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Young Identity Curated by Elizabeth Gibson

Hi from Liz!

Welcome to a special edition of Word Life, showcasing the work of Mancunian writing and spoken word collective Young Identity ahead of the launch of the group's anthology No Disclaimers on Tuesday 11 December.

I hope you have had a good November. Mine has been busy but wonderful, as I performed my poetry at spoken word events Speak! and Flim Nite in Manchester, and travelled to Edinburgh to read at the launch of lovely journal Far Off Places.

Attending literary events and spoken word nights is, in my experience, something very special - you can meet new, like-minded people, make friends, enjoy all kinds of writing and, if you read your own work, gain confidence and experience in performing. Here is what is happening around Manchester this December - I hope you find something that might be right for you.

Mon 3 Dec | The Three Minute Theatre, Northern Quarter, Manchester | 7.30-10.30pm | Suggested donation £3

Performers present their interpretation of classic films. This event the focus is on Shrek, with guests including Liberty Hodes, Discount International Performances, John Klark, Dominic Berry and Fat Roland. For open mic enquiries email
Event info

Mon 3, 10 Dec | HOME, Manchester | 7-9pm | Free

Workshop for aspiring writers, poets and spoken word artists aged 15-25
Event info

Tue 4 Dec | Moss Side Millennium Powerhouse, Manchester | 7-9pm | Free

Workshop for aspiring writers, poets and spoken word artists aged 13-25

Wed 5 Dec | Stretford Sip Club | 7.30-10.30pm | Free

Stretford spoken word night. Contact Facebook event page (below) for open mic queries
Event info

Thur 6 Dec | Antwerp Mansion, Manchester | 7-10pm | £3

New spoken word night. This event's guests include Dave Viney and Kofi Gyamfi. For open mic enquiries email
Event info

Thur 6 Dec | Central Library, Manchester | 6-8pm | Free

Spoken word/open mic night hosted by Tony Curry. December's guest poet is Laura Taylor
Event info

Fri 7 Dec | Chorlton Library | 7.45-9.30pm | £3 / £1
A special get-together hosted by regular spoken word night Manchester Poets
Event info

Mon 10 Dec | Eagle Inn, Salford | 7.30-10.15pm | £3

The final edition of the Salford spoken word/open mic night. Hosted by Kieren King, with headliners Hannah Davies and Rebecca Roy
Event info

Tue 11 Dec | HOME, Manchester | 6pm | Free

Launch of Young Identity's anthology No Disclaimers, with readings by a number of the featured writers (including me!). There will be the opportunity to buy the book, get it signed, and celebrate the work of the renowned Manchester spoken word collective
Event info

Mon 17 Dec | Fred's Ale House, Levenshulme | 8-10.30pm | Free

Regular spoken word night hosted by Zena Barrie and Jo Howard. This month's event is a Christmas Special, with guests including The Dolly Shakes and My Pleasure aka Lewis Young
Event info

Now, time for December's creative writing, which is all from Young Identity members. You can learn more about this incredible spoken word group this month's Word Life feature. I am very proud to be a member, and have learnt so much about writing and performing my work. As someone who did a degree in French and Spanish, and travelled a lot to placements abroad, it has been important to me to have a project in my life that is stable and constant, and Young Identity has given me that.

I hope you enjoy these poems, including one from Young Identity's co-founder and CEO, Shirley May. I had a great time curating them.

If you would like to see your own writing in Word Life, please consider sending some poetry and/or flash fiction to January's theme will be "Magic".

Hope the festive season treats you well.



Living in a cave he hollowed himself
Forgot to use the spoon handed him to feed out my insides
Made his own walls to stay closer to the air he breathes
Hoping to kiss its smoke
It's been a while since intimacy
He's been here too long for a human
He forgot that eyes were meant to seek light
Those irises were flicking between the past
Looking for a better time
Speaking in riddles all the time
Telling his non-existent audience the story of his coming here
And trying to tell himself that he'll be okay
Forgetting that the clogged blood staining my skin wasn't caused by me


Shirley May Young Identity

Young Identity founder Shirley May

Nicole May


This man—stopping father from beating me once; I loved him until his final breath.
The story goes,
that a woman destroyed him.
By the time I knew him
he had no sentences left in him.
I was only five when he came.
My eyes were full of his size,
the dirt and decay that fused to him.
The smell of him made me gasp.
Water, my mother softly called.
She said, “Put your feet in here,
soak and wash them.
Let your feet once again feel, free.”
His eyes filled with tears at the pain
and the kindness he found there.
As Mother B bent down to wash his feet,
she peeled away at his socks and
his flesh mingled there, his blood shed.
I saw the anger rise within her.
“Why?” The question came, who had caused
this decay and pain, to so tall and handsome
a black man, on God's good day.
Memory lingers on a friend.
The man who had no sentences left in him.
His silence was his own,
no one could reach to the pain concealed there.
Mama said, some questions had no answers,
some things needed to be left alone.
As a child I loved him,
as a teenager I wanted to bring him back
to those who cared.
Had I known his time was short
I would have tried harder.
He never revealed who caused his hurt.
At his funeral, I imagine I heard
the soil that fell, sing his song.

From She Wrote Her Own Eulogy



Is Darkness really Darkness if it’s all you have ever known?
Darkness doesn’t come and go
Darkness makes here its resting place
How do I know its name?
Darkness speaks to me
It nestles itself around me like a blanket
Kisses every atom
Of every molecule
Of every cell
Of every tissue
Of very organ
Of my vessel
This is comfort. This is home.
Is Darkness really Darkness if there’s no light to oppose it?
light: A word the voices outside whisper.
light. light. light.
It’s the only word that doesn’t sound alien to my ears
It’s the only word I hear that leaves me in tears
How can you miss something you’ve never even had?
Darkness sniffs out betrayal like a hound
It slithers into crevices of my mind
Tells me I’ve been enslaved
Can a home become a prison?
Where Darkness once caressed me, now it bites
Darkness is terrified of the light
light. light. light.
The only word that doesn’t sound alien to my ears
The only word I hear that brings me to tears
How can you miss something you’ve never even had?
Never even seen
Never even been
Never even felt
Never even smelt
Is Darkness really Darkness if you’re not afraid of it?
I tell my friend there’s no betrayal afoot
I tell my friend I choose to stay here
I beg my friend not to be frightened of the light
It has not come to obliterate
But to cohabitate
Is Darkness really Darkness once it has learned to make love to the Light?



adrift from shore
hair made of floss
gordon snores a grunting sigh

head lolls back
mouth agape
tongue awry

close creased eyes
drip gunk

as buttons grasp undone
hands clasp tight
to suited thighs

back to england [stena
line] only sea & sky /
ourselves for company



Have you ever been at war with your mind?
I look in the mirror and yet I don't recognise who I am anymore and it's hard to find peace when you feel content and lost at the same time
I’m constantly in a loss for something I've never had, something I've never known
It's hard to find solid ground hard to find balance
I’m trembling, standing on stars
The women I used to be washes over me in waves but nothing really sticks
I am powerfully yet defeated all in the same moment
My thoughts have been coloured indigo, an unfamiliar colour
I can't hear myself think yet my inner voice is all I hear
I need to walk home but don't want to remember the way.



I am not shy, I'm secretive.

I'd sure be a fool to let you have a peek at this
mind, which trembles through patience and time.
Dissecting moments and analysing each quadrant, as though
the cure for the world is within reach of its fingertips.
I am not shy, I'm secretive.

War strategies and fundamental forms of deities
hold captive my thoughts and estrange my talk.
Words are lucid paintings and the curtains stay drawn as you pull infinitely.
I almost want you to win, but at the loss our sanity?
I am not shy I'm secretive.

A Utopian novel where I am the authoritarian control
Big Brother’s Mother, a cynical Mr Orwell would note.
Even Scientists can create machinery, that spit metallic vibrations to challenge their creators, but fail to imitate a woman in whole.
I am not shy, I'm secretive.

The tales I could tell would have Jericho fall!
Angles infatuated; capture the essence, and would give it all...
up, just like the secret chapters of Enoch my ancestors recall
the white man has forgotten as I have hidden for so long.
I am not shy, I'm secretive.



The clouds look solid and fake
Like a glitch in a computer game
And the beauty of it makes me feel sick.
Because loving you is like looking at the moon.
I can worship you from afar,
knowing I’ll never know who you actually are.

Hope is a compulsive liar,
Disregarding probability.
Oh, what an unattainable woman.
Tell me why I carry on reaching-

It is the last resort.
So hope, I hold onto like a life raft.
For I know if I let go of you,
I will fall into oblivion.


Next article in issue 61

Young Identity No Disclaimers

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