Written and Spoken Word

Amy Allen 


Three poems read by Amy Allen, north London actor, writer, storyteller.

 Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night: Dylan Thomas

Making a Fist: Naomi Shihab Nye

Try to Praise the Mutilated World: Adam Zagajewski



by Gülce Tulçalı

“I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” - The Poetics of the Space,

Gaston Bachelard 

I  do not remember the first house I lived in. I have had many houses that touched me. And I touched them. But the first house I would have seen, where I would have learned to walk and talk, is a lost memory. It’s a metaphor for the houses awaiting me ahead.


I do recall many other houses; stable memories of my upbringing. I remember touching rough walls and them touching me back. I remember the taste of an afternoon nap at my grandmother’s. I was left alone to dream, in a garden with chickens or by the sea, always watched by my family.


During adolescence, there was a naive period where you were too old to stay in your own home all the time but too young to go to a nightclub. I loved going away to other people’s houses during this period. Everyone had distinct objects for decoration, and the light struck differently in every house. Each dwelling smelled unique, spices in the ones where cooking was done frequently. Other places had the ambiguous smell of old furniture, undertones of bleach, odors in a space empty all day, waiting for their humans.


After moving abroad, around eight years ago now, the most stable existence I had was a flat I stayed in for almost two years. Sometimes I had no choice about leaving; sometimes I had the chance to stay but chose to leave. I laughed, grew, grieved, observed, and dreamed in many different houses throughout these years in Milan, Turin, Izmir, Istanbul, Berlin, and different parts of  London. 


But the one I am trying to get out of right now is not just the first house I refuse to be in, but the first one my body itself rejects. I cannot stay in it,  even for a couple of minutes. The scent of the house is not only old but also sharp. So many could-have-beens linger in the air. The smells not only go through my nose but through my whole body. The shape of the house is the same. My frame, which I barely hold together within the space, is not what it was before the loss.  

Many lives were intercepted here, living under the ‘sponsorship’ of two landlords. After all, this is London. There is little space to waste and many formalities come with living in strangers’ houses. 


This is not the first house I decided to leave before the end of the contract. Contracts, automated messages, online forms, and office hours are made for those who have a regular day, so this is not easy for me. London makes me want to find a decent house without much history, and see what happens if I just start living in it. Here I am between Aldgate East and Tower Hill,  and I am asking myself how long I can go on pretending I’m fully adjusted to this constantly changing urban world. 

It’s as if we humans are waiting for the tube to move again. We’re waiting for a signal from someone, somewhere. But we are stuck within an anxious self. Whenever something breaks down, or some terrible disorder happens, I contrast it in my head with sunset on an endless coast. I keep thinking that being able to travel very fast throughout a city doesn’t sit right with me. My body was not made for this. The older I get, the more upset I am that I’m missing everyday sunsets as I’m waiting on that signal which will unlock and move me in a truer direction.


Living fully is linked to spending time in nature with noble habits for most of us. We need more days that we can say, “I have lived in harmony with the earth today.” 

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Illustration by Gülce Tulçalı

A Lament for Afghanistan 


Produced by Tess O'Hara 

I Still Have Time

Partaw Naderi

Yama Yari WITH Sarah Maguire

It's well past midnight
I should get up to pray
The mirrors of my honesty
have long been filmed with dust

I should get up
I still have time
My hands can yet discern
a jug of water from a jug of wine

as time's wheeled chariot
hurtles down the slope of my life

Perhaps tomorrow
the poisonous arrows aimed at me
will hunt down my eyes
two speckled birds startled into flight

Perhaps tomorrow
my children
will grow old
awaiting my return

I Will Become a Traveller

Mohammad Bagher Kolahi Ahari

Alireza Abiz WITH The Poetry Translation Workshop

I will become a traveller again.
My boots laced up,
I will let my nails go uncut
I will let my chin sprout a bush of hair –
like the immensity of these mornings
that stand between me and a beautiful death.

As I near my beautiful death
I will wander among faces
like a homesick pilgrim,
like a bird falling from the nth tree of the world
as the last star sets
in a basket of apples –
there, early one morning.


Spring 2021 Features 

00:00 / 02:07

R  snikoff

[poland-palestine letter]


for Ahmad Almallah


so that these words shall not  be written to no-one        :       go ahead into the city of al kuds         what the ancestors called jebus            & when you      come to the first gate              wait 9 weeks in meditation                                                        fast, & drink no water


& when we approached the first gate i remember      a bloody larynx hung at the  threshold         a sign by which we shd not go on                 & by which you cd not               so that we swept our feet across the entry-floor      as a sign to the guards       we wd not leave          


then in dusty corners  of entry                        we  assembled groups of students & teachers       poets & craftspeople                   wherever &             whenever our words were exchanged the first            thoughts          we  immediately grasped for


each after        the whole matter         at hand from it                         & from its meaning                 as in

numerable keys popping up        in     thoughts  as    words joined   up        & at last         we saw the first                       who also sat as teachers & students dressed-up like us        in shatnez coats

















they immediately asked after  you      at which point we have come            but have not the strength to say         what they asked          for       the ancestors who took that burden on their backs                       who packed themselves tightly in exile              tho dispersed 

Con(de)structionAriel Reskinoff
00:00 / 03:16
00:00 / 00:54

[sliced from the stairs & w/ all the stairs]


translated from the Hebrew of Avot Yeshurun

one day a door sliced the second-story

& the whole sand-loam-concrete floor rose & shifted & moved

& spilled & fled & was thrown from the stairs & w/ the stairs.

the room on the second-story remained lit in the sun as before in wood’s ­supports naked

as before.

from whence was this taken?

from where does it derive?

what’s it called?

what’s it say?

Approaching the Black SeaAriel Resnikoff
00:00 / 01:43

[approaching the black sea]


for Rachel Blau DuPlessis


approaching the black sea      hidden in light             & on the other side of the sea                          a valley whose height they say reaches the sky                         at what we shouted     be what may    so we began to walk on a slant through the air across diagonal crevices     until we reached the bottom what they said       where having felt the ground              we stopped walking in the dark                      instead a cliff              of mountain  air        & seeing that because of steep smoothness   forced to clamber        with hands & nails      teeth & tongues          for sheer violent strength to reach some top        & as soon as we stopped  an extraordinary silence:               & there were many failed believers there       seized by  joy             & we did not want to walk on the mountain with our whole bodies, saying to ourselves: we must protect ourselves



for Gabriel Levin


in whatever shape or form it takes what breaks drills the body wakes into “a land not promised you.” on archipelagos of sound, a silence rains, maimed & claimed as one of those who knew you well. whomever sounds the sound resounds & sorts the mounds & bodies left 4 dead. when the sun sets over a different place. the place is not the place but the face, she says. moment-to-moment, mouth-to-mouth, in the cave of the shark in the body of a bird. i'm in bed by 10 a.m. with my earplugs in & still the drilling persists. neurotic mists conjure valleys of erotic shit - valleys of the wretched myth of persistence. subsistence consists of existing conditions. a fist in the shape of a rose. in the valley of resurrection. morning re-covers strangled birds on all sides by blinding light we can’t see. it is the light before dark. it is the darkness probed in light. if I am the site give me sight. to hold & behold, the cold not the cold, our hunger not our hunger. w poems btwn our teeth, feasting on the least & starving on the bones. in the beginning we cut stone. in the beginning we roamed & combed ticks from our sheep. sites & excursions excavate our lines. find & do not find, in mine & not in mind. the yellow berries that followed me thru sleep. corrupting my distracting by the wheat of the week & saying we are those who have gone crazy. mark yrself in ash above the temple. sort what cannot be sorted the mortuaries mountains below above the summer snow. to know, no never to know, to go after what cannot be— 


On Ariel Resnikoff’s Unnatural Bird Migrator (The Operating System, 2020)


Notes from Daniel Viragh


Yiddish, Hebrew, Aramaic and Akkadian all make regular appearances in the infinite mosaic of Ariel Resnikoff’s Unnatural Bird Migrator. What holds this collection together is the author’s steadfast dedication to a translingual Jewish poetics. Resnikoff has taken on the cosmic-cultural Jewish symbolic world, reframing that world’s wisdom and complexity in a way only a poet can. This book makes us re-evaluate the different strands of our own identities, whatever our backgrounds and traditions, no matter our individual or collective hangups.


Take, for example, the following from the book’s first section entitled “Yinglossia”. The poet excoriates the reader to go “spill yr guts against the synagogue” and then adds, helpfully (!): “[lit. house-of-entry]”. Of course, those who have some familiarity with Hebrew, or with Jewish customs and traditions more generally, will immediately recognize in “house-of-entry” the Hebrew word for “synagogue”. And that is precisely the beauty of Resnikoff’s work: it comes at you from the side without your being aware of it. And then the translation (or mistranslation) suddenly hits, and you’ve somehow bypassed or sidestepped your usual interpretive mechanism.


Positing himself as the “chew-among-chews,” Resnikoff tackles many facets of what might be called ‘the Jewish experience of otherness.’ He writes of the Ashkenazic devotion to the old-world palate, noting that “you can shake-stammer in impending fire” -- does he mean pogroms? -- “from stuffed cabbage to stuffed cabbage,” adding that those cabbages are also called “stuffed (holebshes/holishkes/ holubtshe)” depending on which side of what border you might be having your meal.


There’s a reference in those words -- “shake-stammer” -- to the seemingly endless Jewish path of exile, diaspora and never really belonging. But there is also space for love, worry and care: “sweetheart darling child in me -- sweet little soul in me -- what difference does it make whether we live or die? the inf(l)ected tongue -- may it keep its distance! & the impure food [slang, lit. pig feed] doesn’t do a thing.”

Unnatural Bird Migrator is not an easy read, and sometimes the “practice of translingual- poetic deformance” and “interlingual punning & fusion-slangs” which Resnikoff proffers can be daunting, even to the most initiated. But when the poet cries out, a bit like Tevye, “o, god in heaven, master of the universe,” only to catch himself and add, a bit slyly, with the twinkle of his eye: “who knows if he’s the real mccoy”... you know you’re in for the ride of your life.


The words of Ariel Resnikoff’s Unnatural Bird Migrator mix, morph, transmogrify and transplant themselves from language to second language and through half-first and half-last languages. This is a book that bridges the unbridgeable and enjambs the (seemingly) unenjambable.


Daniel Viragh website:


Extracts of Ariel interviewed by Rose on; A Poem Blows Through Us, Diaspora: Responses to Exile, Perpetual Departure, Imagined Space, Infiltration, and Directed Wandering.



Ariel Resnikoff is the author of Unnatural Bird Migrator (The Operating System 2020);  the chapbooks Ten-Four: Poems, Translations, Variations (Operating System 2015), with Jerome Rothenberg;  and Between Shades (Materialist Press 2014). His writing has been translated into Russian, French, Spanish, German and Hebrew, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Golden Handcuffs Review, Dibur Journal, Protocols, The Wolf Magazine for Poetry, Schreibheft, Zeitschrift für Literatur and Boundary 2.  With Stephen Ross, he is at work on the first critical bilingual edition of Mikhl Likht’s modernist Yiddish long poem, Processions. With Lilach Lachman and Gabriel Levin, he is translating into English the collected writings of the translingual- Hebrew poet, Avot Yeshurun. Ariel has taught courses on multilingual diasporic literatures at the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing (UPenn) and at BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change. In 2019, he completed his PhD in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently a Fulbright Postdoctoral US Scholar.

                                  for Ariel's PennSound Page

                                  for the latest interview with the publisher; The Operating System 

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Black Lives Matter Features, Summer 2020

Click on image to hear individual features


Jewku Anyaegbuna

Spoken Words Feature, Summer 2020

Jekwu Anyaegbuna graduated from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, with an MA in Creative Writing.

Jewku reads Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka’s Night.


Wole Soyinka, Nigerian playwright, novelist and poet, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2019. The Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange is based in Nigeria, and honoured the Nobel Laureate with a celebration of his 86th birthday last year.


Links: https://wolesoyinkainternationalculturalexchange.com/ws98-conference/


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Mazvitashe Ngoma and Loveness Sola

Spoken Word Feature, Summer 2020

Loveness Sola and Mazvitashe Ngoma read the poem Dry by Edwell Zihonye. Follow him on Twitter at Edwell Zihonye (@ZihonyeEdwell) | Twitter and on Facebook.


They also read Londoners, by Zimbabwean poet Kristina Rungano, Zimbabwe’s first published female poet. See another of her works: https://www.poetryinternational.org/pi/poem/5900/auto/0/0/Kristina-Rungano/The-Woman/en/nocache

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Tadiwanashe Chirongoma

Spoken Words Feature, Summer 2020

Tadiwanashe Chirongoma, born in Zimbabwe, was brought up in South Africa. He moved with his professor mother and counselor father to California in 2013. He remained after his parents’ return to Zimbabwe. After receiving his undergraduate degree in 2021, he will attend medical school.

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Jade Amoli-Jackson

Written Word Feature, Spring 2020

Jade Amoli-Jackson was born in northern Uganda, studied journalism and worked as a sports reporter on television and radio, and on national and local papers. After her husband, sister and father were killed during a period of internal conflict, and with her own life in danger, she sought refuge in England in July 2001. Jade has read her poetry across the UK and is a volunteer at the Refugee Council.

Faded Dreams


‘The big man wants to see you.’

Everything stopped

Our hearts stopped pumping blood

We could not eat or swallow the food in our mouths

Our children’s eyes were wide with suspicion.

In my mind I knew what might happen

I had already been through it.

My friend’s husbands

Brothers, even sisters

Were picked the same way.


He put on his shoes

Looked at me and smiled

I knew he did not want

To be shot in front of me and the kids.

At home, I tried to cheer them up

But the dreams were fading away very fast.

I sat down with our children and told them

‘Mum is going to find out where dad is.’

We said our goodbyes, all in tears.


‘I have come to take my husband home.’

‘We have no idea what you’re talking about!’

Then, a young soldier beckoned me towards the gate.

‘I know where he is

Wait for me near the market.’

I walked like a zombie to the square

And waited.


‘He was killed the same day he was brought here,’

The young man in civilian clothes told me

The man who was in uniform earlier.

‘Can you show me where his body is?’

‘For a price, the boss wants money.’

‘How much do you want?’

‘Four hundred!’

I had only three hundred pounds on me.

I was bargaining for my husband’s body

Which might already have started to collect maggots.

Finally, he accepted what I had.


He came out still dressed in his suit, headless

I am at peace now

He seemed to say.

Look after the kids and yourself.

I could not touch him

However hard I tried

The dreams faded away

Leaving only tears and heartache.

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Moving a Country

Move the evergreen trees

Meandering rivers

Lakes and seas

Wild and domestic animals

Birds of all sizes

Pack them all up

In the suitcase of my brain.


Leave behind the soldiers

Covered in old sacks

Or place them on the tip of

My foot

I’ll kick them into the deep blue sea

So my head can’t remember

And my heart can’t bleed

And the dark memories

Can fade slowly away…


I ran out of the house

Without packing anything

Even my sanity

How can a country I called home

Became a butcher’s den

And my bed a foreigner’s heaven!


I walk through fire

And find no water to cool

My burning heart

Only distant recollections

Fond memories of my youth

And the good old days

I search my head and heart

But the huge dark memories

Planted in my brain remain

I will treasure the good ones

And loathe the bad ones.



You have accepted thousands of different people

To live here with their own traditions.

You encourage us all to respect others’ culture and religion

Even colour, because you have accepted all of us.

I have to learn your language so as to know you better.

I can’t speak my language

You will not understand me.


I have travelled a long way from my land

Of fighting, killing and poverty.

I want to learn your language so that I can shop

To buy the things I like

To go to the cinema

And understand what is said.

I want to say hello to my neighbours

English, Russian, Polish, Somali and from Pakistan

They do not know my language.


My next door neighbours

Kenyan, Italian, Kosovan

Have started an English course.

I want to learn ESOL

I will study until I get it right

I want to get a job and pay taxes, like everybody else

I want to help other people

But I cannot do that hiding in my room.

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Carole Satyamurti

Written and Spoken Word

Feature and Tribute, Winter 2020

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Carole’s masterpiece was the Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling. Her incredible feat was to render into English and modern verse this ancient story, central to Hindu culture. Fifteen times longer than the combined length of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, the original narrative developed over half a millennium, reaching fruition around 300 CE.  Based on the tale of an ongoing fierce war and our human difficulty with right action (dharma), it tells a universal  story. In her preface, Carole states she was 'repeatedly struck by parallels, both at individual and at societal levels, between that world and our own'.  


This 2015 Mahabharata is a staggeringly impressive accomplishment. Janet Henfrey reads three selections from Carole’s towering work of poetry, scholarship and insight, Mahabharata, and continues with four readings from  other poetry collections.


Mahabharata no. 1Carole Satyamurti, read by Janet Henfrey
00:00 / 00:22
Mahabharata no. 2Carole Satyamurti, read by Janet Henfrey
00:00 / 03:10

Carole's prolific poetry collections reflect the many worlds she witnessed and inhabited. Ourstory  (probably her most read poem, featured in London’s Poems on the Underground project) exhibits her feminist sensibilities.



OurstoryCarole Satyamurti
00:00 / 00:30

Carole's first collection Broken Moon features poems of love, loss, motherhood, sexual awakening and the discovery of places and people both new and familiar. This sense of awakening is a thread throughout her work. Each word is a discovery of something both fragile and strong in herself and the world, reflecting her explorations of psychoanalysis and poetry. 


Whether in outrage, delight or sadness, Carole's work speaks of something to be discovered and treasured. Listen to her fierce poetic courage as she takes in the news of her cancer diagnosis; a poem that speaks of  being in the world with disabilities; her words on the anxieties of love and ageing and loss.



DiagnosisCarole Satyamurti
00:00 / 01:12

On Not Going Anywhere

On Not Going AnywhereCarole Satyamurti
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 The Seven Stages of Decrepitude

Seven Stages of DecrepitudeCarole Satyamurti
00:00 / 00:33

Carole has died, but her voice is ever-present, helping us confront the enormity of  loss. Her concluding words in the Mahabharata remind us:


‘We are born, we live our lives, we die;

happiness and grief arise and fade.

But righteousness is measureless, eternal.’


And the words of this poet are also measureless and eternal.





Mahabarata: A Modern Re-telling.  W. W. Norton and Company, 2015.


Countdown, Bloodaxe Books, 2011.


Stitching the Dark: New & Selected Poems. Bloodaxe Books, 2005.


Broken Moon. Oxford University Press. 1988.


See also:

Acquainted with the Night: Psychoanalysis and the Poetic Imagination; The Tavistock Clinic Series, 2003.


Check online to see Carole reading her work on YouTube, as well as tributes and articles about her.

Carole Satyamurti, prolific poet,writer, academic and winner of the 1986 National Poetry Prize, died on her 80th birthday in August 2019. This is a tribute to a woman of huge compassion and overarching intellect.


She listened, spoke and wrote carefully, with humour, a love of absurdity, a wellspring of outrage and tenderness. Her work weaves the personal and the political, inviting us to consider the smallness of our existence along with what binds us to the grandeur of endless history. Those who knew her, those who were touched by her, and those who will meet her and themselves anew through her poetry, will continue to find illumination in her work.

Ruth Valentine

Spoken Word Feature, Autumn 2019


Ruth Valentine has published several collections of poetry, as well as a novel, The Jeweller's Skin.  She is active in  Haringey Welcome, a grassroots organization  which campaigns against hostility to refugees and migrants who have settled in the borough. 




Angela Neustatter

Spring 2019

Blog Journalist  working for national papers and author of 12 books including Hyenas in Petticoats - A Look at Feminism between 1968 - 88 and This Is Our Time - the Crisis of Midlife.


For two years editor of Young Minds magazine, for young people’s mental health charity. Now working on family memoir. Lives in North London, has two grown up sons and three grandchildren .

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Crossing Borders: an Intercultural Family in London


From my sitting room, I can hear my daughter- in- law Kio downstairs. On tiered platforms, she is setting up an elaborate display of china dolls dressed in ancient Japanese costumes. Kio does this every year in March to celebrate Hinamatsuri - Japanese Girl’s Day.  The costumed dolls represent the imperial court of the Heian period (A.D. 794 to 1185) and feature the emperor, empress, attendants, and musicians dressed in traditional garb intended to ward off evil spirits. May will bring Boy’s Day. At the accompanying party, all the children will wear kimonos --which in no way will inhibit their riotous game playing.


This is just one of the ways in which my husband Olly and I share a way of life where Japanese and British customs are intertwined. The integration began when our son and his pregnant partner Kio moved into the flat below us. Kio explained that in Japan, living close to family when you have children is a core value.


Kio is very clear that our grandchildren Nina and Si must have the extreme good manners expected in Japan. These are often in conflict with the brash words and expletives-not-deleted of their peers at school. They have to meticulously clear up toys in their home. My son reprimands me and Olly for failing to be firm enough  about this. Kio and my son are a good deal stricter with the children than feels comfortable to our laissez-faire 1970’s parenting style. But I vowed I would never be a critical mother-in-law. The lovely and loving relationship I have with Kio is worth biting my tongue. On the other hand, she does not hold back in telling me, with infinite politeness, if she disapproves of something I do. I assure her I like that far better than if she said nothing. I would never want her  holding back to result in less family interaction. We share much of the heart.

We have stayed with Kio’s parents in Japan, indulging in smiling, nodding, bowing and reaching for Google translate, as none of us speaks the others’ language. Nina and four-year-old brother Si are amused watching us struggling.  They are both fluently bi-lingual and can’t understand why we aren’t. For us, this precious opportunity to learn about their culture in such an intimate way is worth the linguistic challenge.


The children flow in a free range way between their flat and ours. They have come away with us for weekend trips with the firm proviso that we abide by stern bedtime, sugar overdose and TV rules. At the same time, Kio and my son  know the children run riot around our place and play hectic games not permitted downstairs. They are fine with our more open ways--in our flat. As a result, we have a wonderfully joyous relationship with the children, even if we are excluded when they chatter away in Japanese and refuse to tell us what they are saying. We do not think of them as mixed race. But I have sometimes had to sit and chat at length with Kio when she has been upset at Nina being talked about as different by her classmates, teased about thinking she is special because of coming from Japan.  I see too how it upsets Nina, with the result that she has more close Japanese friends from a Saturday club than at her primary school. It’s upsetting because we can see these things undermine Nina’s self-confidence. Olly and I often tell Nina and Sia what lovely kids they are, hoping our love will banish the unkindness of some.


Kio regularly invites us to share a sushi meal. At these meals, to the children’s amusement, we struggle with chopsticks They never fail to remind me how foolish I am about the strange raw wriggly fish they eat in Japan and I (literally) cannot stomach. On the other hand, Nina instructs me firmly to cook turkey and roast potatoes for the traditional family Christmas. And when the children present us with the enchanting gifts they have made, guided by two very artistic parents, we bask in the shared cultural world we’ve all created.


There may be downsides to having grandchildren who are part of a culture  which I understand only superficially. But I don’t see it - yet, at least. And I cherish the closeness we have with Kio. She who would not naturally talk about feelings, does so these days. My son is clearly pleased she and I get on. The children are matter- of- fact about our being  a multi-generational family under one roof. Although I cannot calculate how much it helps them to feel integrated in English society, I get the sense it does when I hear Si telling how we are real grandparents --just like his Grandma and Grandpa in Japan.

Kendall Perry

Autumn 2018

Kendall is my teacher and my friend.  From them, I learn to understand gender in a profoundly new way. When I was a young girl in the fifties, you were male or female--period. Any 'deviation', like same sex attraction, was abnormal, wrong, something to be cured if possible.  Today's gender fluidity, and the worlds it opens up, is an enormous shift. I embrace it, guided to new understandings by the gentle touch of my friend Kendall's hand. - Rose L.


“gender dysphoria has not been kind to me this summer,

and yet at the same time, it has certainly taught me a lot more about love.

to love despite the raging battle inside my mind and heart,

to love in the form of tears for the world,

to love in the form of speaking out, in setting boundaries,

to love in the form of standing up time and time again.

the messages i need most, i want to share with you too,

you are enough, so enough.

it's okay to feel the weight of sadness,

and this will get better.

you are beautiful and loved. “ - Self-Portrait, August 25th, 2018

In just a few months in the approaching London winter, I will be lying on a surgeon’s steel table, wrapped in a disposable gown and wheeled into the surgery theatre.  In moments, or, three and a half hours to be precise, my body will emerge in a way I have always dreamed of. Once healed, I will run my hands smoothly down my chest. Button ups will sit flat.  I will sit up straight without hunching. I will be flat chested. Flat as I haven’t known since before puberty!


I am twenty-six years old.  Ten years ago, when I was sixteen, I had  breast reduction surgery. Up until puberty, my gender was wild and free.  I could express myself as a so-called “tomboy”. My slim hips and flat chest  accommodated my androgynous expression.  It wasn’t until puberty, when curves began to appear, and something began growing out of my chest, that gender binary issue became a consuming state.  Who am I?


I was one of the first in my grade to begin developing breasts.  I tried to hide them with large t-shirts, hockey jerseys, and to hide my hips with sweatpants. I despised going shopping.  Feeling trapped when I felt the only option now that I am a “girl” is to shop in the “girls” section. Pink. Dresses. Tight tights.  Whimsical patterns. No, not for me.


Well, what about the boys section?  But, with my already internalized transphobia, I felt as though the ceiling might collapse on me if I were to venture into the boy’s section.  And we are only talking about clothes here! At that age, in my early teens, I knew something was deeply troubling me. But I didn’t know where it was coming from, or what it was about.  I just thought this is just the way I am, and I should do my best to fit into the boxes society wanted to push me into.


At fifteen, I had a consult with the surgeon, who would perform my breast reduction surgery.  I distinctly remember asking “can you please make them as small as possible?”. I think what I really meant was, “can you please just take them away entirely?  I don’t fit in this body. I am a genderqueer non-binary trans person!”. But I didn’t have this language or self-knowledge yet. I didn’t even know you could be outside the gender binary.  That knowledge didn’t come until my early twenties.


Fast forward  to the first year of my university life.  I came out as queer and felt an enormous sense of freedom to feel open about my sexuality.  I cut my hair, changed my wardrobe, and finally felt I could wear “boys” clothes and present as masculine-androgynous.  However, that backfired a few years later, when I l felt that being a part of the ‘girls who love girls’ crowd also didn’t feel quite right. I tried a more feminine phase (for the first time ever!), with dresses, even long hair.  No, that wasn’t right for me. Definitely not. What is going on?! Why do I feel so deeply out of place?


After meeting more and more gender-non conforming people and finding  friends in the trans community, a little voice inside (my subconscious) kept saying -- “Yes, Kendall! This is you too! Will you let me show you more? Say yes;  it will eventually be okay, actually more than okay! It will seem terrifying at first, but saying yes to opening the pandora’s box of gender identity will be one of your greatest teachers in this life. Take your time, but I hope one day you will say yes to me.”


After two years of this little voice piping up, I finally did said “yes!” after a rough summer of many breakdowns and a heightened state of constant anxiety.  I ordered my first chest binder from GC2B, I put it on, and was delighted to see my chest was as flat as ever.. Who cares that it was uncomfortably tight and made it harder to breathe; my chest was finally FLAT!  What a liberating feeling. At the same time, I decided to try they/them/theirs pronouns with close friends. It took getting used to, but now it feels like a I am truly seen for who I am when I hear it being used.


Now, many ups and downs and decisions later, I am on my way to top surgery, A.k.a., a double mastectomy with nipple grafts.  This surgery removes your breasts and nipples, reconstructs your chest according to pectoral muscles and upper ribs, reattaches the nipples, thus creating a more masculine chest.  


The day I emerge out of surgery will be a new beginning.  I will be proud of the scars across my chest. I will contribute more trans visibility to this world, and hope to make it a safer place for more trans and gender non-conforming people to come out and express themselves fully.   


Every non-binary, trans, genderqueer person has a different journey.  This is where I am now. Gender exists on a spectrum (or off of the spectrum entirely if you’re agender). I fall somewhere on that spectrum in the transmasculine non-binary area.  Transition is not a linear journey. It’s okay not to know all the answers. You don’t need to have any surgeries or go on hormones to be trans. Some do, some don’t. Some trans people are binary, some are non-binary.  Some are queer, some aren’t. It’s okay to question, to be confused. It’s all part of the journey to becoming. This is a vignette of my queer, non-binary, creative self today.

Some written, visual, and audio resources for learning more:


Chella Man, Youtube Channel



Sam Dylan Finch articles:

Maybe Being Transgender Wasn’t a Mistake


I’m Transgender but Trust Me I’m Just as Surprised as You Are



Jackson Bird, Transmission Podcast



Jamie Raines, YouTube Channel



Ash Hardell: **They have put up a free PDF of an accompaniment to their book**

The ABC’s of LGBTQ+


YouTube Channel:




Nancy's wedding day

Nancy and her daughter's stroller

Jeannie Davidson

Read This Book Feature, Summer 2018

Jeannie Davidson was born in Edinburgh in the same year as the NHS.

She has lived in London since 1974, reluctantly leaving her beloved home city to accompany her former husband to London.  The city now feels completely like home, though Edinburgh retains pride of place.

Jeannie is deeply curious about cultural movements and how ‘tribes’ and affiliations function, questioning what tribe she is now in. She involves herself in projects aimed at making a difference and enriching lives.

From If It's Not One Thing, It's Our Mothers by Jeannie Davidson.

There are consistent themes running through the stories in this book, and a wonderful diversity of mother-daughter relationships. The intensity of the connection with the most important person in our lives has yielded many insights that I want to share with others.---Jeannie

'Possibly the worst relationship, showing the worst part of me, has been with my mother. The feelings I felt around her were just awful, to the point where she couldn't do or say anything right.'---Kerry

'My memories are fortunately very good. I feel blessed really that I had such a nice relationship with her.'---Pat

'I don't know how Mum managed when we came to England. Settling in this cold country, with language barriers and racism, was a real challenge.'---Parminder

'There was a hinterland that I don't feel I ever reached and maybe none of us did. But maybe none of us do with our mothers.'---Hilary

'I had a lot of unfinished business with my mum. That's why this project has been so good for me coming to some kind of acceptance and realising that other people have had similar experiences.'---Hannah

'During the process I have thought more and more about the relationship, and what other people have to say about their mothers was so much&nbs