Interview: Born Lippy / Squeak Easy / Babble Gum | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Words Weekend hits Sage, Gateshead from 6th-8th December and monthly lovers and purveyors of all things lyrical, Born Lippy are joining forces with performance poetry and spoken word champions Apples and Snakes to do a showcase on Saturday 7th December. Ahead of this team-up missnickyblack, who this year organised the spoken word night for the Heads and Tales Mental Health Heritage Exhibition at Vane Gallery speaks to some of the prominent people in the North-Eastern realm of spoken word to find out more about their inspirations and to give you a flavour of what’s going on.

Stick ‘em up!

Wordslingers, wordsmiths, poets, rappers, lyricists…..Spoken word has been regaining momentum in recent years and nowhere more so than in this vibrant ‘say it how it is’ corner of England.
Slams are de rigueur of any culture vulture’s social calendar. It’s a genre that covers every minuscule aspect of everyday life and relative to all who listen.
To me, these expressive performers are word slingers because that’s just what they do; sling all manner of vocab into the air with the slickest, sharpest and compelling of styles.
Words jump out of mouths, urgently, measuredly, passionately, indignantly, humorously, politically, poignantly, sometimes pissed offedly. 
Slung around in the air and shooting their audience down with…hands on chin and thinks …perfect sense, in fact.
I tell you, the definition of poet has come a long way baby, and don’t we know it …! 
I spoke to a few of these maestros who host their own spoken word nights to find out what turned them on in the beginning and what keeps the momentum from slowing.

Don Jenkins of Born Lippy
What made you write poems rather than stories or prose?
I loved writing stories in school and rarely engaged with poetry. However, I was a huge hip hop fan from the age of 14 and decided to start writing raps in my mid-twenties. I performed these raps as acapellas on several open mic stages at Glastonbury in 2003 and was invited to enter a poetry slam in Newcastle shortly after I came back. I became very interested in the spoken word scene as it showed me there were so many styles of poetry. 
I then got sidetracked and only came back into poetry through attending writing workshops and being part of a cabaret night called Milk the Cow. I performed at Lindisfarne Festival and rediscovered my love of performing poetry. I realised then that that was where my creative mojo lies. 

What or who motivates you the most to write and why?
Mainly, my own life experience.
I have been involved in a lot of different political, cultural and social scenes during my life and encountered some great characters and learnt a lot about myself along the way. I feel I am at a more mature and analytical part of my life to write honestly. 
In addition, attending writing workshops or seeing performances by veteran poets, rappers and singers allows me to develop and improve techniques and try out new approaches to writing. People like rapper Sage Francis, poet Roger Robinson and band Why?

From that…..A lot of creatives talk about having muses. Do poets have muses?
Accidental muses like other writers. Overhearing conversations of real characters and ‘borrowing’ the one-liners that people come up with is where I sometimes get my source material from. 

Who is your favourite poet/lyricist/songwriter and why?
Sage Francis, an alternative rapper who proves that hip hop is poetry. 
For 20 years, this guy has delivered insightful and at times, cryptic, humorous wordplay. He has also done a spoken word tour showing his skillful adaptability. 
 
What is your favourite poem?
Dulce et Decorum est by Wilfred Owen. 
It’s a famous first world war poem; the only poem I remember enjoying in school. 
It’s a truly gruesome, first-hand description of a gas attack and is (along with the lyrics of War Pigs by Black Sabbath) the best explanation of the futility of war. 
It’s such a sad irony that Owen was killed in the war in 1918. 
 
Don Jenkins hosts Born Lippy on the second Wednesday of every month at Cobalt Studios
Apples and Born Lippy will be showcasing at the Words Weekend Festival at the Sage on Saturday 7th December

Charley Reay of Babble Gum
What made you write poems rather than stories or prose?
I prefer to write poems because they are so concise.  Every word counts so writing them is like solving a puzzle, choosing and rearranging the words until they click into place.
 
What or who motivates you the most to write and why?
Sometimes I’ll see or hear something that sparks an idea for a poem. I also attend writing workshops and in April, follow the daily NAPOWRIMO prompts (a challenge to write a poem a day for a month). These give me a variety of starting points and allow me to approach things from unexpected angles.
 
From that…..A lot of creatives talk about having muses. Do poets have muses?
I know some poets definitely do but generally speaking, I wouldn’t count myself among them. I do take inspiration from the people and places around me though, and when I met my husband, I did write him a series of sonnets!  

Who is your favourite poet/lyricist/songwriter and why?
I’m a huge fan of the Manic Street Preachers and have been very influenced by their lyrics, especially how they weave together political and literary influences.  
I love Alice Oswald for the deep, contemplative way she explores the natural world, Sylvia Plath for her visceral exposure of the inner self and John Keats for the poignant beauty of his verse that moves centuries after it was written.
Spoken word artists I’d recommend include Kate Tempest who is an absolute dynamo of fast rhymes and interlocking stories, Kit Rayne who combines emotional rawness with an electric energy and Jessica Foxtrot who mixes poetry and song in an off-kilter, charming way.

What’s your favourite poem?
My current favourite is The Sun by Mary Oliver. I have it pinned to my day job desk and read it daily to remind myself of what really matters in life. My all-time favourite is Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale; a bittersweet meditation on life, illness and death.

Charley Reay hosts Babble Gum on the third Tuesday of every month at the Cumberland Arms 

Richard Boggie aka Bogsey of Squeak Easy
What made you write poems rather than stories or prose?
To be honest, I have a short attention span so writing poetry suits me best. If I try writing stories, I usually get stuck and give up. Also, I enjoy the challenge of writing work that sounds good when performed; playing with rhythm and rhyme. 
I love the fact that in a few lines you can make people think, laugh or cry

What or who motivates you the most to write and why?
What motivates me to write varies hugely. As a blind writer, I sometimes want to share experiences because it might help raise awareness of what it’s like living with sight loss. Other times, I just want to vent my frustration. But mainly, I just get an idea from something that’s happened or I’ve heard in the street and I just like to play with the idea and see where it goes. 
I don’t think poetry needs to always have a serious or deep meaning. Quite a lot of mine is just me having fun playing with words and ideas.

Who is your favourite poet/lyricist/songwriter and why?
I have always loved David Bowie’s work, especially his early albums where there are some wonderfully crazy lyrics. I would love to have been writing in that era. 
Nowadays I am often inspired by other spoken word artists like Rosie Fleeshman, Serin Thomasin and Holly McNish. 
Whenever I go to a spoken word night, I see someone who impresses and inspires me. 

What’s your favourite poem?
I don’t have a favourite poem. I find that my taste changes with my mood. It’s the same with music, it just depends on how I feel. Having said that, I have listened a lot to ‘Never Felt Like This Before’ by Rosie Fleeshman so that’s probably a favourite of mine for now.

Richard Boggie hosts Squeak Easy at The Town Mouse Ale House near Haymarket.

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