Jess Green Interview
Where do you write?
I am an embarrassing cliché – at a desk in the garret of a Victorian semidetached.
Tell me about the last poem you wrote?
A bit of a sexy one that I still haven’t plucked up the courage to post on my blog because my parents are my biggest fans. It’s also about the house I live in which could be lovely (think high ceilings, a pantry, a freestanding bath with gold taps) but unfortunately is inhabited by four 20 somethings who are more interested in wine than furnishings.
Which poet got you into poetry?
Benjamin Zephaniah. Aged 7 my Dad bought me a copy of Funky Chickens and I thought he was an amazing poet because he didn’t write ‘properly’, I thought he was so naughty for using slang words in his poems. I wrote him a letter telling him how much I loved him and asked him if the poem about his cat being kicked to death was true. He replied saying that sadly it was and that he looked forward to one day reading poems by ‘Jessie Green’. I should send him some.
If you looked outside your window what would you see…answers in haiku only please.
Blonde boy in a dress
watching from a bedroom window
magpie looking back.
What poets have you discovered in the last year?
A brilliant spoken word poet called Kate Tempest, I always say to people, whatever you think about poetry, she will change your mind. I also discovered Brian Turner’s collection Here, Bullet. I’ve went through a phase of being really interested in the effect that modern day warfare has on poetry compared to what it did to poets such as Wilfred Owen. I’ve also been reading a lot of Keats recently because I realised I mention him in a poem and actually have read very little of his work.
Can you suggest a collection or pamphlet that people should read?
I am definitely not highbrow enough to answer this question. It’s got to be Zephaniah, Funky Chickens; with such cracking titles as ‘Give Peas a Chance’ – genius.
I use ‘the’ far too much in my poetry. What word do you use too much?
I realised yesterday I mention Sambuca far too much in my poetry. I don’t even like Sambuca, it makes me heave. A guy that I used to work with would come in most mornings bleary eyed and stinking for aniseed so I often make reference to it when talking about that job. I relate it to the drunk slimes you get pressing up against you in the queue for the bar on a Saturday night which is why it’s mentioned in Midnight Soliloquies.
How does your style come across in your work? In the performance? Or the layout? Or the language? Or…?
I think my style comes across in my performance. I see myself as a spoken word poet and spend a lot of time working on my performance and delivery. My poems are quite fast paced in my head when I’m writing them, I think a lot about rhythm and the way words sound. I do take some criticism for the speed at which I deliver my poems and have been told in the past that I’m not a ‘proper poet’ because my poems aren’t drowning in metaphor.
What themes run through your poems?
I usually write when I’m frustrated or angry, or just need to write something down to stop my head hurting. Because of this, my work is often fiercely political (I do worry that if we finally manage to defeat this government full of knobs I’ll run out of inspiration). I’ve just finished a job that I really hated towards the end so I’ve written a quite a few whingey ‘my boss is an idiot’ poems in the past few months.
I love living in big cities and am very influenced by city life. Having said that, I’m having to make the decision of where I want to live and work next and don’t know if I can make the leap to the terrifying capital.
Which poetry magazines do you read?
Mslexia, Ambit, Spilt Milk, The Rialto, Magma. I’ve had to cut back on my subscriptions recently though so I love a good online magazine – I’ve just discovered Litro (http://www.litro.co.uk/) and have been published a couple of times on a brilliant online blog called Poetry24 (http://poetry-24.blogspot.com/).
Tell us about your pamphlet?
It provisionally shares a name with one of my poems – I Won’t Share This City. It’s a mix of a frustrated kick in the face of the coalition, the bleeding heart of lost friends and lovers, a little bit sexy (but just enough so my Mum can still send copies round the family).
I’ve realised over the past few months I’m quite good at last lines so there’s a few punchers in there.
Poems such as Midnight Soliloquies, Deep Down In The Avenues and I Won’t Share This City rely heavily on place and probably took the most time to write and redraft. Like all writers, I am a hater of cliché, and try to find ways to make the reader see the place I want them to be in without describing it to them.
Finally, if your poetry was a drink what drink would it be?
A pint of Merlot.