Interview: London poet Laurie Bolger

By July 27, 2016


Laurie Bolger 1You recently released your debut collection Box Rooms through Burning Eye Books, with a great launch at The Roebuck in South London. How did it feel to finally reach that stage, and to see people walking away with copies of your book?

It felt very strange if I’m honest, all those people in one sweaty pub to celebrate something I’d written… It felt like my wedding! (Except I was marrying the book!) Thanks so much to everyone who came out to celebrate Box Rooms with that evening! The Roebuck was the original home of BANG Said The Gun, my favourite night and poetry family… I wouldn’t have wanted it anywhere else!

Signing a book for the first time was a new one. I was so scared I totally fudged the first one up! However you can pick up a copy of Box Rooms with a personalised non-shakey message now I’m a signing pro 😉 here!

Laurie launch 6

As a spoken word artist, how did you find the challenge of revisiting your poems, and finding the best way to present them on the page?

This was a big one for me. My stand-up style on stage is one thing, but getting the poems to work well on the page and provide both humour and warmth for readers who maybe haven’t seen me perform live before took a lot of time.

My excellent editor Caroline Bird was so respectful of this and helped me loads, as was London Laureate mentor Stuart Silver, poet peer Zia Ahmed and my dear old mum. Getting people who understand what you do is essential and I’m very happy with Box Rooms both as a book to be read and for performance.

The Roundhouse seems to be one of the main spoken word hubs in the country at the moment, and they appear to be doing a lot of extra-curricular activities outside of simply being a venue. What kind of work do you do there, and how do you feel about the overall project at the venue?

Roundhouse has also been central to my development as writer, host, radio Dj, and person! They are amazing. When I first moved back to London I started knocking about with some Roundhouse poets and later joined the Roundhouse Poetry Collective where I was lucky enough to be mentored by the excellent Polarbear aka Steven Camden. He taught me that my voice was enough and to be myself and I don’t know what I’d do without that lot!

From presenting my radio show Round @ Laurie’s to hosting poetry in the mains space, the Roundhouse have so much time for poetry. I’m very proud to be so held in the belly of things there.

Laurie launch 2

You’re very involved with The Poetry Takeaway, which I was lucky enough to join recently in Fleetwood. For those that aren’t aware, tell us about the organisation!

The Poetry Takeaway is a beautiful thing. Sitting in a burger van, writing poems on any subject or theme in a matter or minutes not only tests you as writer but as a human.

Getting to know people’s stories and crafting them into poetry is so SO rewarding! Whether diners ask for a poem written about the the love of their life, Star Wars, or cheese on toast, that van hosts some of the most brilliant moments for me as a writer.

People laugh, cry, and are so happy with the result. Go and find them and say hello!

Spoken word has traditionally been very London-centric, but over the last couple of years the scene has started flourishing throughout the UK. Are there any cities in particular that you always enjoy gigging in?

I recently joined Evidently, Salford and it was incredible! Ella and Kieran are top hosts and I’ve never had so many people offering to buy me a pint. I also have a strong Irish connection to my poetry and would love to gig there sometime soon. Apples and Snakes are absolutely brilliant for getting poets to work and perform in other regions, thank you lovely lot!

BUT I must say my favourite performance above all is a festival stage. Who cares where you’re from, let’s just sit on the floor in our wellies, drink warm cider whilst covered in glitter and high five a thousand strangers.

This is where poetry belongs for me. Oh and on the radio 😉 I try and use as many different voices as I can on my radio show Round @ Laurie’s and people submit poetry from all over the world. London seems to be where a lot of the opportunity is but the lovely thing about spoken poetry is all you need is a mic and some ears, and that can happen anywhere mate.

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Finally, I want you to choose a YouTube video for one of the poets that’s exciting you the most on the current scene!

The video I can’t stop watching is this one by my fav poet and bestie Sally Jenkinson…what a babe! I also regularly host an amazing array of poets on my radio show Round @ Laurie’s here! Every poet I play I secretly love anyway! Finally this is my anthem from my fellow Laureate Warsaw Shire. This is beautiful.

London Laureate Laurie Bolger currently hosts BANG Said the Gun, London’s leading stand-up poetry night, and multi-award winning poetry radio show ‘Round @ Laurie’s’, live from Camden’s Roundhouse. Laurie is lead facilitator for BBC 1Xtra’s Words First. Laurie’s debut collection Box Rooms is out now.