After releasing my debut poetry collection in March 2020 just a week or so before the first national lockdown my experience with it has been very different to what I expected!
After readings, gigs, festivals and shows were cancelled one by one it started to feel like my hard work had gone to waste and I had lost the opportunity to share something I had worked for many years to achieve.
Being a performer of my own work, and published by Burning Eye – an indie press who specialise in publishing performance poets and spoken word artists – I felt like these poems needed to be heard to be fully enjoyed and I was so looking forward to bringing them into a room or tent or field and having that connection with an audience. I’m a strong believer that poems are brought to life when read out loud and these poems were written specifically for that purpose.
Although I was able with the help of Burning Eye to bring my book launch online, and have been lucky enough to read at some great gigs over Facebook, Zoom and IG Live, I wanted the opportunity to share the collection in its entirety with an audience and so have been working with Living Record Productions to do just that.
Over the past couple of months I have worked with company director Ross Drury and sound designer Chris Drohan to produce a binaural recording of Alright, Girl? The piece is fully soundscaped with sounds of London – traffic, parks, birdsong and chatter. You can hear snippets of conversations, beeping road crossings, runners going by and children playing as I read each poem. I often write out and about in London, and I very much write about my place in the world around me, so hearing these poems amidst every day life feels really right and dynamic. I’m very grateful to Chris for the work he has put in and for finding a sonic world where my poems feel alive.
The process has been exciting, challenging and eye-opening for me. It’s made me really look at my work, why I write it and who I want to hear it. Words like ‘accessible’ ‘relatable’ and ‘nostalgic’ all seem to have negative connotations in the poetry world, but it was important to me that this collection was all of those things. The work is massively influenced by my working-class background – by blokes in the pubs I’ve worked in and girls I grew up with. By West Ham matches and my nan’s penchant for jellied eels. It was important to me that these poems would not exclude these people, but embrace them. I wanted them to enjoy them just as much as anyone else – I didn’t want the collection to be surreal or ambiguous – I wanted it to be honest, raw and unapologetic – a bit cheesy at times but still rough around the edges – a bit like me really.
I hope people who have read the collection will have the opportunity to hear these poems in my voice and maybe experience them a little differently than on the page. And I hope people who aren’t familiar with them at all will connect with them and maybe want to see them written down. For me, poetry, or certainly my poetry, should live both on and off the page – and a well crafted poem can work just as well, whether it’s being heard or read.
I’m so glad Living Record asked me to be a part of their festival, and I’m so glad that this will give me the opportunity to share my collection in a new and exciting way – even if it’s not the way anyone expected!