“What is the purpose of resisting corporate globalization if not to protect the obscure, the ineffable, the unmarketable, the unmanageable, the local, the poetic and the eccentric? So they need to be practiced, celebrated and studied too, right now.” Rebecca Solnit
I'm a UK-based writer, editor, blogger and educator with a passionate commitment to arts and social justice. I work with non-profit organisation English PEN and publish with independent presses Salt, Shearsman and Wallflower. I'm currently the Poet in Residence at the Archive of the Now, and a film journalist for Sight & Sound and The F-Word, I focus on independent, experimental, and feminist films and film culture.
In my critical work, I explore the political potential of experimental literature and cinema, with an emphasis on feminist artists like Sally Potter, who is the subject of my first critical book The Cinema of Sally Potter: A Politics of Love. As well as teaching university courses on topics ranging from transgender cinema to Anne Carson, I've facilitated workshops for youth organisations like Leave Out Violence and taught creative writing at Anglia Ruskin University, King's College, London, and Middlesex University.
For workshops, creative consultancies, editorial or writing work, contact me at: sophie [at] sophiemayer [dot] net
19th February 2014 marks 20 years since the death of Derek Jarman, queer pagan punk filmmaker -- and poet. I'll be marking this anniversary at the London Review Bookstore, celebrating the (re)publication of Jarman's only poetry collection, A Finger in the Fishes Mouth, in a stunning facsimile edition from Test Centre. About eighteen months ago, I read the British Library's copy of the 1972 original publication, unaware it was one of only four copies in existence... and now (through my persuasive skills and the good agencies of Gareth Evans and Test Centre), it's back in print, with a short introduction by me, and beautiful epilogues by Tony Peake and Keith Collins. 700 copy limited edition -- and tickets for the event, which includes Tony, Keith and Ali Smith, are selling fast.
Two important collaborations published this month with poet and translator Theodoros Chiotis: a prose (poem) entitled "fri_01" in the wonderful magazine aglimpseof 13, which is one of the most gorgeous print objects I've held in my hands; and a long poem "Thixotropic Tarot" in Shearsman 97/98, alongside a host of awe-inspiringly brilliant writers such as Denise Riley, gathered by guest editor Kelvin Corcoran. I've also being collaborating on the editorship of a crucial online activist anthology, Against Rape, hosted on Michelle McGrane's Peony Moon. Michelle and I collaborated on an introduction/manifesto, and you can read my contributed poem, "Phylactery," on today's post. It's powerful material: please read carefully (with care for the texts, and for yourself as a reader). For sooth, head over to Visual Verse, a new collaborative project from Preti Taneja, where writers respond to a visual prompt. "Shell Key" is the fifth poem in the launch issue.
Archive of the Now, the source for British innovative poetry and home of my virtual residency this year, relaunches this week with new additions including my signs of the sistership collaborator Sarah Crewe, and a growing body of responses I've been making as part of the residency grouped on one handy page - most recently, some thoughts about observing a recording session in Liverpool, which reminded me of this classic Norman McLaren animation (still looks fresh today):
On the cusp of mellow fruitfulness, a new poem sequence, States of Emergency, in the UK Poetry Dossier at Summer Stock. Features bees, mutants and Agent Scully. News soon about a whole new collection... but in the meantime, some chances to hear new work live this autumn, as I've been asked to read alongside a number of fantastic poets in some exciting locations. Only one can emit smells, but I expect all of them to be sensational.
And if you can't make it along, there are some live thoughts in/on virtual residence gathering on my Archive of the Now blog. And I'll be presenting a wild variety of "Bites" short talks at the six remaining The Rest is Noise weekends at the Royal Festival Hall, with topics ranging from War Requiem via Plague Mass to Pussy Riot!
Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot, the Saboteur award-winning anthology, continues to inspire: most recently, an invitation to write about poetic activism for Soundings. The resulting essay, "The Size of the Song," can be read in this month's issue. Offline version only, but do support this important journal as a space for alternative thinking and culture. Fit to Work: Poets against Atos also appear, with an introduction to the project and portfolio of poems.
Changing the story in other ways, I've had a busy Sight & Sound summer, taking on a spectrum of attempts on women's lives in Frances Ha, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Call Girl, Much Ado About Nothing and Stories We Tell. I've got a feature on Jem Cohen's wonderful film Museum Hours and his art of disappearing in the September issue (offline only again, alas).
Or, what riches June brings. Over at Archive of the Now, a digital audio archive of contemporary experimental poetries, I'm in virtual residence, thinking about space, bees and swarf, which delights Harriet: the Blog. Don't miss your chance to get your very own wax cylinder poetry recording! You might also want to jump into Verse Kraken, a new magazine launching on 20th June, in digital and handmade, limited edition paper form. Filmmaker Jacqueline Wright and I have created a half-girl, half-fish, all attitude hybrid called How to Curse for the issue, the start of (we hope) a longer project...
... on the same night that imprisoned Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina is forcibly hospitalised on hunger strike against the refusal of her appeal for parole. Thank you to Sabotage Reviews for a night celebrating poetry, community and activism, and to all the voters in the Saboteur Awards for a renewed opportunity to bring attention to Pussy Riot's case and to their platform for freedom from oppression. Thank you to contributor Ali Smith for her poem "Song," and for permission to stage this group reading of it, in English and Russian, at the Saboteur Awards last night.
Mark Burnhope, Sarah Crewe and Sophie Mayer invite you to SUNDAY SERVICE, to launch their new chapbooks Lever Arch (Burnhope) and Signs of the Sistership (Crewe & Mayer) from Knives, Forks and Spoons Press.
Sunday 26th May, 5.30 pm.
Clerkenwell Tales, 30 Exmouth Market (nearest Tubes: King's Cross, Angel, Farringdon)
Free, all welcome. RSVP via Facebook.
Chairing, sharing, launching and celebrating this month...
Today is being called "Black Monday" as the coalition government's tax and welfare cuts strike home. It's also "We're No Fools" day as we strike back with Fit to Work: Poets against Atos, over 60 poets protesting, expostulating and speaking truth to power. Keep us going with a small donation to our GoFundMe.
Today is also Easter Monday (or Eostre, and also the last day of Passover), so it seems appropriate to announce signs of the sistership, a feminist Bible (re)written in collaboration with Sarah Crewe. It's due out in April from Knives, Forks and Spoons, and we'll be launching it with a Sunday Service in May.