5Qs with Nat Raha

At the end of this week, INTERROBANG‽ will be co-hosting and -producing an evening of trans and non-binary performance organised through LGBT Youth Scotland and Beyond Gender as part of Scottish PEN’s Many Voices project that aims to amplify voices that are silenced and marginalised.

As well as the talented young people who have participated in the I Write, I Rise workshops and the US-based writer, speaker, activist, teacher and poet Eli Clare, the evening will feature the poet and trans / queer activist Nat Raha.

Nat’s poetry includes the books [of sirens / body & faultlines], countersonnets, mute exterior intimate and Octet. She’s performed and published her work internationally, and is undertaking a PhD in Creative & Critical Writing at the University of Sussex.

Poet and trans / queer activist Nat Raha
Nat Raha

So it goes almost without saying that we’re delighted Nat has taken a bit of time to answer some questions relating to the night, and share some thoughts.

‽:  You’re going to be sharing some words with us at the I Write, I Rise event, part of Scottish PEN’s Many Voices project. How did you become part of I Write, I Rise?

NR: I’ve been leading the I Write, I Rise creative writing workshops in Leith, working with a group of talented and open-minded (creatively!) trans and non-binary youth, between the ages of 17-24. I was lucky to be chosen by Scottish PEN to undertake this work!

‽:  What does the phrase I Write, I Rise mean to you?

Maya Angelou, Still I Rise

NR:  The phrase, of course, builds from Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise. For me, writing – writing poetry and essays – has been key to expressing, documenting, advancing, reflecting, sharing, and building my thoughts and feelings, alongside those of the communities and collectives I’ve been a part of. To Rise from the words we find and put to paper, together, is to build our lives, our being. The two verbs work together: we ascend through our expression.

‽:  The I Write, I Rise workshops and event were produced in association with LGBT Youth Scotland. Are there any LGBTQ writers who are particularly important to you?

NR:  My relationship to poetry and literature has primarily been through LGBT writers of the 20th Century and contemporary – Frank O’Hara and Virginia Woolf were first loves. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by and spurred on by queer and trans writers since I started writing poetry seriously – namely Mendoza aka Linus Slug, Sophie Robinson and Verity Spott, each of whom works through questions of identity, voice, language and queer desire in extraordinary ways.

Linus Slug: Type Specimen, Contraband Books
Linus Slug

In the past year, I’ve been fortunate to be connected to a number of trans writers based in North America, who have written through much that’s been on my mind the past 10+ years – in particular, Trish Salah and micha cárdenas articulations of trans/transfeminine desire through formal (re)invention have been important to me. Their work feels like a literary affirmation of what I was trying to do myself five years ago in my countersonnets.

Queer and transfeminine Vietnamese American poet and teaching artist Chrysanthemum Tran
Chrysanthemum Tran

During the I Write, I Rise workshops, I brought to the group work by trans, genderqueer and non-binary writers that I felt was fresh and exciting – including the work of Spott, Slug, cárdenas, TC Tolbert, Chrysanthemum Tran, alongside the epic Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry anthology edited by TC Tolbert and Trace Peterson.

‽:  Can you tell us a song or a piece of music that might resonate with what you’ll be sharing with us –or that will inspire you – on 9th September?

NR:  A teen inspiration for me: Roses in the Hospital by Manic Street Preachers.

‽:  The Manics seem to strike a chord with a number of the writers we work with! Finally, without giving away too many spoilers, what else can you tell us about what you’re going to be sharing with us at the event?

NR:  My most recent poems are of trans resistance, desire, strikes against bourgeois cis-normativity, escape from dailiness, and the Firth of Forth.

Thanks to Nat for sharing these thoughts and a shed load of art to check out!  If you find that little preview as exciting as we do, you can hear more from Nat and the young people of I Write, I Rise at the Scottish Poetry Library on 9 September at 6pm. Register for a free ticket here – but note, tickets are limited. 

Mr, Mrs, and Kevin Bridges
Come and build some bridges with us!

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5Qs with Eli Clare

INTERROBANG‽ are very happy to be co-hosting and -producing an evening of trans and non-binary performance organised through LGBT Youth Scotland and Beyond Gender as part of Scottish PEN’s Many Voices project that aims to amplify voices that are silenced and marginalised.

As well as the talented young people who have participated in the I Write, I Rise workshops with Nat Raha, the evening will feature the US-based writer, speaker, activist, teacher and poet Eli Clare.

Eli weaves hope, critical analysis, and compassionate storytelling together in his work on disability and queerness, insisting on the twine of race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability.

Eli Clare: writer, speaker, teacher, activist, and poet
Eli Clare

What’s more, Eli’s been kind enough to answer some questions relating to the night, and share some thoughts.

‽:  You’re going to be sharing some words with us at the I Write, I Rise event, part of Scottish PEN’s Many Voices project. How did you become part of I Write, I Rise

EC:  As a white disabled trans and queer writer-activist, it’s quite an honor to be invited by PEN to participate in I Write, I Rise.

‽:  What does the phrase I Write, I Rise mean to you?

EC:  My work as a poet and essayist is fundamentally about community, survival, resistance, and dreams. Art, including writing, can help us rise individually and collectively, move us toward justice, and shape our visions of liberation.

‽:  The I Write, I Rise workshops and event were produced in association with LGBT Youth Scotland. Are there any LGBTQ writers who are particularly important to you?

EC:  I came of age as a U.S. poet and an activist in the mid-1980s reading and studying lesbian feminist writers—Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Gloria Anzaldúa, Beth Brant, Cherríe Moraga, Judy Grahn, Paula Gunn Allen, and Pat Parker to name a few—who combined genres with abandon, insisted on the personal and the political, and knew race, class, gender, sexuality,
imperialism, and capitalism to be deeply intertwined.

Women are powerful and dangerous
Audre Lorde

Their work resisted so many constraints and borders. My work is indebted to these writers, many of them women of color.

‽:  Can you tell us a song or a piece of music that might resonate with what you’ll be sharing with us –or that will inspire you – on 9th September?

EC:  Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Why Walk When You Can Fly and Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

‽:  Finally, without giving away too many spoilers, what else can you tell us about what you’re going to be sharing with us at the event?

EC:  I will be reading about gawking and disability, resistance and gender, history and love.

Thanks to Eli for sharing some inspiring words, sounds, thoughts and dreams. You can hear more from Eli and the young people of I Write, I Rise at the Scottish Poetry Library on 9 September at 6pm. Register for a free ticket here – but note, tickets are limited. 

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I Write, I Rise

INTERROBANG‽ are very happy to announce that we are taking on a co-hosting and -production role in an evening of trans and non-binary performance organised through LGBT Youth Scotland and Beyond Gender as part of Scottish PEN’s Many Voices project that aims to amplify voices that are silenced and marginalised.

As well as young people who have taken part in the I Write, I Rise workshops with Nat Raha, the evening with feature US-based writer, speaker, activist, teacher and poet Eli Clare.

We’re proud that the INTERROBANG‽ audience is recognised throughout Scotland and beyond for its generosity and supportiveness, so if you’d like to join us at the Scottish Poetry Library at 6pm on 9 September, please head over to the Eventbrite page to register.

Your pals,

INTERROBANG‽

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Keep Watching…

Just two more sleeps until We Are Watching, and the Interrobang crew are getting increasingly excited! Ricky absolutely refuses to calm down.

What a shower!
Jacques! You said this was cold water!!

The reasons for our excitement are manifold. We’ve got Edinburgh Makar, CHRISTINE DE LUCA! We’ve got Beth Cochrane inspiration and writer-in-residence supreme, MARJORIE LOTFI GILL!! We’ve got broadsheet favourite and Scottish PEN board member, LAURA WADDELL!!! We’ve got consummate poet and performer COLIN MCGUIRE!!!!

What? Ancient references, Ricky?!
But wait! There’s more!!

Indeed there is, ancient references’ Jimmy Cricket! We’ve got brilliantly on-point music from SUPER INUIT! NIK WILLIAMS is going to talk about why we should all care about our surveillance society!! And there will be Live! Art!! HAPPENINGS!!!

And possibly humour, and prop-assisted storytelling!!!!

Because that's not a thing
But not at the same time, we promise!

So get along to the Bongo Club’s event page and secure your ticket – don’t miss the excitement!

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Interrobang Interrogation – Ricky Monahan Brown

Since we started INTERROBANG?! Ricky’s quietly fantasised about getting to do an Interrobang Interrogation. And with our exciting We Are Watching show with Scottish PEN just around the corner – Friday, 30th June at 7pm, at the Bongo Club – this seemed like a good time to take the plunge.

They're less easily noticed
Short people are watching…

As well as curating and hosting the adorably edgy INTERROBANG?! –  winner of the Saboteur Award 2017 for Best Regular Spoken Word Night – with Beth Cochrane, Ricky’s fiction and non-fiction has been published in various books, magazines and journals, most recently 404 Ink’s The F Word. He’s also in the world’s most science-literate band with Stephanie and Paul. Take that, Prof. Brian May!

And here’s how he answered the questions in our latest Interrobang Interrogation:

?!:  You’re a writer, an artist, and you’ve been granted the opportunity to be a fly on the wall anywhere, any time, and collect material. Where do you go?

RMB:  

We had a similar question for our Now Is Not The Time show, and folks tended to want to go back in time. I think I’d like to go to… 2030. Things are so different to when I was in my early teens – from domestic and international politics to how we watch TV – I’d love to see what a kid born today would be seeing in thirteen years.

"Hey, I'm only 11 at that point!"
The future from the perspective of Ricky’s birth?!

?!:  We are watching – a piece of theatre, TV, cinema, performance art to chill out before the show. What is it?

RMB: 

I dunno about “chill out”, but I’ve always been intrigued by the BBC’s BAFTA winning Edge of Darkness. That chilly mid-eighties drama vibe seems to resonate with some of the themes of surveillance and investigation. (Actually, watching that sort of thing is exactly how I chill out.)

?!: What’s the secret that you’re keeping close? The internet won’t tell anyone, promise! 😜

RMB:  

I don’t believe you, t’internet. But I will tell you that there is a secret I’m keeping right now, and I drove co-host Beth mad with it until I unwittingly spilled the beans ‘cos I was so excited. Stay tuned…

?!:  Wait! Someone’s listening in on your secret! You put on a piece of music to drown it out. What are we listening to?

RMB:  
The Hood remix of Mogwai’s Like Herod. The quietquietLOUD aspect of it should blow out the mic or the headphones or something.

?!:  The spooks are listening in to learn about what you’re planning to share with us at We Are Watching. Without being too spoiler-ific, what can you tell us about what they hear?

?!:  

It’s two short bits. One’s a quite light-hearted piece – called History, I think. The other probably involves props?!

Thanks a lot to Ricky for indulging the INTERROBANG?! Interrogation! (You’re welcome Ricky!) Ricky’s going to be introducing some fantastic talent at INTERROBANG with Scottish PEN: We Are Watching – and some surprises, too.

Find out more at the Bongo Club’s event page, and save 17% on admission for spending on tasty, tasty booze.

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We Are Watching?!

Hey, TJ Eckleburg!
Don’t turn around?!

Our upcoming gig in association with Scottish PEN at the Bongo Club is a really important one to us, so we’ve asked Nik Williams, Policy Advisor at Scottish PEN, to explain why and share a few words a few words about their Surveillance campaign.

Over to Nik…

Are we free to write if we are being watched? As surveillance increases, as the state legislates for sweeping powers that enable them to see our web browsing habits, who we communicate with and seek to remove encryption from our most sensitive conversations, Scottish PEN ask, where does this leave the right to free expression in the UK?

Scottish PEN has been opposing the Investigatory Powers Act for the last 18 months as it demonstrates a distinct threat to how we can communicate, share information, research and take part online free from the prying eyes of others. We do not believe pervasive surveillance powers are compatible with our human rights protections that enable everyone, irrespective of background, belief, gender, income, race or ethnicity to fully realise their fundamental freedoms.

Privacy is not an out-dated human right, it ensures we can all cultivate a space, however small, that we can call our own, where we can create and form the ideas that shape our identity and place in society. Suspicionless surveillance undermines this space, leaving nowhere for us to call our own and without this space how can we be sure what we create, who we communicate with and what we share with others is truly of our own making free from outside influence?

Thanks a lot to Nik for that. You can read more of his thoughts on surveillance and what is now the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 in The Herald.

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