I caught up with the busy bee that is Scarlett Ward! Scarlett is a artist and performance poet who will be performing at the Shakespearience Literary Festival in April.
Isabelle: How do you usually start writing a poem? Is there a process?
Scarlett: I don’t necessarily have a strict regime to my writing process. A lot of the time I am struck by the language I’ve picked up through conversation or reading. I’m very fond of onomatopoeic words that sing to you as much as they convey meaning, so if I hear something that chimes nicely in my mind, I’ll jot it down in the notes section of my phone.
I have pages and pages of odd words here and there- I’m a big collector of words that I’ll return to and use as the founding blocks of a poem that I’ll build around them. However, I also believe that you must create a fertile space to write, you can’t just rely on inspiration striking, so it’s important to provide yourself with the time to work despite your 9-5 or other responsibilities.
Isabelle: When did you start performing your poetry and do you think it is important to speak your words rather than simply write them down?
Scarlett: I actually started off as a very visual-based poet. I merged my work with elements of painting, drawing and photography and would make my poetry an image to be looked at rather than just read. I still practice this as I truly believe that form and structure is an integral part of poetry, but it wasn’t until I made good friends with incredible American Poet Kate Foley during my later years at uni that I truly appreciated what performed poetry can offer beyond the written word. I am so grateful to Kate for that, we’d smoke in a student bathroom with a group of pals and I’d be in awe of the way she’d perform her work with such raw emotion. It was like a light went on in my head and I was like “fuck, there are so many other ways to tell a story”.
We’d go to these crazy and really quite odd open mic nights in Mosely together and I’d park illegally in some dodgy ill-lit lane and we wouldn’t get home till super late because it was the only poetry night we knew of haha. Since then I really tried to overcome my shyness by performing at more and more open mics, and even though we don’t talk often since she moved back to America, I’ll always be so grateful to Kate for that pivotal moment and for her friendship.
Isabelle: Can you tell me a bit more about the poetry events you run?
Scarlett: My father bought a café in my small town of Cannock, and my whole family was excited to do something creative with this space. I knew I wanted to do a spoken word night in my town because Birmingham is 45 minutes away which can be far for people who work full time or are in education.
At the time I teamed up with some friends but they have since moved onto other projects so I run the evenings myself. We have a really chilled out atmosphere, loads of sofas, plenty of coffee and a welcoming atmosphere! I have met some of my very best friends through these spoken word evenings and I think the very nature of baring your soul through poetry brings people together anyway.
I met young poet laureate Rebecca Lockwood last April and it’s been a pleasure to watch how her work has developed and blossomed with each performance as we’ve gotten closer and closer. She recently released her first pamphlet “Grace” and I am so proud to see the mature and excellent Poet she’s grown into. The same can be said for so many others who I’ve had the pleasure of becoming close to. The next one is Thursday match 29th! It’s always the last Thursday of the month!
Isabelle: Who are your favourite poets?
Scarlett: Without a moment’s hesitation I say Sylvia Plath, however she’s had decades of accolade, so I want to talk about some of my favourite poets I’ve recently discovered and can’t stop reading right now.
Liz Berry has a very special place in my heart because her celebration of the west midlands black country accent has really helped inspire me not just as a poet but as a human to have more self acceptance and identity. Her book “Black Country” is as gentle and vulnerable as it is revolutionary and fierce.
Another poet I really love at the moment is Kaveh Akbar. I had the pleasure of watching him perform at Verve Poetry Festival in Waterstones Birmingham. His work has to be chewed, yet will fill you up with every flavour of emotion you can imagine. Like I said earlier, I love words that sing and chime and sound wonderful, and his book “Calling A Wolf A Wolf” is a testament to his wonderful talent. He is also an incredible person, the way he even talks about every day thoughts are soaked in so much poetic meaning that you feel somehow inspired by osmosis. Do buy his book!
Isabelle: Do you have any projects you are currently working on or looking forward to?
Scarlett: I am currently putting my poetry manuscript together. I want it to be the very best as it can be. I’m constantly writing, but I think the shine comes from the process of editing. I’d love it to be published but for now I’m working on getting it right for myself.
I’m guest speaker at Southcart Books in Walsall Saturday 24th March which I’m very excited about because Scott and Amy pour their hearts into that gorgeous little bookshop and with Richard Archer their poetry events are always so lovely and supportive. I’m going to be performing at The Shakespearience literary festival in April and have also volunteered to help out at the Birmingham literature festival this Spring!
Thank you Scarlett! Check out Scarlett on social media: