Friday 16 December 2016

A Writer’s Addiction to Facebook

This year, I endeavoured to take some time away from Facebook / social media. In August, I went on a 12 day meditation retreat where mobile phones were not allowed. However, by the end of my time, I was secretly scrambling to the top of a nearby hill to catch signal, scan my phone, and scroll through, in particular, the Book of Face.

Fakebook. Face Ache. Farcebook. The Brook of Faeces. And various other names, exist for this stream of neverending comment, critique, effusion, effluence, and idiosyncratic silliness. I share, therefore I am. I like, and I consequently exist. I can connect, in that luminous abode, to up to 5000 humans, a little like Jesus Christ when he shared the fish and chips out. I mean, wine and bread. Whatever it was. And, like that gallant guy of Galilee, when I am on Facebook, scrolling through a sea of posts, I feel that I am elevated, somehow: looking ‘out’ and ‘down’ at this ocean, this crowd of human beings, able to view all of them and they, strangely, with all eyes on me…

And so, believing I am ‘seen’, if I make a post on Facebook, and no-one likes it, I feel unliked. Some of my posts get many likes (many = more than three - the ones by my mum, my cat, and me); so, following the logic through, if no-one likes one of them, I must suddenly be an outcast, and no longer in favour. I look out from my hilltop and see other people getting lots of likes… Does this mean that they are now getting all the attention and affection which, just a few clicks ago, I would have had?

It seems, sometimes, like it’s a popularity contest. Famebook. There is also the fear of missing out. This month, again, I tried to come off, but began to feel worried about what I wasn’t seeing. As a writer, I belong to some groups and pages which are useful to me. They let me know about competitions, submissions, and other literary opportunities. I came back on. There was nothing of interest on the pages I followed, but after I spent an age crawling through the feed, I saw that another writer I was friends with had ‘liked’ a post by a page I didn’t follow. The post was a call for submissions, and I had some suitable poems. I sent them off. And felt pleased, and justified, in my return to Freaklook. If I hadn’t come back, at that exact moment, I would have missed this!

As a writer, it can be hard to manage your day. ‘Routine’ is so important but, at the same time, most of us haven’t got agents, managers, social media staff, administrators, PA, marketing help, booking managers, website developers, or anyone else assisting us in our quest for, er, whatever it is we are questing for (I’d say ‘fame and glory’, but if any writer was actually looking for this over and above other considerations, rest assured, they would be doing something different). Keeping up on social media is an important thing, for me. It has gotten me things, before. It is a gateway to opportunity. It also shows the world I am alive, engaged, engaging, and that I should be considered for the festival reading, workshop, or anthology. Or as a potential girlfriend (okay, not the last one, but I may as well just put that out there…).

However, it's also one of the main sources responsible for sucking away my time and attention. I seem to spend hours and hours just crawling through the feed… As this article states, “ Facebook scrolling is a symptom of procrastination”. Its “infinite scroll” capitalises on our tendency to look for other things to do, away from that important book or project we should be focusing on. In which case, as writer Daniel Wallen says “it might be helpful to change your perception of Facebook. Instead of looking at it like a place to be social or kill time, frame Facebook as the enemy of your productivity and purpose. Doesn’t sound as tempting now, huh?”

Other reasons cited as possible causes of addiction to FB are: loneliness; low self-confidence; unhealthy comparison with others; impatience; and people-pleasing. So… Imagine the average writer: working alone; worrying if their new work is good enough; looking around at the success of their fellow pen monkeys; keen to finish their latest book; concerned about whether people will like it when it emerges… It’s basically a perfect match-up with the list of reasons of why people get addicted in the first place.

So, what to do?

After offering some suggestions for overcoming addiction, Daniel Wallen writer then asks readers to please share his article. The platform he prefers is - you’ve guessed it - Facecrook! Because it’s an addiction but it’s also a very useful one...

Maybe this is the key, then: to take a look at the uses of the platform, and the time one spends on it, and weigh up the actual gain derived from that time. Sharing isn't in and of itself wrong, of course - but spending hours of your precious life staring into a screen and worrying what others think of you (isn't that what the 'likes' are all about?) seems a terrible waste.

Here is a further list which could help you, if you can’t keep your fingers from touching at buttons or stroking at the mouse:

For me, the main solution is, I think, going to be to make it harder for myself to get into my FB account. Farcebreak! This is the only way I am going to stop fiddling with the thing when I should be out getting some fresh air or chatting to live humans or stroking real, breathing mice (!) or whatever it is people do when they’re not attached to their computers…

So, that’s what I’m going to do. As soon as I’ve shared this article on my blog, and then on - oh, you know!

Saturday 22 March 2014

It's a Spring Thing!

Here's a little interview that's in the Western Mail today, talking about spring and what it means to me, as well as a poem written for the piece. It's about daffodils - a supremely spring-like, and prominent poetic topic! - and is also kind of inspired by the fact that the National Botanic Garden of Wales (where I'm Resident Poet) has 30,000 of the things, 50 species in all. That's amazing! And well worth a visit to see. More on the Garden's daffodil trail HERE, while HERE is the link the the article in the Western Mail.

Plus, here is my poem, which is actually (really) about not just about daffs but about the human spirit and how it overcomes obstacles in order to, quite literally, wake up, rise, and shine! It's the first time the three, very different types of poem that I write - funny ones, nature poems, and more mystically-inclined things - have all come together in a single piece. This pleases me! There is only a little touch of humour in this, but, for me, it feels like the beginning of a new way of writing, too. All three of my poet-y selves together for the first time... I'm pretty happy with it. Do let me know what you think, though, and happy reading/joyous spring to you all! x


From inside unlit bulbs they climb,
Feeling through the crumbling dark;
Fearless spears, insistent shoots,
Certain even in the dirt that there's
Another world, up there.

Eating earth with hungry roots,
Finding paths through stone and rock,
Endlessly rising, eventually emerging,
Green tongues poking from the ground
As if to say I told you so.

Advancing upwards, ever further,
Reaching for their unknown goal;
Finally unfurling, bursting into flower.
Star-like, sun-cast, their golden glory
Sings out: even in the dark, we knew,

That this is what we were.

Sunday 16 March 2014

City Stories

I'm currently taking part in the Lent Project, a group blog in which the various members document whatever-they-like over 40 days and nights. "Raw creativity" is what it's all about. I've decided to write short fictions inspired by some of the 'things' of the city (Cardiff) - statues, doorways, signposts, landmarks, ceilings, and more. The stories will be accompanied by my own photos, some of which are already shared via my Instagram account.

Anyway, please take a moment to follow the blog, which also features work by Lia Moutselou, Dan Green, John Abell, Susie Wild, Beth Greenhalgh, Sara Rees, and more. My pieces will all be titled 'City Stories' so you can find them easily. Here's the two I've written so far. Happy reading!

Thursday 27 February 2014

Book! Me! Book - Who?

So. I am having a book out. I think I can say that? It will be out later this year. I'll let you know the publisher if they say I can! I'm only just putting a draft together now. I was sort of waiting to get a 'first thing' out there because I've been doing this for 6 years now, and knew almost from the beginning that I wasn't the poet I wanted to be yet. I wanted to wait until my poetry voice matched my internal voice a bit more - or, one of them - the one that I feel is more from my heart than any other place. I started out Doing Funny, but nearly everything I wrote back then to amuse, now I am re-reading, is also very Dark and Angry. I do sometimes make a joke onstage about 'poetry as therapy' - for plenty of us, it is! - but this is reeeeally apparent in these pieces. I mean, I *was* having actual therapy and doing a lot of work on myself at the time... The poems also seem a lot darker/angrier because they are on a page, all black and white and stark as anything, rather than me performing them with my soft voice and jokes inbetween. What to do? 

I don't think I can wait for my first book to be ready in any other voice/style I use, 'Mab' is too well-known now, she has written hundreds of poems, and performed nearly 700 times, and could have sold hundreds of books too, instead of flimsy self-made chapbooks or anthologies where people often didn't buy because they didn't know the other writers... I need a product. I need somewhere for these poems to 'go'. I think - I also need to make a distinction between what Mab writes and what my other (real?) self writes. I feel like 'Mab Jones' came about at a very particular point in my life, and as a character really helped me overcome lots of personal challenges. I still want to continue with her. I won't kill her off and become all serious! It's too much fun, and Mab just loves making people laugh toooo damn much.....!

However, after a fair bit of mucking about, persona-wise, in the past couple of years, it seems I have found the self I wish to use when it comes to writing these 'other poems'. I will continue to write comic verse through Mab, but I will use my real name, Michelle Anastasia Oliver, for these. What difference does this make in practical terms? Actually, none at all. Not at this point, anyway. It just seems like, some of my newer poems are so different to these older ones, that they need to be marketed under a different name. This will be it. I already have a secret blog which this persona writes in any case... *don't bother looking, you will not find it!!*

That's all for now, anyway. Thanks for reading. And, back to the book!!

M xxx

Wednesday 12 February 2014

A Blog for World Poetry Writing Month

Here is a blog I wrote for WoPoWriMo, which I was invited to do by the lovely Sarah Snell-Pym. It's entitled 'Poetry and Me'... and it's about me and poetry! Click on the pic below to read it...

Monday 27 January 2014

What Shakespeare Would Be Doing If He Was Born Now

I am a very lucky journo indeed. Cos I freelance, I get to choose the shows I go to, so only choose the ones I think I will enjoy. Do I seem to always give positive reviews? Well, this is the reason why that is :-)

Tomorrow, I will be going to see Jonzi D in Lyrikal Fearta, a triple bill that includes Jonzi's acclaimed solo work The Letter, which explores the responses to Jonzi being offered - and refusing - an MBE, as well as Broken Lineage, which looks at the differences between the old skool and new skool hip hop generations. Personally, I don't know very much about these two 'skools' - but, being a very lucky journo indeed, I got the chance to speak to Jonzi directly about all of this, and found him to be a very friendly and good-humoured sort, despite being super-busy, and always working and travelling, and probably always inundated with inane questions from don't-know-much-about-hip-hop journos such as myself...

In any case, we still managed to have a lovely chat, and I, of course, wanted to know more about him famously saying no to that prestigious MBE...

Jonzi: First and foremost, it wasn’t interesting for me to just tell the audience my reasons for not taking it. What was much more interesting were the voices in my head, forcing me left or right. Some of these voices were actual people; some of the voices were ideas in my head that I created characters from. ‘Jonzi’ doesn’t actually speak in the piece until the very end but, up until then, I present conversations with Jonzi, just with me playing the other people as well.

Me: Can you tell us a bit more about these other people?

Jonzi: I play 6 different characters. One of them is somebody I work with at Sadler’s Wells, and they’re giving me more of a corporate perspective on it. I speak to a local kid who lives in Bow, which is where I’m from, and the effect I have on him, regardless of whether I take it or not. I play that kid’s mum. I also play a very middle class African woman. And I play a very militant guy, called Darren. And yeah, it’s a variety of voices all sharing their opinion on me. 

Me: Is there a comedy element to proceedings? Do you – wear a dress?

Jonzi: (laughs) Who says I’ll be wearing a dress! That’s a huge assumption…

Me: Okay, so, maybe you’ll be naked. 

Jonzi: No, I’m not naked either! My goodness. You’re obviously a blogger! (laughs) I play two women in the piece, but I’m still wearing black t-shirt and black trousers. Although the poster, which you might have seen, shows an image of me holding a cigar, wearing make-up… That was added by Photoshop. i.e. by me!

Me: Okay, cool. So, can I ask you now about the MBE thing... Recently, a lot of poets got invited to Buckingham Palace, and it seemed to me that a lot of people's masks kind of slipped because, you know, some people were invited and some people weren't... So, this kind of seems like a timely reflection of that, as a poet myself...

Jonzi: It’s interesting, because I’ve been invited to the Houses of Parliament, and no 10 Downing Street, and there’s no way I’d refuse that. That’s a brilliant chance of getting into these places of power and to talk my piece, really. I think the MBE is a very different perspective. I think to accept an MBE is also an acceptance of the legacy and the history of the British Empire. More importantly, I think it really compromises our voices as poets who want to talk about justice, you know what I mean? So, for me, it was always difficult. I knew before I was offered an MBE that I would not take an MBE.

Me: I totally agree. I think I would be the same... I'm really interested in seeing you look at all this, but I have to admit, for the other piece in the show, 'The Legacy', I'm a bit, well, ignorant. It's about the differences between the old skool and new skool in hip hop. I don't know if you can tell by my voice, but I'm a chubby Welsh woman wearing a cardigan... I don't know a lot about hip hip. Please can you tell me a bit about this?

Jonzi: (laughs) Okay, let me give you an intro… There’s old skool hip hop which I see as relatively innocent at the time. A lot of old skoolers in the early 80s, in England, it was a great idea – ‘hip hop’ – 'though we didn’t necessarily see it lasting for 40 plus years… So… At the time there was an innocence about it, that was purely based on community, love, sharing, battling, and all those kinds of things. But now it’s a multi-million dollar industry, so there’s a lot of, shall we say, compromise that has been made of and by the culture, and there are lots of images of hip hop that original old skoolers would probably look at and say “that’s not hip hop”. So, it’s more the character of the old skool guy, versus the character of the new skool guy - what influences the new skool guy, what value they have. A lot of the piece is based on my own experience, seeing old skoolers who have just come out of the woodwork, and are claiming the culture again, mainly because these younger kids are the ones that have taken it a little bit further. So, for me, there’s bitterness that I have discovered with a lot of old skool attitudes, and I wanted to explore that within this particular work.

Me: The bitterness, the different generations... It sounds very Shakespearian to me. So, can I just ask you, who your own influences are? Which musicians you like, in both the old skool and the new skool?

Jonzi: Old skool influences – I’d say Rock Steady Crew, as a group, are just completely amazing. I’d definitely say Melle Mel from the FuriousFive. KRS-one from the original Boogie Down Productions, great influence politically. But also, in relation to hip hop, I don’t know, I’d put Malcolm X in there, I’d put Louis Farrakhan in there, mainly because I discovered a lot of the work of these guys through listening to rap. So there was a very strong political agenda in 87, 88, that kind of period of time. Nowadays, I’d say who influences me… Odd Future. I like Odd Future. Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, those guys are really cool. I also like Madlib. And MF Doom. Although, he’s old skool, I first heard him in 1988, as part of a group called KMD, he also did a track with 3rd Bass, one of the first legitimate white groups in hip hop. It’s interesting, I do struggle a bit when asked about the new skool, and I’m embarrassed to say that bitter old character that I play in Broken Lineage, there’s a part of me that relates to him.

Me: Do you know a musician called Akala? Me and the boyfriend went to see him recently... I think he's amazing.

Jonzi: Akala is amazing. He is brilliant, so clever. 

Me: We are going to see the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company in the South Bank in March. Do you like them?

Jonzi: I do. I think they’re excellent. I’m hoping to work with them one day. Me and Akala met up three or four years ago, and he asked me to direct one of his pieces. Since then, he’s been working with a much better theatre director than me…! But, he was a pleasure to hang out with. He’s great.

Me: And, I was just wondering - it sounds as if you travel a fair amount with your work. Have you been to Wales before?

Jonzi: Of all of the countries I’ve been to, I can’t get a visa to get into Wales (laughs)… But I smuggled myself in one day, and I went to Cardiff, to the Millennium Centre, and we did Breakin' Convention there.

Me: Do you have a favourite place that you've been to? I know you have many to choose from...

Jonzi: Fave country... I’d say South Africa. The first time I went to South Africa in 1987 was a revelation. I’d say that one… I mean… I’ve just got back from Brazil, and that was huge. It was a very serious danger to South Africa being the top place, but I think, in balance, it’s South Africa still.

Me: What made that your favourite visit?

Jonzi: The spirit of the people, the understanding of hip hop culture, the rappers... My wife.

Me: Ah! Romance...

Jonzi: Yes. I found my wife there.

Me: And, finally, can you just tell me what you've got lined up after this particular tour, which I think end in the first week of February?

Jonzi: After that, I’ve got lots of development work with Breakin' Convention. We’re going to do something called Back to the Lab where we work with choreographers and bring them back to the laboratory to start exploring some stuff with a very experienced theatre maker, Jonathan Burrows, then after that I’ll be going out to do the Open Arts Surgery in Toronto. Then I’ll be performing as part of the Washington DC Hip Hop Theatre Festival. Then, after that, I’m going to be going straight to the Harlem Apollo to start working with Soweto Kinch and some artists from New York to develop a piece that’s going to be performed in London in 2015. Then when I get back we do Breakin' Convention the National Tour.

Me: And will this be coming to Wales?

Jonzi: No.

Me: Oh....

Jonzi: (laughs) You’re just going to have to travel a bit, love, that’s it!

Me: Ha ha! Well that's about it from me.... Last thing, I guess, is - is there anything, like, any final words, you would like to say, about hip hop theatre?

Jonzi: (pause) What I will say is that I think that hip hop theatre is what Shakespeare would be doing if he was born now.

Wow! Great final words, and great interview, I think you'll agree, and a very interesting, erudite man we have in Mr Jonzi D. You can catch his highly acclaimed Lyrikal Fearta production at Sherman Cymru tomorrow from 8pm. And I, my dearest blog buddies, will see you there x

Sunday 29 December 2013

My End of Year (food) Blog

After last year's much complained-about final blog post, my Year in Shitty Pictures (well, okay, one person complained - they wondered if I really did wish death upon Justin Bieber. Answer was: yes! This blog isn't a joke, y'know!)... Anyway, after last year's complaint, I have decided to end 2013 with a 'best of' rather than a poor and, I admit it, mean-spirited, piss-take, thereby focussing on the positives of the past 12 months as opposed to the negatives. The focus in this post, friends, will be on achievement, inspirational events, academic accomplishment, and intelligent political outcome. 

AS IF!!!!!!! :-D

I have, however, decided to take onboard the fact that food blogs are extreeeemely popular (more popular than poetry blogs, really) and use that little law to hopefully 'up' the pathetic number of hits I normally get on here (see that page counter to the right of this? I did that myself, I did, by clicking my blog all year instead of masturbating - that non-wank-o-meter stands as a sad testimony to my current end-of-year sexual frustrations... Inbox me, perverts, *please*.......!!) :-/

So, anyway *weird Hayley Cropper wannabe-sex face* - here is my list of best things and people of 2013, a sorta Top Ten, with a slight emphasis on grubb, nosh, chow - enjoy!

Top Ten of 2013 #food

1. Best Food-Inspired Headpiece: Lady Gaga (design by Weetabix)

2. Best Drink: milk, consumed on the day of Thatcher's funeral

3. Most Talked-About Fruit: Angelina Jolie's melons

4. Most Likely to Put One Off One's Food: royal baby farce/face. Bleurgh!!

5. Dessert of the Year: 'just desserts' generously dished out by Saatchi to 
wife Nigella outside a Mayfair restaurant (!)

6. Best Bank: Food Bank 

7. Scariest Story: wine is running out! Stock up while you can! More on this story HERE :-(

8. Most Secret Ingredient: horses, of courses!

9. Best Food Additive: Potassium Bromate

10. Best YouTube clip: How Animals Eat Their Food

Anyway, hope you have a great bell-end of the year, folks. See you again in 2014!!! x

Wednesday 27 November 2013


Here is another new poem, inspired by a recent visit to the psychiatric unit at Llandough Hospital, Cardiff.


Your mind, like blown glass,
Has cracked.

They have taped up
What they can. Only a few
Fragments are missing.

In the tea room,
An older woman in tight jeans brags about how
You give her bear hugs.

In the hallway, a girl
Is pulling herself toward the door,
On the floor. Ragdoll thin,
Her hair streams behind her
Like a wedding veil.

You are bearded. A young prince.
Dandruff confettis your shoulders
As you hold court.

You are popular here.
It is Sunday, and I am your fifth visitor.

You tell me you love me.
You want to show me your poems but
They are in the older woman’s room.

I see two people I know:
A sex offender I taught to write haiku.
A well-to-do woman
I need to invoice for work.

You put sugar in my coffee,
Forgetting that I do not
Take it.

You kiss me. I kiss back.
I am let out and walk past traffic,
Keep walking until
I don’t know where I am.

You drink tea. Set up pieces
On a board game
You do not know how to play.

Friday 22 November 2013

Bedroom Tax protest/poem

Today I took part in a protest outside the office of LibDem's Jenny Willott, after the MP decided to continue supporting the bedroom tax in the face of opposition from the people she is supposed to represent. I had been asked to write a poem about the fact that Jenny had ignored requests from concerned citizens to talk about this, instead choosing to spend time on the much-more important issue of - rubbish. Yes, that's right - apparently the black bags outside our homes, and their collection, is far more important to Jenny than the people currently losing their homes, and being dumped outside like rubbish themselves!

In the end, Jenny did not turn up to her own office, and cancelled her usual Friday surgery. With families being forced to sell furniture to pay the tax, many falling into debt, and still others facing threats of eviction (if they haven't been evicted already), it seemed both cold and cowardly for the MP not to turn up to meet us today. The police were there, as usual, and were very polite and helpful indeed - they are constituents too, after all. This bedroom tax is hitting many of us, and it's hitting hard. And how is Jenny sleeping at night? Well, apparently, very well, as it is a well-known fact that the MP bought an extremely expensive four-poster bed on her expense account - almost £1,800 of taxpayers' money in total, on the bed, mattress, matching curtains, and home delivery.

So... Keep fighting the fight, good people! Picture and full poem below x

Bedroom tax, here’s the facts
People made homeless
Bedroom tax, just like trash
You can’t ignore us
Bedroom tax, don’t have stacks,
We can’t afford it
Our hearts and homes broken
But you just ignored it

Here is the full poem, it should be read in order of columns (1,2,3...). Making columns on Blogger is an absolute pain, so please forgive the fact the type isn't quite straight here... Enjoy!

Thursday 21 November 2013

Mab v Scrunchies

Look. I've got nothing against Scrunchies, okay. For those of you who have seen my Facebook posts... All I am saying is that a cheapo bit of string with some tatty material wrapped round it should NOT be more popular than me. I have performed over 650 times in the past 6 years! I bring smiles and delight (and slight drunken flirtiness) wherever I go! I do charity events, I do workshops in the local community, I've worked in various schools and prisons. My whole life is dedicated to sharing and inspiring a love of the spoken and written word. What the hell did Scrunchies ever do???

As far as I can see, all they do do is wrap their smug, crap-patterned selves around people's already-dead hair strands. BIG DEAL!!! I could do that, y'know. you don't need an MA (what like I've got) for that!! Scrunchies seem a bit smug about it all, to be honest. Are their hearts really in the right place? Do they care about their local communities? Or are they just about showing off, with all their tartan and furry bits and sequins and that? All their 'look what I can do' attichood, like fat little crowns on the top of young girls' (and sometimes old ladies') heads???

I mean, even if Scrunchies ARE 'the real deal', and feel they are doing some good in the world, why should they be more popular than my good self, and have more FB likes on their fan page than moi? Is it really anything to do with their usefulness? Or is it more to do with THIS:

Yeah, that's right. A young, half-naked girl showing off her 'bits and bobs' while wearing Scrunchies. Like a sexed-up version of the Victorian Little Match Girl, innit? What is she REALLY selling here? Eh? EH????

(Wish I had legs like that, mind.... *Sigh*!)

Anyway, I think this slightly disturbing, overly-young-girl imagery just proves what Scrunchies are really all about. So - liking their page MAKES YOU A DISGUSTING PERVERT!! Please unlike it now. Liking MY page - HERE - makes you a GOOD AND HONEST (and therefore sexually attractive) PERSON! Please like it now.

Down with Scrunchies! Up with moral integrity!!!