Welcome back to the return of Kendal Poetry Festival’s Five Minute With series. Our Young Blogger-in-Residence Hannah Hodgson interviewed the fantastic Wayne Holloway-Smith, who will be reading on the 8th September at 11am with Dean Parkin. You can get a ticket for Wayne’s reading here.
Wayne Holloway-Smith’s pocket book Beloved, in case you’ve been wondering was published by Donut Press in 2011. He also gained a PhD in English and Creative Writing from Brunel University in 2015.
He won the Geoffrey Dearmer2016 prize, and his first collection Alarum was published by Bloodaxe in 2017. John Challis reviewed Alarum on behalf of the Poetry School, and said ‘Alarum is enviably good…Hilarious and witty, it’s also terrifically sad, but wears its tragedy so lightly at first it’s hard to notice.’
HH: If you hadn’t become a poet, what do you think your career would’ve been?
WHS: I think I would have been the lead singer of The Strokes, or an ice cream man. Ha. In honesty, I don’t know if I can think about things as disconnected as that. I mean, most people I grew up with are either plumbers, carpenters, or else they work on building sites. My dad, in addition to being an asshole, was a builder and painter/decorator. The type of person I am now and what I do are both contingent upon people I meet outside of my own familiar environment, at different moments in my life – these people expose me to new ways of thinking about what I am allowed to do with myself. I reckon poetry ended up being a thing I loved and wanted to do as almost-accidentally as anything else someone might love and end up doing with their time.
HH: What is the strangest poetry event (scenario you have been in?)
WHS: The best event I recently went to was a thing run by Inua Ellams and Theresa Lola, called RAP Party. You walk into this dark and absolutely packed room, where everyone is drinking and dancing to a DJ playing hip hop. Then, every so often, the music cuts, a spotlight hits a part of the room, and there’s a poet reading something interesting. The particular month I attended, the theme was a specific Kanye West album, so each poet read a piece of work in relation to a track on that album (many seemed to critique the rapper in some way due to his recent behaviour). The whole thing was so fresh, celebratory and inclusive. It feels like these types of events are one way forward in terms of rejuvenating poetry readings. No self-reverence. No pretensions. Just pluralism and loads of fun.
The weirdest thing that ever happened was that two very drunk women had a massive fight right in front of a stage while I was reading. I don’t know why.
HH: What is the best thing that has happened to you because of poetry?
WHS: 1) I get to write, read and talk about what I enjoy the most, and get money for it to help support my family. 2) My personal politics is constantly being challenged and shaped by what I read. 3) I’ve met so many brilliant, intelligent and funny people, a lot of whom are now my best friends.
HH: If you could become someone else for a day, which poet would you choose?
WHS: Anne Carson or Mary Ruefle
HH: Do you have any tips for any new or young writers?
WHS: There’s no one way of writing.
Things happen differently for different people.
No one has the monopoly of what is ‘good’. So you don’t have to listen to people who think they do.