Joel and Josh – Edit 3 for Say Sum Thin 7

29 Jun

The Kazakh

Fragment 1:
They can’t place me.
These crusading eyes of city streets,
they survey my terrain,
look for a flag.

It becomes a game.

I play strangers in bars,
ask where they think
my voice reflects from.

Their answers never land near truth.

The glasses between us must refract,
because when I say ‘Kazakh’
they hear ‘Borat’.

We laugh,
agree that he
is a very funny
English man.

Now the luggage under my eyes
is English too.
Brought on by English nights,
French fries and
bottom of bag taxi rides.

I don’t drink. It’s a sin.
But when I do,
I shouldn’t call him.
But I did.

Fragment 1:
We miss you.

This wire keeps
your voice kite like.

I’ve got this end
coiled round my finger.
I need you familiar.

I know. I

I know.

There’s too much
of the London
in your intonation now.

That dirty air,
your sound is darker.
Your voice.

Do you talk of home?
Do you think of us?

Yes, Yes.
The family thrives,
best health.

Your brother will be married
by summer.

When will we see you?

I know.

Do you need money?

I know.

Fragment 1:

In Kazakhstan my pages turned to stone by winter
And flickered again like sails in the true winds of home, not change, home
Do you not crave to be back in a country
That can truly hold and move you.
This place has a different meaning
For the word stoned
It is not becoming
And the winds only blow you into
Into problems and loose, wandering people. He couldn’t even speak his own language.

Your identity is stone
Who you are is stone
This country is pulling Kashmir …
Softening your accent
Taking taxi rides away from your tongue
You have to speak in multiples for even your mother to understand you now
Your hooks are unholy
Your purpose is yesterday
Your purpose is yesterday
Your tickets are unbooked
Your first class, emirates, window seat is being thumbed over by some want to be business man from Canada.
Your taxi to the airport is waiting on every busy London street.
It will always be there
There will always be planes
There won’t always be forgiveness
There won’t always be patience

Fragment 2:
Yes. Yes!
Your brother is now married,
he sends the love.

It’s a shame
you couldn’t be here.

We picked a dress,
light, and beautiful
as whisper romance.

It hangs
now, ready
for when you come.

You should have been here.

Fragment 2:

I have your identity tattooed
Across my chest
I reflect you best
Why are you in Europe still
Your education is finished
And the money lives in Dubai
Not this draw
I know

I always have your face at the back of my mind
Don’t shy away from that picture
For it is as clear
As photobooths
Everything was clear in …….
I know you best,
Who else but family and god would stick with you for ten years at a time
Who else will travel with you
To places we don’t belong
And stay here in the dark even when the purpose has gone.

You can’t even buy horse meat here
Pah… The animals…
Don’t keep me in this top draw next to…
the bible of all things
This infidel has nothing to say that I want to hear.
Your landlord has some explaining to do, subletting Muslim space to Christian texts.

I don’t belong in an English draw
When you have no explanations
For Allah’s sake
Type my numbers into
The Emirates
And fly away from this nation
Of shopkeepers and drug dealers
Don’t act like I don’t know

Fragment 2:

I still wear Kazakh colours,
only now I buy them
from Topshop.

It becomes me.

New shoes have me
tilt to tip toe,
but there are still some
words I cannot reach.

I’ve been on the roof again,
burning paper to lips.

My hands want to read
the Qur’an the western way,
turning pages from right to left.

Now walk in the park
is muscle memory,
is second nature.
I feel safe here.

The last time I asked someone,
where they thought I was from,
they said Streatham.

I’m the worst Muslim I know.


3 Responses to “Joel and Josh – Edit 3 for Say Sum Thin 7”

  1. mouthypoets July 1, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Hello Joel & Josh,

    Joel, great to finally read something of yours up close. H

    I have heard this piece several times and have some questions/challenges before I want to delve into feedback if that is okay:

    1. What is happening/ what the overall story
    CHALLENGE – Could you plot out the action of what is happening for me in this piece in 5 bullet point e.g. 1. The main speaker, Julie, is really angry because she has to leave… I want them to be as straight forward as that.

    2. Explain to me in 1 sentence each, who each of the voices are and why they have been allocated that object.

    3. What do you want me to come away from the piece with as a member of the audience? (max 3 sentences).

    If you can get these to me today, I will be able to give feedback that is most accurate to what you are trying to achieve.

    • mouthypoets July 1, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

      Hi Debris. I hope this is useful:

      *Three parts of a girl’s subconscious are putting forward where they think they should be/where they belong.
      *The girl shows how she’s enjoying living in the west.
      * Her family’s influence (the phone) begins their attempt to pull her back ‘home’.
      * Her identity (cultural, national, religious), through the passport, firmly tries to pull her back ‘home’.
      *Both Family and national identity (phone and passport) strengthen there arguments.
      *The guilt pushed from these two arguments seeps into the girl’s thoughts, ultimately pushing doubt into her mind and ruining how she feels about living in the west.

      *The mirror – a true reflection of the girl’s thoughts when freed from restraints of identity and family.
      *The phone – family expectations – the phone call voice shows a dominance in the family’s voice as the girl’s half of the conversation isn’t heard.
      *The passport – national, cultural, religious identity – Picked because it represents mainly national identity but would also travel away with the character.

      3. I want the audience to see the a character being gradually displaced from their new surroundings by the subconscious pressures of family and ‘identity’. I want the audience to question which of these three objects makes the decisions in there life, and consider why.


  2. mouthypoets July 2, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    Hello Joel,

    Really helpful to get this detail, I want to make sure my feedback drives towards what you want to achieve – I am aware this is the first time I have properly feedback on a text of yours so always feel free to question my feedback. I try and make it as specific to your goals and helpful to your wider poetry development as possible.

    I really enjoy so much of the detail in this piece, there is so much to love and see and taste and touch. However I am really struggling knowing what is going on so the core of my suggestions are about resolving that at the moment, so much so that I am happy to give another set of fedback if you can get those changes done before the next deadline? Let me know as soon as you have redrafted so I can help further (if this feels helpful). Well done, this is a really big piece and if feels like you are taking it somewhere important…

    -The triangle of conflict between the three voices, it feels like there is a really dramatic yet also nuances sense of tension that I feel like you could push a bit further even, maybe there could be a bit more back and forth between the voices?
    -The concrete images of things like the bar.
    -The glasses between two people refracting Kazakh to Borat… really clever play on rhythm, rhyme and content there.
    -Like the very funny English man line… feels like a very accurate response.
    -Really like the whole stanza starting with luggage, it feels like you have really got into swing here with the concrete detail and the image of the taxi, french fried etc. I am starting to see, smell and taste the poem at this point and I really enjoy that.
    -I like the conflicting lines between England and Kazakh and also the recurring references to voice and accent, I think these work really well and make for a really strong ending overall. I particularly like; “that dirty air, your sound is darker.”
    -I also love how the phone section is ended in asking if they need money, this feels really honest and strong… I am wondering if there could be an actual dialogue between any of the objects hear, it feels like it could strengthen and clarify the relationship between the objects/voices further?
    -Love the line about the meaning of stoned -AMAZING! Really push the clarity of this line because some how I never heard it when being performed.
    -“the winds only blow you into people”, fantastic juxtaposition, so original, subtle and universally resonant somehow, for me this is really poetry at its strongest.
    -Love the last stanza, so strong and memorable.

    -Why the title? Titles can serve a lot of different purposes and I am wondering what purpose this is serving from you? Here is a little bit more on that:

    -Not sure I understand the line about speaking in multiples to your mother?

    -Wait… so the phone isn’t a side of the protagonists conscience it is her family? Still a bit confused about this… have elaborated more on my confusion below…
    -Wait… Also is the passport actually the voice of a passport… I am confused, I thought it was one of her consciousness, but she has pages? Again, I talk about this more below…

    1. I think something I am struggling with in this piece is that there are 3 objects which represent one person’s subconscious but that one person’s subconscious is played by 3 different actual people. There is also no real narrative to explain why these objects have been chosen and who these voices represent so I spend most of the poem/performance trying to understand what is going on and end up missing all the amazing writing.

    I feel like maybe this can be solves simple: can each voice say something at the beginning of their section that clearly states who they are and tells the audience something that eludes to the relevance of the object? For example:

    I’m Sara, and sometimes I wash my face without looking (mirror)

    I’m still Sara, but I miss the sound of my brother sleeping (phone… though not sure if this is sara…anyway you get the ideas, say who it is!)

    I’m Sara, but I can’t pronounce my name like I was born to (telephone)

    You know the characters better than I do, so obviously you will have better more specific layered stuff but hopefully this serves as a good example of what I mean?

    2. The confusion above is further intensified by the quick introduction of; they, me, strangers (also referred to as they), the eyes of the strees (also referred to as they?).. and I am not sure who they are that cannot place whoever is talking? Futhermore the image of the mirror might suggest the person initially means themselves? If they are family, if they are deportation police, whoever they are can you not just say “The deportation police can’t find me” or “My family can’t place me” … could you just say who they are so I can start somewhere a bit more concrete?

    I also don’t know who you are, who they are or what the ‘game is’ so visualising it being played with strangers in a bar is very difficult… although it is nice to have such a clear image.

    It would be really helpful if you could go through this poem, read it out loud and imagine you are hearing it for the first time, every time you find a pronoun; he, she, we, etc. Ask yourself – who am I talking about? Is this clear? Could I simply say who I am talking to/with to make it clearer?

    -Listen to some Radio Drama because in many ways this is what this is going to be like and it is a good source of research for how you may want it to or not to be done…
    -We need to start recording your voices and listening to this with you sat behind the objects so we are not focusing on your faces and are seeing if/how the text will work with the images alone.

    I hope this helps, though I know I am asking quiet a bit of you I think the work will really pay off especially in relation to the ambitious staging of it!


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