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Lee Campbell

Updated: 7 days ago


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Queer punk performance artist/ poet writing about being gay, working class and British. Gaining recognition on the national and international LGBT performance poetry and queer writing scene, I have recently performed my poetry for events hosted by Write Out Loud Poetry, London Queer Writers and PoetryLGBT and in January 2021, I curated a set of queer poetry evenings for BBC Radio. My current practice fuses performance poetry and experimental film as a form of autoethnographic storytelling/sharing of personal narratives often raw, often painful but always generous and authentic. These narratives often relate to aspects of me being gay, British and working class employing barbaric wit and humour in their storytelling. Recent and future publications of my poetry include Queerlings – A Literary Magazine for Queer Writing and Otherwise magazine. My poem ‘Clever at without being Seen’ was recorded for Sometimes, The Revolution is Small, Disarm Hate x Poetry' project by Nymphs & Thugs Recording Co. UK. Recent poem 'George' was published by Coin Operated Press. Recent poem 'Juniper Park' was published in Spilling Cocoa. Dr Lee Campbell is a lecturer at Wimbledon College of Arts, University of the Arts London and has been a practicing artist since 2000. He has been in numerous exhibitions and events internationally. He trained in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London in 2005 and received his doctorate in 2016. He has recently performed at LGBT-centred online poetry events including INCITE!, London Queer Writers. His recent films have been selected for many international queer film festivals including Queerbee LGBT Film Festival, The Gilbert Baker Film Festival, Kansas 2020, HOMOGRAPHY, Brussels and STATES OF DESIRE: Tom of Finland in the Queer Imagination, Casa de Duende, Philadelphia, USA. He has been selected for WICKED QUEER 2021 in Boston, USA, one of the oldest and largest LGBT film festivals in the world and will screen one of his recent films at QUEER LIFE, EdgeZones gallery in Miami in May 2021. Recently interviewed by Hamish Downie for TWO GAY GEEKS. Forthcoming performances include Cruising Dystopia curated by Nouvelle Organon, Berlin.


For visual poem version, see: For live Zoom performance version, see: ---- Discover the same other whilst under the cover Creeping seeping peeping covert operations my teenage fascinations awkward altercations with non queer populations Sensations that taught me if ever they caught me side cautiously err deliberately blur words that infer derogatory slur I got very clever very clever at seeing without being seen Chelsea v Arsenal Dad watched the match I watched the players Dad remembers the midfielder’s tackle I remember the midfielder’s tackle Dad remembers the midfielder being shown the red card I remember the midfielder’s red jockstrap showing Dad remembers listening to hear who will next play again Chelsea I remember listening to imagine the midfielder That time in the Nineties when the only way I could see men in their underwear was in vintage fashion magazines from the Seventies Creeping downstairs whilst parents asleep to watch Television X just to see a man naked Smuggling copies of Gay Times into my room just to see guys like me A young Rupert Everett, full frontal, late night BBC2, black and white TV undiluted the beauty of his manhood Gay kissing scenes on TV. Dad tried to hide his discomfort and sometimes not Growing up as a teen Smash Hits magazine Spent longer looking at George Michael then learning the words of his songs My eyes on his chest, what’s under those thongs George still looked gorge singing slow, dark and moody Jesus to a Child, such a sad song that he sung But I’ll never forget Mr Michael all wet In the video for Fast Love, all my Christmases come His album called Older helped me through tough times Me finding comfort in the beauty of what he wrote in its lines Whilst I loved George and his chest back in late ‘87 This album taught me gays don’t just live and die Heaven We are often perceived as fake, camp, G-A-Y Yet this album was heartfelt and brought tears to my eye Brighton, my first gay pub Queens Arms George Street Heart a flutter legs like mush street was George my teenage crush Here’s where I learnt Bigger the fish, bigger the tackle Discover the same other whilst under the cover ’94. Me a boy no more Needed to see men like me Bunk off school to where was cool Shaved my hair to fit in where disco beats fill London streets Mix-tape boy So much joy amongst Gays like me who gaze and see cheeky cheeky very cheeky See Me See Lee Invisible queer seeing and looking imagineer here Lookin' teen magazine look beyond fear see and be seen Discover the same other whilst under the cover the brilliance of being through my resilience of seeing


For visual poem version, see: For a live Zoom performance of this poem (full-length version), see: ---- Queer is a disruption. We are the disruptors Young queer people. We're space architects Imagineers. Creating spaces that destroy our fears We survive in spaces where we thrive and our beauty comes alive Yet these spaces we create, we animate by constant self-policing Say the right thing. Body image Early noughties in my early twenties Kings Arms Soho. I discovered bears and cubs don’t just live in the forest I could feel the words in the stare of this most uptight bear ‘You could do with losing a few’ but the only thing I was losing was my mind This excuse for a bloke cracked joke after joke ‘Blue eyed boy Lee, I love your dark hairy legs Shame the rest of your frame is lard pie from Greggs Be more like me, on spinach and eggs You can’t be a cub, you’re far too too old; Put those legs out on show, if you want to get sold Wear shorts all year long, it’s not too cold’ I’m getting quite tripped on these bodies all ripped Imagine mine stripped and everything flipped Mr Spinach and Eggs, stick your rules and regs in the hole at the backof the top of my legs Smash the fads Rip the mags


The title is a play on words of ‘Dymaxion Chronofile’, architect Buckminster Fuller's very large scrapbook which he documented his life every 15 minutes from 1920 to 1983 For visual poem version, see: For live Zoom performance version, see: ---- Every cut, every rip in my scrapbook A few second clip, from a No 1 hit, on VHS, Take That Over and over and over and over again Jason Orange in his jock until the tape snapped In ‘93, this is how I accessed men My art teacher told me to keep a scrapbook Images catching my attention What happens now if I go back and take a look When me being gay I dare not mention? To my teacher’s surprise was my scrapbook I kept scrapping for five or so years Homophobic eyes fuelling my shame Heteronormative culture provoking my fears Too often too lonely with my scrapbook and tears Every tear, every tear in my scrapbook Each image with its own special meaning Images of men for girls everywhere to look Being gay in a straight world dreaming Cutting out bits from that week’s Smash Hits for my scrapbook My bedroom wall, my private public space Then from the wall into my scrapbook, hundreds of images and lyrics But all I wanted to look at was his face But the handsome man’s face was carefully placed in between Images from National Geographic Magazine I became a master of collaging those I desired in amongst images of others and places I had been Always liminal Clever at seeing without being seen The artists she taught me all turned out to be queer Did she know something I didn’t, my teacher Miss Cavalier? Now so obviously glaring, my love of Keith Haring and Mapplethorpe’s men, erotic and daring Yet, this was the time gay men were perceived as all having AIDS many straight folks believed Maybe that’s why I didn’t fully enquire in the artists Miss taught me for fear of the fire An escape from the gloom in the male changing room the art of the squint during my McDonalds stint Late 94, the first time I saw A guy from the grammar school strip to his jock Would be rude not to glance what’s under his pants My eyes couldn’t stop, my eyes were on lock He had that Grammar School voice my co-workers despise So given worst job in the kitchen - stationed on fries Every chance I’d be skipping me on burger flipping Yet allowed me some spying at Grammar guy frying Getting sweaty whilst cooking I couldn’t stop looking Radio on booming Caught in the Middle I could see Grammar School Guy through the flames of my griddle Dancing along to Bobby Brown and R Kelly He was ever so sexy when burger fat smelly I could see through his shirt his nipples all pert Put him on my menu. My Happy Meal homo-dessert In my sixth form was Mike who all the girls liked Grunge indie look All those drugs that he took Britpop was alive, 94/95 Oasis v Blur. Who did you prefer? Mike not just the punk taught me acid jazz funk Bands like Jamiroquai (when they were cool) He taught me so much they don’t teach you at school Never told Mike I’m gay though probably knew anyway Worried the reaction and what he might say For fear of rejection, both of us getting hurt Mike you looked ever so cute in your Nirvana t-shirt You taught ‘me about music, I realised my type At that REM concert, me fancying Stipe Our school trip to Paris, I shared a bedroom with you At Your Most Beautiful when sleeping, it was there that I knew At the end of trip party, it wasn’t me you were kissing So, I danced by myself to Everything But The Girl’s hit Missing A source of frustration was high school sex education My elderly teacher although terribly kind Was not well prepared for a teenagers’ mind ‘After several dates, buy a packet of Mates Machines in most gents. You just need confidence Andrew, this condom, roll it down this banana I can hear giggles from someone. Is that you Pollyanna?’ Andrew struggled at first to get the sheath on ‘Miss, Jason shouted, ‘Rob’s ‘nana is two inches long!’’ ‘It’s the angle of the dangle’, Miss quickly replied Pointing to an OHP of where to stick it inside The default is hetero but what about gay? I had a burning question for Miss but never dare say It was quite unexpected but for me not so weird When Miss in her 60s said she liked men with a beard Wish I could go back now and tell Miss in fact so do I Nothing quite as sexy as a beard on a guy I wonder what happened to my friend called Gavin Did he realise his dreams? What kind of life is having? We both worked in this shop and both into Britpop Me and Gavin were rebels, both on a mission To escape the shop that we worked in with its workers’ lack of ambition Looking back, it seems clear now, I acted deliberately coy To not reveal my true feelings for this Black-Eyed Boy In th¬e pub, me and Dad, Christmas Day ‘99 I looked over at Danny my neighbour, thinking ‘Damn, he is fine’ I imagined him stripped, just wearing his jacket of leather Fun in the gents me and Danny together Playing pool with the lads, Danny-boy on my mind Bent over the table, his peachy behind His wife on the phone saying turkey is served I brushed up against him. Phwoar, those peaches were curved So, go home to your wife, to your not so fun life I’ll sit here with my beer and imagine your rear You bloody enjoyed it though you said it was nothing Imagine me not your wife and the turkey you’re stuffing A song on the jukebox came on shortly after Danny had gone By happenstance chance, Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn There came a day when I thew away my too heavy to carry too bulky to manage scrapbook If I could go back then, what would I say? Lee, you will be fine. In time, you will be okay

All poems are copyright of the originating author. Permission must be obtained before using or performing others' poems.

Audio entries by Lee Campbell

Excerpt from 'Spinach and Eggs' (26/07/2021)

Bodies of Desire: Stick your Stereotypes! (27/06/2021)

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