old-school-ties2Q: You no longer live in Stoke, but you still do the odd decorating job or two. Does this long career in painting continue to worm its way in to your written work, or do you keep the two activities separate?

A: Definitely separate. Once you have a trade in your hands it’s hard to turn work away. It’s what I know. I left Stoke to travel and to pursue other things that I only gained moderate success in, so I was constantly falling back on ‘the tools’ to stay alive. I was fortunate to serve my apprenticeship under the guidance of old hands who were on the cusp of retirement. I learned all the tricks and politics of industry: divide and rule; them and us etc., and met some colourful characters – great times. In practicing writing, I’ve recorded much of my working environment but have since moved on to other subjects that engage me.

Q: A number of years ago you were a figure on the performance poetry circuit, and these days it seems you are focused more on the poetry of the page. How has this shift come about?

A: Arrggh! I was dreading this coming up. I could never define the ‘Performance Poet’ tag you know, it never sat right. Rhyming rants started at the tail end of my comprehensive school days and it was the sort of thing I’d do on open-mike nights in dodgy boozers, or at weddings. I developed a batch of work that I punted around Soho for a while. It got me an Equity card, but I felt I was coming across as some sort of rip-off John Cooper Clarke merchant, who subsequently I had the pleasure to share various billings with. I was shite at it to be honest and it started to eat me up. Anyhow, I began to note other ideas and there began the search to find my ‘voice’ and develop as a writer. It’s difficult, working in the dark, but I was confident to submit my better work to some literary magazines. Most of it was rejected – they get sack loads, but the acceptance of my first poem coincided with a big shift in my work. Presently, it’s going okay. Slow, but I’m turning out some decent stuff. I’m aware that another shift is imminent before I’ll feel ready for my first collection of ‘proper’ poems.

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