Sunday 18 July 2010

Q&A With York and London based Spoken Word artist - Rob Auton

Rob Auton is from York.

I first met him at a poetry slam where he was disqualified for using props – I thought he was a genius straight away and felt his disqualification was part of the act. Once you made it into my books as a genius you get a license to get away with anything in my world- a bit like Phillip Seymour Hoffman when he gets an unlimited arts council ‘Genius’ grant in the film 'Synecdoche New York'...

Rob Auton is from York!

He was at PoeJazzi recently and I took a CD off him. I loved the way it was packaged in a little cardboard slip, stapled together with a child like drawing of what looked like a whale with a beak and little wings – bless him.

The CD was brilliant – 21 short satirical poems and short stories–

“I can tell by the look of her cat that she doesn’t like cats
I can tell by the look of her dog that she doesn’t like cats”

There was also a poem about a car spotter.

“I am a car spotter, my favorite type of traffic is jam”

I call this genius and that might make me a dunce! Who knows?

Q. Rob Auton, how are you, who are you and should we care?

I'm OK thanks. I'm writing this in the heart of an Internet cafe in Walthamstow. Not a hot drink in sight. There is however a vending machine, it's full but the light is off. Does that mean the drinks are luke warm? Yes, yes it does. 14 minutes of my 50p hour have passed.

Q. Are you comfortable with being called a Spoken Word poet? Do you see yourself this way?

Are you calling me a spoken word poet? If so, then yes I am comfortable with it. Nobody has ever called me that to my face. My iPod batteries have just run out. So I can now hear the tapping of these keys, and people talking on skype. The guy next to me is talking to his girlfriend, I can see her, but she can't see me. Or can she? No she can't. I’m not looking again. They are having a private conversation, what better place to have it than in an Internet cafe?

Q. What’s your work ethic as a poet/ writer and performer?

If I have an idea, I write it in my notepad or into my phone, whichever is in my pocket at the time. If it's an idea that I like and it keeps poking me in the centre of my forehead throughout the day, then I will work on it when I get home, or on my lunch break. Sometimes things work on themselves, other times I've got to do it. I like the ideas that come like ready meals and I've just got to heat them up with as little effort as possible. I want to get as much stuff down as as I can so I can go back to it and see if it is rubbish or not. Is that an ethic? I want to put things in people's heads that are not already there.

Q. How do poets make money?

Working in art shops in soho.

Q. You run a night called ‘Bang Said The Gun’? Is it successful by your own standards and what would you advise on someone who is starting out their own poetry night?

Since Bang Said The Gun went weekly in February it has really started to fizz. I jumped on the Bang wagon after it had been going for ten years, by that time, the guys that started it had cemented the spirit of it to have real guts. We keep trying to build it and add things every week to keep it fresh. I think you have got to have the audience at the front of your mind all the time, you can't put on a poetry night for you it has to be for the audience. Not that I put it on, I help to put it on. I think it’s important to be part of a team of people that you share a goal with.

Q. What is the future of poetry? Is there one?

The future of poetry is the people who feel the need to comment on this thing that we have all been born into. I remember one of your status updates saying something like "a lot of people have died in the past, we are the small few who are alive." It's true you know, all the people who are alive now, it's like we are on the front of a really wide train powered by the past and we are all clinging onto the front with the wind in our faces travelling into the future. Say you had a black rectangle that was 50 meters long and 5 meters high we would be the yellow millimeter at the right end. The future of poetry is people feeling that thing of going, ‘YEEEEAHH come on lets have it, pass me that pen, I want to WRITE about this stuff that going on’.

Q. As a poet are you under-rated or more so misunderstood?

I didn't consider myself to be either until now.

Q. Is your poetry consciously outrageous or have I just insulted you?

I don't think my poetry has ever caused outrage. I got an old woman in a brief loving headlock on the tube after a large amount of Tequila, that was outrageous behavior that I regret.

I've been doing this for 51 minutes.

Q. Where do you see yourself tomorrow?

I will be in the art shop at 8am dealing with a Daler Rowney delivery. Tomorrow as in the future, I will be having ideas, seeing if I like them, then seeing if other people like them.

Q. Rob – your stuff is brilliant – you know that right?

My parents like some of it, not all of it.

Follow Rob on Twitter -

Friday 9 July 2010

Q&A with London and Birmingham based poet and Spoken Word Artist - Deanna Rodger

In my first ever performance in a Slam Poetry contest, I was shouty, monotone and over-animated but I somehow reached the ‘Farrago UK Slam final’ head to head with the energetic, loose canon ball that is Deanna Rodger.

Deanna has this charm she carries to the stage, her nerves hold her face in the widest but shyest of smiles. You don’t quite expect to witness the breakage of a storm... but you do... and I take no shame in losing that final to such a wild force of nature.

She has this way with stretching out a multi-syllabic metaphor and delivering four lines in one breath while steering you through the heavy winds of emotion contained in the voice of her poems.

She’s a natural and unconsciously pulls off some of the finest crafted Spoken Word poetry London has to offer.

Q. Yo Dee! Remember when we met? How the hell did you end up at the Farrago Slam that night?

Dean Atta who was my sort of mentor at the time told me to go down and do it, so I did!

Q. I was so amazed when you said you don’t read much poetry and you couldn’t name many poets – where on earth does your fire come from?

I could name a poet I just didn’t have an interest in it! I have always been a bookworm and still read an awful lot, but I didn’t read poetry unless I was in a classroom. To be honest poetry found me, I never thought of myself as a poet and I certainly wasn't searching for it. I think I have always had something to say but was never really able to speak it with sense. Poetry was a safe way to do that.

Q. Got a favorite poet yet?

Ah I'm ready for this question!! I got given a book of the entire collection of Langston Hughes and I am enjoying it, I even memorized a quote! I try not to have favorites. I don't think I've seen enough (defiantly have not read enough) to put a name in paper. Though there is a sonnet by Shakespeare I really like.

Q. I know you are uncertain about whether you can have financial stability and an active career in Spoken Word – would you believe me if I said in ten years time poetry is going to make us RICH!?

Yeah I would! I have no doubt that there are a lot of young people that see a Market stall for poetry. However I have to ask myself whether I want to rely on an industry that has the attention span of a toddler? As much as I would love poetry to become more lucrative, I would prefer it to stay beautiful rather than turn into a competitive brawl of people calling themselves poets because they exploit humor, shallow clich├ęs and rhyming couplets to win the crowd.

Q. You have got into events organizing; you did the Lyric Lounge with Dean Atta, which was a big night! How’s that movement going?

It's grown and left home! We are focusing on a new night called 'come rhyme with me' which launches on the 30th July and features some of the hottest fiercest talent in the scene. Excitingly Bothyself and Dean (Atta) are associate producers of a festival in association with Richmond MENCAP called Play at the Waterfront which will be on the 7th August. I've also linked up with you and Mista Gee to organize a more accessible weekly evening 'Chill Pill' which is a beautiful thing! I'm trying to try everything. I'm young, I'm still learning. Luckily I have got some very good supportive and inspiring people around me!

Q. Where do you see yourself in 4 years?

Lord knows his plan for me; I can't be trusted with it just yet! I can only hope to be more everything than what I am now.

Q. Spoken Word has taken you all over the nation and to parts of Europe – Germany, France etc how has travelling influenced your performance and writing?

(smiles!) I think this question is better suited for a conversation! In short though, travelling has shown me that there is no limit to what you can write and perform! The slammers in Germany are very performy! And it definitely makes their performance universal. In France I was lucky to see a world of talent and styles and I would say that although I'm still writing from me, I feel like I am a richer writer able to draw from different societies. Visiting different lands also helps me to put my own life into perspective and reflect.

Q. If you have kids would you like them to follow your footsteps as a Spoken Word artist– if that is what you pursue?

I will have kids! And obviously I would love for them to be writers and to be creative but that could be in anything they love. I don't want to put ceilings over my kids. Boundaries yes, but not ceilings.

Q. Finally, you’re sick, and the London Spoken Word circuit needs you – you know that right?

Ahh that's nice! I don't know about need me. I think that's a bit too much pressure, I think I am good at what I do and I love what I do, I just want to do my bit, encourage other young talented writers, have fun, make friends, create experience, make money and a name then bounce and make space for the younger’s!