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This week LitroTV is thrilled to announce our new slot In the Bedroom with our resident poet, Sally Jenkinson. In the Bedroom will feature Sally fortnightly, offering viewers an exciting mix of original performances, updates of latest gigs, festivals and open mics and reviewing and showcasing whatever takes her fancy. Sally’s first slot will kick off our next issue Poland with a special themed piece.
To get to know her better, LitroTV talks to her about what poetry means to her, what is says on her tax return and mining…….
Tell us about your collaboration with LitroTV and how excited you are.
I’m going to be presenting poetry videos, new work and original recordings, and maybe some reviews, regularly to LitroTV as their poet in residence. I’m really excited because Litro provides such a brilliant platform for all kinds of literature, so I’m proud to be representing poetry, and specifically live poetry, in such an exciting literary environment.
Tell us something about yourself that we won’t find on the internet.
I am currently working on a poem about superheroes, as requested by my friend (and excellent poet) Wilf Merttens. We give each other homework sometimes.
When you were first starting out, was promoting yourself and your work as important to you as creating it?
No. It never occurred to me for ages. I was just writing things and enjoying telling them out loud. Self-promotion is this weird pathogen that creeps in as you spend more time performing. Then suddenly its part of your job and it is terrifying! It doesn’t come naturally to me. My publisher literally had to sit me down in a café, buy me breakfast and walk me through building my website step by step. I’m very grateful that he did though, I’m getting to grips with it now!
How much is storytelling a part of your work?
Because I perform a lot, and because I’m a gobshite, there tends to be a lot of chatter in between poems. It’s not story-telling exactly, in the same way as professional story-tellers do it. It’s more a kind of coat, gloves and hat for the poem before you send it off into the outside world. As much as poems should obviously stand alone as pieces of work, in performance I relish spinning yarns around them- for context, for embellishment, to put listeners at ease or to invite them into the poems. Not all the stories I tell around the poems are true. I don’t think they have to be, but they will compliment and support (or counterpoint) the poem in a way that I hope helps people to enjoy it.
Poetry, as an oral tradition, has always been a way of telling stories, sharing commonalities between human and chewing over our differences in a communal setting. I find it very comforting.
When did you start considering poetry as your career and not a hobby?
It was very gradual. I’ve always had two, three, four jobs, ever since I was 16. Then over the last two years I had less and less ‘other’ work, and more writing, performing and workshops. It was a kind of an accident. And don’t get me wrong, even though it says ‘poet’ on my tax return, some months it’s all occasional bar shifts, a day of supply teaching, agency support work, stage managing, face-painting, house cleaning… whatever is temporary and provides ready cash and won’t interfere too much with writing! But there are chunks of time these days when I am not anything but a poet, and they are fun and gleeful and scary and surreal!
Is it important to you that people understand the meaning (if there is one) of your poems?
Yes. I want them to be really communicative. I want people to get something from them. I don’t think all poetry should have to be that way. I really relish poetry, or any art actually, that is difficult or obtuse or challenging or avant-garde. I think it’s essential that that stuff exists in order for progress to be able to happen. But I’m a sucker for a shared experience and I want to make people gasp and grin and squeeze their mates hand and maybe pop a little tear out.
Do you prefer writing or performing your poems?
Both, and they definitely inform each other. There’s something challenging about performing, because it means you have to think about a direct connection between you and the person / people listening. I’m not naturally gregarious in some ways. I’m terrified of eye contact. It’s good to challenge yourself. But it’s the writing bit that I look forward to the most. It’s like mining. You have to be really tough and dig around in loads of shit ideas until you find something good to say!
Gun to head -what is your favourite poem?
Eeeeep! Ok, ok. I’m having three…
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost (for weighty, comforting, brilliant words)
Banana Milk by Caroline Bird (for the visceral relief when poetry articulates your own experiences)
Little Viennese Waltz by Federico Garcia Lorca / Take This Waltz by Leonard Cohen (for the gleeful, delicious possibility of words)
Emma Cooper is editor of Litro's visual arts channel LitroTV. She is a Bedfordshire based writer, passionate about films and books and in particular short stories. You can see more of her writing at www.skewedstories.com and www.readwave.com.