced, celebrated and studied too, right now.” Rebecca Solnit
I'm a UK-based writer, editor, educator and activist with a passionate commitment to arts and social justice. I publish with independent presses Arc, Lark Books, Salt, Shearsman, IB Tauris, and Wallflower. I am a member of queer feminist film curation collective Club des Femmes and feminist film activists Raising Films, a lecturer in film at LCC and Queen Mary University of London, and a film journalist for Sight & Sound and The F-Word, where I focus on independent, experimental, and feminist films and film culture.
In my critical work, I explore the political potential of experimental literature and cinema, with an emphasis on feminist artists like Sally Potter, who is the subject of my first critical book The Cinema of Sally Potter: A Politics of Love. As well as teaching university courses on topics ranging from transgender cinema to Anne Carson, I've facilitated workshops for youth organisations like Leave Out Violence and taught creative writing at Anglia Ruskin University, King's College, London, and Middlesex University. I have worked with non-profit organisation English PEN and was the Poet in Residence at the Archive of the Now.
For workshops, creative consultancies, editorial or writing work, contact me at: sophie [at] sophiemayer [dot] net
I've never been podcast before, so this poetcast of five poems -- Bourgeois/foreskin; Late/x; Pixie Starts Her Own War; Self-Portrait as Supernova; Star Power (on nthposition) -- was a very cool experience. Thanks to Alex Pryce for making it happen -- check out the many, many other fine poets including some personal faves Anne Berkeley, Katy Evans-Bush, Kapka Kassabova, Simon Perril, Fiona Sampson, and Dorothea Smartt (Sarah Hesketh and Vahni Capildeo are coming soon) on Poetcasting and subscribe to the updates so you have a never-ending stream of the best audio poetry. All the poems (except Pixie) are collected in Her Various Scalpels.
I went to see Margaret Tait's films at Tate Modern last night. Tait was unique in many ways, not least that she was a brilliant poet as well as a filmmaker, working on Orkney and self-financing both her poetry collections and films. She said: "The kind of cinema I care about is at the level of poetry - in fact - it has been in a way my life's work making film poems." Ali Smith read several of Tait's poems, and there was a special screening of an unfinished film called "Video-Poem for the 1990s," (Tait started working in the 1950s) which was based on a Fluxus-like set of instructions she had created. She intended to circulate them so that anyone could make a video (or a poem) based on the instructions -- I hope she wouldn't have minded that I'm posting them here:
Video-Poem for the 1990s
1. A child reading
2. Edge of the sea
3. Birds in the wilderness
4. Shots on the road
5. Rust everywhere
6. Heavy traffic
7. Articulated lorries entering a ferry
8. Crash of a wave
9. Turn of a page
Or: if I write a poem in a notebook with my headphones on, does it count?
After reading a recent blog post about this experiment by Robert Sharp I got the 'fear' ("I am a name! Not just a poem!") and started wondering what the central act of NaPoWriMo really is: to write poems, or to make them available online. Since the act of writing has shifted from paper to screen, there is a fluidity between the private act of composition and the public act of publication that often disarms me.
I saw, also, that Carrie Etter is taking down her drafts after a couple of days, which is very interesting: a way to return the ongoing process to private space, perhaps after receiving some constructive comments, and a way to avoid poem-theft (which is commoner than you think: if you put a poem online, it's likely to appear in a dozen other places, often under others' names) as well as slipping Robert's pertinent identification of the competitive nature of NaPoWriMo online.
XO, fragment II
nipples to the mirror, power
points where self charges self
hot as cigarette butts
sizzle on cold glass
curve to flat
curtains) the sea is raging
[Untitled -- this could be part of the Menteith poem from April 4...]
stars in skerries
across skirred clouds
trees are seaweed
as the moon is the moon
and its reflection
above blue hills and bones
this shadow home
Not a poem about Saul Tigh, as much as I'd love to write one... but a fragment of a poem I've been working around for months, which resolved itself today into...
a kiss like
Not that I'm tempting rain, but... I've been writing an article about water politics in Lucrecia Martel's cinema and it's plunged me into thinking about water's significance, both pragmatic and sacred -- and linguistic. English is soaked with water metaphors: for intensity, for porousness, for purity and pollution, for sight and death, for the spirit and the body, and for knowledge. Quenched, drenched, parched, eddying: our minds are made of water.Distil or overflow, that's water's question. Water and metaphor even become each other in Ani Difranco's "self evident," which opens:
us people are just poems
we're 90% metaphor
with a leanness of meaning
Written by the Thames, this poem looks back to the previous Saturday night -- when the clocks went back, and I was stargazing by the Lake of Menteith.
Medusa sets sail in an abandoned bathtub
rigging of twigs and twig-snagged twine
roots (exposed by dry erosion) are her oars
the shore's small pebbles
clink as she casts off
in her ceramic coracle
running the line of twilight
as the sun hauls itself in, hand
over hand and gold
greys down to black at earthtilt
The Toronto Public Library have devised a magnetic poetry Facebook application that is brilliant fun, produces nifty poems -- and offers a Dadaist koan. There's no record of the poems I wrote yesterday, they have been reshuffled or demagnetised or refridged. In the inflexible yet resonant style of fridge poetry, the koan could be written: words belong no one.
And a found poem extracted from Ulrike Ottinger's introduction to the screening of her film Johanna d'Arc of Mongolia at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival:
had her own yurt
A news poem today, hotlinked and everything!
Medusa’s watching the bee queen
the weevil with her flexible lips
bug-eyed sweetheart of the severed head
she’s remembering that selfsame face
(“One, fuck me. Two, fuck me”)
under bleach-spiked hair
Carrie Etter threw down the gauntlet on her blog: write a poem a day throughout April, which is the US National Poetry Month. Well, I love gauntlets (especially while the weather's just a bit chilly) so I'm going to attempt it. One poem per day, posted here. Gulp. Here goes.
Medusa is a brassica
last green head of winter
(varieties grown as)
purple-sprouting against the spring
coils and crenellations
(spears from seed)
florets, leaf and stem
she sprouts rampart and fortress
(avoid build-up of soil pests)
her seedbed dug deeply
a green comet against new green
she has suffered a split heart
My first solo collection of poetry, Her Various Scalpels, is now available to pre-order from Shearsman Books. You can order it from your local bookstore (shipped in 48 hours) or online, either from Shearsman's store, or from Amazon.co.uk or .com. It's published on 15 May 2009, and there will be a fabulous launch... tba.