Today poetry collection House of Weeds is released ‘Weeds and humans overlap in this prickly-sweet fusion of poetry and illustration, painting tales of society’s outsiders’ Here is an interview with its author Amy Charlotte Kean.

 


 

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1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

 

I’m on a journey to become as weird as David Lynch. I’d say I’m about 3% of the way there, so this may take a while. Most of what I write – my columns, my poems, by books – are about being yourself and accepting your weirdness. Some of us are more capable than others, because being yourself is an extremely brave act. Weirdness is feared intensely in the world, often by insecure people.

 
My first book The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks is about being completely, unapologetically yourself and not worrying what people think. I try not to be cliched about mental health. In the book, the main character Elodie-Rose deals with a constant buzzing and whirring in her brain whenever she decides to give zero fucks for something the day has thrown her way; like bullying or sexual harassment or even being told she’s too loud in debating class. Eventually, when she decides to live life as she chooses, the whirring stops. And in my upcoming poetry book, House of Weeds, every character has been labelled an outcast by society. The poems are about rebelling against norms and embracing your strange. Making peace with it.

I’ve been influenced by the oddest, most magical content: Jim Henson, Roald Dahl, The Mighty Boosh, The Worst Witch, horoscopes, Ella Frears, Anne Carson and Michael Rosen. There will always be a dark humour in my work, because I believe even the saddest, most terrifying situations need laughter.

 

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

 

Every single waking second of every day I spend working, with my laptop open. It’s ruining my eyesight. And I live on Twitter, despite how angry it makes me. I write a lot of comment pieces on the themes of my books and have a regular column for a magazine called Shots, which is designed for the creative community. I’m known as outspoken, which is weird in and of itself, because I only talk about what I believe. In the book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson talks about how we’re cultivating a society where only the bland will thrive. I try and remember that when I write.

 

3, What projects are you working on at present?

 
House of Weeds, published by Fly on the Wall Press, is coming out on 17th May. As soon as the world is back to normal and it’s appropriate to do so, me and the book’s illustrator Jack Wallington are staging an immersive exhibition in Peckham, so you can go straight to the scene of the book, and live like its characters. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m also writing an audio sitcom and am in the final stages of a novel about the dark, exploitative side of the volunteering industry, set in Kenya.

4, What does poetry mean to you?

 

I struggle with the inaccessibility of poetry, sometimes. So many regular people simply feel they “don’t get it.” What a tragedy! I don’t want poetry to be a secret club, for English grads from redbrick universities who use the same words and voices. It defeats the object of the world being gifted this unrivalled art form that allows people to rip out a piece of their ridiculous brains and throw it on a page to see what happens. When I started writing poetry I was stunned at how much I could get away with, how much I was able to speak my mind, but do it beautifully, with wit and surprise. Poetry is therapy, genuinely. It’s becoming more accessible over time, and when my friends say to me “I don’t get it” it makes me sad, because they don’t realise that all you have to do is try.

 

 

 


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Amy Charlotte Kean is an advertising strategist, innovation consultant and writer from Essex. Her first book, the number 1 bestselling The Little Girl Who Gave Zero F*cks was published in 2018 with Unbound. Amy’s rants, reviews, short fiction and poems have been published in The Guardian, Huffington Post, Disclaimer, Glamour, Abridged, Burning House Press, Poetry Village and many others. She was shortlisted in the Reflex Flash Fiction competition and was an Ink, Sweat & Tears poet of the month. Her second book, House of Weeds, is out in May with Fly on the Wall Press.


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Four Questions with Martin Grey

 

 


 

1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

 
I’m a Nottingham based performance poet and event organiser. I spent the best part of a decade writing poems I barely showed to anybody, before starting a now defunct poetry blog in 2011 and nervously taking to the stage for the first time in 2013.

 
My poems tend to be about little details and connections to people, objects and time, but I also write nonsense and found poetry when the mood takes me. I try to layer a positive social or political message into my poems, but generally prefer to leave it under the words for people to find. I consider it a compliment if three people read a poem of mine and take three different meanings.

 
I’ve always been drawn to nuanced and character focussed writing, especially in poetry and song lyrics. I used to blow my early teenage mind exploring all the possible meanings in 90s lyrics from the likes of Richey Edwards and Gruff Rhys. Today, I still find that poets who have had the most influence over my writing tend to explore these same themes. Mike Garry’s poem “Made in England” is a great example of this.
My writing is also strongly influenced by how many incredibly talented poets there are in the East Midlands. Just seeing great poet after great poet at an open mic is often enough to make me work extra hard on a poem, in the hope it can hold up next to everybody else’s!

 

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

 
I promote through my social media accounts (instagram, youtube, facebook) and a website. While I do find these useful (it’s great if you want to get people to your event or livestream, for example), I also find they have limited value on their own, and keeping them active can be to the detriment of my own focus. All that said though, you should definitely follow me.

 
I personally think the best promotion, especially locally, comes from not actually promoting, but from being present, being genuine and being aware. Talk to people at events, give people confidence and a platform where you can, tell that instapoet why you liked their poem, make sure you’re on the mailing list, apply to whatever you can and be nice to people. I personally find these help create more opportunities and add time to my own writing, because they fill my mind with ideas and remind me why I love doing it.

 

3, What projects are you working on at present?

 
Quite a few at the moment. My first book, The Prettyboys of Gangster Town, is due out later this year with Fly on the Wall Poetry, which I’m super excited about!

 
I’m also closely involved with two local groups, DIY Poets and World Jam. At DIY we run quarterly events, monthly writing support meetings, and produce what we believe is the longest running free poetry zine in the country, although we’d love to meet a group with a longer running one. At World Jam we try to facilitate global poetry and music through events and workshops, by getting people together from as many different backgrounds, native languages and styles as we can.

 
I was also going to start bringing some spoken word theatre shows to Nottingham, but unfortunately all that has gone on hold at the moment. I guess I find it hard to say no to poetry things!

4, What does poetry mean to you?

As horribly cliched as this sounds, it really does mean the world to me, because it’s good for me in so many ways. It’s friendship. It’s belonging to a community. it’s being part of something positive and being able to help open doors for others. it’s educational, teaching me a lot about how other people feel and process what comes their way. It’s a therapist with unlimited time to help me come to terms with any difficult times I face. It’s also made me much better at taking constructive criticism!

 
On a different angle, it’s also a marker of how good something can be. In a great poem, the words seem to dance on the page or paint great works on the walls of the venue. There’s nothing quite like that breathe out moment, when somebody’s poem gets right into the blood cells of everyone in the room, and the only tools you need for that are a pen and the back of an envelope. It’s magic.


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