17 December 2021
flipped eye poet Aislinn Evans interviews themself about their poetry
Aislinn: Hi Aislinn, thanks for talking to me today.
Aislinn: No worries.
Firstly, how did you come to poetry?
Classic opener. I owe my writing to many people, but firstly to my GCSE English teacher Julie Hyland. Monday mornings she would have us close our eyes as she read a poem aloud. Then she’d slap the table in delight. The opaque world of poetry opened up. Also, a lot of bad things happened to me as a child and I can’t rap.
We can kinda– Oh god, every writer hates this question.
What are your key themes?
We do! We hate saying what our work’s about.
Right? It’s like, okay lemme prune all these non-sequiturs to give you a coherent answer.
But we need an answer. What do you think my key themes are?
I think it’s something about the affective dimensions of class.
You know, the drab trauma of poverty, the texture of place, the heat of the riot.
Yeah. For now, that’s what I do. Because I’m ground between the teeth of class society every day, so that’s the flavour which gets released. And everyone else is too.
Sometimes you write queer horror instead. The next question is about that.
I find the idea of writing about queerness quite dull really.
Yeah, there’s that slam cliché ain’t there, the poem wot articulates your identity, how difficult that identity is, how angry you should be.
Snore! But much like class, queerness finds its way into my work in the affective realm, in texture.
D’you remember when we read Hour in Ms. Hyland’s class?
Oh yeah, and I insisted it was a lesbian poem! Nobody believed me.
You were right.
That’s how queerness emanates through writing, for me.
But also, queerness inherently confronts and contorts language.
Oh, of course! Especially transness, it reveals the failure of language.
Malewives... dykefags... geezerbirds...
Me, I’m butch, and to be butch is to subvert and contort the language of masculinity. As English-speakers we’ve inherited a colonial language with violence baked into its construction.
Isn’t the word ‘bad’ is derived from a cultural fear of transfemininity?
So I’ve heard. So to break open linguistic form, to hybridise, contort, overturn the semiotic order – that’s essential just to making this language liveable.
It’s all queer.
Yeah. But also, like, gay sex. That’s queer.
Sure. There’s more questions here about your identity–
Yeah, let’s move on. Low culture.
That old chestnut.
You’ve talked about it at times, but like…
Don’t really know what it means.
Low brow, high brow, it’s a false distinction founded in phrenology.
Right, yeah. But I’m a slam poet by training, and despite my misgivings about the form now there’s still baked into me this disdain for the institution. A desire to make poetry cheap, common, open to be challenged or torn up or shouted down by the audience. I want people to get their hands on my work, and I want them to know – practically – how I did it, and do it themselves.
On that note, another classic: advice for newbies.
Finding authentic forms of expression. Um… is authenticity real?
No way. But poetry ain’t real neither. When the language was still young it referred to any creative act.
Is that true?
Dunno. But either way it isn’t real, and neither is painting, or sculpture…
Film is probably real.
But the point is that there are no legitimate forms of expression against illegitimate ones. Refer to the textual cultures around you, that raised you, take them up and subvert them and mix them with images and music and whatever else you enjoy.
And if at some point it stops being poetry and becomes something else?
The Towns We Leave Hate Us Most by Aislinn Evans is out on 9th December from flipped eye publishing.
Get a new poem off the ground with advice on how to start a poem from multi-awarding winning poet Rob Miles.