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Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category

Interview: Come Rhyme With Me

In Interview, Saboteur Awards on May 16, 2013 at 9:30 am

interviewed by James Webster 

come rhyme

With the Saboteur Awards results to be announced at the Awards Party in just two weeks, we interview Best Regular Spoken Word Night nominees Come Rhyme With Me about their event and its unique food-themed format.

Let’s start with the basics: how long has Come Rhyme with Me been running and when/where does it take place?

Come Rhyme With Me will have been running for 3 years in July. Come Rhyme With Me takes place twice a month.

On the 3rd Friday of each month we travel to The Writers Place (9-10 Jew St) in Brighton and on the last Friday of each month we are based at Cottons Islington (70 Exmouth Market) in London.

How did Come Rhyme with Me come into being? Was it done with a particular ethos or mission statement in mind?

In 2010, Naomi Woddis put out a call for an event to take place at Cottons Islington. Dean and Deanna had previously curated events together at Lyric Hammersmith and were keen to establish their own independent event, one that promoted quality spoken word and poetry. They wanted to create an event they would pay to go to.

Come Rhyme With Me has a really unique spin on it with its “set menu of performers” and focus on food. What led to that decision?

Upon seeing the space and the restaurant the idea for a food and poetry night was formed. They pitched the idea to the owners (Beverley and Andrew) and Come Rhyme With Me was conceived!

You run nights in London and Brighton, do you find there’s difference in style/flavour between the events in different areas?

In 2011 Dean was invited to curate an event for New Writing South, an organisation that promotes writing and writers of all types in the South East of the country. Dean decided to bring Come Rhyme With Me, the event was a part of Brighton Fringe Festival and was a success. New Writing South invited Dean and Deanna to launch a regular Come Rhyme With Me at The Writers Place and so Come Rhyme With Me Brighton was launched!

Who have been your favourite performers that you’ve had at Come Rhyme with Us? What have been the other highlights?

There have been so many amazing performers at Come Rhyme With Me not to mention the performers that come through the appetiser (open mic) section. The Christmas party where we had an array of performers has been a highlight. Not to mention the successful collaborations between Come Rhyme With Me and Oval House Theatre and London Liming at Rich Mix.

What do you look for when you book performers for your “set menu?

The menu is chosen with flavours in mind. What style the performer is and how they would fit in a holistic sense. Very few acts are rebooked though Starters are brought back as Mains or Desserts.

What have been the challenges of running a regular spoken word event?

Not so much challenges as standards. Come Rhyme With Me is all about quality of experience.

What is your opinion of the state of spoken word and performance poetry in London and the UK?

It’s strong and getting stronger each year. Events such as Come Rhyme With Me, Bang Said The Gun and Chill Pill are constantly bringing in new audiences and showcasing emerging talent.

If you’re trying to convince someone who’s never heard of Come Rhyme with Me to come to your events then what do you say?

The food element is a massive draw as are the unique line ups and open mic aspect. Dean and Deanna have also been praised for their ability to create a warm and welcoming environment for all audiences. Why don’t you Come and Rhyme With Us!?

And finally, have you heard of Sabotage before (if so, what?) and are you pleased to be nominated for a Saboteur award?

Come Rhyme With Me is very pleased to be nominated for a Saboteur award. It’s a first of hopefully many. Massive thanks to all those who nominated and have voted.

Come Rhyme With Me is run by Dean Atta and Deanna Rodger. They’re cool, check them out.

Interview: The Inky Fingers Open Mic

In Interview, Performance Poetry, Saboteur Awards on April 27, 2013 at 4:45 pm

interviewed by James Webster

inky banner

The Inky Fingers Open Mic has been nominated for the Best Regular Spoken Word Night category in this year’s Saboteur Awards. Here, I chat with the Inky Fingers collective about what makes their event unique.

Let’s start with the basics: how long has Inky Fingers Open Mic been running and when/where does it take place?

 We kicked off in October 2010, and we’ve run an open mic on the last Tuesday of every month ever since. Our much-loved home, the Forest Café, has had to move in that time, so the open mic’s moved three times since, but we’re now ensconced at the Forest on 141 Lauriston Place. Keep track of us at http://inkyfingersedinburgh.wordpress.com/!

HG

Who are the Inky Fingers collective and how did the group come into being?

The core collective currently comprises a shifting, non hierarchical, boundlessly energetic group of the following people, found in varying combinations in time and space at any one time: Freddie Alexander (Soapbox), Alec Beattie (Blind Poetics), Mairi Campbell-Jack, Harry Giles (Anatomy), Ioannis Kalkounnis (Fledgling Press), Rachel McCrum (Rally & Broad, Stewed Rhubarb Press), Katherine McMahon (Outspoken), Rose Ritchie (Craigmillar Writers Group), Tracey S. Rosenberg and Agnes Török (Soapbox). And of the group are also involved organising various spoken word and performance events in Edinburgh (specifics in the brackets).

RM

I set up the open mic back in 2010 with another writer named Alice Tarbuck, and when we realised we were onto a good thing we decided to open up the organisation to whoever had the energy and inclination! So it keeps changing and growing with whoever wants to make things happen.

We’ve answered this interview collectively as well, so you can track us by our initials.

HG

The way you describe your open mic seems to make a point of being inclusive, inviting all different kinds of work, genres and types of performance. Why did you decide on that particular focus/ethos?

Open mics grow us, not just through giving us places to practise, but also because they feed us a wonderful diversity of words. We can find out not what one editor or host thinks we want to hear, but what a scrappy, diverse collective wants to say. Open mics are also the fertiliser of a scene, because they create new performers, and that creates new organisers and events. Without them, we wouldn’t have everything else.

When I have new work in new forms I want to try out, open mics are the first place I go to. A well-hosted open mic is warm and welcoming, and the audience is there not to judge you but to enjoy being with you. An open mic gives me the license to not be that good, to get it wrong, to make a mistake and for that to be OK. Without open mics, I’d just perform the same style of thing over and over, because I’d feel too scared to try something I didn’t know worked. And every open mic I go to – literally every one – has at least one person doing something new with words I never expected.

More than that, people do words, do art, for all sorts of different reasons. Some of them want a career. Some of them find it therapeutic. Some of them want to get their anger out. Some of them want you to fall in love with them. Some of them are desperate for a place to speak out in a world that prevents them from speaking. Some of them are in love with beauty, with many different kinds of beauty. Some of them find that only doing art makes them feel good. Some of them don’t even know why they’re doing this. All of this needs a space. All of this should have a space. That’s what an open mic is. Open, and free, always.

HG

And what have the highlights of this inclusivity been? What kinds of really surprising or different performances have emerged from the open mic?

OK, so for me the best moments aren’t always the most surprising or outré. What I really live for is when a writer performs their words into a microphone for the first time. There’s this look they get, this total joy of connection with the audience, that I’m just so grateful for. That makes me keep hosting open mics more than anything else! Supporting people in finding a voice.

That said. Someone once read the instructions on a loudhailer box, that was good. Someone once performed the poems of Marilyn Monroe. There was a great flash-fiction about toothless zombies last month that made me smile. You know, words!

HG

And what do you look for when you book your feature performers and what have some of the highlights been of their sets?

Availability, variety, experimentation. We want to be a stopping point for international poets on tour, as well as a platform for up and coming local talent. Kristiana Rae Colon was a recent pleasure and privilege to put on; last year a big set from Jon Sands and Ken Arkind was joyous.

RM

What have the challenges been in running Inky Fingers in general and the Open Mic in particular?

As we’re all volunteers, sometimes we get tired…the advantage of working as a collective means that there are (usually) just enough of us to cover everything, should one or two people take a(n entirely reasonable) sabbatical.

We run an open platform and you really never know what you’re going to get. We have had, on occasion, difficult performers – drunk, offensive or over running – and it’s the host-of-the-evening’s job to manage that, and the audience… it can get interesting.

RM

What’s the spoken word scene like in Edinburgh in general?

 It’s as dynamic as a circus held inside a dance club within range of an exploding supernova.

Scheduling spoken word events in Edinburgh is notoriously difficult because no matter what night you choose, something else is always happening. A classic example of this was one Tuesday night when Ian Rankin was speaking at the Central Library, Janice Galloway was talking across the street at the National Library of Scotland, and the City of Literature folks were having their monthly salon about five minutes away. But here’s the beauty of it – all three had a good audience.

TSR

You also have a focus on open mic performances being entertaining and engaging, encouraging people to ‘bring their words to life’. Has this been a challenge for some open mic performers?

 It just takes practise and passion, really. As long as you feel it, the more you practise, and the more different kinds of audience you practise with, the better you get. Some people are more nervous, or more over-confident, or have frailer voices, or aren’t used to speaking, but everyone can live their words in time.

HG

If you’re trying to convince someone who’s never heard of the Inky Fingers Open Mic to come to your events then what do you say?

 When I first performed, I remember thinking I would need a whisky or two to get up and do this if I was prepared to be criticised for my offerings. It was not like that at all, in fact the audience couldn’t have been more encouraging. When I finally got to run away from the scene of my first ever slam poetry event my heart still beating fast with nerves and excitement. At one time I still preferred the 5 minute spots. My nerves couldn’t stand it! I stuck with it because I didn’t want to be unstuck from this amazing feeling of performing your own words.

I have been inspired so much over the last two years by so many people. The person that I nervously was changed and became more dramatic. That is because the words that I am expressing are mine. I edit them in my head, I own them. I listen and believe people when they tell me that they enjoy my poetry.

RF

Try it. What do you have to lose? Also, you look lovely today.

RM

And finally, have you heard of Sabotage before and are you pleased to be nominated for a Saboteur award?

 Sabotage provides a platform for some of the most insightful, original reviews out there. Long live Sabotage. And Yes! We’ve been squealing with delight!

RM

Interview with Scott Dominic Carpenter (This Jealous Earth)

In Interview, Short Stories on February 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm

-Scott Dominic-Carpenter spoke to Ian Chung

Scott Dominic Carpenter teaches literature and critical theory at Carleton College (MN), where he has written extensively on the representation of madness in the novel, political allegory, and literary hoaxes. His fiction has appeared in such journals as Chamber Four, Ducts, Midwestern Gothic, The MacGuffin, Prime Number and Spilling Ink. A Pushcart Prize nominee and a semi-finalist for the MVP competition at New Rivers Press, he has just released his first collection of short stories, This Jealous Earth (MG Press). His debut novel, Theory of Remainders is due to appear in May (Winter Goose Publishing). His website is at http://www.sdcarpenter.com.

1) How did your collaboration with MG Press come about? How does it feel for This Jealous Earth to be their first title?

It was a happy coincidence. MG Press is the brainchild of a literary journal called Midwestern Gothic. They’d been putting out excellent issues for the past few years, and one of my stories had appeared in their pages. Just as I was ironing out the last wrinkles in my collection, they put out their initial call for book submissions. I think they expected to be publishing a novel, but I managed to win them over with the stories—and I couldn’t be happier about it. MG Press is a class operation, and they provided more support (both in editing and promotion) than you’d get from presses many times larger.

Midwestern Gothic Press

2) What holds the stories in This Jealous Earth together as a collection? Are there any writers that have influenced either particular stories or you as a writer in general?

It’s quite a varied collection, featuring main characters of all backgrounds—men and women, old and young. No setting appears twice, and readers will find the gamut of emotions. However, the stories are bound together by the question of choice: in each story characters arrive at a fork in the road, and they need to choose a path that will alter their future in important ways. I try to show these choices in real time, and then illustrate the consequences.

Stylistically I find myself drawing on many authors, and much depends on who I’m currently reading. But special favourites are Paul Auster, David Mitchell, Arthur Phillips. I also love the short story greats of the nineteenth-century: Poe, Hoffmann, Gogol, Balzac.

3) In 2011, The Millions published an essay by Cathy Day, in which she argued that talk of the renaissance of the short story is reflective of the rise of creative writing classes/workshops and their preference for the standalone story or poem, rather than any actual shift in what people want to read. As someone with both a published collection of short stories and a forthcoming novel, what are your thoughts on this?

It’s an interesting theory, and there may be a grain of truth to it. The fact is that public taste shapes what people write at the same time that what we write shapes public taste. There’s give and take. The short story used to be a tremendously popular genre, then it subsided, and now it seems to be coming back. Given how marked our preference is for shortness (on the web, for example), I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more interest in short stories. That said, I don’t think the novel is in any danger of being knocked off its champion’s pedestal.

Scott Dominic Carpenter_headshot copyright Paul Carpenter

4) On your website, you note that you ‘came to creative writing rather late’. As someone whose academic background is in nineteenth-century French literature, what eventually led you to creative writing, and how has the journey shaped you as a writer?

In some ways, it’s the most natural of transitions: you spend twenty-odd years studying literature, and that gives you the tools you need to start writing it. It’s certainly true that reading is the best preparation for writing; I may just have pushed that formula a little farther than most. What’s been interesting to me is how my creative writing still revolves around the preoccupations I developed in my reading: the difficulty of expression, the search for transcendence, humour. I find myself drawing on my analytical background quite often, though in indirect ways.

5) What’s next for you? Could you say something about Theory of Remainders, your forthcoming novel with Winter Goose Publishing, and how it compares with This Jealous Earth?

As you say, the next thing up is the novel. Theory of Remainders is a wonderfully exciting project (they’re already trying to hawk the movie rights), and we’ve just finished the galleys. (It comes out in May.) Theory… is a literary novel with a well-honed edge of suspense. It deals with an American psychiatrist, Philip Adler, who seeks to resolve a trauma he suffered — the death of his daughter — over a decade earlier. Most of the story takes place in France, where Adler lived for several years, and it weaves together notions of insanity, language, and cultural difference in a tale that is both moving and touched with humour.

At the same time, I have other pots simmering on the stove: more stories, some travel writing, and another novel.

[ED: We’ll publish Ian’s review of Scott’s collection, This Jealous Earth very soon, so keep an eye out for it…]