Jane: I’d love to know about your first piece of published writing?
Jeremy: My first experience of poetry as an adult was from being involved in the Bristol poetry scene, which was extremely active in the 1990s. A friend secretly entered me for a weekly slam competition and then told me that as I was always talking about how I wanted to write poetry, I now had one whole week to compose and perform two poems. I made it through the first round of the competition and was awarded a Bristol Poetry Slam pen (which I still own, and I still know the compere who gave it to me). So leading on from that my earliest pieces of published writing are two (not those first two) poems included in the 270 page Bristol Poetry Slam Anthology, published by the Pimps of the Alphabet in 1998. One of the published poems was about bumping into a man in the park late at night and the other was about being called names because I was a Take That fan, so as you can see the path of my poetry was determined at a very early stage!
Jane: What’s your favourite poem in IN RETAIL and why?
Jeremy: I just want to say how grateful I am to Cherry for showing such faith in my work and for agreeing to publish my debut poetry collection IN RETAIL. It came out last year and my relationship to the published book is still evolving, once the poems become a physical object they seems to take on a life of their own. I see the book as a complete work in it’s own right and so every poem is contributing it’s part and needs to be there. However in the process of going out (or now, staying in) and reading the poems in public there are a few that have grown very dear to me due to the way they seem to bloom and change in front of an audience. A great example of this is 00/10 in which every couplet begins with the line; This is a customer announcement. When I read the poem I love the repetition that this line allows me, meaning I can change how I perform this set of words nine times in terms of timing and emphasis and voice. I have also realised that the poem and delivery prompts a much more humorous response from an audience than I ever imagined it contained when I was writing it down and then having it printed on the page. This poem has made me push my goals when reading and to see that there are many more possibilities open to me as a performer of my own work.
Jane: Is the Coronavirus crisis having an impact on your writing?
Jeremy: Initially when the lockdown began I found myself making lots of lists of things to do and then getting involved in lots of tidying up around the flat. I seemed to be able to do a task if it was physical, but doing anything that involved any kind of mental or creative concentration was impossible. I also found that I could only really do one thing a day and then I would be totally wiped out and have no energy. This started to change when I moved teaching my physical Yoga classes onto the online Zoom platform. The discipline of Yoga helped restore my energy levels and the classes gave me a tiny routine and structure to the week and slowly the desire and ability to write began to return. At first it was through revising and editing existing work but now I have actually begun some new poems. I am also attending a lot of Zoom poetry readings, lectures and workshops and again this has given support and an impetus to my creativity.
Jane: What writing project would you like to fulfill long term?
Jeremy: The long-term writing project I am working on at the moment is a much more personal project then IN RETAIL, but it actually has it’s beginning in one of the book’s poems, 00/13. This poem was the first time I had successfully (in my own terms) written about being bullied as a teenager and the process of writing it and then publishing the book has given me the confidence to develop this idea further. I am calling the current work-in-progress A VOICE COMING FROM HIM and it will deal with the long-lasting and ongoing effect on a gay person’s life of experiencing childhood homophobia, bullying and in my case, a teenage suicide attempt. Now that all sounds really heavy and depressing, and in some ways it has to be, but in my opinion the topics involved need to addressed and acknowledged. However I also want the book to be hopeful and optimistic and to reflect (as does IN RETAIL) my interests as a maker of artists’ books. So in that respect I’m looking to include Found poems, health records, photographs, statistics etc to give the book more a sense of a whole life or lives. Some of these new poems already been published and performed and have met with positive responses, so I feel I am on the right track with the project.
Jane: What person or object would you most like to collaborate with creatively?
Jeremy: What a very timely question! I have just sent out to a local festival a proposal for a collaborative event between myself and a friend who works at Cardiff University as a Senior Assurance Advisor. We have known each other since the mid-1980s and last year we each published our first books. Our collaboration would look at our experiences since then as a female BAME writer and as a male queer poet, from dealing with labels and categorisation, underrepresentation and how it can be addressed, to creating safe spaces through creative work and the unexpected outcomes that result from publication. We are still in the very early planning stages but are aiming to create a joint performance of both of our work, trying to include different types of media and to develop new collaborative writing especially for it.
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You can see Jeremy perform poems from IN RETAIL here:
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @HazardPressUK