AN INTERVIEW WITH PERFORMANCE POET MIKE WATTS
Hi Mike! So how’s the first half of 2013 treated you? It seems you’ve been extremely busy…
It’s been really productive and positive. My aim was to complete my new collection and then get it in print which I managed to do, so in that sense it was mission accomplished. The job now is trying to find something to do for the second part of the year.
How old were you when you first began to write poetry, and was it a natural progression for you to begin performing it?
I wrote my first poem when I was ten years old and I still remember the title, ‘The Beginning of The Earth’. My teacher at the time, a rather eccentric Mr. Rowlands, was a big influence on me, always encouraging the creative side and forever stressing the importance of reading as many books as possible… which, for a ten year old who’d rather be out setting fire to his action man, was a huge task. But I do recall writing lots of stories and being asked to read them out in class. As a natural ‘show-off’, it was quite easy for me. I stopped writing for a lot of years, and then maybe six or seven years ago I started dabbling with poetry again and discovered that it still worked for me. The performance aspect happened purely by chance after seeing my good friend Joe Hakim belting out his stuff in a pub in Hull one night. I thought I’d like to do that, so I did.
Did you consciously write for a potential audience even before you started performing for real?
No, I don’t think so. I never write with an audience in mind. Not all poems work as performance pieces anyway, so – for me – it’s a question of picking out the ones that do, and then seeing what reaction you get afterwards.
In what ways do you feel that Performance Poetry enlivens the written word?
It brings it to life, enriches it with energy, and enables the writer to get across what he or she is trying to say with much more conviction. I could go on and on with this one. Anyone who hasn’t been to a spoken word event is seriously missing out; it’s all very inspiring stuff.
Can you recall what first inspired you to write poetry?
I think it’s back to my old teacher again, Mr. Rowlands. He would drop a piece of paper in front us all and tell us to write down anything we wanted… poems, stories, imaginary shopping lists, you name it; he was quite mad. I used to like messing around with rhymes, so it probably stems from that.
Do you have any favourite venues in Hull and surrounding area where you enjoy performing?
I’ve performed at lots of places in Hull and enjoyed them all. Hull Truck Theatre is a great venue, and I once performed at Welly Club in front of a huge drunken crowd which was an experience I won’t forget.
How would you best describe the style and substance of your work?
I try to write about things that I know or have experienced: love, hardship, sadness, madness. I like to be as honest as I can, so basically all the things that at some point we will all encounter, living in these strange, modern times.
I hear you’ve just recently released your second collection of poetry…
Indeed… Day and Night in the Damaged Goods Factory. It’s been published by Burning Eye and it’s available from Waterstones (in Hull) and online via Amazon. It’s two years worth of work and I’m very pleased with it.
Do you ever write prose, or are you one of those very rare and extremely lucky people who is consistently able to distill your thoughts and feelings into poetry whenever you wish to express yourself?
I do occasionally ‘dabble’ with other forms, but it’s poetry for me. I’d like to write a novel some day, but I imagine it takes great discipline: a quality I lack, unfortunately.
Finally, what do Mike Watts fans have to look forward to on the near horizon?
It’s all about the writing for me at the moment, and I’m performing whenever the opportunity comes along. There are some great spoken word events in Hull. Away with Words and Fresh Ink are two very popular nights featuring local and guest writers, and I recommend them highly.
Visit www.mikewatts.me.uk for more information.
(Questions by Steve Rudd; Answers by Mike Watts)