Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Neil Laurenson

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

 

Exclamation-Marx-COVER

Neil Laurenson
is a stand-up poet based in Worcester. He has regularly performed around the country, including at Wenlock Poetry Festival, Ledbury Poetry Festival and Cheltenham Poetry Festival. His debut book Exclamation Marx! was published by Silhouette Press.

www.neillaurenson.com

@NeilLaurenson

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I started reading Philip Larkin in the university library and thought, ‘This is poetry I can understand!’ Shortly afterwards, I wrote dreadful, unintentional Larkin parodies in my grandparents’ house on the edge of Salisbury Plain while hearing bomber planes set off for Iraq.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

One of my primary school teachers, I think

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I was well aware of ‘older poets’ at university, especially as I was studying English Literature. In terms of occupation of bookshelves, I couldn’t deny their dominance. I vividly remember reading Larkin in a bookshop in Cambridge, and he was probably surrounded by Eliot, Tennyson, Auden, etc.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I write a lot of emails at work! I don’t have a poetry writing routine. I can’t schedule poetry; it happens at random times.

5. What motivates you to write?

Making people laugh and letting off steam about politics. Fun and anger.

6. What is your work ethic?

Never give up. That’s it.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

In my 20s, which I now think is ‘young’, the poetry I read then made me realise that poetry can be about anything and doesn’t need to be obscure to be classed as poetry.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Brian Bilston – the pun master. His poem ‘Refugees’ is poetry at its most powerful and should be studied in schools. Elvis McGonagall is hilarious yet deadly serious. John Osborne is the sort of writer you want to keep as a secret with your friends. Amy McAllister is also hilarious and very rude. Steve Pottinger and Byron Vincent are brilliant performers and lovely people. I’ve only just found about Suhaiyma Manzoor-Khan (and ordered her book, which is out in September). She is the most exciting poet I have heard in a long time.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I like the phrasing of the question: it suggests that I write a lot, which unfortunately isn’t true! I do lots of things other than writing, but writing is what I most enjoy. I love writing poetry that makes people laugh, because what could be better than making a room full of people spontaneously happy?

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

The word ‘writer’ implies that one is constantly or regularly writing. If my identity is based on what I do most frequently, it would be more accurate to called me a dishwasher! As Miroslav Holub wrote in his poem ‘Conversation with a poet’ (1982): ‘If you’ve written poems it means you *were* a poet. But now? / I’ll write a poem again one day.’ Anyway, to answer your question properly: you become a writer by writing and write because you want to write.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I have a collection of poems that is sadly unpublished and resting inside a memory stick. It’s been over three years since my book ‘Exclamation Marx!’ was published, so, referring to my previous answer, this makes me feel like I *was* a poet. Another project is a solo show called ‘To be Blair’, which is about me dressing up as Tony Blair (in protest not in tribute). I really should finish writing it and perform it.

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