United States poetess Cheryl B

This video from the USA is called Nuclear Poetry 1.26.10 – Cheryl B.

By Clare Pollard in Britain:

My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B – review

Thursday 10 January 2013

The spoken-word scene mourned recently when New York poet and performer Cheryl B died of complications related to the treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, aged just 38.

Championed over here by poets such as Tim Wells and Roddy Lumsden, I can remember the thrill of seeing her read for the first time above a pub in north London – funny, sharp, queer and glamorous.

Later, some of her work was introduced to a British audience through the anthology Reactions 5, which memorably contains a poem that manages to bring together Burger King, Sylvia Plath and cunnilingus on a New Jersey highway.

This book contains Cheryl B’s autobiographical writings and relates how she was brought up in a working class New Jersey family.

Her mother was a frustrated housewife and her father a longshore­man prone to violence – the book begins with a family Christmas during which the 16-year-old Cheryl drops acid.

Her eye for detail is brutal – their Christmas tree has “the entire casts of Snow White and Lady And The Tramp dangling off of eight foot of fake fur.”

We then follow her as she changes from a shy, obese teenager advised by careers guidance to work in a tollbooth into a fierce poet.

Singing the praises of Luddite rebels Cheryl somehow manages to escape to her spiritual home New York and when he finds out that’s where she’s bound her father hits her over the bead with a dinner plate.

Her adventures as she discovers poetry are vividly described – “stage stomach” before her first poetry reading, the “post-coital” thrill of winning a slam – not to mention drag queens, dive bars, hair-dye, threesomes and descent into addiction as she begins to carry a Snapple bottle full of tequila.

It was an irony noted by Cheryl that she got ill after 10 years clean and we are lucky to have this book which is full of humour, bravery and Cheryl B’s love of language.

My Awesome Place will speak to anyone who’s felt like a loser and manages to be incredibly cool at the same time.

Clare Pollard’s new version of Ovid‘s Heroines is published by Bloodaxe.

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