Carmina Masoliver, author of the epic poem Circles published in 2019, discusses the journey of the poem, embracing sexuality and finding peace.
The journey from writing Circles to publication has been a long one, but the timing of it has felt right. I started writing it in 2012 and it was published in 2019, so in all it has been seven years. I think this is a good example of not rushing to publication and taking more time, which isn’t usually my forte. This was a lesson that I learnt from the very person who mentored me during the project ‘Word’s A Stage’ that birthed ‘Circles’: Malika Booker.
Malika Booker published her first pamphlet in 2007 (Breadfruit, flipped eye publishing) and her first full collection in 2013 (Pepper Seed, Peepal Tree Press). I remember how she had been cited as an example of a poet for whom people were eager to read, yet took her time. She went on to be shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre prize.
When it comes to poetry, and particularly spoken word poetry, there is often the assumption that it is autobiographical. One issue I have with Circles is that it is not autobiographical; it is inspired by Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, and how loss of love can impact on us emotionally, and in this case, the death of a partner.
Whilst the imagined lover who tells the story is fictional, there is an emotional core to the piece that is all true. At the time of writing, I put all the pain of my fading relationship, my fears of my partner leaving me (both through death or otherwise) and the terminal illness of his mother into its writing and performance over those years. However, it wasn’t until the end of the relationship in 2017, when I had also published the She Grrrowls anthology with Burning Eye, that I was able to published the piece as I envisioned, with illustrations, inspired by Sarah Kay’s poem ‘B’, breaking up the poem and allowing it to be slowly digested.
Whilst changing the gender allowed me further distance, and made sense in the context of Kane’s sexuality, people have queried my sexuality performing it from the onset. I remember the first time I performed the piece, someone asked if I was a lesbian and said that they thought I had a boyfriend. I can’t remember what I said in reply, as I did have a boyfriend and I am not a lesbian.
Although I’ve always known I was bisexual, I don’t remember having the confidence I had when Tom Denbigh asked me a similar question about my sexuality. Asking if I was queer, I replied, ‘Yeah, I’m bisexual’. Feeling somewhat betrayed by my reveal that it was fictional at the end, it is an understandable question, as it is important that as members of the LGBTQ+ community, we are represented as ourselves rather than straight people. I think in that moment, we could then both draw comfort from the fact that ‘Find The Right Words’ had two queer headliners.
So, it seems fitting that now I am single, able to explore my sexuality after six/seven years of being in a heterosexual relationship, I can spend the next year or so reading the book on tour (if possible with things as they are at the moment) and then I can close that chapter of my life and move forward. For any readers that can relate to the themes of the book, I hope that it is also healing and that you can also move past the pain.