Discovering Japan: Mab Jones on a cultural trip to the far east
Write Out Loud’s performance poetry diarist Mab Jones has headed for Japan to appear in a cultural festival in Osaka later this month. Her performance is part an annual event celebrating Wales and Welsh culture, organised by the Kansai St David’s Day Society for 18 March. Mab will be premiering a one-hour show with poetic versions of Wales’s oldest mythical tales, the Mabinogi. Six local artists have provided illustrations for the poems, which offers a unique mix of word, image, and performance.
Mab, who suffered from the speech disorder selective mutism as a teenager, also intends to raise awareness of the issue during her time in Japan. “I once hardly spoke for a period of eight years,” she said. “Now, I’m a performance poet who uses her voice to make a living. Selective mutism is not very well understood in Japan, so I feel it’s very important for me to talk about it while I’m there.”
Mab Jones writes a regular Diary of a Spoken Word Bird for Write Out Loud. Hre’s her latest update, written just before she jetted off:
“In my last blog, gentle reader, you will remember I had a sort throat. Sore head, sore eyes, sore bottom – anything would be better than a sore throat when you are a perf poet! The throat is the one thing you really cannot do without, when vowels are your bread, consonants your butter, and poetry your Shippam’s paste, spread thickly in the middle. I finally discovered that the sore throat was indicative of a kidney infection... But now, I am very happy to say, that nastiness is over, and my pipes are just as shrill and stentorian as they were before.
Despite all this, I managed to continue with my various engagements and endeavours – no contract, whether verbal or in writing, was broken. First up, a fantastic online magazine called Cat on the Wall asked me to perform at their fifth birthday party in Cardiff. I felt very ill... but still managed to eat some delicious birthday cake. Then, I guested at a lovely event in Newport for the Folk Collective. I felt even more ill... but again managed to eat some cake. Wherever I went, it seemed, there was cake – which is great, when your kidneys are kaput and not letting you drink at all.
Being sober has its plus side, however. I was asked to do a slightly more serious (ish!) job, rather than my usual wordy/comedy/burly gigs; namely, to compere Germaine Greer at an event not far from my house in Cardiff. I got to chat to the fabulous feminist for nearly an hour before the show and, it’s true – for an 73-year-old, she is still hot! She is also fabulously feisty, wonderfully witty, and better than a lot of stand-ups I’ve seen. See my blog post about the icon here.
At various points, I was too ill to go outside at all (kidney pain is painful and exhausting – don’t drink, kids!) but I still wrote a little piece for Apples & Snakes’ Shake the Dust project; recorded a podcast with cool Cardiff collaborators Hack/Flash; wrote for local newspaper the Western Mail on my favourite Welsh holiday destination; created a What Poets Do’ picture that some people (but mostly me!) found kinda funny; wrote my regular column and several reviews for South Wales arts magazine Buzz; and started doing social networking for my new employers Beyond the Border Wales International Storytelling Festival and the Interfaith Foundation.”
Mab’s trip is partly funded by the Sasakawa Foundation in Japan, but she is also looking to raise match-funding here via a crowd-funding website. If you want to offer support take a look here http://www.sponsume.com/project/welsh-poet-japan