Bree SST7 2nd Draft Video

3 Jul

Feedback points:

How can I improve this structurally?
Is it clear what I’m trying to say in the last two stanzas? Do I need to make it clear that I agree that light-skinned privilege is a real issue in a broader sense, just not something that I believe applies to this particular situation?


From the Outside In

My mother was so young
And my father too white
It was the 80s
And mixed-race families
Were still not “the done thing”

My foster mother was a drunk
Who put brandy in my baby milk
That’s why they took me away

To new parents who couldn’t understand
Why I didn’t cry, but I’d stopped trying
A long time ago

We were a big family – I had brothers
Who came from another mother
But looked like me

My parents were white
And had their own kids too
But in a big city, with many ethnicities
I didn’t notice the colour of my skin
It was never a thing

Until one day my mother wanted
A better life in the countryside
A life away from the crime
That was beats away from taking over our streets

This new home was dark
I couldn’t sleep without street lamps
And rumblings from cars

I’d gone from a city safari to a country zoo
My first day of school:
Insults rained down on me like pitchforks
Flying from tongues that were too young
To know better

Litanies of “black bastard”, “n***er”
“Why don’t you go back to your own country”
I kicked one of the boys who called me names
Headmaster said good on you”. Small victory

My brothers were old enough to leave
I didn’t blame them but so many miles between us
Was hard not to take personally

I used to scratch my name in trees
Trying to plant seeds of existence
As if the ink would grow roots into a family
But it just felt like someone else’s memories

I had no role models
To show me how to cope
I didn’t have the tools
When I cried to my mother all she said was
“Do you want to move schools?”

I’ll tell you about my mother:
When I was eight I washed the dishes
And left a little dirt on one of the plates
She made me eat off it the next day

So I kept things to myself
Deteriorating mental health
And wearing a skin that felt like a straitjacket
I was late for my own development

High school was better
More girls that looked “like me”
But the racism was still there
Just with more subtlety

My teachers couldn’t tell me apart
From anyone with a skin tone darker
Than their own

Friends of friends making racist comments
Before realising I am there
I pretend that I don’t hear
And I wish that I’m not there

I used to walk around like an apology
And I think my parents were colour-blind
Which can be a dangerous state of mind

I scarred myself from the outside in
And hid it so successfully
But I wanted someone to notice really

The best thing the my mother ever did
Was kick me out when I was sixteen
Free to leave for more enlightened places
Where racists can be the exception, not the norm

But despite this, when I hear terms such as
“Light-skinned privilege” applied to me personally
I fail to see the privilege in my skin tone
For it is why I find myself alone

Make no mistake, I’m proud of all my heritage
But it seems I can’t win either way –
I’m not sure where my acceptance lies but it’s ok
Because I have stopped living my life from the outside in

2 Responses to “Bree SST7 2nd Draft Video”

  1. mouthypoets July 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    Hi Bree,

    This is amazing, reading it felt powerful, I learned things, I wanted to learn more, I wanted to understand more and for me that is the most valuable thing a poem can do. Thank you.

    -The first three stanza’s are like nothingI have ever seen from you, they are brave and specific and honest and rhythmic and I was so quickly immersed in the story and characters and I cared. Amazing work. It is a level of simplicity and specificity like I haven’t seen from you before.
    -The detail of not being able to sleep without noise is really interesting and I totally can resonate with that as someone who grew up in the city.
    -I like the reality of your comments about race – how geography impacts on it and how it can change with perspective and location… it is something adding detail to the piece rather than telling the audience ‘how it is’ which it can be easy to do with points like that.
    -“I’d gone from a city safari to a country zoo”… I really like this, nice contrast and feels true and relatable yet specific.
    -The detail of kicking the boy and the heads congrats. is both humourous and sad – a hard balance to strike but a really accurate one for this piece.
    -The stanza about names in trees is aamazing a real balance between specific detail and metaphorical meaning and the way you have used rhyme without it feeling a but cheesy feels skilled and important and relevant and young. Wow.

    -“who came from another mother” chimes too much with the saying “brother from another mother” which is a connotation that jars with the emotional honesty and integrity of this piece, can you find another way to phrase or say this that feels more new and inkeeping with the piece?

    -Not sure what this line means “it was beats away from taking over our streets” feel like rhyme has taken over here and content has been lessened as a consequence.

    -With “n**ger” what are you going to say in the performance?
    -What is the purpose of the title for you at the moment? Remember there are several things a title can do..


    1. Is every word working as hard as possible?
    -Sometimes it feels like you could be using less words to more effect, a good example is “Insults rained down on me like pitchforks” could be “Insults pitchforked down” by being in the first person we know it is happening to the narrator and rained suggests down anyway, so to make pitchfork the verb makes it a harsher and more fresh image with half the words!

    2. Unpacking
    It feels like towards the end you are doing lots of telling – telling me it’s okay, and that you hid it successfully rather than showing me the way you did in the beggining with rum in the milk and dirty plates…

    -How did you hide it successfully?
    -What do you mean by colour blindness and why is this mind state dangerous? This section needs some unpacking.

    -The structure is perfect, but I think towards the end you need to go through each line and ask yourself; what do I mean here? How have I done this? What examples, images and metaphores can I give to enable the audience to see, taste, touch and smell what I mean rather than just hear my opinion?

    3. I want to challenge you to write these lines without rhyming, because it feels like they are detracting from what you actually mean here…
    “So I kept things to myself
    deteriorating mental health”
    -How where things kept? How did things deteriorate? …this kind of adds to what I am asking of you above.

    I hope this helps you get everything together for Monday πŸ™‚

  2. secondanne July 7, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    I think the structure works really well – I also think that the last 2 stanzas make sense, I understand what you mean about ‘light skinned privilege’ – none of this makes me think it is about simply your situation, but a wider situation.
    I get what Debs is talkig about with the last few stanzas being a bit tell-ey rather than showing, if you can look at them that would be good, but the whole piece is very strong.

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