This was a cool year. Did it feel like a long year? Maybe? Semi-exhausting at least? Hell yeah! For me, 2015 proved to be a year about growth.
Prior to launching my website in September, I rummaged through the family archive to find my first spoken word performance. The earliest I could find dated back to 2009. A nervous, clammy handed 18 year old, who would have never guessed over six years later, would take writing and performing so seriously. I was too occupied with my regular engagements, like playing (non-league) youth football and aspiring to be other things than writing poetry. How times have changed?
The past year I’ve had some wonderful experiences and equally some down’s where I had to really look into why I was writing in the first place. Some of the challenges I had to overcome were the typical you would expect in any field. The feeling when you come up short to a plan that doesn’t work. Applying for projects and being unsuccessful and the biggest challenge of all, is working as an independent artist and not having the background (in comparison to others) for people to want to work with you (yeah for real, this happened).
The good thing that did come out of the setbacks is that it made me want to start from the beginning, from scratch. I took a few months out of performing and focused my energy on my writing. I realised (from my own experience) upcoming spoken word poets focus so much on writing with the focus set on particular themes, that it sometimes comes at the expense of the quality in the words. I had been writing so freely and performing for years, but never sat down and said to myself “what am I doing/not doing well?”, “what’s working?”, “I need a mentor”, “what makes someone a ‘poet’”, etc,. This was some of the best questions I’ve been asking myself, a reality of my reflections.
It was in late April when I joined ‘Apples and Snakes’ Writing Room group. For the first time in a long while, being part of a community of writers was an important step for my writing and in the company of established poets to learn from, listening attentively in the workshops, learning and sharing each others’ work. This programme continued for the next 6 months and it gave me the nudge I needed moving forward with my work. Without realising, it shifted my focus for the next 8 months to focus on the page more than performing. I wrote more poems than I did shows this year, and that’s never been the case in the past, to the point, where I would decline projects that would disrupt this writing marathon I was having. I found myself submitting to writing competitions for the first time since I was 12 years old. The once Mo Rhymes Da Poet moving away from that name to something with a mass appeal to project me, Mohamed Mohamed aka Mohamed Writes. The former often associated me to a particular genre, even to the point where I would be put into a box such as Street Poet. This really bugged me as I’m not fond of labels. It was obvious with my focus on page poetry and writing style diversifying, I was trying to navigate what I wanted to display as a poet.
The website was important to me because I didn’t want to showcase just my poetry. My background, my activism, political engagement, my faith all shape who I am and most importantly, what I write about. 2015 saw me heading out to the USA on a life changing experience. Visiting both East and West coast faith based, community institutions and university student groups, all have a correlation with what I write about and the messages I try to echo. Writing about my Faith, identity, my community, love and hobbies tell you what I want to share with the world.
I don’t know where I’m going with this but I guess what I’m trying to say is recognising you need to grow is the key for one’s personal development. Realising one just doesn’t stand still but one move’s with the earth. The launch of the website, founding the (un)Heard Words Project and getting so much support from fellow poets, being told no and recognising the yes’s with my Climate Change shortlisted poem (and more). I have no complaints for 2015, but only to look forward for 2016 (especially my Arvon writing retreat in January). The whole transition of changing names online is not just about presentation, but about direction. Everything is changing, we are changing, and I don’t want to be the same clammy handed 18 year old who doesn’t want to change. I’m turning 25 soon, a quarter century old. If I’m not changing faces now, then I may never be able to reach the targets I set out for myself. Growth is key.