Beautiful

The Castle of Adolescence to Womanhood

My castle stood strong, so long
towering over green pastures
but

was

now

crumbling.

Rock

and

brick

broken
off more than I could count or contain
damage settled in,
leaks dripped from my eyes, unseen but rippling.

Wish I’d made time to restore my inner walls, build a fort
thick and firm with a watchtower to combat future attacks,
defend against enemy insecurity that had sieged then

Stormed in, firing cannons loaded with lack of confidence
flaming arrows lit with lack of self-belief
alongside an ally army that revelled in stealing hopes and dreams.

My

corroded

walls

tumbled.

It took many years of rebuilding                   Let us rage against our inner enemies.
but my castle, newly restored                        Let us vanquish our voice of negativity.
is more resilient and beautiful                       Let us hold our turrets high in radiance.
than it could have been before.                    Let us never forget that we are enough.

Shaniqua Benjamin

They Warmed My Heart & Made My Year More Beautiful

As you probably know by now, I’m a poet, so portions of my life are spent with poets and around the poetry scene, which brings me happiness and a wealth of other emotions.  This year has been spent in the world of poetry a lot more for me, bringing a lot of great people into my orbit.

I am beyond thankful to the stellar poet, who is Anthony Anaxagorou, for bringing me into the world of Out-Spoken.  Out-Spoken not only wows and inspires me, but the poetry and music onstage has enriched my soul on a number of occasions.  In November, I went to Out-Spoken feeling emotionally drained and was uplifted by the gorgeous, soulful sounds of Thabo, who was exactly what I needed on that day.  In December, I teared up to the ridiculously powerful poetry of Chimene Suleyman, then cried my eyes out to Lowkey’s emotion-fuelled, politically charged music.  They were both incredible nights; in fact, every night at Out-Spoken is incredible.

Going to Out-Spoken is also the perfect opportunity to see Anthony and Joelle (who I met during Rallying Cry) on a regular basis – both lovely human beings who always make me smile.   Anthony is also brilliant at convincing me to buy books.  Seeing Tom is great too, who I met through Spread The Word, and its been lovely to meet the ultra talented Karim and Kaia as well.

Paul was someone I’d known in cyber form for a couple of years, but I finally met him in the flesh at my poetry night in April.  He is a wonderful human being, who wowed us with his stage presence and made it clear that he wanted to support me and Young People Insight (YPI) as much as he could from the outset.

He stayed true to his word, putting out a photo of the two of us, captioning it with info about what I do and a call to action.  He also invited me to perform at Field Day in the summer with The Chocolate Poetry Club, his poetry organisation.  I was beyond grateful for the opportunity, as it was the biggest festival I had performed at up until that point and it provided me with another platform to get my poetry heard.  I’m so glad to have people like Paul in my orbit.

Field Day was where I met Usaama face to face for the first time, after being in contact through YPI on the Twtittersphere for a significant period of time.  I’d seen his work online, but watching Usaama perform his poetry in person is special.  What’s funny is that after finally meeting him in the flesh, I went on to seem him perform three more times throughout the year, including a few days later at Out-Spoken, none the less.

What I’ve come to love most though is not Usaama the poet, but Usaama the person.  We’ve sat together at three of the four events I’ve seen him perform at this year, so we’ve been able to chat a little bit.  His personality is unique, he always makes me laugh and he never fails to engage me in interesting conversation.  However, what makes Usaama really stand out is the amazing, beautiful compliments he gives that warm my heart and soul.  These aren’t basic, face-value compliments, but they are compliments that speak to the inner-most parts of my being and character.  Everyone needs someone in their life who compliments them like Usaama.

Then there is the lovely, supportive, community-orientated Darren from Well Versed Ink, who asked YPI to be one of the partner organisations for LIP Fest 2018.  Shout out to Justine (Well Versed Ink), Jemilea (Writerz & Scribez), Ted and Peter (Poets Anonymous) as well – I was happy to see it come to life with you all and I can’t wait to see how it develops next year.

And one of my favourite poetry nights, What You Saying, put together by the wonderful Humi, Daisy, Nomes and Nikki.  They have created a beautiful event that exudes a beautiful atmosphere, which I miss whenever I’m not there.  I’ve also met some beautiful people at their nights to, including Manj, Roe, Louise, and Nay, who I enjoy catching up with whenever we’re there.

Poetry has become one of my great loves and I’m blessed to share it with so many great people.  I hope their presence in my life will continue and that their creativity will continue to grow.  Love them all.

Special People Who Made a Special Experience More Beautiful

I’ve been blessed with some amazing opportunities this year, allowing me to meet special people, who I’ve loved coming into contact with.  One of those opportunities was Rallying Cry, a project put on by Apples & Snakes, which culminated in a spoken word show.  Being part of Rallying Cry was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, pushing me further as an artist.  However, what made the experience so beautiful were the individuals involved, who I loved spending time with, especially during production week.

I had the pleasure of being mentored by the wonderful Zena, who I was also mentored by earlier this year when taking part in The Writing Room (also delivered by Apples & Snakes), another amazing experience shared with beautiful people.  Zena is a beautiful soul, with a pure heart and great energy, who gets the best out of those she works with.  Working with her has definitely made me a better poet.  Zena is also one of the best people to be around, full of joy, love and laughter.  I hope that I will not only continue to learn from her, but that she will be in my life for years to come.

Zena not only mentored me, but she mentored the beautiful Antonia, Daisy, Hansika, PJ, Sarah, Oakley and Marissa.  I loved embarking on this journey alongside them, where we all learnt and grew.  Each of them are doing awesome things in their own right and have brilliant things to say.

I already knew Daisy from Croydon, and we went through The Writing Room together, but I got to know her a lot better through this process.  I’d also originally met Hansika and Sarah through The Writing Room, so it was amazing for the four of us to carry on our poetic journeys together and really become friends.  I developed a special bond with Hansika, as we shared the room for our performance pieces, and I could not have asked for a better “room-mate”.  I loved our conversations and having the opportunity to rehearse together.  It turned out that we were linked by University of the Arts London, having each attended one of their institutions (I went to LCF and she went to LCC – if you know, you know).

As well as us emerging artists, there were established artists featured in the show – Joelle, Chiedu, Roger, Hannah and Francesca – who are all ridiculously talented, but down to earth and lovely to be around.  I clocked that Roger was Trini straight away, but I doubted myself and decided to ask where he was from.  Once I told him I was Grenadian and Jamaican, he took to calling me ‘Grenadian’, which I loved, as my Grenadian side is often overlooked.

I felt like I especially bonded with Chiedu and Joelle though.  Chiedu is an awesome person who I had some awesome chats with, talking about where were from in the UK, the poetry and music scenes, and a number of other things – I felt at ease speaking to him.  His piece also brought me to tears, touching on certain things relating to people I know and love.  Joelle is one of the strongest, supportive and lovely people you will ever come into contact with, bursting with energy and possessing a wealth of knowledge.  I loved when she would vent to me and I would just stand listening, giving her the chance to get it all out.  She’s someone I see quite regularly now and always enjoy engaging in conversation with – she also gives great hugs.

There is no way I could have grown and taken my performance to where it was without my incredible directors, Rob and Maya.  They challenged me, supported me, advised me and more.  Rob came up with the amazing concept for my piece, which I never would have come up with myself.  His mind is weird and wonderful, his being is energetic and enthusiastic.  He made me laugh, feel safe and feel prepared – he was amazing to work with and I wold love to have the opportunity to work with him again.  Maya did a significant amount of one-on-one work with me, encouraging me to dig deep and really feel the words I was saying.  She made me think deeper about how I deliver my poetry and she made me a better artist, within a short space of time.  I mean it when I say that my performance would have been a lot less effective without her.

Then there was the stellar and beautiful Raffi, the actor who stepped in and did a phenomenal job as the person who had a gun to my head,who I really loved working with.  The Trojan that is Bethany, who did the most amazing job with props, room layouts, and all other design stuff, and is also a proper lovely person.  The equally lovely and crazy organised Maria, who ensured we all kept to time and knew where we should be.

The brilliant team from Apples & Snakes – Lisa, Natalie, Divya and Tobi – who supported, planned, produced and most importantly, got the word out there.  I am incredibly grateful to Tobi for informing me about this opportunity, and most of all to Lisa, who even made this a possibility.

There are also others that I haven’t mentioned or named, but I want to say that everyone involved in this project is incredible and I enjoyed being in their presence.  Thank you to Apples & Snakes, and to everyone involved in Rallying Cry, I love you guys.