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Slipknot Are Just Trying to Make the World a Better Place

Slipknot Are Just Trying to Make the World a Better Place

Cultur e Slipknot Are Just Trying to Make the World a Better Place An interview with Shawn Crahan—better known as Clown—on the groundbreaking band’s legacy and appreciating everything around him. By Rachel Co x October 9, 2019
For most people , being fifty means a few things, chiefly among them being burned out, washed up, and looking towards retirement. Shawn Crahan is not “most people.” The 50-year-old Slipknot founder—who topped the Billboard 200 chart for the third time this summer—refuses to stop creating art at a relentless pace. “I’ve got a warehouse studio that has more work than anybody can handle at the moment” he tells me. He’s just finished touring for the year, and now, all he wants to talk about is what he’s going to make next.
Crahan is the same convention-defying legend he was 24 years ago, when he started the band. Behind the dark and mysterious character he plays onstage, he’s genuinely warm. He’s incredibly focused on his craft, still humble, and still a little naive (self-described). Besides music, he makes photographs, movies, and a little bit of everything else. “Every day, I wake up, I walk outside and look around and just go ‘what the fuck is really going on?’” he says. His voice crackles through the phone, gravelly from 24 years of yelling over pyrotechnics, ten foot tall drums, and tens of thousands of fans.
If loud, angry music that scared your parents was the salve for your anxiety filled teenage years, you might know Crahan better as Clown, Slipknot’s percussionist. At a time when bands like Bad Brains, Slayer, and countless others unleashed their energy and fury at the fucked up world around them, Slipknot was the most energetic and furious of them all. (I still remember the first time I listened to Iowa as barely even a teenager and feeling like I had either just jumped out of a plane, or was being dragged behind a car—maybe a little bit of both.)
Crahan has been the band’s driving creative force from the very beginning, way back in 1995. Everything that is recognizably Slipknot—masks straight out of a nightmare, the Jason Vorhees-adjacent jumpsuits, the demonic album covers—that’s all Crahan. Slipknot in 2019 Alexandria Crahan-Conway
Despite—or perhaps because of—the concerns of hand-wringing parents, Slipknot has enjoyed countless world tours, millions of albums sold, and six whole studio albums.
Crahan and Slipknot were the godfathers of early-aughts metal, continually defying expectations. They were taking risks like mixing DJ scratching and fast, heavy, distorted metal when other bands were more interested in playing it safe and by the numbers. Musical decisions Slipknot made paved the way for not just modern metal music, but for an entire industry of musicians willing to go against the grain. Even modern rap music is not immune to the influences of 2000’s metal. Hell, Lil Uzi Vert wore cyber-goth pants to this year’s Grammys, and Rihanna once said Slipknot was her favorite band .
But Crahan is humble about Slipknot’s legacy. “I don’t really entertain the Internet that much” he says. “Sometimes I’ll be like, ‘Do you think this project here is inspired by my band?’ and people will be like, ‘Yeah, of course.’ It still blows me away every time!” He laughs.
Today, Slipknot are just as relevant as ever—their latest album, We Are Not Your Kind, debuted at Number One in August, and the band’s massively successful shows still draw crowds 20,000 strong. To have a career as long and fruitful as Crahan’s in no small feat, so GQ sat down with him to talk about his artistic process, inspirations, and what he wants for his future.
GQ: Before I ask you anything, I wanted to tell you that a shirt I bought with the Iowa album cover art on it was actually the first piece of clothing I had to hide from my parents. Advertisement
Shawn Crahan: I was ridiculed for that cover. In the Iowa album case, I had put a mirror inside. So when parents or whoever opened it, they would see themselves first. Kind of like a “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” thing. If you’re a good parent, you’re going to take the CD from your child, open it, and see a picture of yourself. I wanted people to reflect on themselves and think about how they were also a kid once, going through these same issues of navigating their own social scenes, gaining cultural awareness, and figuring out who they were. The album cover of Slipknot’s Iowa Courtesy of Slipknot/Roadrunner Records
That album definitely helped me navigate some tumultuous years. And of course your work has significantly influenced a lot of artists: how does it feel to look at artists today who’ve clearly grown up listening to Slipknot?
It’s always an honor, I’m blessed to see it. I try to stay off the internet because I like to focus on myself and creating my own art, though sometimes I’ll see something that I can tell I influenced, and it blows my mind every time. It reminds me of when I was young and trying to create stuff.
I bet that’s so surreal, being the artist who inspires other artists.
Sometimes I don’t even like to admit that I’m “an artist,” because then maybe I become a cliché, and then my hunger for it leaves. It’s taken me 20 years to convince people of what the word “art” truly means. I use the word very loosely, since to me it represents everything.
You said “art is everything.” What does that mean?
I tell people that I have “artistic schizophrenia.” I used to ask my mom all the time what was wrong with me. She told me that I was a renaissance man, and that I was gonna do a little bit of everything. I do three things religiously every day: I either work with music, work with photographs, or with film. And then on top of all of that I draw, I paint, I collage, I write, I direct, I produce. I harness this core of myself that I expand out to all of that, so it’s all consistent. For example, if somebody wanted me to perform in their video, I would bring them my core. If they wanted me to write a poem for a zine, I would bring that same thing and it would feel like my art.
I’ve really honed in on the art of living . Every morning I wake up, I walk outside, I look around and go: what the fuck is really going on ? That’s my inspiration every day. I’m recognizing that we’re constantly living and working in other people’s art, even stuff like street curbs. That’s decades of learning and creating just to make that. My whole thing is to teach myself to appreciate anything and everything around me, and to recognize the artistic ability behind those creations. It makes my life so much more fun.
I think that’s a really healthy outlook. Instead of trying to take things for yourself, you’re appreciating their beauty and letting them inspire you. It’s sort of a collective vision of how everything can contribute towards the one thing that you’re trying to make.
I was having this conversation with an employee of mine the other day. They were having this identity crisis about their job, and their title, and what they do. For me it’s similar in the production as it is in the art; everybody has different titles and jobs, but every single person is as important to the show as the next. Everybody and everything is valuable to the canvas. I work with a ton of people to make these shows, and then 20,000 people show up to see the show, and they give me all the credit. That’s not right! There’s all these wonderful people with these amazing imaginations and creativity who make this a reality. I try to live in a world where everybody has the opportunity to be beneficial and contribute positively. Advertisement
Is that attitude a recent development in your artistic practice? You’ve been an artist for so long, so I’m curious about how you maintain that creative drive and positivity.
I grew up kind of living in my own imagination. My mom recognized that and fostered that from an early age. She told me that I was going to be one of two things: a teacher or a gardener. My mom was a master gardener, and when I asked her, “Why a gardener?” she told me that I’d learn how to harness life, and make life. I’ve always felt that I could do that, and that I’m able to harness this connection to people and things around me. I’ve always talked about it kind of as a dream. You know, the guys around me all said that our dream was to get Slipknot signed, and get a record deal, and I was always like, “Wait, what does that mean?”
You just wanted to make art , right?
[ Laughing ] Yeah, exactly, and they were all like, “Yeah a record deal dumbass!” I was like “ Oh yeah , I guess we need one of those.” I’ve just always been like this my whole life—a little naive and curious. I’m only where I am now though because of one of my best friends, Paul Gray [former bass player for Slipknot] who passed away. He was the one who saw what I am. He was the one who recognized all of these things that I was doing. I remember so vividly him telling me, “Your art and music, we can get away from all the things that are just brainwashed to be the same.” He was the one who harnessed my ability and pushed me to get better as an artist.
I want to ask you about this photobook you released, Apocalyptic Nightmare Journey . It’s made up of all hand-manipulated Polaroids. Something I really appreciate about your art is how physical it is, whether it’s the giant custom-built drums or you playing with the caustic chemicals inside Polaroid packs. Your art feels more often about that process, and your presence and involvement with these materials.
It is 100 percent like that. When people talk to me about my Polaroid book, I usually talk about it like this: opening up those Polaroids is exposing me to caustic and cancerous chemicals. So, while I’m manipulating my art, my God, my sex, my love, my drug, my euphoria, my whole purpose of living, I’m fighitng the possibility of severely injuring myself. Everything that I do is very physical and upfront. Sometimes I’ll go to create—like, I’ll paint—and I’ll put so much into it and I’ll get choked up, and just start crying. Advertisement
That’s very humanist though.
I’ve always joked that if I had one of those one-in-a-million voices, I don’t know if I’d ever be able to sing like that, because the songs I write take such an emotional toll on me sometimes. They’re so personal to me that sometimes I just lose it. I could never be someone like Britney Spears or Prince, these pop legends that are so open about their struggles. I like to do a lot of my art in hiding, and keep my process a secret from the world.
So if you keep your process to yourself, do you find that you end up doing a lot of the work, too?
I gave up on using makeup artists, hair stylists, fashion stylists. For my shoots, I’ll go to a thrift store and buy all the old, fancy, colorful shit. I’ll do the makeup myself, and then I’ll say, “Let’s go, let’s make art, let’s get real. ” Otherwise I’d have to deal with too many other people making art within the curves, and I don’t live within the curves.
At a certain point there’s just too many cooks in the kitchen.
Absolutely. I would shoot all day long if I could. The world doesn’t even know that I’m a professional photographer. They just know me as Clown. Before this album cycle, I asked my wife, “I have to ask you something, and I need a straight answer from you on this—am I going to be best-known in this world for being the Clown in Slipknot.” She looked at me and said, “Yes, get over it.” And now, that’s where I am! I had a totally different dream before Slipknot, you know. I was going to move to New York, become a painter, sleep on people’s floors, go to gallery openings, and all that. But here I am!
Your career has spanned decades at this point. When you look back on it, do you try to resist the urge to self-correct your past?
I’ll tell you this: I love everything I’ve done, I love how my life has turned out, I could never imagine that I’d sit where I sit today. I’d never ever go back and do things differently. I’m blessed to have had this be my life, and it’s just getting better each day. That’s it though. Once I turn something in, I’m done with it. I just let it go, and move on to the next thing. I’m kind of known to constantly be working on something. When I need to make an album cover, I’ve already been working on it for two years. I’m working on my art every freakin day. It’s always in progress.
What is that next thing, then?
Lately I’ve spent a lot of time asking myself that exact question.
I’d love to make more books, have some gallery shows, and stuff like that. I love making our music, but now that the album’s out and it went Number One, I need to take some time for myself and go do some other shit. Above all else, I really want to push myself to make some fascinating art this year.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Related Stories for GQ Q&A Entertainment Music Read More

Hope Hicks, West Wing Alum, Begins Her Second Act on the West Coast | Vanity Fair

From The Magazine Hollywood 2019 “Like an Alien Landed in the Middle of Los Angeles”: Hope Hicks, West Wing Alum, Begins Her Second Act on the West Coast After years in the Trump orbit, Hicks has entered a brave new world of Murdochs, fussy trade reporters, and Los Angeles semiotics. Can she shed her Trump baggage? “People don’t stay in Hollywood jail forever,” says one entertainment executive.
By Emily Jane Fo x Illustration by Bráulio Amad o January 27, 2019 Facebook
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Photographs by Christian Adams (Hollywood sign); Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg (palm trees); from Glow Images, Inc. (Walk of Fame); by Chip Somodevilla (Hicks); all from Getty Images. Facebook
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In early October, shortly after the newly spun-off Fox media company announced her appointment as chief communications officer, Hope Hicks flew to Los Angeles and set up shop at the Century City InterContinental to meet with her new counterparts, the Hollywood trade press. During her years flacking for Donald Trump, Hicks had developed a reputation among political reporters as a fair broker of sorts. Her stoic disposition may have belied an assassin-level fealty to her boss, but she was nevertheless polite and competent in a milieu otherwise defined by chaos and turbulence. Perhaps more importantly, she had juice.
Over the years, Hicks had become an ever present Trump appendage, a surrogate daughter, de facto whisperer and translator. She was a Zelig-like character in the White House telenovela—a witness in the Mueller probe, a young woman who admitted to Congress that she had told “white lies” on behalf of her boss. She was allegedly party to a campaign relationship, a West Wing fling, Cabinet tribalism, and remained, indisputably, one of the most influential voices in the president’s ear. She touched everything but had fingerprints on nothing. Everyone and no one knew her. E-mails and phone calls typically began with “Off the record.” She was the elusive person familiar with the situation. And she was familiar with just about every situation.
More than anything, though, Hicks was an enigma. Not yet 30 years old, was she a neophyte or a calculating and ambitious striver who advanced her way up the greasy pole by blithely defending Trump’s behavior—someone who had willingly stood by him during the Billy Bush tape, the Muslim ban, and “Lock her up”? Was she attracted to power, or simply quite skilled at managing the most powerful person in the room—at interpreting his whims for everyone else bewildered by the behavior? Was she in that role because, given her obvious beauty, she appeared perfectly “cast” for it, in her boss’s parlance? (According to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, Trump referred to Hicks as “the best piece of tail” that his former aide Corey Lewandowski, the partner in that alleged campaign tryst with Hicks, would “ever have.”) Or was it all sexist bullshit, and was she merely the only competent one in this viper’s den of a West Wing?
Everyone had a take, it seemed, but no one knew. Hicks, after all, was virtually unknowable. Keeping her boss’s hours, she woke up at four o’clock in the morning to answer e-mail and exercise. She could run only inside, on a treadmill, because she needed to have her two phones in front of her. (Most of her workouts, according to a person familiar with the routine, consisted of running as fast as she could for three minutes at a time before the next call came in.) She arrived at the White House at 7:30 for a meeting with whoever was chief of staff, and then spent virtually the entire day within earshot of the president. She declined to participate in interviews and turned down offers to pose for legendary photographers.
Among Hollywood reporters, few knew what to expect when Hicks arrived in Los Angeles. Many, naturally, had opinions. “All bets were already against her, because there was an innate disrespect and dislike for the work she did for Trump,” one Hollywood media executive told me, referring to Hicks’s reported role in crafting the president’s infamous responses to Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in 2016 and his foreknowledge of the Stormy Daniels payoff, among other things. “She’s the person who lied for him and worked for him, and seemed to have no problem with it, and could sleep at night.”
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After these conversations, according to numerous people who met with her, Hicks seemed saccharine yet somehow sincere. She was also unlike any publicist they had ever seen. In Hollywood, beauty is defined by the sort of effortless, invisible cool made possible only by a great deal of effort and a whole lot of money. Hicks, a former Ralph Lauren model and a student of the Trump aesthetic, often arrived in black sunglasses, blown-out chestnut hair, and a full face of makeup. “It was four P.M. when I met her, and it was like an alien landed in the middle of Los Angeles,” one reporter told me. “That’s not the L.A. vibe. That doesn’t play out here.”
Within the Trump White House, Hicks became accustomed to holding her own among often older, male colleagues.
Photograph by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images. A few weeks into her job, Hicks found herself in a little hot water. Several reporters had gotten a tip that longtime Fox executive Gary Newman was being relieved of his duties after tense contract negotiations. Newman had wanted a shorter-term deal that would extend only through the Murdoch family’s sale of 21st Century Fox to Disney—a $70-billion-plus mega-merger whose remaining unsold assets, such as Fox News and Fox Sports, would constitute the new Fox entity for which Hicks worked. But Fox wanted Newman to sign on to a longer deal. Several reporters asked Hicks about Newman, and she insisted that the rumors were untrue and she would let them know if something were to change. Things moved faster than she anticipated, though, and on October 19, Fox distributed a press release saying that Newman was out and Charlie Collier, an AMC executive, would become head of entertainment for Fox’s broadcasting division.
In Washington, Hicks may have been able to pull out an excuse for reporters—the situation was fluid, her principal had changed his mind, et cetera. But in the world of entertainment reporting—where journalists churn less frequently, develop their own soft power, and work on a timeworn barter system—some felt as if Hicks may have committed a legitimate foul. “The journalist-publicist relationship in this town is all about the trust in the exchange of information,” the reporter explained. “I’ll sit on a story about A-B-C in the short term in exchange for X-Y-Z down the line. It’s all about the long-term gain, and I don’t think that she got that.”
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In some ways, Hicks has always been better suited for Hollywood than for Washington. Raised comfortably in Greenwich, Connecticut, her parents met while working as aides on Capitol Hill. Her father eventually went on to flack for a tobacco company and, later, for the National Football League. (Her grandfather handled the P.R. for Texaco during the 1970s oil crisis.) In sixth grade, at a neighbor’s suggestion, Hicks and her sister, Mary Grace, auditioned for a Ralph Lauren campaign and were booked. She posed for Bruce Weber in a campaign for Naturalizer shoes and appeared in an episode of Guiding Light and a Nickelodeon program about golf. She auditioned for a part in a movie alongside Alec Baldwin. At 13, she posed for a cover story in Greenwich Magazine, explaining that “if the acting thing doesn’t work out, I could really see myself in politics.”
Around that time, she filmed an audition tape for a kid’s edition of the hit show Weakest Link. (On the tape, she performed an improvised rap, and offered her best James Bond imitation.) The tape impressed executives enough that the studio flew her and her mother out to L.A. for a final audition. They spent the days leading up to the meeting being very “L.A.”—visiting the store Julia Roberts got kicked out of in Pretty Woman, and shopping on Rodeo. Once she arrived at the audition, however, reality set in. She did some quick math: there were eight podiums on set and 10 kids in the room. “You still have to audition,” her mom told her, explaining that not everyone at the studio would get selected for the show.
Hicks, now known for her sangfroid, panicked; she blew the performance. It became somewhat of a running Hicks-household joke for years. Before every job interview or tryouts for sports teams or auditions, her mom would playfully remind her to not “ Weakest Link ” when it came time. Hicks never wanted to feel that way again; it gave her a Trump-like drive to win whenever she was reminded of it.
At Greenwich High School, she lettered in swimming and, like her father and sister before her, went on to become captain of the lacrosse team, which she led to a state championship. To celebrate her graduation, her family took out a full page in her yearbook with family photos and modeling shots of her and Mary Grace collaged together and the lyrics to the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do You Believe in Magic” typed in little black letters. “Hope Charlotte Hicks,” it reads at the top. “To the girl with magic in her heart.”
“She got about as elegant of an exit as anyone could possibly get,” says one Hicks confidant.
Hicks majored in English literature and started the lacrosse team at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, but stumbled into a circuitous path that would lead her to the White House when she joined her father at a tailgate event for Super Bowl XLV, in February 2011, in nearby Arlington. There she met Matthew Hiltzik, a New York public-relations executive who had worked with Hillary Clinton and Harvey Weinstein at Miramax, among others, and whose firm represented Alec Baldwin at the time. Hiltzik Strategies also managed Ivanka’s burgeoning clothing brand. Hiltzik would eventually hire Hicks, who was subsequently enlisted to work on the Ivanka account. The two quickly developed a rapport, and Hicks was hired at the Trump Organization to handle public relations.
When Donald Trump announced that he was running for president, Hicks was 26 and commuting into Manhattan from an apartment she rented with her sister in Greenwich. During the campaign, she spent almost a year and a half living between Trump Force One, as the candidate referred to his private jet, and a Trump-owned condominium. From the time she woke up, at about four o’clock in the morning, until the time she went to bed, which could be after midnight, her phone vibrated with incoming calls and e-mails from reporters, and she answered almost all of them—because she was the communications staff. After the election, her ascent to the Trump administration was a certainty. “She’s one of the people who was most candid and most honest with the president, whose advice he valued tremendously,” Ivanka Trump told me. “It’s because she doesn’t opine on issues she hasn’t studied. Any of the roles she’s stepped into over the last decade, people would try to argue that she didn’t have qualifications for this or that. But she did so anyway because she knew her level of intelligence, confidence, work ethic, and conviction and ability to jump in. You could literally assign her anything and she would be successful.”
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Over time, however, the schedule and scrutiny, the mix of heightened professional responsibility and lack of control over her personal life, started to weigh heavily on Hicks. Close as she and Trump had become, he could blow up her day with a pre-dawn tweet. Hicks also faces the prospect of legal bills stemming from the various federal investigations into the campaign. Her entire life played out within a short radius around the White House. Hicks considered leaving, and she labored over the rollout of her departure. For a time, Ivanka and Kushner persuaded her to stick it out. According to people familiar with her thinking, she also didn’t want to create the impression that one particular news event had hastened her exit. But her departure was unfurled soon after the paparazzi discovered that she was dating White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
In late January 2018, Hicks and Porter joined other members of the White House communications team, including Hogan Gidley and Josh Raffel, who had become Hicks’s closest friend stemming from their time together at Hiltzik, at Gidley’s apartment. After a subsequent group dinner at Rosa Mexicano, a photographer with a long lens caught Hicks and Porter kissing in the backseat of a taxi on their way home together. EXCLUSIVE: WHITE HOUSE ROMANCE! read the Daily Mail headline on the first day of February. The plot quickly grew darker after the tabloid published interviews with Porter’s two ex-wives, who claimed that he had physically and verbally abused them. (At the time, Porter called many of the allegations “slanderous and simply false.”)
“It’s grating on anyone when you come with a group to my apartment and there are pictures of you downstairs when you get in a cab, and there are pictures of you when you are in that cab. It’s so much more creepy and invasive when the paparazzi is strategically hidden with a telephoto zoom lens taking photos from afar—and that’s what they did to Hope every single day,” Gidley said. “She chose to make her role a behind-the-scenes one and not be an out-front spokesperson … because she wanted a level of anonymity. At a human level, she just wanted to work hard and live her life without some picture being taken on every street corner.” By the end of that month, The New York Times broke the news that Hicks was leaving.
Hicks cried when she told the communications team of her decision. Gidley, himself emotional, teared up. “I’m ashamed to admit I was selfishly upset and upset for the administration, because she was so incredibly good at her job,” Gidley said, recalling Hicks laughing through tears when he told her he didn’t like change. “I should’ve been consoling her, but she came over and hugged me.” Trump did not erupt when she told him the news; he had expected she would move on someday. He gave her an uncharacteristically kind public send-off. “I consider it a skill to leave that White House with an elegant exit,” one person who has advised Hicks professionally told me. “And she got about as elegant of an exit that anyone could possibly get.” On her last day, she handed out notes to each staffer in her loopy, girlish penmanship.
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Radhika Jones Introduces Vanity Fair ’s New Establishment List By Radhika Jones Advertisement After her departure, Hicks decamped to Greenwich to recuperate with her family. For a while, things had been tense in the Hicks house as her parents worried about her punishing hours, physical safety, and mounting negative publicity. Initially, it wasn’t easy to transition from the fast-twitch, Trump-staffer lifestyle. “You’re used to your phone ringing every 10 seconds,” a former White House colleague told me, explaining the phenomenon, “and you start to take your phone out of your pocket to check your e-mail, and you say to yourself, Oh, I didn’t get an e-mail. And then you check 10 seconds later and, again, you say, Oh, I didn’t get an e-mail.” She made time for old friends, ran outside without fear of having both phones in front of her, took some weekend trips out of town.
Hicks didn’t totally disengage. She monitored the news and kept in touch with Trump, Ivanka, and the White House communications team about stories and messaging. She accompanied staffers on a trip aboard Air Force One to central Ohio, prompting rumors that she might re-enter the White House. She was even floated as an outside contender for the chief-of-staff position amid the enduring John Kelly drama.
Speculation was fueled, in part, because the private sector had not been kind to Trump alums. Reince Priebus had returned to his former law firm; Sean Spicer had barely caught on as a Fox News commentator. Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn had yet to chart their new courses. Raffel would land on his feet at the controversial e-cigarette manufacturer Juul, and Dina Powell settled back into a larger role at Goldman Sachs than the one she left before she joined the administration. Hicks solicited advice from Ivanka and Kushner, Powell, Cohn, and Hiltzik, who all encouraged her to take meetings. And she did—sometimes one at breakfast, another at lunch, and then for post-work drinks or for dinner. There were opportunities flacking for private-equity firms and representing wealthy finance guys. She constantly fielded the suggestion that she go on television. She was attractive and articulate and no one knew the administration better, the suggestions went. But Hicks is conflict-averse by nature, and the idea of slugging it out on cable news did not appeal to her. Sure, she had opinions and a story to tell, but now did not feel like the right time to use her voice. She considered memorializing her thoughts on paper, perhaps for a book. Nothing has been formalized yet.
One adviser told me that Hicks had initial trepidation about whether she had been tarnished by the Trump brand. But Hicks also realized that her ability to work with Trump made her valuable to a narrow, but lucrative, market. “She was very deliberate in figuring out what would be right,” Ivanka told me.
Months after her departure, she had lunch with a high-profile host of a popular Fox News program who had become a friend. He, like many others, suggested that she take a job in TV. When she demurred, he told her she should meet some people at the network anyway. They walked over to the Fox headquarters on Sixth Avenue, where she met with a few people, who followed up a couple of weeks later saying that, it so happened, Lachlan Murdoch was looking for someone to run communications for New Fox, the company he was starting once the assets were spun off in the Disney sale. The two had lunch at the Sixth Avenue headquarters.
A person familiar with the hiring process told me that they called White House reporters, inquiring about what she was like to work with and whether she was strategic. “With me, she had to overcome her relationship with Trump, which was a straight down, not an up,” this person explained. “I wondered if everyone who worked for him was out of their minds, but all of the reporters I called, from papers that were pretty tough on the administration, all said she was smart, responsive, and had integrity.”
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Radhika Jones Introduces Vanity Fair ’s New Establishment List By Radhika Jones Advertisement Around the same time, Trump had a scheduled chat with Rupert Murdoch, and he mentioned that Hicks was interviewing for the job and, of course, recommended her. Hicks flew to L.A. for a final round of meetings and interviews. As she had for the audition nearly two decades earlier, her mom tagged along for fun, and joked with her not to “ Weakest Link ” it. By the end of the trip, New Fox offered her the job of communications director. She thought about it for a few days before she accepted.
In some ways, New Fox was an easy, familiar choice. It was run by a wealthy, occasionally dysfunctional family and traded in a familiar form of loudmouth conservatism. “It’s a little bit of Trump-lite,” one person close to her told me. “You can still be a little drunk on the Kool-Aid.”
It also seemed oddly manageable given her experience. Hicks’s chief talent is being someone’s barely visible hand. Lachlan Murdoch, who would be her new principal, is not Donald Trump, and New Fox is not the Trump Organization or the White House.
But, in another regard, it was going to be a challenge. In the White House, technically she answered to the American public, but her job in the West Wing was always about serving her audience of one. Running communications for a public company, where you answer to shareholders and are constantly held accountable by the Securities and Exchange Commission and no-fucks-to-give veteran reporters, is a truth-elasticity-free zone. White lies are possibly fireable offenses.
But the job offered one undeniable advantage. It was in a place where long-lens photographers would stake out other, far more famous young women, outside the psychic mindlock of the Acela corridor. Hicks was hesitant to move so far from her family. But her relationship with Porter had ended months before; she had no long-term lease on an apartment. She decided to follow her new principal. “I don’t think she was looking one way or another to move or not to move,” one longtime close friend explained. “But it was an opportunity. It was a fresh start.” She joked with friends that her parents wanted her to have a healthy relationship, so she decided to move to L.A.
The sun still had not fully broken through the late-fall darkness when a twentysomething woman in a neon sports bra and black Lululemons cranked up an old Chris Brown remix and pulled down a set of multi-colored resistance bands suspended from the ceiling. The boutique fitness studio, heated to well over 90 degrees, was filled with a half-dozen young women who were there to bounce about the springy, wide-paneled wood floor, pull down those bands with their lithe, twiggy arms, and lift their ankles strapped with 1.5-pound weights about a million times in a row while the remixes blasted. On any given morning, Gwyneth Paltrow or Jennifer Lopez or Tracee Ellis Ross could have been there.
That morning, though, there were no celebrity celebrities. There was one woman in the back row, though, in a navy moisture-wicking turtleneck and a headband, as if she were dressed for a brisk winter run at Deerfield. To be fair, it is unlikely that anyone would have expected to see Hicks in a dance cardio class fit for Hollywood starlets at six o’clock in the morning. That is the beauty of Hollywood for Hicks. No one batted an eye when she went to dinner at Spago at the end of the year, because Oprah was at a table behind her. (Her mom pleaded with her to go up to the mega-star. “Go tell her you’ll run her 2020 campaign!” she teased. Hicks did not, but she did take a not-so-great photo of her on her cell phone.) No one paid attention to her when she attended a Drake concert, or spent an afternoon at Universal Studios. When she walked into the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel for coffee one November morning—reveling in the plaids of her Greenwich youth—no one in the place looked her way. Hicks didn’t check her phone during the entirety of the class, which ended near midday on the East Coast. There was no fear of a missed call or tweet, a new fresh hell.
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Radhika Jones Introduces Vanity Fair ’s New Establishment List By Radhika Jones Advertisement Hicks still wakes up at four A.M., though more out of habit than necessity. She has not once turned on the television in her apartment, according to someone familiar with her new routine, and opted against installing one in her office. She reads the paper in print leisurely in the morning, and listens to audiobooks at home and on her commute to work. Once she gets to the office, around nine A.M., she, like her former boss, will make notes on paper copies of stories and send them, snail mail, to her family, or to people in the administration who might get ideas about speeches or policy positions. She tells her assistant to keep the first hour of her day free, her own executive time.
Most days, she is home by six P.M., and is content to keep to herself, at least for now. She never mingled much with the Washington set or reporters in a social way when she was on the campaign or in the White House, and so far her life in Los Angeles seems to be much the same. “She’s focused on setting up a good life, and she is all-in on work,” one longtime friend told me. “Hope is not someone who needs a lot of acquaintances and 10 girlfriends. She values quality over quantity, and she invests in people who she is really close with.” She still texts with Ivanka and Gidley and sees Raffel when he visits Los Angeles. The president still calls her, too.
There are many questions about what will happen to New Fox, which is competing in a universe against far larger media behemoths as consumers continue to cut the cord and pivot to streaming services. Fox News still throws off more than a billion in profit, but its audience is well beyond retirement age, and the company’s other core properties (its sports networks and Fox Business) may not provide a bulletproof hedge against the digital future. Media observers wonder whether Rupert Murdoch, who has traditionally led with his gut, has erred in entrusting so much responsibility to a 30-year-old with no experience at a public company and major Trump baggage—not to mention whatever potential legal entanglements she might face down the line. Meanwhile, Hicks has done little to offer clues to political junkies. Was she a co-conspirator in Trumpworld, or someone just along for the ride? A cunning political operator, or an indifferent player with highly attuned Greenwich-style social skills? Younger than the vast majority of her former colleagues, will she forever be remembered for something she did in her 20s? The Murdochs, for their part, have told people they’re impressed with her work so far, according to those who have spoken with them about Hicks.
Perhaps the greatest indication that Hicks is, in fact, highly skilled at this kind of work is the way in which she has managed her own P.R. In a campaign and White House where nearly every person became the story at some point, Hicks was able to largely stay out of sight. She’d be lucky to maintain this quality in her new life, as she starts the rest of it fresh. Indeed, where better to test that out than in L.A.—a city based on re-invention? “This is where people come to re-write themselves,” the Hollywood executive told me. “If, at the end of the year, if she lasts that long, and she’s at a party, I can’t see people not gravitating towards her. She has a big job. People don’t stay in Hollywood jail forever, not if you’re that pretty.”
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Melissa Lee-Houghton – a sharp shot of misanthropy and degeneracy. The often-bleak reality is the price worth paying for continued access to the dual desires that rule them – each other, and heroin.

Melissa Lee-Houghton , That Lonesome Valley , Morbid Books, 2019. Melissa Lee-Houghton’s debut novel is destined to become a classic of degenerate literature. It ranks alongside Trainspotting and Burroughs’ Junkie as a pre-eminent text on drug addiction and destitution.
All lovers have something in common, something which ties them together. For Morgan and Florence, the dual narrators of the ouroboros-like ‘That Lonesome Valley’, that something is heroin.
Split across two sections, each told from the point of view of one half of the couple, That Lonesome Valley by Melissa Lee-Houghton is in many ways not an easy novel to delve into.
Its protagonists are unreliable, often frustrating and sometimes deeply unlikable, and the cyclical nature of addiction means that there is little plot progression.
Yet the deft use of language by Melissa Lee-Houghton — she made her name as a poet, and her mastery of the form often leaches into her prose, too — makes That Lonesome Valley a fascinating and, well, addictive read.
If you’re looking for a book with an anti-drug or moral stance, this is not that book. While both of the main characters are honest about the devastation their drug abuse has brought into their lives at times, there is a sense of inevitability about it.
For Morgan and Florence, the world is simply too cruel, intolerable or just plain tedious to truly consider any other form of living. Their dependence on each other and on drugs are an attempt to escape their surroundings and themselves. After all, why would people turn to drugs in the first place if not because the world feels impossible to live with sober?
While it’s too simplistic to call That Lonesome Valley a love story, these twinned obsessions form the spine of the book itself, with each section mirroring the desire for escape through devotion and narcotics back at the other. Indeed, often I was left wondering how much of their relationship would survive if the addiction which links them to each other so symbiotically was taken away.
For all it avoids taking an entirely condemnatory viewpoint, Melissa Lee-Houghton doesn’t shy away from portraying often-harrowing reasons addiction can take hold, the gruesome effects of withdrawal and the reality of everyday life as an addict.
Her writing is vivid and immersive, the endless grimy bedsits and the misery of the comedown sketched with startling clarity. Yet, to its inhabitants, the crux of the decision they have made (and of the book itself) is this: the often-bleak reality is the price worth paying for continued access to the dual desires that rule them — each other, and heroin.
Overall, though it’s occasionally a frustrating read (I have to admit I preferred Florence’s ‘half’ of the narrative, harrowing as it often was, over Morgan’s more introspective and somewhat self-absorbed section), That Lonesome Valley is beautifully written and not without a streak of hope.
There are moments of grace and tenderness scattered throughout the squalor, with the characters finding moments of joy and strength within a system set up to see them fail. Its cast of characters feel startlingly real, and despite its subject matter it avoids becoming either an apologia or a moral tract. That Lonesome Valley is a raw and honest book which will stay with me for some time.
– http://forbookssake.net/2019/07/23/lonesome-valley-melissa-lee-houghton/
…The novel is split into two halves, each one narrated by the perspective of a person within the same romantic couple. Though there are flashbacks within both, the text tells a chronological narrative of people struggling with addiction (and other health and personal problems) as they try to move forwards/sideways with their lives. Lee-Houghton’s personal life has not been without its own tragedies, and these are directly referred to in the blurbs at the start of this book. But this isn’t autobiography: this is fiction, and the overlaps or similarities between Lee-Houghton’s own experiences and the story she tells here are fucking irrelevant. What her own life gives is the justification for telling this story, because it’s about poverty and addiction and mental illness and trauma, all of which are topics regularly fictionalised by people who’ve had barely any fucking connection to any of these things. This story isn’t Lee-Houghton’s because [things like] it happened to her, it is her story because she wrote it and it’s very well written.
Lee-Houghton is an incredibly talented writer and able to evoke pain and horror and addiction as well as she can write joy and excitement and pleasure and love. This is a dark novel, but it is dark because it speaks honestly to the world in which we live: quite often the bad bits of life outweigh the good bits, and a less skilled/nuanced/talented writer would have rendered this narrative as far darker than it has ended up. Life is not an unrelenting torrent of terrible things, and most of us (not all of us) can easily make our lives sound like they are if want to. A weaker writer would have written about a romantic relationship with mutually-perpetuating cycles of substance use and substance addiction as an unequivocally negative thing. Of course, though, this isn’t the case in reality. Traditionally, people would fall in love because of a shared interest in status and money, whereas more recently a shared interest in the same holiday destinations, in binge-watching the same TV shows, in reading the same books, in listening to the same music, in eating the same food, whatever, are considered good, solid, things to initially bond in a relationship over: why shouldn’t a shared interest in intoxication be equally as valid? Yes, a relationship that is entirely reliant on this is maybe not likely to last, but nor is a relationship entirely reliant on Game of Thrones (it’s over) or anything else external. Sometimes we can be brought together by things that do not sustain us: sometimes we find friends or lovers when we are together in bad places, bad spaces, but we are able to walk out of them together. Falling in love and being in love is a wonderful thing, but this can happen in the midst of all manner of other personal tragedies. We do not lose the ability to love when we are sick, when we are addicted, when we are depressed, when we are grieving: life is more complicated than that. If you still have any friends in adulthood who you met when you were a child you are definitely not enjoying each other’s company in the same way now as you used to: likewise friends you met in fresher’s week or other fucking party scenes. And in long-term relationships, too – for most of us – every night isn’t like the first date. And if it’s a good relationship, then that isn’t a bad thing. Lee-Houghton’s writing explores what it is like to live with addiction, to feel abandoned and abused, to grieve, to hurt, but also to not lose the capacity for pleasure in life that comes from places other than the immediate and visceral. The comfort of heroin – which, like in Trainspotting, comes across as overwhelmingly pleasureable – is a comfort that prevents the existence of other comforts. As the protagonists make clear, you can sustain the comfort of a relationship while both are addicted to heroin, but other potential comforts of life – creativity, health, a social life, a career, a family – are of necessity shed. That Lonesome Valley is a novel about the choices we make and the things we must sacrifice to make ourselves content, especially the coping mechanisms that we use that threaten to overwhelm us. I’ve been on a heavy dose of SSRIs for two years now, and my emotional responses are inevitably dulled, but I wept at this novel, at several points. It is not only beautiful in its tragedy, but in its hope. Why do we push on with living, with engaging with society, with speaking to other people and trying to create when we’re all just going to die eventually and intoxication can be such a perfect pleasure? Maybe there’s no truly right answer, but there are plenty of murky ones that offer something towards one. Getting to read beautiful prose in beautiful novels about love and the challenges we face as real humans is very much one of them. For me. This is more discursive than I’d meant it to be, but fuck it. I had a deeply inappropriate rejection from a minor poetry magazine today that basically told me they thought I had no business writing anything. As a result of that, I’m feeling unapologetic for my creative output, which upwards of twenty people seem to enjoy at least a little bit, lol. Anyway, this novel is wonderful and sad and happy and human. This is a strong recommend from me. – scott manley hadley https://triumphofthenow.com/2019/06/19/that-lonesome-valley-by-melissa-lee-houghton/
Melissa Lee-Houghton , The Faithful Look Away, Rough Trade Books, 2019.
In The Faithful Look Away, the acclaimed poet Melissa Lee-Houghton brings her full imaginative force to bear on a short fiction with all the hallmarks of her singular talent. Exploring domestic pressures, mental health, addiction and issues surrounding body image with a caustic wit, an almost physical delight in description and a wellspring of empathy, this story is yet another marker laid down by one of the most exciting authors currently writing in English.
Melissa Lee-Houghton , Sunshine, Penned in the Margins, 2017.
sample (pdf)
read it at Google Books
Sunshine is the powerful new collection from Next Generation Poet Melissa Lee-Houghton. Continuing the stark confessional style that has garnered critical acclaim and a growing fanbase, Sunshine is at times explicit, at others tender, sexual and dangerous. These poems ooze confidence and demonstrate Melissa’s ability to shine a light on human emotion with startling precision.
Sunshine is the new collection from Next Generation Poet Melissa Lee-Houghton. A writer of startling confession, her poems inhabit the lonely hotel rooms, psych wards and deserted lanes of austerity Britain.
Sunshine combines acute social observation with a dark, surreal humour born of first-hand experience. Abuse, addiction and mental health are all subject to Lee-Houghton’s poetic eye. But these are also poems of extravagance, hope and desire, that stake new ground for the Romantic lyric in an age of social media and internet porn. In this new book of poems, Melissa Lee-Houghton shines a light on human ecstasy and sadness with blinding precision.
Includes ‘i am very precious’ – Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2016.
I feel I need to take a deep breath before trying to describe Melissa Lee-Houghton. The poems in Sunshine , written after two and a half years in psychiatric hospitals, out-Plath Sylvia – they are harrowing, raw and so charged with pain that at the end of each poem, literary comment seems beside the point.
KATE KELLAWAY, BEST POETRY BOOKS OF 2016, THE GUARDIAN Stunning … Lee-Houghton’s poetic world is the underside of mass culture – the black economies of porn, child abuse, prostitution and drug use, and the hidden economy of institutionalisation … Sunshine thrills, and sickens.
AILBHE DARCY, THE POETRY REVIEW Anthemic and surprisingly glorious.
CLAIRE TREVIEN, POETRY LONDON Distilled and achieved … There’s a sense that you’re always teetering right on the edge of something but Melissa pushes you a little bit further than most writers would. And yet the writing always feels very controlled.
HELEN MORT, FIVE BOOKS Sunshine isn’t always an easy read. It’s heart-breaking, visceral, often sordid or hurtful … But it’s also a life-affirming book, open and freshly honest about the mess of being human, about female masturbation, about self-harm and cold unloved dingy rooms where women find themselves.
ANGELA TOPPING, STRIDE MAGAZINE Brilliant, alarming, and as funny as it is sad.
HOLLY POWIS, DISCLAIMER Simply astonishing … it overflows with expansive, intense and troubling poems that leave a lasting impression.
ANDREW PARKES, THE POETRY SCHOOL
‘I was born to love / a megalomaniac or an addict, and all I got was this t-shirt’ (‘Hella’) ‘ Mephistopheles : Isn’t the real problem that this poetry scares you, because what it describes is so far out of your field of experience? You don’t have any authority over it, so you’re trying to abrogate authority through criticism.’ (John Clegg, ‘I’ll Find You’ – Essay’, Prac Crit 3 ) ‘We can all be kind to each other and can all love each other. It’s the pinnacle of human endeavour – everything that we strive for, everything that we do, is about the pursuit of love.’ (Melissa Lee-Houghton, interview with Michael Conley, Prac Crit 3 ) Disclosure : Have not met the poet, friends on FB; review copy provided by Penned in the Margins. As with Clegg in his essay, much of the matter of Sunshine is outwith my experiences. While this is almost always the case, it’s more starkly so with Sunshine . In the linked interview Lee-Houghton states, ‘it’s an art form too. And a performance. It isn’t just me voicing my experience like a journalist or an autobiography’: the poet’s life and the reader’s encounter with the poem are not continuous, and the literary artefact should not be mistaken for historical fact. It would also be a mistake to assume a merely lit-crit approach would be a sufficient means toward a full understanding of the book. I think this book is special, I’m not the best person to talk about it, I’m talking about it because I think it’s special; I hope this is worth something to you.
Review: In her keynote speech to TIFF a few months ago , Transparent creator Jill Solloway argued that at some level, almost all art contains the message ‘it is okay to be me’. From the endless superhero movies propagating white male saviourhood to the trans characters in her own tv show, art may be understood as, in Solloway’s words, ‘propaganda of the self’, which can preserve existing social hierarchies or challenge them, merely by presenting a particular way of being a body in that society. By doing so without passing judgement the artist challenges (or reinforces) what is acceptable, what is ‘normal’; as writer and critic Saladin Ahmed recently tweeted , if artists want to make a difference about Islamophobia, include Muslim characters in stories that aren’t about terrorism. Sunshine is a difficult book to read. I read it more or less in one sitting a few months ago, and struggled to will myself to read it again for review. To be blunt, I’m attached to my sense of comfort, and Sunshine has no time for it. Its much-cited first line, ‘If Disney made porn they would pay us well for our trouble’, is typical of the book in that its ostensible brashness gives way to something more nuanced with repeated reading. These poems ask the reader (this reader, more to the point) to acclimatise, to keep responding beyond whatever initial shock one might experience, to allow each scene’s emotional complications to percolate. As ‘Video’, the book’s second poem, asserts, ‘There’s nothing final when you can play it again’; this opening tableau of a couple having apparently passionless sex in the bath is worth thinking over, and seems to shift on repeated reading: ‘we used to talk but now I just pull sad faces and you sympathise.
I was thinking about abstract things, like what distance means to lovers […] I fit inside love like the breath in a flute. I will escape
at the slightest pause or hesitation. You need to clasp me.
You need to tie me down. Please. I want to go nowhere .’ What on first exposure might feel simply detached or affectless (‘[you] watched me clean / my pussy, and dry my body, and grow cold and silent again.’), emerges as one of its quieter, more peaceful moments after reading the whole book. The invocation of Disney (‘Immediately, a dozen bluebirds flew in and tidied your hair, / a gentle and spritely music soothed your brow’) exposes an unattainable, naïvely simplistic set of values; the poem seems to imply that there are other ways of loving and being loved, and sometimes the best case scenario is not the culturally affirmed, Disneyfied norm about romance. This is also okay. It is okay to be me . The speaker can be clasped. The speaker can go nowhere. Sometimes this is what love looks like, and it’s not necessary to understand it completely.
The opening poem is titled ‘And All the Things That We Do I Could Face Today’; it implicitly focuses on what can be faced, while that ‘and’ gives the impression that the reader has been abruptly included in a private moment, one that was happening before we arrived and will continue after we’re gone. It’s difficult to know to what degree the reader is being addressed in the lines: ‘I love you baby. I love all of you and I will never love myself.
This book is gonna be a killer. It’s gonna suck me dry,
suck me white, suck my insides out and leave me hollow and high.’ Those ‘gonna’s give me the impression what in pop music is merely read as highly marketable bravado is being harnessed here to the poem’s emotional reality. There is plenty of textual evidence in Sunshine to suggest its production was not a pleasant experience. Lee-Houghton seems to be couching this fear or anticipation in the familiar idiom of rock stardom, maybe in self-parody, maybe suggesting that such sentiments have been co-opted for mass consumption. This may also suggest that our position as readers is not innocent. It seems to me that unlike art in which our awareness of the artist’s real-world suffering is hidden or disguised, there is some kind of responsibility to be taken in how we read work like Sunshine . Not to treat it with kid gloves, but to witness it to the fullness of our abilities, to read as if the stakes were our own, to read as empathetically as we do critically. Even if it were not the case, even if I was reading Sunshine like any other book, the quality of the literary work here is outstanding. Lee-Houghton writes at a level of emotional intensity that few single poems maintain, let alone entire collections. What’s striking about Sunshine is how little space it has for downtime, for moments of peace – how that opening poem starts to seem such an island of calm. These poems are repeatedly marked by moments of stunning lyric clarity: ‘The White Path was where the suicides went and where we sat on benches to get incredibly stoned and see through the history and the fog and the debris, the death that will come for us all in its most imaginative ways.’ (‘Hangings’)
‘From the hospital you watched the sun come up and I watched it break
its Day-Glo light on our half-empty bed. It was beautiful, you said –
it told me your shadow fell somewhere else; it consoled me
because it lent a colour to your bright and sincere absence.’ (‘Cobra’) ‘Give me hope, because hope will undo the eye-hooks and lay down
its black lace. Give me hope, because love aims always above our heads: at sunshine.’ (‘Mad Girl in Love’) I could go on. The book is full of these sudden, beautiful, unsettling flourishes, and a dozen readers could likely choose a dozen such passages without overlap. Perhaps the book’s most salient quality is not so much its urgency as this fullness, this tension between being overwhelmed by sensation or sensitivity on one hand and the poem’s attempts to maintain formal or narrative control on the other. It’s a powerful dynamic, and nowhere is it better exemplified than by ‘i am very precious’. In an interview at Prac Crit , Lee-Houghton described how ‘the poem is about men and women and the tensions between them and men being dominant,’ and how ‘In real life, these things are hard to put into words, but when I do it in poetry I build and create a safe haven for it to exist.’ As the poet also notes, ‘i am very precious’ inhabits a near-ecstatic state: ‘it’s wild and it doesn’t go any quieter’. The poem perhaps dramatizes the lengths necessary to create context for such a discussion to happen at all; if ‘rational’ discourse precludes our ability to say that ‘rationality’ is irreparably formed of dysfunctional gender biases, then other rhetorical forms must take over. Which is an inaptly dry way of noting that ‘i am very precious’, even in its title, goes to extraordinary lengths to assert its right to cultural space, its right to be heard, to be considered whole and valuable.
The poem itself navigates a series of sexual questions about the speaker and the culture in which she speaks, the poem’s ‘I’ and its ‘some people’:
‘Some people don’t actually want to be wanted.
Some people actually want to be harmed. I used to fantasize
about being annihilated.’ This easy movement between the personal and the general sets the speaker in the middle of her cultural moment, not an outlier or fluke but a logical conclusion. The poem plays out how that same culture (the one we’re sitting in right now) has deeply unhealthy attitudes to sexual desire, and how those attitudes diverge along strict gender binaries. The men in the poem are violent, numb and limited: the poem’s ‘you’ tells the speaker not to talk about her trauma, which she interprets as a kind of solidarity, but in context it reads as unwillingness to perform emotional labour. Men’s sexual advice to her extends as far as ‘pace [your]self’, ‘it’s easy to get consumed and the main thing is to hold out’. The recurring pornographic images are prompted by the speaker’s boyfriend, and are marked by an unflagging opposition to sincerity: ‘it’s the lack of perceived sensation, / their bodies just seem numb’. These figures stand in opposition to the dynamic, creative, often grimly hilarious narrative voice (‘Handjobs just don’t do it for me, I’m sorry – / maybe if I really like you, you can tell me about it’), whose will to communicate her needs and desires truthfully, however culturally stigmatised, form the heart of the poem’s rhetorical achievement. That said, there are several moments at which the speaker’s voice seems to snag on a particular image or phrase: ‘Wanting to be loved is not the same
as wanting to be fucked is not the same as wanting to come last
is not the same as wanting to be married’ ‘I want the voice of someone with a heart that knows about hearts
that know about hearts that know’ ‘You’ve got to hide the mirror, you’ve got to hide
the mirror. […] and look in the mirror
and in the mirror and in the mirror I saw
a girl, a little younger than me’ The poem incorporates these un-grammatical, almost musical, phrases without breaking stride, rendering their non-verbal meanings as valuable as their more conventional counterparts. The poem’s closing lines seem to confirm a connection between literary expression and expression of desire:
‘Blood pours into all of my poems like it floods
the veins around my clitoris when someone says they like my
name. So please do say it again.’ The poem’s radical act of claiming ownership over her cultural space is here connected to the radical act of claiming ownership over her sexuality, and the final line might refer to the saying of her poems as well the saying of her name. It’s worth noting that this poem is deeper and more complicated than I’m confident about discussing, and I do worry that in trying to make sense of it to myself I’m erasing a lot of the messiness, nuance and compromise that makes this poem what it is. Perhaps, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if we can fully or convincingly explain the poem or the book to ourselves; perhaps as important is our ability to read everything Lee-Houghton gives us in Sunshine and acknowledge it as a way of being, as whole and legitimate as any other. To acknowledge that this is okay, without qualification. ‘i am very precious’ deserves a great deal of close attention, hopefully from readers better equipped for the task. Perhaps the fact that one can spend so much time unspooling just two of the poems in Sunshine is an indicator of the depth the book holds, just how much it has to tell you. I’ve not even touched on the book’s sensitive, complex handing of mental health and the social structures around it, its discussions about family, about austerity politics and its victims, the heartbreaking hopefulness of ‘Mad Girl in Love’, how ‘sunshine’ appears in all its various guises throughout the book. There’s a lot more to be discussed than what I’ve touched on here. Sometimes, consciously or not, I treat the writing of criticism ultimately as a capitalist venture, a function of the publishing industry or of an artistic ‘career’ first and foremost, rather than a function of being alive, a function of a need, will, or desire to express one’s self publicly. Sunshine has the feel of a book that was compelled into existence, that would have happened whether or not there was an industry to support its publication. It’s a book unlike any other I’ve read, and as a community of readers we’re far the richer for it. – Dave Coates https://davepoems.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/melissa-lee-houghton-sunshine/
An oft-repeated cliché in screenwriting is that a writer ought to hook an audience with its opening, so the punters don’t lose interest. The opening line of Melissa Lee-Houghton’s third full-length collection, Sunshine , is ‘If Disney made porn they would pay us well for our trouble.’ Yes, well. Start as you mean to go on.
A danger for writers, especially those who receive a great deal of praise for a certain aspect of their style, is the trap of self-imitation, or even accidental self-parody. For years now, Lee-Houghton has been lauded as being not for the faint-hearted, unflinching, unforgiving (certainly words I wouldn’t hesitate to ascribe to her earlier books, Patterns of Mourning and Beautiful Girls ). Whilst Sunshine is absolutely all of these things and then some, there is no sense that the poet is settling comfortably into her style or subject matter. The poems here are brutal, furious, sexual, and step far beyond anything she has written before. ‘I write like I masturbate’ she says in ‘Z’, ‘A million living things in the city and only one has to take / a deep breath to say my name. Take a deep fucking breath.’ The fire in this book – the fire of a history of manic depression, sex, drugs, and time spent on a psych ward – is not one of destruction, but of purification. There is intense detail into private life that feels close to being something we should not be overhearing, and simultaneously something we cannot tear ourselves from, going beyond the bounds of confessionalism without resorting to exhibitionism. Nothing is just for shock, yet simultaneously nothing is hidden; she doesn’t spare us or herself.
Despite the sobriety of its personal confession, there is much to say about the humour in this book. It is self-conscious and wily, frequently addressing its own poetic nature. Michael Donaghy once said that when he considers writing a poem about poetry he takes a cold shower, but Lee-Houghton handles the topic with such deftness and humour that it’s nearly impossible not to smile. The book is full of tricks and wry nudges; in ‘Elm Street’ she directly addresses ‘the publisher who won’t want to take this poem’; or, in ‘Hella’, ‘My work / is bereft of all ownership now. I refuse to take responsibility’; or in the middle of ‘i am very precious’ (recently nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem) where there comes the sudden explosion of ‘This is no longer the poem I expected.’ The lowercase of the title of this latter poem is deceptive, displaying itself as something timid before delivering a poem where every line is a punch to the gut. Lee-Houghton is anything but precious in this poem, which fills up most of the pages it goes across, and takes almost 15 minutes to read aloud.
A word of praise is also due to Penned in the Margins for making this the stunning release this is. The book as an object is beautifully designed, as are other recent titles from them (Simon Barraclough’s Sunspots and especially Luke Kennard’s Cain come to mind), and one can only hope that this is a part of the rise of independent poetry publishers – along with Nine Arches Press, The Emma Press, and many others – since, lord knows, certain established publishers will not keep modern poetry afloat on their own for much longer.
I am hesitant to sound like I am trying to advertise a horror film, stating how harsh and unforgiving a piece of work this is – people should not to come to this book for quick thrills. The poems in here are long, brash and difficult, and some prose poems – ‘A Good Home’, ‘Elm Street’, ‘Woodlea’ – are too crushing to even quote from, but love, sadness, wit, the frenzy of sex and the darkness in life are all illuminated in such clarity that it leaves you stunned long after the last poem has ended. The last time I was this blown back by a book of poetry was by Vahni Capildeo’s Forward Prize-winning ‘Measures of Expatriation’ when it was released back in January – such a combination of dexterity, skill, power and complete commitment to subject is rare to come by. I can’t stop thinking about Sunshine . Buy it, read it, realise you haven’t been breathing for the last couple of hours, and read it again. ‘This book is gonna be a killer.’ Lee-Houghton states in the first poem, ‘It’s gonna suck me dry’. It certainly is, and there’s no doubt that it did. – Dominic Leonard
https://thekindlingjournal.org/review-sunshine-lee-houghton/
There’s a received wisdom in modern poetry that says that you use as few words as possible to say as much as possible; a kind of austerity of the word. Every word has to earn its place in the line, has to be filled with meaning. Hence, you get the narrow, imagistic poetry of William Carlos Williams, and many others have followed on from that. Short lines, intense images and everything “loaded with ore” as Pound would say. It can be brilliant but it can also be thin and distant.
The poems in Sunshine , however, are almost the exact opposite of that. Here’s the first few lines of the first poem, ‘And All The Things That We Do I Could Face Today’:
If Disney made porn they would pay us well for our trouble. We share baths together because we get bored and it’s cold and we used to talk but now I just pull sad faces and you sympathise. I was thinking about abstract things, like what distance means to lovers; physical distance, emotional distance and the distance between us in the bath in our heads.
The lines are long and clausal; the subject matter is closely personal and the language emotive. This is not thin poetry; it’s full-bodied and very much in your face. I can hear the objection already: isn’t this just prose cut up into lines? And I can’t think of a good riposte to that, except for Pound’s dictum that poetry should be at least as good as prose; and this is as good as the best prose.
When I read these poems, I can’t help but think of the Ginsberg of Howl and Kaddish . The long sentences give the poems an energy and drive that is rare in contemporary poetry. The subject matter is often confessional, fixing on her own experience of mental illness; it’s often sexually explicit and the language is both direct and metaphorical. Just the reference to porn in the first line will shock some readers.
But this is essentially a poetry of the anti-austere, and in a time when our lives are supposed to be constrained both economically and emotionally, this book comes as a shot in the arm for British poetry. Here’s another quote, from ‘i am very precious’, shortlisted for the Forward prize for best single poem:
I see all the black marks on the page, the lines hallucinations falling off the edge of the world – my tongue we haven’t talked about desperation, yet you tell me about pornography, girls with death wishes attached to their libidos, little warm arrows aligned to their supple bodies, inside where the parental hole gapes;
These are just the first few lines of a sentence that goes on for 15 lines, twisting and turning down the page like a swimming-pool flume, full of images and clauses to do with desire and sex, and altogether too much information. I find it glorious and challenging in equal measure.
Not everyone will like this book. Some will be repelled by its explicitness, others by the anti-austere forms; but I think this book is actually part of a kind of unconscious movement among poets who are tired of the austerity of modernism and want to expand the poem, the line, the subjects and the syntax of poetry again. – Steven Waling
www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=61419
To mark World Mental Health Day, the Forward prize-shortlisted poet talks about how writing has figured throughout her psychiatric recovery
Read ‘i am very precious’
Visit Melissa Lee-Houghton’s website Listen to Melissa Lee-Houghton read ‘i am very precious’ Forward Arts Foundation in conversation with Melissa Lee-Houghton
Melissa Lee-Houghton , Beautiful Girls, Penned In The Margins, 2013.
Melissa Lee-Houghton , Body Made of You, Penned in the Margins, 2011.
Download sample
Melissa Lee Houghton’s A Body Made of You is a series of poems written for other writers, artists, strangers, lovers and friends. The process began by interviewing each muse, and then working from photographs and in a couple of cases, paintings of them or by them. Charged with sexuality and an uncomfortable sense of the strange, this debut collection introduces a powerful new voice in poetry.
“Melissa Lee-Houghton’s highly original and innovative debut might be considered an epistolary tour-de-force , split into fifteen sections dealing with Others identified only by their forename. We begin to see those named through the refractions and concerns of the poems, as they conjure relationships and exchanges, memories and transgressions in strikingly off-kilter, compelling narratives that often contain piercingly memorable lines. The final Other of the collection is actually a sublime self-portrait played out in the form of an interview and indeed the whole book can be seen as an extended interview or interrogation of intimacy. It is an extraordinary achievement and a must-read book for 2011.” – Chris Hamilton-Emery
“Melissa Lee-Houghton’s A Body Made Of You is a restless book; images pile high full of a deep questioning of the friends, lovers and strangers who populate these poems. This collection is an intense ‘naming of parts’ made of body, soul, and memory.” – John Siddique
“I feel alive when I read Melissa’s poetry. It is raw, anthropological and sassy. Sympathetic studies of character, gender and address that poke, prod, irritate and echo. She has a penetrative gaze, a deep compassion and turn of phrase that recalls Alan Bennett. Her dramatic glimpses of being are full of honesty, wit and understanding. Pour yourself a favourite tipple and imbibe. You will feel the range of psychology; her emotional and poetic register and be in awe at its resonance. You will see her double vision.” – David Caddy
“Reading [these poems] reminded me of being on a roller-coaster: you go up, you come down, you lurch, you think you might be coming off, you don’t quite know where you are going next.” – Sheila Hamilton , Tears in the Fence
“the most fascinating, beautiful poetry collection I have read in years … so damn beautiful that it made my chest physically hurt” – Jen Campbell (also, interview with Melissa here )
“[Melissa Lee Houghton’s] words are soaked in this tension between body and mind, between who we are supposed to be and the god-awful gorgeousness of who we really are.” The Hipster Book Club
“The fearlessness of the voice in these poems is exciting, as is the wealth of surreal imagery, which – like the images in a dream-world – make a strange, sideways sense.” – Amy McCauley , Ink Sweat & Tears
“A kind of echolocation or sonar is employed here – often lengthy, the poems return again and again to the human body, building off its peculiar there-ness, its mixture of solidity and elasticity.” – Jon Stone, Dr Fulminare
Melissa Lee Houghton’s A Body Made of You is a series of poems written for other writers, artists, strangers, lovers and friends. The process began by interviewing each muse, and then working from photographs and in a couple of cases, paintings of them or by them. Charged with sexuality and an uncomfortable sense of the strange, this debut collection introduces a powerful new voice in poetry.
“Melissa Lee-Houghton’s highly original and innovative debut might be considered an epistolary tour-de-force , split into fifteen sections dealing with Others identified only by their forename. We begin to see those named through the refractions and concerns of the poems, as they conjure relationships and exchanges, memories and transgressions in strikingly off-kilter, compelling narratives that often contain piercingly memorable lines. The final Other of the collection is actually a sublime self-portrait played out in the form of an interview and indeed the whole book can be seen as an extended interview or interrogation of intimacy. It is an extraordinary achievement and a must-read book for 2011.”– Chris Hamilton-Emery
“Melissa Lee-Houghton’s A Body Made Of You is a restless book; images pile high full of a deep questioning of the friends, lovers and strangers who populate these poems. This collection is an intense ‘naming of parts’ made of body, soul, and memory.”– John Siddique
“I feel alive when I read Melissa’s poetry. It is raw, anthropological and sassy. Sympathetic studies of character, gender and address that poke, prod, irritate and echo. She has a penetrative gaze, a deep compassion and turn of phrase that recalls Alan Bennett. Her dramatic glimpses of being are full of honesty, wit and understanding. Pour yourself a favourite tipple and imbibe. You will feel the range of psychology; her emotional and poetic register and be in awe at its resonance. You will see her double vision.”– David Caddy
laid out
your foreign bread smell
boiled bagels shoulders
round like potato, oily
inner fish skin sweet yeast
burned bonfire matchwood tongue
marijuana kiss old as bees
moustache curled walrus
sarsaparilla earlobes call
like a tender drunk piss
smells of old books rub
olive oil in your skin
straight nails the pink of
teary eyes skin like fresh
paint still moist the heat
droops the eyelids summer
is tiring on your feet
tepid showers matted
eyelashes like wet dog fur
straightened out for an alien
feet like Roman tiles veins
like common worms your leg
gets lonely in bed purrs
in sleep a cat dying
happily, your violence is just
frustration at the size
of things my hands
and just smaller than yours
we smash things like we’re
children, ninety per cent
of your ticklish skin
is underused
by my sad wick tongue.
Rumi
Rumi was our wedding gift from you. A reminder
of ecstasy; you think me a denouncer of prayer
in favour of blank idols, but I have prayed
like only a whore knows how.
You’re blonde, you have the features of purgatory,
the feminine blueprint; tragedy has aged your
god and he is earthly. You feel his cold blood
in the clay, the places your mother implored you
to feel for. You should wear your summer hat –
don’t let your skin burn, your precious skin
is delicate, will peel like a shroud from the body
of a pharaoh. What brave language
have you made in me, have you freed, succour
with the alabaster bones of your love and faith;
your blood is the silk that creases in your dressed
gestures, I know the thing you haven’t told.
Secrets do not matter. They are only sugar
and fat soap. Your soul was Mayan; it was burned
into the flesh of a sleeping child; it was fed
on the equilibrium of pain and the beauty
of dead sunset. Be careful, it’s not your fault
you burn so easily, squirm at rivers, bloated sheep;
the breath of a son in your lap or a buttercup’s
gold glowing life in a beam on your throat.
from A Body Made of You (Penned in the Margins, 2011).
https://peonymoon.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/melissa-lee-houghtons-a-body-made-of-you/
Melissa Lee-Houghton, Bite Your Tongue When you Give me My Name: Poems and Other Prose Writings , Chipmunkapublishing, 2010.
read it at Google Books
Following her debut book, ‘Patterns of Mourning’ Melissa Lee-Houghton has written a new collection of original, raw-edged poems that are concerned with all things both abject and sublime. Love meets violence, death meets clarity; the theme of sex dominates many of the poems as for the writer, it always brings about the question of domination and submission, of the will, if not the senses. She writes to try to find answers as to how we are to love; and if we can maintain loving relationships after abuse has happened. Early recollections and experiences find powerful resonance now that the writer is in her mid-twenties, and the newness of family life and marital love have given her the space to understand herself and her addiction to writing.
Many of these poems were composed during periods of ‘illness’ as Melissa’s Bipolar symptoms have worsened over the years. She has also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder; and the intense, confessional, blunt and argumentative tone in her work is her way of expressing her personality and her identity outside of medicine and psychiatry, outside of stereotypes and stigma.
Melissa Lee-Houghton, Patterns of Mourning,
Chipmunkapublishing, 2009.
read it at Google Books
Patterns of Mourning began after a tragic bereavement and takes the course of a damaging love-affair in which the narrator becomes increasingly unstable and detached from reality. Written by a young mother coming-of-age, suffering the trauma of a severe Manic-Depressive Episode, this vivid account of grief, loneliness and love is a sprawling, relentless confessional poem, composed by pastiche of deconstructed emails, letters and delineated manic, longhand prose. Written over the course of the narrator’s breakdown and whilst in psychiatric care, nightmares both lived and imagined conjure obsessive hallucinatory manifestations to form an ecstatic and melancholic diary of all the inner processes of one going mad, alone.
Melissa Lee-Houghton (b. 1982, Manchester) was named a Next Generation Poet by the Poetry Book Society in 2014, and winner of the Somerset Maugham award, as well as being shortlisted for the Costa Book Award and the Ted Hughes Award.
Melissa Lee-Houghton is at the forefront of a new strand of confessional poetry in the UK. Her writing is intense and authentic, tackling trauma and taboos. With total emotional investment, she evokes loss, love, grief, hope, abuse, sex, mental illness and survival in artful poems which communicate without losing raw power. Her work is both personal and political; an act of defiance in the face of shame and shaming, silence and silencing. Her significance was recognised in 2014 when she was named as a Next Generation Poet by the Poetry Book Society. In 2016 her poem ‘I am very precious’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. In the same year, her collection Sunshine was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award, and she received a Northern Writers’ Award for her fiction. She lives in Blackburn, Lancashire Melissa Lee-Houghton has been open about the personal experiences which she draws on in her poetry: violence, sexual abuse, poverty and addiction. These subjects dominate her work and she speaks of poetry as a ‘safe-haven’ where it is ‘okay to talk about these things’. She is open in her discussion of her own sexuality, emotions and aspirations, saying ‘Everything I feel, experience, desire – everything is in my poems.’
Patterns of Mourning (Chipamunka Publishing, 2009) was produced directly from notes made in a period of institutionalisation. The fragmentary sequence is haunted by grief, but also by literary and philosophical echoes, notably T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land . Full of unexpected jumps, puns and double-meanings, it gives us a first glance of Lee-Houghton’s characteristic deep intellect and dark humour, as in ‘Telekin-Isis’:
You should consider this is postmodernist literature;
Entirely dysfunctional families such as these
Can only begin to multiply
Through the beams and conversational pitches
If you get the yolk
Her first full collection, A Body Made of You (Penned in the Margins, 2011) is also influenced by the author’s experiences as a patient in a psychiatric hospital, although here the approach feels more formal. Lee-Houghton creates intimate portraits of ‘other writers, artists, strangers, lovers and friends’, working from initial one-on-one interviews and then photographs and paintings of, or by, the individuals. Mental illness and trauma are central. There is variety in tone, but the description is unflinchingly vivid:
your foreign bread smell
boiled bagels shoulders
round like potato, oily
inner fish skin sweet yeast
(‘laid out’)
Such descriptions illustrate a cloying intimacy and these poems make no pretence of objectivity. Links between the protagonists in individual poems emerge as the book progresses, revealing an overarching personal narrative.
The poems in Beautiful Girls (Penned in the Margins, 2013) mark yet another approach. The subjects are, again, traumatic – suicide, mental illness, rape – and Lee-Houghton’s language keeps its blunt edge, but the effects are less fragmentary, more ‘finished’. Here her music is at its most spare, stripped back like the skeletons of the girls in the title poem:
… We’re
lovely in the mud
that fit boys have dug
for a council wage
Again, a personal narrative threads the individual poems together, but these events have already happened and equally will never happen; time is flattened and folded and elegies occur before living encounters. The gaze is personal and the description is coloured through the perspective, with the choice of imagery often only understood through later poems:
I can see colours in the back of my eyes
the world is the colour of pig’s liver –
there’s a sheen over everything
as though something violent just happened …
(‘In My Sleep I Try To Wake You’)
The poetic constraints offer a relief to the passages of breathlessness, but it is perhaps in the longer poems – where this restraint is cast off – that Lee-Houghton is at her most powerfully unique.
In 2016 one such long poem ‘i am very precious’, was featured in Prac Crit and became the first poem published online to be shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. It is a sustained meditation at a high pitch, a virtuoso performance of desiring and being desired in all its beautiful and abject forms. ‘i am very precious’ became the central poem in Sunshine , Lee-Houghton’s latest collection, which has been shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award. In an interview with Poetry Spotlight she said that she felt ‘finally able to write significantly and unguardedly about violence, rape and childhood abuse, and … able to write about female sexuality in a way which felt completely real.’ She explained that she ‘wrote Beautiful Girls as a heavily sedated person. I always felt I wrote what I needed to at that time with as much lucidity and clarity as I had at my disposal, but it was constrained by many forms of repression and oppression.’ Liberated, Lee-Houghton has embraced the less polished and adopted longer lines and longer poems to create a book which is an unapologetic, immersive experience. The opening poem ‘And All The Things That We Do I Could Face Today’ makes a statement of intention:
… this book is gonna be a killer. It’s gonna suck me dry,
suck me white, such my insides out and leave me hollow and high.
The challenge to a polite readership is constant: ‘You know, the person I am writing this to, the publisher who won’t want to take this poem, I have swallowed a lot of come’ (‘Elm Street’).
The sunshine of the title, which we might associate with healing and warmth, plays a far more complex role. It often exposes, with agonising clarity: ‘My sun-god, pain, illuminates all the damage and the rot’ (‘Cobra). But even in the same poem it shows it is untrustworthy: ‘Even if you are a rotten snake / tulips can look lovely in a certain light.’
In ‘Letter to Dr. Moosa Regarding My Inconstant Heart’ Lee-Houghton sheds light on the treatment of patients by medical practitioners:
you say,
this is the worst state a person can be in, a mixed state, see (like I’m
not in the room) she suffers…
you need to remind the ward to section her as soon as she’s there,
you know,
she’s very persuasive with
junior doctors.
We are reminded in those last words that language can be used to manipulate. Lee-Houghton is an artist and, though she is generous in the access she allows us to her life, poetry is a construction, and we cannot know the author as we might feel we do. This is poetry that is authentic, without pretending to be able to replicate reality.
Every Lee-Houghton poem is a precarious balancing act at the extremes of human experience; a coherent communication of a sense of incoherence; a controlled expression of lost control. There is an urgency and necessity to her work: ‘Writing poetry for me is a vocation. Without it, I wouldn’t cope, wouldn’t survive.’
Lee-Houghton is also a successful prose writer. ‘Inertia’, a short story, was commissioned for Radio 4 and broadcast in June 2016, and a memoir is forthcoming with Rogers, Coleridge and White Literary Agency. – Emily Hasler for The Poetry Society
https://www.poetryinternational.org/pi/poet/28232/Melissa-Lee-Houghton/nl/tile
Fearless, naked and knowing, Melissa Lee-Houghton’s poems square up to the wildest reaches of our emotional lives. Hers is a poetry of excess, of the beautiful mess and complex depths of life as it is variously lived. While it is intensely and pointedly personal, Lee-Houghton’s writing is not simply solipsistic however: the poems in this Archive recording testify to her ability to bring the rawness of the everyday and wider historical narratives – a man behind a ‘window with his / baby-blue Gretsch and his headphones / fizzing’; the ‘cattle-farm rusted guttering’ of stark black-and-white photographs of Auschwitz – into sharp relief, alongside the intimate, delicate and touching. Whether dealing in telling portraits – the ‘jellyfish pink-blue veins in Angie’s arms and chest’, whose ‘heart flutters like she’s swum too far out at sea’ – or in seemingly confessional cris de coeur, there is a restless intelligence and questing inquisitiveness that guides, and keeps sentiment in check. ‘I see you don’t believe me –’ is the playful accusation of one of her narrators: ‘don’t worry, I know how this works, I always / understood the art of paradox; / that there are many ways to give away the plot / without telling it at all.’
https://www.poetryarchive.org/poet/melissa-lee-houghton
interview
Release date: spring 2019

askthecrazyhomeschooler: starbucks-remy: kamorth: nerdygirlnoodles: Okay, but seriously on the…

nerdygirlnoodles :
Okay, but seriously on the topic of straight people being so overly concerned about their children being exposed to homosexuality…
As some of you know, I am a makeup artist in a holistic beauty boutique in a very wealthy area of eastern New York. The week before Halloween I was offering simple costume makeup designs for both adults and children. So my last client of the evening was a 15 year old girl who came in to get her makeup done for the Halloween dance at her school. I was enjoying a conversation with both the girl and her mother when suddenly the topic of transgender came up. I got a little nervous because I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I hear people speaking negatively about these sorts of topics and as I mentioned, my store is in a very upscale, white, conservative area…
Anyway, the girl starts telling us that her friend prefers to be a boy now. She says it very simply and comfortably and it made me happy to see her talk about it as if it was really no big deal.
Her mother says
“How does she even know what transgender is though? She’s a little young to be making a decision like that. I really think the media is taking things too far with all this gay stuff. I’m not against it or anything, but didn’t you just tell me two boys in your class are dating too?”
The girl said that yes, two boys she knew were dating and another boy she knew was gay also. (And she also corrected the pronouns her mother used for her friend)
“I don’t mind that she knows that homosexuality is,” the mother said. “But I don’t think it should be taught at such a young age. Did you know it’s on Disney channel now?”
It took me a moment to respond, I just kept painting the girl’s face until I could figure out what I wanted to say.
“Well,” I said. “We tend to teach heterosexuality literally from the time a child is born. Most children’s books and movies are even centered around a romance of some kind like a Prince and a Princess for example. There’s rarely a children’s movie that comes out where the main male and female character don’t end up marrying each other in the end. If we don’t have a problem flooding our children’s minds with heterosexuality from the time they are able to sit up and watch a movie on their own, what is so wrong with showing them two boys or two girls being in love? We aren’t showing them sex. We aren’t showing them anything inappropriate. Since when is love inappropriate? If we show them love in all it’s forms (be it gay or straight) from an early age, they will see that it’s all perfectly normal and natural and maybe we can finally put homophobic the past…”
The woman considered this for a second and then said “I just feel like they see it and then they start to think that they might be too.”
“And maybe they are. But isn’t it better for them to know that it’s okay? They aren’t hurting anyone.”
Then the girl said. “No ones going around just thinking they are gay because they know what gay is, mom. I know what a chicken is, that doesn’t mean I’m going to wake up tomorrow and start clucking.”
I loved this kid. I hope she does well in all of her endeavors
I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and start clucking
Oh god, my mom was so much like this. She constantly tells me “maybe it’s just cuz of all that youtube you watch!!” I’m like, “no, they’re the ones who helped me find out who i was.”
Like, in Sex Ed, we were talking about being nonbinary, trans, et cetera. That was so, so much more open.
I feel like I can’t come out to my parents cuz they’ll blame my friends and the internet and it’s just like even without the internet I would have been gay it just would’ve taken longer for me to realise it yiffmastersupreme reblogged this from tybalt-you-saucy-boi angelic-hellfire said: wait what Disney character is gay

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