What do you love about Nottingham?
In short, Nottingham is the first place that’s ever felt like home. People genuinely talk to each other here, there’s a real sense of community and protest, and the writing scene is full of people who genuinely care about writing, and how it can help others. Those three things are pretty rare, in my experience. All my poetry about Nottingham sounds like an introverted teenager with a crush.
Who are the poets or artists that have had the biggest influence on you so far?
I owe a lot to a lot of different poets! One of my first poetry gigs was Scroobius Pip, and that was the first time I really thought about performing poetry. Charlotte Mitchell’s collection I Want To Go Home helped me when I was feeling lowest, and so put me on this journey to try and help other people feel less alone. And David J completely changed the way I view the stage – his poetry performances are something else completely. They’re incredible.
But the biggest influences on me have been the poets I’ve had the chance to meet and work with. Anne Holloway and Deborah Stevenson were with me at the start of my poetry career, and their constant output of incredible work taught me how to graft at poetry (Anne’s even my publisher now, over at the bloomin’ lovely Big White Shed). Joelle Taylor ran the workshop and showed the support that led to me being able to talk openly about grief, through poetry, and to help others use poetry to express and explore difficult emotions.
And Jim Hall. Jim Hall is the best. If you see he’s performing around Nottingham, go see Jim Hall.
Who are the top three poets or writers to follow on Twitter and why?
First off, I know it’s cheating, but everyone should be following Poetry Is Dead Good, Crosswords and Speech Therapy. They’re three incredible poetry nights right here in Nottingham. I know it’s not a person, and it’s technically more than one answer, but … this way you get to know when they’re on, and see a bunch of poets…#NoRegrets
Second would be Roger Robinson. I was lucky enough to work with Roger during an Arvon, and he’s the most supportive guy ever. He often tweets some really interesting artistic supportive statement or a question about your art to make sure you’re challenging yourself. It’s awesome.
Thirdly, I’d say Raymond Antrobus. He’s a really interesting performer and writer, and he promotes poetry by poets with hearing impairments – I think it’s incredible watching a poem performed in BSL & Subtitles, so that the physical movement of the piece is also the text. I think it’s really important more poets, and people, see work like that.
What changes would you like to see in Nottingham’s poetry scene as a result of Nottingham Capital of Culture 2023?
It blows my mind how much talent is in Nottingham. I don’t know if it’s something in the water, but there’s an incredible generation of writers coming up at the moment, especially in the poetry scene. In terms of writing changes that might come as a result of becoming Capital of Culture, I think it splits into two main goals; to support the growth of our talent, and to give them a platform to perform to the world. There seems to be a particular consensus around the 16-18 age bracket of writers that there isn’t enough support available to them. I would really hope that as part of our bid, we concentrate on young writers, especially at a time in their lives where being able to express themselves through poetry could make all the difference. At every Open Mic night, at least one young writer will come up, do a poem for the first time, and teach me something new about poetry.
As for the platform aspect, I want to show the world how incredible our scene is. I think that runs from support for early-to-mid career artists about arranging tours or gigs out of town, up to structured digital representation.
Finally, one piece of advice you’d give to all the young and aspiring poets out there?
Really, the best advice I’ve encountered is just go create something – don’t wait for permission from other people. Maybe look around at the writing in the world or your local scene and see if your passions add up to something new. Maybe try to put a new spin on something. If you have a story you think is important (and whose isn’t?), tell it. You might experience self-doubt throughout, but remember, it’s yours. You’re creating something that didn’t exist before. That’s hard enough. Worry about it being good in the editing stages. Just make it exist first.
Do the thing that won’t let go of you. It’s never too late to be you.