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Interview with Spoken Word artist Sally Porter

Matt Jacobson interviews Spoken Word artist Sally Porter.

“Lots of poets romanticise the countryside, I find my peace in the city – where cranes, like steel giraffes, stride gracefully across the Mersey horizon”.

When did you begin to have an interest in poetry?

I genuinely can’t remember a time when I didn’t love poetry. When I was a small child, my mum bought me Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Child’s Garden of Verses’ which I would read every night before I went to sleep, and as my mum loved poetry too, we had a fair number of books in the house. I started writing my own poems from when I was 7 or 8, but I was too shy to share them – I hid them under my bed. Eventually, I plucked up the courage to show some of my poetry to Spoken Word artist Saint Vespaluus; he said that he loved my work, and this inspired me and gave me the confidence to appear at my first live event.

And what is it about poetry that you connected with?

I like the fact that there are no rules in poetry – you’re not bound by grammatical norms such as capital letters or full stops – and they feel more personal than many prose texts. Every poem, even the shortest, tells a story.

Who were your first influences?

Music plays a significant part here – as I was growing up, my mum would play albums by Dory Previn, James Taylor and Bob Dylan, all of whom wrote incredible lyrics, and then when I was 12, I heard Leonard Cohen and he became my favourite. I persuaded my dad to join Birkenhead’s Record Library so he could borrow Songs of Leonard Cohen (you had to be over 16 to join) and I spent the next week listening and painstakingly transcribing the lyrics into a notebook – I still have it! I then discovered Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell, and my obsession with the confessional poets began. I also fell in love with Irish poet Seamus Heaney, and when, unbelievably, he came to Birkenhead’s Williamson Art Gallery to read his poems, I was the happiest girl in Birkenhead (although I cried throughout the reading- he probably thought I was strange). More recently, I’ve been influenced by American performance poet Andrea Gibson and I’m also a fan of Instapoets such as Atticus and Nikita Gill; I love the democracy of poetry on Instagram – you don’t need an agent or publisher to share your work, and people can access it for free.

Sally Porter – Photo from S Porter Library

How would you describe your poetry, is there a theme within, if so – could you expand?

In his poem Personal Helicon, Seamus Heaney writes “I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing”, and that rings true with me – my poetry explores moments from my life and tries to make sense of them. Sometimes, they are inspired by a line of conversation or a post on social media, others celebrate things I have seen or people I have known. I’d like to think there’s a real notion of place in my poems – I focus on moments in time, in specific places, whether it’s Skeleton Records in Birkenhead, or Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow. My current favourite poets include Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski; I’d like to think their ‘stripped down’ style has influenced my own writing.

You have performed in venues across the country; does the venue add any value or power to the poem?

I think the venue adds value to the performance of the poem rather than the poem itself. If it’s a ‘safe’ space with a responsive audience, the whole experience is much more enjoyable, and I feel as if my poetry comes alive. Some of my favourites in recent weeks have been Leap of Faith at The Denbigh Castle and Poetry Beyond Borders in Sotto (Wood Street), but I have also loved reading at the beautiful Reader Mansion in Calderstones Park, and the fabulous Future Yard over in Birkenhead. The Blast events at The Old Bank Alehouse (Aigburth Rd) and The Excelsior (Dale Street) are always great nights too.

Sally Porter – Photo from S Porter Library

Has Liverpool inspired your work?

Definitely. I moved from the Wirral to Liverpool in 1996 and I love my adopted city, it underpins much of my work. I am particularly drawn to the history and architecture of the stretch of dockland from Bramley Moore to Bootle, which I celebrate in my poems ‘Landscape’ and ‘Names’, but there are references to locations all around the city in my work, from Holt Field in Mossley Hill to Lime St Station. The concept of place is very important to me, and whilst lots of poets romanticise the countryside, I find my peace in the city “where cranes, like steel giraffes, stride gracefully across the Mersey horizon” (Landscape).

How do people contact you to perform?

I can be contacted via Instagram @salporterliterature or by email salporter@hotmail.com.

And what next for Sally Porter?

The dream would be to publish a pamphlet or book of my poetry, but in reality I am having such a great time attending the wide range of Spoken Word events across Liverpool, I have a few poems in publications such as Word Vomit Zine and Late Britain, so I just hope it all continues. I have met so many great performers over the past year whom I now count as friends – I feel as if I have found my tribe.

With thanks to Sally Porter, and with Love and Peace,

Matt

Matt Jacobson

Explore Liverpool

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