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Flowers hidden

Flowers, frivolous and opaque,
Hide themselves like a bicycle bell.
They, like many,
Cannot control other’s admiration,
Their assumption,
How they dilute the image of you in their minds,
And try to print you like a pattern,
Like wallpaper.
But flowers are not wallpaper,
They are seeds,
That crushed can nourish,
That wild can overtake,
That allowed to can be the whole damn system,
Every cog,
And every beauty in between.


Amy originally studied Archaeology and has a Masters in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh. She is back in London now, where she comes from, and currently works as a Digital Content Assistant for the charity BookTrust. She loves to travel and to write, and has recently started a blog to share her articles and poetry called dlohere. She is also currently trying to learn Italian.
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Anita's Digest Blog Projects

A Flower Manifesto

The reputation of the ‘flower’ precedes the thing itself, yet it has few synonyms in the English language. Perhaps the flower’s popularity doesn’t necessarily denote a multifaceted understanding of it. Flowers are ubiquitous, mythologised on the one end as symbols of misbehaving women during the witchcraft trials and imagery for love and hate in fairy tales, and on the other end classified by the Victorian practice of Floriography and through the science of botany.

Yet, from the flower children of 1960’s America to women holding peonies as feminist protest in present-day Mexico, flowers have shown their potential as more than apolitical figurines. Beyond the pen, the courtroom or the computer, the flower retains a ‘usefulness’ as a social symbol, as a form of non-verbal communication, or as a way of questioning what being ‘useful’ is through its connection to rest, thoughtfulness, and playful environments. By launching a ‘flower festival’ through Assemblage, we can think playfully about the flower as a visual medium for reimagining social change.

To think of a flower manifesto might be to explore aims and objectives in a different way, to approach a manifesto as a constellation of poetry, collage, creative writing, and as a digital space assembled from a central floral focal point.

To prepare for the Flower Festival launch, Assemblage headed down to member Elena’s Whitechapel art studio to discuss flower manifestos as a way of collecting ideas about what we might want the festival to look and feel like.

We first went around the group and collected a floral stream of consciousness, asking ‘what comes to mind when you think of a flower?’. The theme precipitated answers of such a range that it felt like we were developing a collective flora. Members had strong personal associations to plant life, discussing buttercups and childhood, the gentle disappointment of receiving flowers, and decorating their kitchens with blooming vases. Ideas dropped petal-like onto the page, with conversations about preserving flowers, resin, and plastics departments, to debates about the temporariness of flowers, flowers in protest, and flowers as resource or medicine.

Notes & doodles from the meeting by member Hannah Ladmore

We collected these flower themes and came up with our own flower manifestos, thinking about what we might want represented through the festival. Our manifestos materialised into a collaborative zine, each page filled with collage, ink, and mark-making, creating a mood-board garden. Contained within the pages were libraries in bloom, evergreen vines growing out of technicolour dots, DIY lyrics overlapping hydrangea.

We hope to reimagine the flower as it stands today, helping us to consider the multiple branches of what a floral future might mean. Our flower manifesto is moving and growing and will be shaped by the events and artworks that develop in the next two months.

Keep up to date through Assemblage’s Instagram for info on upcoming activities, including a ‘flowers and feminism’ poetry workshop, a ‘this will get you lost’ flower tour, creative writing and design, and lots more. And of course, daisy stickers!


Anita is a freelance journalist and writer with a background in Sociology and Gender Studies. She loves scribbling poems, writing articles about society and culture and drinking endless amounts of coffee!

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Anita's Digest Blog Projects

Everyday superpowers

Members Luisa & Hannah come to (fake!) blows.

A superhero- singular, ‘a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers’. We tend to imagine superheroes as typically lonesome, cape billowing in the wind, eyebrows arched in a pensive state. We don’t see the power of invisibility that is held by the endless groups of people caring for the ‘hero’, such as the foster family, the friends that embrace their ‘outsider’ position, the community making it possible for them to act ‘heroically’. 

A similar notion characterises the ever-elusive ‘artist’, either completely out of view or totally centre stage, the concept of the extraordinary artist and their muse denies the existence of a creative community making ‘art’ possible. It denies the caring, learning, and teaching that happens collectively, giving way to a cycle of ideas. 

Through an Easter Sunday spent at the Foundling Museum’s ‘Superheroes, Orphans & Origins: 125 years in comics’ exhibition, followed by a themed workshop, Assemblage Youth Collective spent the day distilling the assumptions around what the term ‘superhero’ means. The Foundling Museum’s history as a hospital for the care of abandoned children, founded by Thomas Coram in 1739, set the perfect stage for an exhibition around care identity and comic book hero histories, the exhibition focusing on how orphans, adoptees and foster children are depicted within comics and graphic art. 

The exhibition room itself felt like stepping into the pages of a comic book: plush with baby pink polka dots, strawberry red and electric blue walls. The display held vintage comics, contemporary pieces specifically commissioned, and graphic art from all over the world. Personally, I was struck by the originality of contemporary artist Bex Glendining’s piece, Begin Again, a digital illustration designed specifically for the exhibition, exploring themes of growth and emotion in new environments. The mesmerizingly vivid blocks within the piece could be read in any order, playing with the idea of sequential art and questioning how we order time and space. This mirrored the Foundling Museum’s approach to the conversation around care, where they replace the term ‘care-leaver’ in the descriptions with ‘care-experienced’ and ‘care identity’, expanding ‘care’ out to include different spaces beyond the foster home.

Justin’s superhero symbol

Reactions to the exhibition informed the creative work that followed. Assemblage founder Tasch led a workshop centred on designing and crafting our own superhero symbols, playing with the concept of superpowers. A member of the collective, Justin, considered how powers could move beyond the visual: ‘one of the things I took away from the pieces on display was that power can be much more internal and metaphorical as well – it’s resilience, it’s accepting change, it’s staying focused, and all of that. I took the basic motif of a wing/wave shape to symbolise that ability to ride out changes’. 

Hannah’s superhero symbol

Other members thought about how the illustrations on display distilled classic depictions of a hero, and of a foster child. Hannah took inspiration from Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom’s drawings, that ‘focused on ‘the harsh othering that can and often does occur as a result of being an adopted child’ and ‘her use of muted, selective colours, and the textural quality of her pieces that looked almost tea-stained’. Hannah’s symbol played with conventional notions of femininity, merging bright pinks with geometric shapes to capture ‘the endless realm and range of what a woman looks like and can achieve’. 

Tasch’s symbol

Tasch drew ideas from Lars Horneman’s illustrations of warrior queen Zenobia, impressed by how the comic ‘combined traditional feminine and masculine emblems to constitute a sense of power, breaking with more classic representations of superheroes and superpowers’. 

During the workshop, I led a brief talk about how poetry writing could help inform our symbol-making. Poetry is how I care for myself and expressing feelings and observations through creative writing helped us to expand out our symbols beyond the visual, thinking about how we might symbolise our identity through sound and smell, noticing how it has changed and been informed by others. 

As I made my own notes for my symbol, I wrote, ‘writing is drawing’, as I felt the bends of the letters grate against cardboard, my illegible handwriting resembling squiggles more than words, prompting my own technicolour symbol to express how what may seem directionless can fulfil an emotional or creative purpose. The exhibition itself is based on an original work commissioned by the museum in 2014, where care-experienced poet Lemn Sissay made a poem that is sprawled over the museum’s walls entitled ‘Superman was a Foundling’. 

The idea of being found, instead of being made or being new, sits at the heart of the Museum’s themes and Assemblage’s workshop. Member Josh captured this through his fascination with the characters in Taiyō Matsumoto’s illustrations in the Manga series Tekkonkinkreet, who wear clothes made from found materials, emphasising how we can re-use objects and surroundings to create new identities. Similarly, member Amy’s symbol played with the recycling logo, expressing how creativity and identity exist as ongoing processes.

We continued re-imagining superhero and superpower tropes in the reflection portion of the session. Usually, evaluations after workshops can feel quite clinical, but by discussing the session in real-time, the participants created a comfortable space to share thoughts and feelings. Luisa explained how her drawing of tear drops symbolised her connection to her own vulnerability and how she cares for her friends, and Tasch drew inspiration from the raindrops in her emblem to consider how judgements and moods, like the weather, can change and flow. 

As the sunshine warmed our journey home, we were left thinking about the ‘everyday superpowers’ that mark our identities, and how care becomes an ongoing and collective experience. 


Anita is a freelance journalist and writer with a background in Sociology and Gender Studies. She loves scribbling poems, writing articles about society and culture and drinking endless amounts of coffee!
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Blog

Begin Again

Begin again,
Go home,
Do not pass Go,
Do not collect £200.
Don’t leave a note,
Await orders,
For the next time,
For the last time?
No, settle in,
Make roots,
Don’t look back,
There is nothing to look for,
You might not like what you find.
Only forward matters,
Look to the horizon,
The city you protect,
Backwards always falls through.
The mask is warm,
It has no past,
No name.
The mask is yours,
The mask doesn’t wonder,
About before,
Or about after.
Be alone in the moment,
Untouched, unmoored.
Then, now, later.
Wonder, wander,
Wonder, wander,
Begin again.


Amy originally studied Archaeology and has a Masters in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh. She is back in London now, where she comes from, and currently works as a Digital Content Assistant for the charity BookTrust. She loves to travel and to write, and has recently started a blog to share her articles and poetry called dlohere. She is also currently trying to learn Italian.
Categories
Blog

Poem for the Foundlings

Received, a blank babe.
Red or white,
Fate sealed in wax,
Trapped in it like an insect,
You decide, you decide, they decide for you.

Where is the art in this?
Where is the boy?
The girl?
The other?
The lost?
They are too found,
Too wanted.

Weeping if found,
Weeping if lost,
All blurred together,
In one indistinguishable sooty fingerprint,
On a brooch,
On a scrap of fabric,
On a child.

Would I come back?
Would I want her to come back?

An army approaches,
Of pattering feet,
An army of caped saviours,
An army of voices,
Singing and living and going on and through and beyond,
Beyond the red cloth and wax seal and beyond the token.


Amy originally studied Archaeology and has a Masters in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh. She is back in London now, where she comes from, and currently works as a Digital Content Assistant for the charity BookTrust. She loves to travel and to write, and has recently started a blog to share her articles and poetry called dlohere. She is also currently trying to learn Italian.
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Blog

Tate Again

Peeking out over an inescapable mask,
I see once more,
Women draped over ornate couches,
Done with the world and its confinement,
And its clothes.
I see once more,
Disembodied faces meeting unhinged shapes,
Unsure, they attempt to devour one another.
I see once more,
Unlikely creatures emerging,
As if willed by the vacuum of imagination.
I see once more,
Ambiguous structures,
Soaring while more solid words explain little,
Of what, perhaps,
Should not be explained.
I see once more,
The collective embrace merge,
With joint resistance,
Forever twinned in a fleeting, nonchalant glance.
Feeling nill,
I wonder if I am measuring effort wrongly.

Photo by Mr Drone on Unsplash
Amy originally studied Archaeology but has just finished a Masters in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh. She is back in London now, where she’s from, and currently works part-time as an editor for a publisher. She loves to travel and write, and has a blog where she shares her articles and poetry called dlohere. She is also trying to learn Italian!
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Anita's Digest

like a dream

a puddle of thoughts weaved through like drains

open veins

where plastic light splays out onto my finger tips

nails as scratched doors

head dusted with yesterday’s borrowed thoughts

and any light bulb moments

flicker and effervesce

into frenzied 123am notes 

that dissipate as weary eyes 

move aside their morning glue

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash
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Anita is a freelance journalist and writer with a background in Sociology and Gender Studies. She loves scribbling poems, writing articles about society and culture and drinking endless amounts of coffee!
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Blog spring

Lovesong for Spring

I wrote this sonnet in 2014 as part of a Year 9 class assignment. 7 years onwards, I still enjoy what I wrote – and in a way, this connects our February and March themes! I think it's healthy to let yourself be moved by your own work, and to appreciate the unique and personal memories of the process... I remember how I was inspired by the rhythm of Alexander Pope's Eloisa to Abelard, after watching the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Photo by Joel Holland on Unsplash

Lovesong for Spring

For season that gives bless’ed days in light,
Your comely looks will ever leave the shore;
For you a snowdrop land out for delight,
I wait and yearn for honeyed sound: amour.
Oh budding youth and binding honest smells,
No bird nor figure did evoke my mind;
Your sweet, your caprice tale in spring we tell,
Your dream of slumber wrote for me designed.
For you bloom lily, iris, rose with charm,
That dance, that laugh and soothe red eyes so sore;
So arrows cushion frays within your arms!
Complete devotion of my heart to yours.
By you my lonely heart shall be adored,
Go onwards, so our journey upwards soars.

Karen is a journalist and poet who loves music and photography. She is a third year student at King’s College London, and the Editor in Chief of The King’s Poet. In her second year, she also led King’s literary and poetry societies. Among other publications, her writing is published in Apple Daily, Roar News and Have You Eaten Yet?.
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Blog

Journey of Self-Love

Whispered words of stripped timber,
Chanted like a spell under hot breaths,
Like a song hurried through and felt.
Quiet storm, do I want thee?
Do I want to be,
To be degraded as if in acid rain,
To be a reduced solution,
Part of it finally,
My affects wiped away,
Like paint chips journeying down the drain,
Accompanied only by a swelling of circumstance.

Perhaps it is good to be reduced,
Be forced towards childishness,
To have to inhabit a time,
When dreams were boundless,
And outside of reason,
A time before the weight of the appropriate and the likely.
Perhaps it is a needed antidote,
To the certainty and uncertainty of creeping adulthood,
Perhaps we should not grow up all at once,
But only in the useful branches,
And stay young and budding in a few varieties of ourselves.

And then I spy a hole,
Between here and my vibrancy.
For just a moment,
I can be excited, passionate, loud,
And I can see why and how, 
I can be all those things and more.
I have found that place,
Where I do not worry or weep,
For things I believe I am missing,
I do not get stuck in notions of futures,
Of missteps and inaction,
I am living in action,
And am free of the weight,
That before I let crush me on this side of the wall.

Amy originally studied Archaeology but has just finished a Masters in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh. She is back in London now, where she’s from, and currently works part-time as an editor for a publisher. She loves to travel and write, and has a blog where she shares her articles and poetry called dlohere. She is also trying to learn Italian!
Categories
Anita's Digest

Is it right to write for free?

The old cliché of a writer produces a visual of beauty and torment, or beautiful torment, a tormented genius, writing as the source of all fulfillment. Anyone who writes today knows that the reality is a little less idyllic, and a lot more of meeting deadlines, refilling coffees and half-baked thoughts. 

Perhaps this is one key reason why I’d steer clear of an all-encompassing defence of writing for free. It concocts this image of writing as something one simply has to do, strokes of genius rather than scraps of neo-teenage angst written as half-formed moon metaphors (trust me I know, I’ve written my fair share). Writing as fuel in and of itself makes it seem removed from practical constraints, and from writing as a self-critical process. 

“The idea of writing as life rather than as making a living replaces discussions around material realities with metaphorical notions of sustenance.”

Whilst you should be passionate about writing if it’s what you choose to do, I would avoid grandiose statements promoting writing for free such as “I write for the same reason I breathe: to live,”. The idea of writing as life rather than as making a living replaces discussions around material realities with metaphorical notions of sustenance. Material realities prevent certain groups from occupying creative spaces. Black authors revealed just how uneven the playing field really is, a hashtag comparing publishing contracts showing how fraught with inequality the industry is. Writing isn’t always glamorous, and writing for free can delay discussions about equal pay and the status of marginalised writers. 

In general, working for free is a heavily gendered territory. Women are more likely than men to participate in unpaid literary writing, whilst engaging in unpaid domestic work as a second job. Furthermore, young women are more likely to engage in voluntary third sector work. These realities cement the gender stereotypes of women as caring and men as powerful, women seeking work ‘because they care’, and men for money and power. 

So where does this leave writing for free? Should we all just stop writing unless we can find a paid publication? No, of course not. Precisely because the industries are hard to access, and labour so exploited, we need to carve out spaces that support and allow writers to express opinions that are silenced, rejected, or undervalued. Writing for unpaid publications helps you practice writing regularly, build confidence, and form your own style. 

Sidelined groups can use unpaid publications as communities, spaces that work as forms of resistance. The Black Lives Matter protests this year showed how discrimination leaks into every industry, at every level, and when voices are silenced, often the only solution is to write louder. Publications that promote the voices of people marginalised on the basis of gender, race, class, or disability bring groups out from the margins, and into the centre.

If in exchange for writing, the publications promote the authors extensively, give them a space of support and recognition, and help them in their careers, then they are shifting existing power structures that divide. These publications can let writers dabble in different genres, develop digital and graphic design skills, and form content not limited to baring souls for profit, or occupying an incubated space of a newspaper. As Black journalist Niellah Arboine argues, Black people can’t just be presented with performative diversity schemes, but need to be given positions of leadership. Unpaid magazines can be spaces that provide this power shift, with the strength of support, you can more easily tackle the bigger industry problems. It’s not an end in itself, but a way towards creating more hopeful spaces.

Furthermore, writing for profit can have a big impact on mental health. Whilst the phrase goes ‘there is nothing new under the sun’, spending five minutes in the writing world shows how fraught it is with the tension of being the first to come up with new terms, new trends, new angles. This notion of linear progression makes it hard to keep up, and makes me question if I want to, rather than stopping to think about what I am actually writing and what it means. 

In lockdown-stricken times, time seemed endless and yet oddly characterized by the need too create, produce, better yourself. The pressure to perform in quieter spaces is deafening, endless options present a continuous stream of thought not mediated by quotidian tasks. As Zadie Smith stresses in Intimations, periods of lockdown make us interrogate our reason for writing as ‘something to do’ as we divide our time. The lack of pretense in this statement helps us to admit that writing is a comforting and enjoyable way to pass the time. Writing for hierarchical industries, rather than for yourself or for supportive publications, dissolves the satisfaction in less formalized writing forms, torn diary pages, five minute poems, articles born out of thoughts trying to escape idleness. 

 Whilst I want to stray away from any gleaming platitudes about writers, writing for free can be a happy middle that tethers the tremendous gap between those in power and those without a voice. Writing is perhaps the greatest form of a voice, and from my own experience, I know that writing for yourself is a cathartic stepping stone to writing for others. 

Anita is a writer of all sorts. She has a background in Sociology and Gender Studies. Her main creative pursuits include poetry, short fiction, and articles on social and cultural topics. She often likes to play with the boundaries of fiction and non-fiction, exploring the liminal spaces between these styles. She’ll be updating this column weekly, with fresh, topical discussions about what’s on her mind. Stay tuned!