Hero

I am currently experiencing a lot of things, most of these experiences are positive and moving me in ways that I have never been moved before. Yet, as all this is happening I still wake up in the morning asking myself why I have not disappeared yet? On most days I feel like crying, hoping that each drop aborts the negativity that I feel inside. But I know that it does not work that way.

When I was younger I would pack my bags during summer holidays and would pretend that I was going on a journey. I would pack a blanket, my favourite outfit, a pocket knife (that I “borrowed” from my dad’s office), a notebook, my pencil case filled with gel pens and a cuddly stuffed dog toy. I would then be on the lookout for my parents and siblings and would make sure that nobody would notice me leaving. When I was sure that nobody would know that I was gone, I would sneak out. We lived in a gated community. There were several lanes of houses and I would always enter the second lane and walk till the end of the road where there was a huge brick wall. I would lay out my blanket and sit under a tree and wait. I would wait for someone to come looking for me. Sometimes I would cry under the tree, but still, nobody came. Nobody ever came. At one point I would wait and hope that I would somehow disappear. Other times I would wish for a hero to come along. I was 12 years old.

My hero came in the form of writing. There were these sentences that would form in my head and I would write them down. The things that were all around me suddenly could speak to me through writing. Like the sunflowers that were growing in our garden suddenly became children of a mother that called her children sunflowers that woke at sunrise and fell asleep as the sunset.

Writing has brought me to connect with so many wonderful people. And I am so grateful for this, even if my depression can’t be written away.

One very impactful meeting in my life happened last night As some of you know in September I will start a creative writing program. Last night, I had dinner with Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and he wished me luck on my writing journey and he also shared a lot of wisdom with me. He spoke about how the core of bullying lies in the act of making the victim hate something about their body.  When the bully makes the victim hate a part of their body, that part of the body then becomes an internal weapon of self-destruction. As the bully turns one’s body against oneself.

I feel like my body is a self-harming weapon because of how parts of myself have been criticised in the past. Like the fact that I did not have a mother made me a rotten child, a child with no manners, A child without a backbone, I think that’s why I always hope to fit in and to be liked. Its like I stretch myself and mould my body into an unholdable posture and try to hold on for so long even when it is no longer good for me to hold on. As a child, I was seeking attention, because I was ignored a lot. That’s why I would disappear and wait for someone to notice. When I would cry or self-harm my guardians would say “You just want attention, well guess what we don’t care, and you will not get attention from us”.

Me and Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.

Starting a GoFundMe and performing my poetry has really shown me the wounds that this body that is fighting against itself has inflicted. I am truly grateful to everyone that has shown and is showing me love and attention. Yet, I also feel how this body is still fighting against itself. I have so many weapons in me that I must destroy and turn into instruments of love and healing.

Maybe all these moves and changes will give me the superpower to turn knives into flowers and become my own hero for a while.

I got in to the Oxford Undergraduate Creative Writing Diploma

 

*this post can also be read on my gofundme page: https://www.gofundme.com/oxford-creative-writing-diploma *

On the 5th of March I wrote a short note to myself, saying “you did it! You applied for the Creative Writing Undergraduate Diploma at Oxford University today!”. Since the age of nine, I have always been writing notes to myself and documenting most of what I do. Writing to me has always been the best way to communicate with myself and often also with others.

Anyway, in the beginning of April, I was invited for a telephone interview. I was very excited that I had made it to the second round. During the interview the course co-ordinator asked me “what is your aim with writing”. This question threw me off! I thought about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her talk; „the danger of a single story”. She says that stories matter and that stories can empower and humanize. I had never really thought about what my aim with writing was ever since I had started writing stories. Most of my stories were about a girl that loses her mother and goes on adventures on her own and meets people along the way that fill her life with all sorts of wonders. I lost my mother at the age of eight to cancer.

During the interview I gave an answer along those lines. I felt like such an imposter, who did I think I was to tell stories to try and empower others? In short, I thought that the interview went horrible.

 Fast forward to the 15th of May I get an email saying that my application had been successful. I had a study spot. I called my father and he sighed and changed the subject.

Therefore, I am now telling all of you. I got into Oxford! Yet, since I just graduated, and I do not have any savings I cannot afford the tuition fees. Which consists of:

  • £ 2575 tuition fees for the first year
  • £200 acceptance fees

I know that this would be a great opportunity for me to finally tell the stories that I have always been wanting to tell. I appreciate each one of you for supporting me and my dreams.

link to my gofundme : https://www.gofundme.com/oxford-creative-writing-diploma

Cryptomnesia- Cashmere radio

I know this is way overdue.

But today I am sharing my radio performance on the cashmere radio segment cryptomnesia. The segment is hosted by Dayna Gross, a writer that is currently living in Berlin. Cryptomnesia is a show that features poets of the past with poets of the present that are residing in Berlin. The poet I was paired with was the queen herself, Maya Angelou. I was very nervous about the performance as it was live radio but Dayna was a really sweet host and was encouraging me all the way. Therefore, the end results turned out pretty neat- if you ask me. Have a listen to the performance here: 

https://cashmereradio.com/episode/cryptomnesia-9-guesting-esther-heller-featuring-maya-angelou-and-autonomous-loss/

 

British Council Artist in Residence

This year started with a double turn of events for me. First, I took part in a writing competition that was held by the British Council and won a ticket to participate for free at the three-day literature seminar on the themes of sexuality, gender and masculinity, that the British Council was hosting here in Berlin. The second turn of events came in the form of an amazing opportunity for me as a poet and writer. I applied to become the artist in residence at the British Council for this year and *drumroll* I got the spot. Yes, I am the artist in residence at the British Council here in Berlin. https://www.britishcouncil.de/en/uk-germany-2018/artist-esther-heller

This means that I will be participating in different cultural events that the British Council will be hosting this year. By participating in these events, I will have the opportunity to meet and hear a variety of writers that are making waves in British literature today.

For instance, at the first seminar that I attended (due to winning the competition), I had the honour to speak to Bernadine Evaristo, Nick Makoha, Kate Hudson, Monique Roffey and Sabrina Mahfouz. I also had the chance to take part in a workshop that was instructed by the talented Sabrina Mahfouz on writing for the stage.

I would like to document my one year as artist in resident. And I would like to take you all with me, I am not sure what will happen but at the end of it all, but I do know that I will have learned a ton.

 

#Britlit Seminar: Sexuality, Gender and Masculinity

The themes of sexuality, gender and masculinity are currently very present in our day and age. Therefore, it was wonderful to hear different literary voices speak on these matters.

For the competition, I had written a poem that highlighted gender roles, sexuality and masculinity. This poem is untitled.

On the theme of gender Juno Dawson really captivated me the most she said so many things that just resonated with me. She brought me to question things that I had already been questioning, but she made me feel assured that I had every right to question those things. She inspired me so much that I wrote a reflective piece of poetry titled “When did I become a woman?”.

Juno mentioned the existentialist philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir who wrote the famous quote “one is not born a woman but rather becomes one.” At the seminar, I met another fellow competition winner Marie Theresa a graduate of creative writing and English from Brunel University, who flew in from London to attend the seminar. I asked her to respond to “when did I become a woman” by writing a poem of her own. She responded with the powerful poem titled “Mother Nature”. I was in such awe when I read the poem. It was such a coincidence that Marie Theresa’s poem gives such strong imagery of nature. I use the word coincidence because I had just sent her my poem without giving any explanation and without mentioning de Beauvoir. The coincidence part comes in because de Beauvoir gives the example in her most famous work titled the “The second sex” that a young girl can be comfortable in her body when she, for example, is out in nature and feels a deep connection between her body and nature[1]. Therefore, Marie- Theresa’s response was so compelling to me.

The second poem that was inspired through my attendance of the seminar comes from something that I noted down that one of the women speaking at the seminar had said, I sadly can not remember who of the wonderful women said it. However, the phrase that I noted was, „As a woman, there are parts of yourself that are not taken seriously in society”. Out of this phrase the poem Farina was born.

After the seminar, I did some more research on the theme of masculinity and came along some great resources. The Southbank Centre in London held the being a man festival for the fourth time last year in November. During this seminar, some men talked about the topic of masculinity. I can only recommend listening to the talks that were held at the festival, the ones that resonated with me deeply were the talks by Kevin Powell (very powerful!) and Robert Webb. I have linked the recorded podcasts of their talks at the festival at the end of this post.

To end this post, I would like to share a quote from bell hooks from her book “All about love”, which I find speaks immense volumes on the subject of masculinity;

 

 

Podcast:

 https://open.spotify.com/episode/4IanwaZWPr7MSB61zrxLm8?si=CUNfA06BToqbiOaq5BNrRA – Kevin Powell

https://open.spotify.com/episode/4CDcagHqjxw57iL5NRMGJ3?si=6-O4shKmS-iFV8arXpm9jQ – Robert Webb

https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/festivals-series/being-a-man – Southbank centre being a man festival

 

[1] Joseph, Felicity. 2008. “Becoming A Woman: Simone De Beauvoir On Female Embodiment | Issue 69 | Philosophy Now”. Philosophynow.Org. https://philosophynow.org/issues/69/Becoming_A_Woman_Simone_de_Beauvoir_on_Female_Embodiment.

End of March- Turning 25

I turned 25 on the 24th of March. March is always that exciting yet stressful month of the year for me. I am a person that loves celebrating Birthdays. I have always been! I trace this excitement back to my childhood. My mother always set up a “birthday-table”, since I am a “frühlingskind” (spring baby) she would create an Easter tree for me-by placing twigs and branches in a large vase. She would then decorate the twigs, by hanging little colourful Easter eggs and pretty ornaments. She would sing for me and I would blow out my candles and we would have cake.

There are some memories that you hold on to as a child, especially if you lost the person that you had those memories with early.  This year I turned 25, it feels scary because there are a ton of things that I want to do and so many things that I am unsure of.

 I am currently working part-time and trying to pursue my dreams/hopes and still figuring out my life.

 

Here is a list of 25 statements/facts/thoughts/scatters that I would like to share:

  1. I hope to learn to edit videos and pictures better in the coming months
  2. I grew up with family traditions until the age of 8. I hope to start a new tradition of spending time with my family every Sunday
  3. My family is my younger brother
  4. Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin describes the relationship that I have with my brother quiet accurately
  5. My brother is 3 years younger than me
  6. I live very close to the area where my Mother used to live when she was in her 20s
  7. Berlin will always be the city where I had a mother
  8. My mother died when I was 8
  9. At nine my confidence started to diminish
  10. I used to go snorkelling a lot as a young girl. I would go alone and spend hours floating on the ocean’s surface and watching the corals below me
  11. The subject’s that I enjoyed most in primary school were English and English literature
  12. I changed school’s three times
  13. In ninth grade, I cut all my relaxed hair with a shaving razor blade and went bald. I did this because I had promised my mother that I would never put relaxer in my hair.
  14. As a teenager I looked for approval and love from boys and others. I would alter myself so much just to gain approval.
  15. Nobody told me growing up that it was ok to grieve. It was more like its over now, get over it already, so and so years have passed.
  16. I won a poetry competition once
  17. My middle name is Kondo. When I was born I had a lawyer as the German social services thought that Kondo was a boy’s name. But my mother’s mum was called Kondo so my Parents had to prove that the name was not a boy’s name :/ if only Marie Kondo’s book would have been a bestseller back then.
  18. As a teenager, I tried out several religions as I was searching for rules and guidance. Looking back, I realise that all along I was searching for something that would let me know that I was Ok.
  19. I came back to Berlin on my own when I was 19
  20.  People in Germany did ask me if I grew up with Giraffes in my backyard
  21. I did not grow up eating fruits, veggies or organic produce. I am a 90s baby. I celebrated one of my Birthdays at Mcdonalds and another at Pizza Hut.
  22. I have been plant-based for almost 3.5 years now.
  23. I have come to realise that in a long distance relationship it is not about the distance but more of what happens when you see each other again. Just because you survived 3 months or a year apart does not mean anything. It is about how strongly connected you feel once you are back together in one space again.
  24. I have learnt to let go of things that I can not control. I still miss my mother but I am not ashamed of that fact anymore, that’s why I can share all this.
  25. I am grateful to everybody that came out to celebrate me.

Open Mic performance at Mic Drop #2

On Friday the 16th of March 2018 I performed at Mic Drop. This performance was rather spontaneous as I was going to the bar (where Mic drop was taking place) because I had been invited to a birthday. I thought that the birthday was taking place at the poetry event. Once I got there I found out that the birthday was happening in the room next door. However, I had already spoken to the lovely organiser and she asked me if I wanted to participate in the open mic session, and I said yes. I have performed at the open mic session of this event before, so this was my second time.

I didn’t realise how nervous I was till I had the mic in my hands and my hands were shaking uncontrollably. Sometimes I feel that the body feels more then the mind actually articulates. I read two pieces and had a good time as I saw a lot of people that inspire me and that make my life in Berlin warm, even when it is minus 3 degrees outside.

The event Mic Drop was born out of a podcast (with the same title) that the organiser had hosted, to highlight spokenword artists. This was the second Mic Drop event to have taken place in Berlin. I personally like that the setting of this event is very liberating, especially for black and brown bodies to speak their truth, yet it is not exclusively for black and brown bodies. Another reason why I love this event is that the vibe is not competitive, which is the case for most poetry events here in Germany. Because this is not a slam. This is a spoken-word event that is all about creating images and magic using your voice and words. I can only recommend this event for people that want to share their work and are still shy or unsure as the environment at Mic Drop is very open and encouraging.   

My winning poem for the #Britlitberlin Seminar

You can now read my winning poem here, that got me a free spot at the British Council literature seminar. The theme of the seminar was gender, sexuality and masculinity. You can read the poems of the other winners here: https://www.britishcouncil.de/en/uk-germany-2018/literature-seminar-poetry-competition