Laura Potts

When Laura said she would be happy to do an interview with Eye Flash, we did a little dance around the kettle for joy. And ate a few extra jammy dodgers with our cuppa. It’s not hard to see why- Laura is a remarkable young poet with a distinctive voice, burning a trail with her words and success. She has been rising through the poetry community and beyond, just read our interview below to find out what exciting new projects are coming up for Laura, including a radio play for the BBC due out next year. Our eye is definitely on her, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.

Laura’s Twitter/ @lauratheory_

Can you tell us a bit about how and when you started writing poetry?

Really, the writing began at a very young age for me. I was raised with grandparents who played a very formative and ever-present role in my childhood on a daily basis, and my grandmother had been a wartime writer. I remember sitting in an armchair which swallowed me up, listening to her reading verses of Tennyson, Keats and Chaucer in the window-light. She had a great gravelly voice which could fill cathedrals. That was the beginning. I believe the best writers are the best readers so she gave me a great start in that respect. Even now I hear her voice when I open a book. I think I was eight years old – she had just died – when I first wrote a verse. I suppose that is the way the past lives in me.

How have you seen your writing evolve over time?

Fairly slowly. It certainly is a process of evolution rather than sudden change. The writing evolves with the society I keep, the home I make, the people I meet. During high school I took ‘The Greats’ for granted and never questioned the idea of a literary canon, so like many I looked to Wordsworth and Shelley for what poetry ‘should’ be. It was only afterwards that I started to branch out of that restrictive and completely imaginary category. I turned away from (typically) white, Western, male writers and towards women, Marxists and postcolonial thinkers. Those slight changes have definitely changed the language, values and form that I choose. I’m much less restricted by poetic metre and rhyme, and much more generally daring. I still meet so many people who say ‘doesn’t anyone write like Wordsworth now?’ and often cringe at that.

What have you achieved so far regarding your poetry, and what do you hope to achieve in the future?

I’m only twenty-one and look much younger, so people are usually surprised when they hear how far I’ve come. I was twice-named a Foyle Young Poet in London during high school and found myself in various journals by the age of fifteen. The University of Leeds made me a Lieder Poet during college and I collaborated with a composer from the Royal Welsh Conservatoire to set my work to music. I supported Ian McMillan and Helen Mort at sixteen, became a Northern Voices Poet with The Arts Council at seventeen, and at eighteen started my own poetry night in my hometown. There was a short blast at university and a later decision to leave, and after that I’ve written and written and written and seem to be going somewhere at last. In fact I believe I’ve actually learnt more since then. In the last six months I’ve been published by Algebra of Owls, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Poetry Salzburg Review, Orbis and The A3 Review. I’ve read with Andrew Motion, become the TS Eliot Poet with Seamus Heaney’s Agenda been shortlisted for a Charter-Oak Award for Best Historical Fiction over in America. The latest news is that I’m one of The Poetry Business’ New Poets and, as a BBC Verb New Voice for 2017, my first radio drama Sweet The Mourning Dew will air next year. It’s really quite wild. I’m reading at The Wakefield Lit Fest (with Linton Kwesi Johnson), The University of Leeds, the BBC’s Contains Strong Language Festival, The Ilkley Lit Fest, York Explore and Sage Gateshead all in the next six months. The future? Who knows? In this art you can’t plan ahead, but as long as I keep writing it will be just fine.

What three words describe your style of poetry?

Hmm, this one is always hard. Some have said ‘old-headed’ in that I write beyond my years. I’ll say ‘homespun’ for its authenticity and ‘intimate’ for its confessional purpose in my life.

Who is your favourite poet?

Difficult! I have a few. Dylan Thomas is probably top. Leonard Cohen, Clive James, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou. E.E Cummings is up there too. Matthew Hedley Stoppard’s work has been a love for quite a while. And Kim Moore. Her ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’ is probably the best sequential narrative I know. And it has another life if you hear her read it. They all do.

What inspires your writing?

I can’t pin it to a single object, or place, or person. I think it’s the moment. The idea of the white blank page, bare and new and importantly now. It says always that nothing came before which mattered at all. It’s self-contained and single, but strangely will become so many different lives. That poem will never be young once only: it will be read and said and written over again and again. I think it’s that momentousness – that potential for so much life and voice – which inspires me to write. And I’m quite a private person, so the page as a medium for expressing emotion has always been cathartic for me. I can write and rage and confess and cry, but it is always perfectly silenced.

Your poem, ‘The night That Robin Died is included in our first journal, can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind it?

Yes. That poem’s past will always be quite sad and lonely to me. During those two years at university spent sitting in box-rooms and often anxious, after the books and the late-night bars I would come home to the cold of the room and sit on the floor to watch Robin Williams on repeat. In those small hours alone he gave so much warmth with the childhood I found so bright in his eyes. To me, something about him will always be young. I was shaken when he died. A part of the world which gave me such comfort and infant joy way past my girlhood was suddenly lost. Yes, I will always be sad that he’s gone.

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