Creatives in profile – interview with Laura Potts

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Follow Laura Potts on Twitter @thelauratheory_ 

Laura Potts is twenty-two years old and lives in West Yorkshire. Twice-recipient of The Foyle Young Poets Award, her work has been published by Agenda, Aesthetica and The Poetry Business. Having worked at The Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea, she was nominated for The Pushcart Prize and became one of the BBC’s New Voices last year. Laura’s first BBC radio drama aired at Christmas, and she received a commendation from The Poetry Society in 2018.

In the following interview, we talk with Laura about creativity and inspiration, writing style and poetry, West Yorkshire, Donald Trump, Joan Crawford and hats.

INTERVIEWER

Tell me about yourself, where you live and your background/lifestyle

POTTS

Laura, 22. Writes much; reads more. Lives in a city that has been largely lost ever since last century coughed and dropped a war (or two). Born in Yorkshire. Bred on books which always took me further. Fond of rain and winter, the solitary nights and the comfort of the dark. Alone but never lonely and content to be that way. Poet and writer of radio plays. Terminal wearer of hats.

INTERVIEWER

Is poetry your first love, or do you have another passion?

POTTS

I have always looked at living like this: life is one great passion, too vast to reduce to the four short lines I just wrote above. My life is many loves. I have never set out to chase just one of them. That would be to exist and not to live. The darkest days and the longest nights; the quiet of a sleeping house; the kindness of another; the seasons, always leaving; anger and its blackness; fire and its warmth; the world unfurling in the hands of ministers and mobs, and all before me. These are just a few of my loves and poetry is their legacy. It has never been art for art’s sake; never poetry for poetry. It is always in the service of my own private chaos that a poem, as the very best medium, comes to be.

INTERVIEWER

Who inspires you?

POTTS

Assuming we’re talking poetry, then quite a few haunt me. There’s Dylan Thomas, whose music is truer to ancient verse than winds are to winter; Leonard Cohen, with all the darkness of his heart; John Foggin for landscapes amorphous and Saxon; Clare Pollard for the humour of youth; Peter Riley for Hushings; Ian Parks for desire; Jade Cuttle for what she gives us back; the grace of Phoebe Stuckes; and Sasha Dugdale to the last, whose Joy has stayed with me.

And if we’re not talking poetry, then Joan Crawford. I like her class and taste in hats.

INTERVIEWER

As a Yorkshire-born poet, do you feel that there’s an element of your place of birth and home town in the poems you write? Or do you seek to separate your personal writing from your personal geography? (Is that even possible?)

POTTS

It was Matthew Arnold back in the nineteenth century who famously wrote that the best work comes from the disinterested mind – that is, from those who actively separate themselves from the bright world around them – and I’ve always believed that that ethos should stay firmly in the Victorian era. I disagree with the social ignorance it promotes, nor do I think it is even possible. Such a person would surely be devoid of language and its histories; of human contact and sexual impulse; of feeling altogether? Each poem, whether consciously or not, is the code of my history; each word is the product of past and present. I’ve never thought art can exist in a vacuum. Only a cypher could make that.

INTERVIEWER

Your poetry series Sweet the Mourning Dew for BBC Radio 3 focuses on the experiences of those individuals who have lost loved ones to war. What drew you to this topic?

POTTS

My grandfather, mainly. He was an old war veteran and fiercely proud of the fact. He mimed the memory of war each day in a rigid routine; in a noble walk; even in his Brylcreem slicks and the same old comb from 1940 before the morning mirror. Most of all, he wanted to write his memoirs before the cancer came. In that alone he knew defeat. Sweet The Mourning Dew was my testament to a man who was proud of himself, and who wanted the lost to live on from the page past his own small place in time. It was never a passive claim on the tales that others have to tell. It was simply fulfilling a promise.

INTERVIEWER

How do you view the connection between poetry as performance and poetry as a solitary, personal act of reading poems upon a page?

POTTS

I have always believed that a poem can have many lives. Its life on the page is different to its life on the stage, but both are integral to its existence. It is true to the ancient roots of verse that it should be read and shared aloud; that its metre and music should be known to the ear as well as the eye. I am, however, distrustful of poetry as performativity: is emotion so scripted, so fabricated, so brief? And I am nervous of those who shout too loudly: in the most literal sense, in the beginning is the word and no end of spitting or swearing on stage will ever beat that. That is just a sad failure of the imagination.

INTERVIEWER

As a young ‘Gen Z’ poet who has come of age during years marked by the Iraq war; the global financial crisis and recently years of Brexit and Donald Trump, what is your take on the world around you? How can you use poetry to connect with the world as is?

POTTS

Quite frankly, I think the world is creeping dangerously close to repeating those centuries of war and hatred it said it would leave behind. It makes a mockery of those who died for the sake of democracy; for gender and racial equality; for decency; for rights. It laughs in the face of all those who tried and believed in peace. And all for a headline in the New York Times come morning or, better, a few more followers online. I’ve always thought poets are the quiet scribes of history. Like confessional voices to the past, they can speak with a passion which the history page never will.

INTERVIEWER

What has your personal experience been of trying to break onto the ‘poetry scene’?

POTTS

Well, I never tried to ‘break onto’ it as such. I read and wrote and wrote and read, and found the joy in that alone. I never had a formal plan to stand on stage and tell the world that I, self-titled, am ‘a poet’. It was never as scripted as that. But talent alone will always out, or that is what I’m content to think. And it is mainly due to the kindness of friends – of fellow writers, fellow thinkers – who listened and spoke well of me that others hear my voice today.

INTERVIEWER

In terms of writing poetry, what do you think is most important to keep in mind when writing your initial drafts?

POTTS

Most of all, I’d say that time should be forgotten. Little will come from a hurried mind, and what does is often stillborn. It’s a gift to hold a finished verse but only when it’s right: more joy comes from a well-worked line than a whole verse with no life. Or that’s my belief at least. I can easily spend a week or more just looking at one line. It’s really a very kind process for the mind to let time alone be the catalyst: the thoughts may be intense, yes; but I give them all the open space to grow and romp and play for months, if they need it. It’s a crucial part of my writing style to let the words live with me for hours, or days, or even weeks. If they haven’t settled in by then, I know they’re not to be.

INTERVIEWER

Do you have a specific ‘reader’ or audience in mind when you write?

POTTS

Yes. Excepting the times when I write for commission and must fulfil criteria, I am the audience I write for. The joy has always been in seeing myself reflected back from the page, and never for the approval of anyone else. If there is a time when that should change, I will put down my pen for good.

INTERVIEWER

How would you define creativity?

POTTS

An expressive quality by which the mind can translate imagination into reality.

INTERVIEWER

What does the term ‘poet’ mean to you?

POTTS

That’s a much-contended one! I’ve always tried to reserve that title for a rather select group: that is, for those to whom writing is the defining constant of their lives. Perhaps it is their living; perhaps they’ve been well-published; perhaps they did a whole lot more than stand behind a microphone that one time in the pub. Otherwise, I’ll just go chop myself some wood and call myself a craftsman. No, that will never be enough. I think of it like this alone: if you want to align yourself with those who could, with confidence, call themselves ‘the poets’ in the epic annals of Literature, you have to do much more than that. You must be worthy of the name before you make the claim.

INTERVIEWER

Since Percy Bysshe Shelley penned the Masque of Anarchy, poetry has been used by writers and artists as a means of revolt against the status quo and to champion causes, giving voices to those who perhaps would not otherwise be heard. What are your thoughts on poetry as protest?

POTTS

I have always believed there is something intrinsically restless to poetry: in its formlessness, its shapelessness and its lack of formal laws, there is a freedom unfound in prose. Unlike most other areas of our lives, rules do not exist. And so the union between poetry and politics is a natural one in which the chaos of the latter can find its freedom. And, of course, it always helps that rhyme makes particularly memorable music.

INTERVIEWER

Could you tell us a little about some of the future projects you’re working on?

POTTS

Really, I’m happy enough just to write when I wish and read to widen my mind. But the next natural step is the first collection for which I have a manuscript; for which the time must be right and I must be ready. Other than that, I’m in the early stage of a full-length play for BBC Radio 4 and I’d like to write for the stage someday. But the plan is to be how I’ve always been and just write for the love alone. So we’ll see. When not writing I am reading, and that will be enough.

INTERVIEWER

Could you give your top 5 tips for writers?

POTTS

  • Always have an accessible medium. Notebook, diary, tablet, phone. The back of your hand will do. Just make sure your mind never meets a barricade.
  • The best writers are the best readers. You’ll find your voice by listening to others and gauging your own place in the annals of literature.
  • Read your work aloud. At its ancient roots, poetry was an oral art form often set to music. By reading aloud you’ll remember its heritage and notice its flaws. A poem has a different life on the page to its life in the mouth, and it’s easy to know when a writer does not read aloud: their rhythm could be markedly better.
  • Be kind to yourself. Writer’s block is a terrible friend but one we must endure. Take your time. Sometimes the mind works best when at rest.
  • The only regrets you’ll have are for the times you didn’t try. So why not send that submission today?
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Poetry competitions for 2016

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Amigos, comrades, friends, companions, chums, mates, partners and pals; as we continue to bring you a multitude of creative insights and discussion points, we thought you fine folk would appreciate the following list of upcoming poetry competitions, which you may wish to submit your work.

We’ve previously brought you a whole host of writing competitions you can enter this year, and while they were – for the most part – prose-based contests, we wanted to make sure you had all the resources you need to get your poetic musings out there.

Included in the list below are details about deadlines, poetry submission length and direct links to each competition.

If you’d like to add a poetry competition to our list then please feel free to contact us!

 

  1. Wigtown Poetry Competition 2016

The closing date for submissions is 27th May 2016.

An international poetry prize, based in Scotland, open to poets of all shapes and sizes.

The main prize is £1500, with £400 awarded to the runner up, £250 awarded to each the winner of the Scottish Gaelic Prize and the Scots Prize, and eight additional entries will receive prizes of £25 each.

There is a £6.50 entry fee for your first poem. Please see the contest’s website for further information.

 

  1. The Frogmore Poetry Prize 2016

The closing date for submissions is 31st May 2016

The Frogmore Press was founded in 1983, since when The Frogmore Papers, its bi-annual magazine, has published hundreds of new, neglected and established writers. For subscription and submission details see the main menu. The Frogmore Poetry Prize has been awarded annually since 1987 and attracts entries from all over the world.

If you’re a fan of old currency, this is the prize for you. The winner of the competition will receive two hundred and fifty guineas and a two year subscription to the Frogmore Papers.

There is an entry fee of £3 per poem. Please see the website for further information.

 

  1. The David Burland Poetry Prize 2016

The closing date for submissions is 31st May 2016

Now in its 10th year, the competition continues to attract writers from many countries and once again the prize this year is open to both English and French Writers.

The prize is open internationally to poets aged 16 years or older.

First prize is £500, second prize is £200 and third prize is £100. Prizes are presented for poems in both French and English languages.

There is an entry fee of £9 for your first poem, and £5 for each subsequent entry.

See the website for more information.

 

  1. Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition

The closing date for submissions is 31st May 2016

Poems may be on any subject or style and must not have been previously published, or posted on a website or blog. Poems posted on members-only writing groups for workshop purposes as part of the creative process are not deemed to have been previously published. Poems must also not be under consideration for publication or accepted for publication elsewhere. Poets of all nationalities living anywhere in the world are eligible to enter.

The winning poet will receive £200, with the next two runners up receiving £100 and £50, respectively. All winning entries will be published in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine.

The entry fee changes depending on the number of poems you enter. It looks like this: £4/1, £7/2, £9/3, £11/4, £12/5, £16/7, £22/10.

 

  1. The Bridport Prize

The closing date for submissions is 31st May 2016

A big name prize. The Bridport Prize was founded by Bridport Arts Centre in 1973 and has steadily grown in stature and prestige. Right from the start the competition attracted entries from all parts of the UK and from overseas.

The winning poet will receive £5000, with the second prize winner receiving £1000, third prize £500 and ten further runners up receiving £50 each.

There is an entry fee of £9 per entry. Further information about the prize available here.

 

  1. Women’s Poetry Competition 2016

The closing date for submissions is 13th June 2016

First prize is £2,000, 2nd prize £400, 3rd prize £200, and 17 other finalists each win £25, plus a retreat at the beautiful Cove Park and a mentoring session with The Poetry Review editor. There is also have a special prize for unpublished poets, to make this a brilliant opportunity for both new and experienced writers.

There is an entry fee of £7 for up to three poems.

 

  1. South Bank Poetry Competition

The closing date for submissions is 15th June 2016

This competition is for London poems. Poems should have a London focus or context – any explicit London connection, past, present or future, is acceptable.

There are five prizes: First prize is £300, second prize is £150, third prize is South Bank Poetry Membership (worth £50), fourth prize is a two year subscription to South Bank Poetry magazine, fifth prize is a one year SBP magazine subscription. Additionally, five commended poets will have their poems published in SBP Issue 24, along with the prize winners. There will be a reading at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden, London. All those included in Issue 24 will be invited to read at the subsequent launch readings at the Poetry Society’s Cafe in The Poetry Place at 22 Betterton Street with extended readings for the prize-winning and commended poets.

There is an entry fee of £4 for the first poem, £3 for the second and £2 for the third and each subsequent poem.

 

  1. The Elmet Poetry Prize 2016

The closing date for submissions is 8th July 2016

The judges would like to read poems written in response to Ravens; The City. These can be found in Ted Hughes’s Collected Poems (Faber & Faber). Poems must be written in English and unpublished elsewhere.

Poets may enter up to three poems, at a fee of £5 per poem.

The winner receives £400, with the two runners up receiving £100 and £50, respectively.

 

  1. PENfro Open Poetry Competition 2016

The closing date for submissions is 31st July 2016

The competition is open to anyone aged 16 or over. Poems should be in English, they must not have been previously published, nor be currently submitted for publication or competition elsewhere.
Poems must be the original work of the entrant, they must be typed single spaced on A4 paper and be no longer than 40 lines. See RULES for full details.

There is a maximum length of 40 lines per poem.

First prize is £300, second prize is £125 and third prize is £75.

There is an entry fee of £4 per poem.

 

  1. Winchester Poetry Prize 2016

The closing date for submissions is 31st July

The Winchester Poetry Prize aims to surprise and delight, and strives to give serious recognition to the winning poets.

First prize is £1000, second prize is £500 and third prize is £250.

There is an entry fee of £5 for the first poem and £4 for subsequent entries.

Please view the rules for more information about this competition.

 

  1. Poetry and Politics competition

The closing date for submissions is 31st August 2016

Poets are invited to write a political poem. The theme of this poetry competition is poetry and politics, so in order to enter your poem it must be about any aspect of politics. Your poem can be about international politics or instead be about something political much more closer to home.

So, you can express a vision on world politics, or indeed about a decision made by your local council. For example, you can address politics and religion, or the political aspects of war. The poem can be about civil liberties or threats against them, about social injustices, or even about the politics of the use of certain words or language. The opportunities of this theme are endless.

The judges don’t have to agree with your opinions, but they do want to be touched in some way by your poem, inspired by its imagery and, of course, look for a beautiful use of language.

First prize is £200 and publication. The competition welcomes entries written in English by poets aged over 18. The maximum line length is 50.

There is no entry fee.

 

  1. The Manchester Poetry Prize

The closing date for submissions is 23rd September 2016

The prize is open internationally to new and established writers aged 16 or over.

The winner of the competition will receive £10,000 for the best portfolio of three to five poems (with a maximum combined length of 120 lines).

There is an entry fee of £17.50

 

  1. The Bedford International Poetry Competition

The closing date for submissions is 30th September 2016

The competition is open to international submissions to those poets aged over 18 years.

First prize is £200, second prize is £100 and third prize is £50.

There is an entry fee of £5 per poem (with a discounted rate of £3 for students).

 

  1. Annual Gival Press Poetry Award

The closing date for submissions is 15th December 2016

This competition is open to all poets from across the world. Poetry must be original; but there are no restrictions on any form or style.

The winner will receive US$1,000 and their poetry will be published by Gival Press.

There is a reading fee of US$20.00

Poetry writers wanted!

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Disappear Here Logo: designed by Emilia Moniszko

Disappear Here – a project founded and crowd funded by the artist Adam Steiner – are looking for writers/poets/artists to submit THREE ideas / proposals / full poems for a collaborative poetry-film project about Coventry ringroad.

The 18 artists selected will (in pairs) produce 3 poetry-films between them that explore the ringroad as brutalist/modernist structure/setting/inspiration.

The organisers are interested in artistic approaches to urban space, telling city stories and re-imagining the cyclical ringroad as an (in-between) area of change/flux/progress.

Selected artists will be commissioned for the production of up-to three poems, at a fixed-fee of £350 (to include all travel and costs – with a focus upon paying writers to write) and will work alongside the film-maker in performance/production/consultation of their work.

There will be a summit meeting in Coventry (SAT – 23/7/2016) between all of the participating artists – if applying – please ensure you are free on this date.

DEADLINE for applications is midnight 15/6/2016

TO APPLY

There is a simple application form to be completed – more information: http://www.disappear-here.org/submit

CONTACT

If you have any questions, wish to talk through initial ideas, plesae email: adam@disappear-here.org

Poetry Can F*ck Off is coming to London and Brighton

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Heathcote Williams’ radical new work, Poetry Can F*ck Off is coming to The Cockpit Theatre, London on 29th, 30th, and 31st October 2015; and The Other Place Theatre, Brighton on 20th, and 21st November.

“Poetry Can F*ck Off is a revolution in poetry. And it’s the revolution in poetry”

-Jeremy Hardy

 

When Brainfruit artistic director and seasoned performer, Roy Hutchins began his daily visits to Brighton Occupy in 2011, he did what he does best – rouse the crowds with the words of radical poet, Heathcote Williams.

Williams, known for his idiosyncratic documentary/investigative poetry style, was in turn inspired by Hutchins’ activism to reflect on the role of poetry in all political uprisings, and Poetry Can F*ck Off was born.

 

“A picker pucker panoramic poetry parade”

John Hegley

 

Performed with live music, Brainfruit’s epic production charts the great resistance movements from the Peasants’ Revolt to Occupy Wall Street. Over 80 poets are referenced in a 55-minute mind-bending maelstrom – a compendium of the courageous, creative voices who called for change, from Shelley to Ginsberg to Pussy Riot.

Their Edinburgh run culminated in Williams being awarded the most prestigious award of the festival: The Glasgow Herald Archangel – Lifetime’s Achievement Award.

From Tahrir Square to Fukushima to Mesopotamia, this is not canonical school stuff its electrifying and erudite, passionate and political

-Three Weeks

 

Roy Hutchins is joined by Sameena Zehra, who cut her teeth performing AIDS awareness shows on the streets of Delhi; Jonny Fluffypunk, designated poet of the Bristol squat scene; Selina Nwulu, daughter of Nigerian refugees, charting her parents’ flight from the civil war in her poetry; and they are joined by a host of special guests – all underscored with live, original music from Dr Blue.

A convincing case for poetry as weapon of choice in the revolution

-Sabotage Reviews

 

In the light of recent political events, this radical work finds itself a part of a much larger movement of artists, liberals and activists calling for change, and the response (and in many cases participation) of the audience has been electric. The reminder that words alone can bring down a tyrant, encapsulate a vision, or simply embarrass complacent leaders into action, has never been more timely.

Auden said, Poetry

Makes nothing happen. Auden

Was quite mistaken.

The world that you know

Can have its entire shape changed

By just one poem. Poetry teaches

The heart to think.

 

Poetry was school

Roddy Doyle recalls.

All poetry could fuck off.

Professor Wu says:

“This much needed poetic call to arms promises to provide a crucial rallying cry against authority figures whose pursuit of power at all costs threatens to reduce our society and culture to binary and uninspired norms of cultural subservience and insignificance. Nothing in the Rulebook wholeheartedly recommends you attend one – if not all! – of these upcoming shows. This revolution will be poetic.”

Further reading

To find out more about the project, follow @PoetryCanFckOff on Twitter, Like their Facebook Page and check out their website!

Creatives In Profile: Interview with Rishi Dastidar

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Creativity, in all its myriad different forms, can take us to the edge of the world and look beyond. It can inspire, inform, influence. Used in the right way, it can illuminate the path ahead.

Because of this, Nothing in the Rulebook has been founded to emphasise such creativity. Yet we’re also here to highlight not just works of creativity; but the creative individuals who write our stories and our poetry; take our photographs; create our artworks.

Our new ‘Creatives in profile’ interview series offers creatives the opportunity to discuss their life and art at length. And it is an honour to introduce our very first interview – with journalist, copywriter and poet, Rishi Dastidar – Assistant Editor at The Rialto.

He has written for a wide variety of brands in different sectors during his career, while his poetry has been published by the Financial Times, Tate Modern and the Southbank Centre amongst many others. His work was most recently in Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe, 2014). A winner of And Other Stories short story prize in 2012, he has also had reviews published in the Times Literary Supplement. He was part of the 2014-15 Rialto / Poetry School editorial development programme, and also serves as a trustee of Spread The Word.

INTERVIEWER

Tell me about yourself, where you live and your background/lifestyle.

DASTIDAR

Ach, no, that stuff doesn’t really matter. Suffice to say: London-born and still reside; older than I’d like to be; over-educated, work in marketing; you’ll mostly find me in bookshops, theatres and burger joints. If your readers really want to know more, and frankly I’d be worried if they did, I’m not too hard to find online.

INTERVIEWER

Is creativity and writing your first love, or do you have another passion?

DASTIDAR

Let’s say ‘writing’ rather than creativity, as in the advertising / marketing / brand world I also inhabit, it does have a different, means-to-an-end spin. It’s a love, yes, fraught with all the difficulties that implies… I knew I wanted to ‘write’ by the age of 14. But I had no clue what I wanted to write, let alone how I could make a living out of it. Thank God I did find out in the end… But music was actually my gateway to everything: discovering Queen, R.E.M. and then My Bloody Valentine early in my teens, and then the NME, the writers, the sub-cultures, the new genres… I have spent a lot of time being a neophiliac, chasing new sounds and new words, which in an analogue age was much harder than it is now.

INTERVIEWER

How long have you been working with The Rialto – and could you let us know a little more about the magazine?

DASTIDAR

I’ve been lucky enough, along with Holly Hopkins, to be part of the most recent editorial development programme the magazine has been running along with the Poetry School. The programme started in October 2014, and we recently ‘graduated’ with the publication of issue 83 of the magazine. So about 10 months or so, during which we worked with Michael Mackmin, the editor, looking at submissions, choosing and then finessing poems, working out running orders, organising launches, even getting involved with behind the scenes stuff too – a real immersion in what it takes to get a magazine published.

The Rialto is (adopts sales voice) the UK’s leading independent poetry magazine; going for 30 news now, based in Norwich, with an enviable track record in spotting and publishing some of then best new voices in British poetry. I might of course be a bit biased, but it’s really the place to come if you want to dive into and immerse yourself in poems, loads of them. And if you’re a writer – send some poems! We’re always on the hunt for good ones, from every quarter.

INTERVIEWER

When looking to submit poetry, what are the steps and key aspects to consider before doing so?

DASTIDAR

I think talking of ‘steps and key aspects’ makes it sound far more of an intensive burden than it should be. It’s mostly advanced common sense, I think:

  • Make sure you read the magazine / publication you want to submit to: if you’re a writer of doomy melancholic epics, the editor of that light verse magazine isn’t going to be hugely impressed. Do your research.
  • Don’t send your first draft: it won’t be ready. I guarantee it. If it takes 8, 16, 20 drafts to get a poem right, then take that long. This is a patient game. And the poem will wait for you.
  • Speaking of patience, don’t be alarmed or downhearted if you don’t get an instant response. Most poetry magazines are labours of love, run in people’s spare time. Things do sometimes get lost and timelines slip; but if your poem is good enough, it will get found.
  • But do send. You won’t get on to editors’ radar without doing so – or rather, it’s less likely. And you deserve to give yourself that shot. Editors are hungry for new poems and new voices. And yours could be the one their page has been waiting for.

INTERVIEWER

Do you have a specific ‘reader’ or audience in mind when you write?

DASTIDAR

Depends; I’ll often write poems which are for, or inspired by, a particular person, and I try to keep them in my mind’s eye when drafting. But mostly, I’m self-indulgently trying to entertain myself – that someone else then subsequently likes my nonsense is unutterably humbling and pleasing.

INTERVIEWER

How would you define creativity?

DASTIDAR

Putting two or more different things together, and hoping for the best.

INTERVIEWER

What does the term ‘poet’ mean to you?

DASTIDAR

On a good day: a post-modern Casanova. On a bad day: a failed post-modern Casanova.

INTERVIEWER

James Joyce argued poetry was “always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality.” In the modern world, ‘actuality’ is increasingly hard to define – with reality often seeming more fictitious than fiction and beyond the imagination of mainstream culture. How does poetry revolt against actuality in a reality increasingly ‘false’? And what role can poetry play in protest and activism – specifically protest and revolt against current dictats of ‘reality’?

DASTIDAR

Let’s separate some of that out, mainly because I lack the brain power to try and conflate poetry and power, and then deal with reality on top.

In terms of activism, politics, and the relation to power, poetry clearly can’t do much in terms of the hard stuff of changing things on the ground, policy, implementation. But where it can and must play a role is in that more indefinable sphere – the one of arguing for new vistas, new perspectives on problems; bringing into the public domain voices that might otherwise go unheard; opening up space for the imagination, because at one level politics is the art of using power imaginatively. I think part of the disaffection from politics as currently practiced that lots of people feel at the moment is precisely because the language of it is managerial and corporate, rather than poetic. People hunger for rhetoric – it wasn’t just because Obama was cool that people flocked to him; it was precisely because he could couch his arguments in ways that were, more or less, poetic. Of course, you have to deliver, but bloody hell you have to inspire too.

Now, you’ll note that I said that politics and imagination are linked. So I think part of what our job as poets revolves around imagining new realities – that is to say, not to take the world as it is, but to dig about, to reveal what’s underneath, sense what can be changed, find the language that can help to change it. If there is any revolt that poetry has to make, it’s against that sense that there is only one way of doing things, one way to the truth. Our gifts as engineers of metaphor should make us embrace the idea of multiple realities. Because we can do and do see the familiar anew, and we should wake the world up to that.

INTERVIEWER

In an internationalist, interconnected world, ideas and creativity are constantly being flung across community threads, internet chatrooms and forums, and social media sites (among many others). With so many different voices speaking at once, how do you cut through the incessant digital background babble? How do you make your creativity – your voice – stand out and be heard?

DASTIDAR

If I crack that, I’ll be rich and I’ll tell you afterwards.

INTERVIEWER

For all writing, the importance of finding the right ‘voice’ is of course crucial. Often, writers’ speak of developing an ‘other’ – who provides that voice when they write. How have you created and refined your voice and tone for your writing – and do you have a separate, ‘other’ persona who helps you write?

DASTIDAR

Hmmm; my day job involves a lot of writing for different brands, so I guess I’ve got reasonably skilled at some form of ventriloquism. Whether that’s come across into my poetry, I’m not so sure; but then, looking at the tone that’s emerging through a lot of what I’ve written over the last 18 months or so, the poet in them is probably more sure than I actually feel about things; probably more political than I actually am in real life; and certainly more articulate in conversation than I ever hope to be. Though I do worry the guy in the poems could be a bit too bumptious, and wearing if you have a prolonged exposure to him… How has that voice arrived? By writing and writing and writing, I’m afraid. No shortcuts. Oh and embracing the tendency to maximise that I appear to have. Even my short poems appear to be full – of nonsense mostly, but still.

INTERVIEWER

Could you tell us a little about some of the future projects you’re working on?

DASTIDAR

At the moment it’s trying to pull a manuscript together for a first collection, and writing some more poems to flesh that out. There’s always other ideas for projects floating around, but I have great trouble committing to any one of them… but the itch to write something like a verse novel is becoming almost unbearable so I think I will have to attack that at some point soon.

INTERVIEWER

And, finally, could you write us a story in 6 words?

DASTIDAR

‘Lazarus was tired of his trick.’

I’ve done loads of those. More here.