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. 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;
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
 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.