Megan performing at 451
What is your first memory of poetry?
I’ve loved words for as long as I can remember. I can’t really remember when the penny dropped exactly but I loved writing. I enjoyed sitting in the corner of the primary school playground and scribbling words into a tatty notebook and that still hasn’t changed. I’m happiest with a notebook in my hand and an incomprehensible scrawl across the page.
When and why did you start considering you could be a poet?
I’ve always written and I particularly enjoyed poetry from a young age. When I was eleven, I won a poetry competition called the Threshold Prize which was judged by Phillip Pullman. That definitely boosted my confidence and made me think that other people might be interested in my work. There’s no doubt though I’m indebted to my Secondary school English teacher, Rachel Hill, for really encouraging me to write poetry for performance and enabling me to be confident enough to stand up in front of people and bare my soul for a living. A small chunk of everything I have done as a poet is due to her.
What does poetry mean to you?
Poetry for me is liberation. It is the comfort of saying something to a room full of strangers and a handful of them coming up and saying ‘Wow! I feel like that too’ or ‘I’d never seen things that way before’. But more important than that it is a way of sorting out your own feelings, of perhaps turning negative experiences into positive outcomes and commemorating the positive moments in your life. Whether reading the work of others, writing or performing, it is the comfort and power of words that fuel my love of poetry.
Your favourite verse:
As an English undergraduate and an avid spoken word fan this a ridiculously difficult question- though I’ve always had a soft spot for Yeats.
Adam’s Curse – By William Butler Yeats
We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’
I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’
We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.
(From my own work)
Again a supremely tough question, this is my current fave, it’s the titular poem from my collection which is coming out in December.
When I grow up I want to be Mary Beard,
A classy, classic, classicist
Wickedly wonderful and wise
full to brim with life,
whilst explaining the way in which Caligula died on BBC prime time
and I would like, like her, to shine
the kind inclined to speak her mind,
refined and blinding.
Yet I am finding it tough to grow up
in a world where twitter is littered with abuse towards women
where intelligent, eminent, eloquent females are met with derision
because she should be able to analyse Augustus’ dictums,
or Early AD epithets, without having to scroll through death,bomb and rape threats.
Do not tell me this is just the internet or a public figure deserves everything they get.
Because this isn’t just about one academic, it’s endemic of this society enmeshed in sexist rhetoric.
I cannot live accepting it!
Because when I grow up I want to be Mary Beard,
to wear shiny converse and converse on conquerors and pioneers ,
A sheer delight, an igniter of young minds
But never a victim,
Like Minerva herself, a goddess of wisdom.
One poet that should be looked up:
So many poets inspire me and ignite my imagination but I would have to say Charlotte Higgins. A young, bright explosion of eloquence contained in the body of a well-mannered, quiet Northern Irish girl. I was lucky enough to work with her when we both won the Poetry Society’s National Youth Slam: SLAMbassadors. Never before that had I encountered a poet who made me openly weep through their performance. She is a rare gem! Also Joelle Taylor, the SLAMbassadors coordinator. I cannot imagine my life or my poetry career without her incomparable and soul-enhancing words and her wonderful presence in it.
From one young creative to another:
I feel a bit of a fraud giving other people advice but I think the key thing for anyone trying to get involved in writing and poetry performance is passion for what you are doing. Nerves and stage fright are tricky things to overcome but I believe if you attack a stage with all the passion you have in you, that can be nothing other than a positive thing. Write all the time. It may not be something that works. It may be something you never want to perform, but making mistakes, trying new things and editing are all really key skills in writing. But most importantly just relish opportunities and love words and what your doing, I think that kind of passion is infectious and is what people really respond to in other’s work.
See Megan in action at:
Jawdance: a monthly FREE performance poetry night held at Rich Mix, with open-mic opportunities and a great way to show off that TALENT!
451: a bi-monthly showcase of some of the most dynamic and talented performance poets from around the UK, as well as an opportunity for up-and-coming and new poets to stand up and make their name be heard.
Join the Jawdance Facebook group and 451 Facebook group for opportunities.