Can you please tell Ink Pantry about your journey as a performance poet? What lead you to write poetry?
I ended up on this path because it’s the only thing satisfying the mix of emotions I have whirling around. I’ve always written prose, and it’s always been an outlet for whatever is going on in my head. My dream was to do stand-up comedy, but I didn’t know how to get gigs or if I’d have the nerve to do it. When I heard of some spoken word gigs in my area I started doing short stories there. Thinking it would help me build up the nerves I’d need to do stand-up. Eventually I heard about a stand-up comedy gig and got involved in that scene. I spent a few years doing stand-up before it was obvious I wasn’t getting anything out of it anymore. Even when I had a great gig I didn’t feel fulfilled. As a result, I slipped back into spoken word. Then, in a fit of anger, I wrote a poem just before going on stage and performed it there and then. Within six months, I was only doing performance poetry. It scratched all the itches I had. It gave me the freedom to do what I wanted without having to pander to any preconceived ideas.
Do you write prose? Have you thought about screenwriting? Radio?
I do indeed. I’m working on a compilation of short stories at the moment. I’ve written a memoir regarding my time as a stand-up on the open 10 circuit. It dealt with those first 100 gigs and how stand-up helped me battle some mental health demons. However, my biggest writing success has been with stage plays. I love the theatre. It’s great to hand over my writings to others and be constantly surprised at what they produce. And few people critique work like actors saying your lines. They will ask and expect you to justify every letter. Sometimes in performance we can hide behind a joke or some showmanship. There is nowhere to hide when an actor asks you to explain a line. A terrifying but rewarding experience.
What is the poetry scene like where you live?
I’m always surprised at the talent in the local area. I recently co-hosted a poetry slam and sat through most of it open mouthed in wonder. And every time I pop along to a gig, I see someone else I’m unaware of who blows my mind.
Who inspires you? Have you a favourite poet?
I love Poe. ‘The Raven’ was the first poem which grabbed me and refused to let go. It led to a life-long love of his work.
I watched Mike Garry a couple of years ago. I think I wrote about five pages that night just on what he said and how his words made me feel. He inspired me to be more me and embrace my life and upbringing.
And I’ll say this knowing it could be unpopular. You can’t do performance poetry without having respect for hip hop. Some of the flows, rhyme schemes and storytelling by the likes of Akala, Eminem or Biggy Smalls leave my jaw hanging.
What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?
Politics, injustice and mental health keep cropping up. This is despite my ever-growing desire to move elsewhere.
Have you any advice for budding performance poets?
It is about being you and cradling all your inspirations. Find out why you love things, throw them all in a melting pot and see what comes out. The recipe of your inspiration is unique to you. Embrace it.
Also, learn the flow and rhythms of your own voice. Again, it’s unique to you and helps you put a stamp on your work.
What are you reading at the moment?
I always try to have at least one fiction and one non-fiction book at a time on the go. At the moment I’m a little stir-crazy as I’m halfway through The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea. A 650+ page tome of sheer madness, but I’m loving it. Then, for some reason, I purchased a 650+ page non-fiction book on the Manson murders.
As neither of these is light reading, I’m also dipping into Alexi Sayle’s autobiography. Satisfying my poetry hunger is ‘Mother, Brother, Lover’ by Jarvis Cocker.
What is your creative space like?
Surprisingly tidy. If I go to my space and it’s messy I have to have a tidy up. I think my mind is so messy and easily distracted I need somewhere sterile and clean to keep it on track.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I wish everyone was comfortable with being wrong. We make mistakes, we find new evidence which contradicts what we first thought, and we are sometimes too pig-headed to see the wood for the trees. But making mistakes and admitting mistakes shouldn’t be seen as a negative. U-Turns should be a good thing.
Can you share with us a couple of your poems?
Of course, but as it’s performance poetry, let’s use modern technology……
What is next for you? What plans have you got?
I’m working on a theatre show with Emma Purshouse and Steve Pottinger. It’s poetry and theatre combined. That is on at the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton on the 21st of April. My first collection of poems entitled ‘Poetry is Jazz. Welcome to Punk Rock’ will be out in the next few weeks. And my new play, ‘There is None Who Does Good’, will get its premier in the autumn.