In the spirit of Something Rhymed, Salena Godden will be joining her literary friend, Maggie Gee, at our first salon. The pair will be discussing the latest VIDA count, which reveals major imbalances at premiere publications.
Salena Godden is one of Britain’s foremost spoken word artists and poets. A regular performer at literary festivals in a career that is now entering its third decade, Salena tops the bill at literary events both nationally and internationally.
She’s appeared as a guest and writer for many BBC Radio programmes including The Verb, Saturday Live, Loose Ends and Fact To Fiction and she has written and presented several arts documentaries and a play for the BBC too. Burning Eye Books published her first full collectionFishing In The Aftermath: Poems 1994 – 2014, marking twenty years of poetry and performance, with the majority of the work included previously unpublished in book form. Her literary childhood memoir Springfield Road was successfully crowd funded and published with Unbound Books in 2014.
Widely recognised as a trailblazer for fellow performers, Salena has also dedicated herself to mentoring newcomers to the scene. Her voice is distinctive and unique, her performances are electrifying, hilarious, intensely powerful and full of warmth.
New Book News
• Various poems by Salena Godden will be published in ‘Untitled Two‘ The Neu Reekie anthology. Published by Polygon Books and Neu Reekie, publication date, May 1st 2016
• Short Story ‘The Camden Blood Thieves’ by Salena Godden will be published in The Unreliable Guide to London – a collection of London short fiction, published with Influx Press, launched July 18th 2016
• Commissioned essay ‘Shade’ by Salena Godden will be included in ‘The Good Immigrant’ / Twenty-one authors writing about what it means to be BAME in the UK in 2016, edited by Nikesh Shukla, published by Unbound Books and released September 22nd 2016
‘Salena Godden is a powerhouse.’ Sabotage Reviews
‘Godden writes about a past that is at once deeply personal yet also belongs to the everyman figure; her descriptions of childhood are timeless.’ The Literateur
‘Her writing is urgent and detailed, colourful and clamorous. Like all love stories, her memoir is intense and intimate.’ The Times
“Salena Godden is an absolute master of, knowing your assumptions, playing to them, and then flipping them completely.” Write Out Loud
“Salena Godden follows up her recent poetry anthology with a lyrical and witty memoir painting a portrait of the artist as a young girl. Springfield Road tells the wide-eyed tale of Godden’s childhood as the daughter of a jazz musician and a go-go dancer set against the lovingly rendered backdrop of 1970s Hastings. Springfield Road’s prose wavers effortlessly throughout, from tender poignancy to raw, gritty realism and this lovely book serves to remind us that however much the world has changed in the last forty years, in many ways it is still exactly the same.” Loud and Quiet Magazine
A shared sense of a female literary tradition fired the epistolary alliance between this month’s profiled writers: the reserved George Eliot and the ebullient Harriet Beecher Stowe. And so we asked authors Maggie Gee and Salena Godden to tell us about their similarities and differences, and the role in their friendship of the written word.
Maggie: When I first met Salena I found her lively and funny but also quite dauntingly and dazzlingly young – she’s a quarter of a century younger than me. When I heard her perform for the first time, reading a piece of short prose that was as much poetry as story, I really sat up. Wow – she could write – my memory of that piece is of a wide golden field: a sort of dizzy sweep of perspective; and realizing that she was unafraid to be lyrical about the world – a risk most writers won’t take in a culture where irony is king.
I think we share that innocent eye. I do satire but the presiding vision I have is love. I think that’s true of Salena too, in among the outrageous humour and belly laughs. And maybe we recognized that innocence in each other, though we each in our different ways have shells that prevent most people from seeing it. I knew Salena would like the radiant David Hockney Yorkshire landscape show at the Royal Academy in 2012: we went together (it was about the 9th time I had seen it actually!).
Salena: I’ll never forget that day we met and went to see that Hockney exhibition, in my memory it is a film. We had a sunny afternoon tea and shared ideas and gossip. Afterwards I remember walking all the way home, through Regents Park and up into Kentish Town, utterly inspired by the colours and the art, but mostly the company, the listening and the sharing and the fantastic conversations we had that afternoon.
I think we share a love of language, colour and light as much as we share a capacity to imagine the worst and the darkest of outcomes. I also think both of us have had to work (and still do work) bloody hard and have hardly ever taken no for an answer. I might be the naughty one or more hedonistic of the two of us, but there is nothing wilder than having an idea and digging your heels in, there is nothing braver than keeping on keeping on, especially when the chips are down or the odds are against you. I think we share an old fashioned sense of fair play, a willingness to fight your corner and a mischief – these are some of the things I’d say we share. If we had gone to the same school I would have probably nicked sweets and pens from Woolworths to give to Maggie to woo her to be my friend and tell me all about writing.
Maggie: How are we different? Well, my father stuck around and gave me different problems to Salena, whose father left. I had more formal educational chances, and she has had more crazy fun. She sang, for heaven’s sake, and had two bands (at least), and ran cool things like The Book Club Boutique! What did I get: degrees. Oh, and she still writes, performs and publishes poetry, whereas my early drive to write poems compressed itself into prose. She’s a fine, bitter-sweet poet – I wish I had written her new collection, Fishing in the Aftermath: it’s intimate and wild and tender, but the words are worked and reworked like a Toledo blade.
Salena: My first impression of Maggie was of a sensation of being drawn into her fantastic inquisitive mind, what I mean is, she asks the most interesting questions of her surroundings and coerces people into revealing their mysteries. It is important to question and notice the tiny details in things, but these moments seem to spring golden when you are talking with Maggie.
When we first met back in 2002, I felt I was a rough boozy ruffian next to her, I was in awe. I could tell right away that Maggie was quick and smart, she uses language beautifully, there’s a magnetic pull and a magic in Maggie, she’s a bold heart and a true believer.
Maggie: I think we really like each other’s work. I read an early draft of Springfield Road, her brilliant memoir, which has just come out this summer. I was so pleased when she asked me to introduce her at the launch.
Salena: I took Springfield Road to Maggie feeling that I could trust her with it. My confidence was pretty shaken at the time, but I knew Maggie would ‘get it’ after I finished reading her beautiful and vivid memoir My Animal Life. Memoir is another kind of writing, you have no armour: you just have your truth and your ghosts.
Maggie: We both had problems with the same very big, mainstream publisher. Maybe my cynical view of how big publishers operate was helpful (my being lyrical about human life does not preclude being pretty cynical about most commercial publishing): and I could tell her, hand on heart, that I thought Springfield Road was a stunning piece of writing just as it was.
Salena: It was Maggie’s letters and words of encouragement that gave me the confidence I needed to persevere. Then I met John Mitchinson and Rachael Kerr who signed me on the Unbound label and together we all successfully crowd funded Springfield Road. My memoir would still be in a box under my bed if it weren’t for Maggie.
Maggie: Looking at the other side of the coin, Salena gave me a shot of new creative life by inviting me into a world of young writers and artists that I loved and felt happy in. Also, when I recently got a slightly demented Guardian review, Salena was the first to tweet in support.
Salena: As for that review, it missed the point, the romance, beauty and comedy in the book. I loved the concept of Virginia Woolf In Manhattan. I ate it all up, loving every imaginative word and page, it made me laugh and cry out loud. I mean imagine getting drunk with Virginia Woolf, what a wicked and wonderful dream that is…
Maggie: At significant moments in life, I have received wonderful long emails from Salena that are full of the texture of her days. They probably took a few seconds to write, read as naturally as breathing and are cousins of her confessional poems. Then I’ll write back in a kind of mirror writing. I notice my emails always reflect the style of the email that comes to me. Yes, Salena’s a very stylish lady, as well as a sweet one.
Salena: Maggie’s letters are a light beaming out of my inbox. She is a true comrade. It’s a funny old game writing, as you know, it is a lonely and competitive sport. Maggie has been so generous. I don’t know what I would have done without her this past decade or so. Some people bring out the best in you, they make you want to do good and aim high and dream bigger and Maggie Gee is that person to me.