Keeping the hits, not being typecast

Last summer, I did a string of performances at left-wing political events. They were fun, I had a set of poems that mocked prominent Tories, and I made people laugh. Then, I realised a couple of things. Firstly, I was being billed as a ‘political poet’, often without being asked. This is incorrect – I am a poet who sometimes writes political poems – not the same thing. Secondly, and I think more importantly, I wasn’t writing much else. Politicians were (and are) doing so much bad that I was overwhelmed by potential material. Not only that, but it went out of date with every new awful policy, and every Cabinet Reshuffle. Everything was negative, I was wading in their sewage. I was also told that while it was fine for a particular audience, it would put others off – not the fact that it was political per se, but the personal focus, the scatology, the vociferous piss-taking. The targets may be deserving, but I’d end up in an echo-chamber. So, I made a decision; once those events were over, I’d retire that set and not re-write it. I put a few favourites up on Soundcloud and made them free to download (if you go there, scroll down to Gove’s Labours Lost and The Prosciutto Affair for example). After all, they do have a place. I told the world (well, my facebook contacts) that the set was done and that I was looking for gigs that weren’t specifically political events. And you know what, it worked. I got bookings almost straight away, and more than that, paid ones. Yeah, I know, in poetry. Paid. Plus, as hoped, I started writing, and fast – a flood of ideas came that must have been backed up, waiting. Gwhoosh… personal material, observational pieces, responses to the British Art Show 8, workshop ideas that had stalled. No satirical diatribe about orange bloody sex-pest Trump and nor shall there be. Not to say that political and social ideas aren’t still there – of course they are, and so they should be, but they’re just one element and my writing’s all the better for it. To quote from Arcus amoris (it’s about Cupid and tenacity – I was feeling a bit Classical):

…on a good day,
sweet and true,
each arrow finds its mark
to pin and so to pair, dove-drunk,
besotted with soft wooings,
however thick the hide;
this is why he shoots.

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