“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, educator and activist with a passionate commitment to arts and social justice. I work with non-profit organisation English PEN and publish with independent presses Arc, Lark Books, Salt, Shearsman, IB Tauris, and Wallflower. With different hats, I am Poet in Residence at the Archive of the Now, a member of queer feminist film curation collective Club des Femmes, a lecturer in film at LCC and Queen Mary University of London, and a film journalist for Sight & Sound and The F-Word, where 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
In October, I interviewed Clare Stewart, the British Film Institute's Director of Festivals, for Sight & Sound, about the dramatic increase in the representation of female-identified directors across the festival – and subsequently read Nick James' editorial in S&S Nov 2014 proferring a "modest invitation" to women writers to correct the magazine's gender imbalance. Result? An open letter, penned by myself and Ania Ostrowska, with 80 signatories, and a comment piece calling for a more ambitious and cohesive plan to end the "chilly climate" for women in film criticism and reflect the plenitude of feminist and female-identified filmmaking. What happens next? Watch this space.
The amazing ADA & AFTER: WOMEN DO SCIENCE [FICTION] weekender begins tomorrow, Thurs 20th Nov, with a screening of cult classic TANK GIRL at the ICA – still the only studio superhero film with a female lead! I interviewed its amazing and inspiring director Rachel Talalay, hot off her back-to-back Dr. Who Season 8 finale episodes, about working with Courtney Love and Ice-T, hiring Catherine Hardwicke, and what she's up to next.
Very excited to be participating in the BFI's Days of Fear and Wonder science fiction season! As part of Club des Femmes, I'm co-curating the ADA & AFTER: WOMEN DO SCIENCE (FICTION) weekender, 20-23 November, at the ICA, the Electric Cinema Shoreditch and Hackney Picturehouse. With Tank Girl, Ada Lovelace, Björk, Lieutenant Uhura, Katniss Everdeen, Ottica Zero, Mary Shelley, co-dependent lesbian space aliens and Maisie the Space Dog all in attendance cinematically, we will also be joined by Bidisha, Liesel Schwartz, Campbell X, Nalo Hopkinson, Maja Borg, Sophie Robinson and Isabel Waidner. More special guests tba!
Two awesome events upcoming with Club des Femmes:
Fri 21-Sun 23 November: Women Do Science (Fiction), an ICA film weekender, part of the BFI's Days of Fear and Wonder season – during which I'll also be giving a talk about Born in Flames (Lizzie Borden) as part of the Afrofuturism weekender, and a BFI LIbrary talk (probably) titled "I'd Rather Be a Cyborg than a Goddess," about cyberfeminism and automatic women. Yep, fembots, handmaids, River vs. Reavers: all the good stuff.
And I'll also be at the BFI on Fri 1 Aug for We Could Be Heroes, the launch event for the Teenage Kicks season, where I'll be talking about lesbian girlhood and the importance of school washrooms to teen cinema and TV.
Sometimes, in the space between writing a piece and its and publication, its existence slips my mind.
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).