That’s right, PL’s! You heard correctly! The amazing Simon Maddrell will be appearing in this very studio
(Rapturous applause from the audience. Some fainting)
Now calm down, PL’s, we don’t want to frighten our distinguished guest off because he’s here now. Heeere’s Simon Maddrell.
(Pandemonium- Security overwhelmed). (Our esteemed guest wafts down the lighted stairs)
Simon, a very big welcome to the show…
Thank you, the pleasure’s all mine.
May I say I love your Kaftan and bell bottoms. Psychedelia is really the way to go!
You don’t think it’s a bit much? (Ripples of disagreement ) I’m trying to get in touch with myself…
Oh wow! Well, the karma that’s coming from you… speaking of which…..
(the host sweeps everything off her desk with her arm – audience and guest look nervous)
So, Simon, tell us about yourself and your background
I’m a queer Manx man born in the Isle of Man in 1965. I was brought up in Bolton, near Manchester. After living in Ross-on-Wye for ten years and London for twenty years, I moved to Brighton and Hove in 2020, just before lockdown.
I have a very varied background, having done Peace Studies at Bradford University in the ‘80s but then ending up with fifteen years corporate experience – firstly, making wetsuits, the white overalls from murder scenes and knee supports – I have found two of these very useful since. Second, I then spent ten years with my head in Xerox copiers worldwide from the USA, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong and The Forest of Dean.
After that I returned to a teenage passion and founded a multi award-winning UK and IOM charity. Excellent Development in 2002. When I left in 2016, we had supported communities, mainly in Africa, to provide one million people with clean water through the building of 1,000 sand dams, which also enabled one million trees to be planted.
Gosh, Simon. What an impressive background! How you’ve travelled, and you had the guts to follow your dream. (An awed gasp from the audience)
How many people do that?! I think when I last saw you in ‘real life’ (Chip’s salon?), you were talking about moving from London.
When did poetry become a part of your life?
Poetry entranced me during O levels at school in 1980. Our textbook was Nine Modern Poets – which of course weren’t very modern in the way I understood it, which made me think that maybe they were the last ones!
We studied Yeats, Eliot, Betjeman, the Thomas’, Larkin and Hughes. The poet who had the biggest impact was Wilfred Owen, in particular Anthem for Doomed Youth, and this prompted me to read more of his work, when I discovered Dulce et decorum est, as well as Sasoon and Brooke. But I had no idea that being a poet was even a likely possibility, we never wrote poetry at school, but I did at home in doom-laden gloom akin the Christina Rossetti.
On top of that, my English teacher told me I was useless and would never pass either of my English O Levels, which of course I did in response to such back-handed encouragement. She had, however, drained me of any thought of being a poet or studying English, however much I loved A Tale of Two Cities and Twelfth Night.
Fast-forward thirty-five years, and the recent death of both parents, which prompted a revisiting of childhood and teenage traumas – and writing was a way of exploring that, along with reading Bob Dylan lyrics. I found it much easier to express such deep emotions in writing than I did by verbalising them, having been well-trained in the silence, secrets and judgement of shame. Poetically, I was reliving my teenage years with poetry of a similar standard, but I started to become more serious about developing my knowledge and experience of the craft, firstly in spoken word and now also the page. 2020 has been a step forward in terms of being published and minor recognition.
Oh Simon, I admire so much of what you have said. Teacher’s really could say devastating things then – but you showed her and the system!
Also, yes, I know what you mean about losing your parents, this is where all my writing came from. It’s a painful trigger that leads to stronger paths. As you have shown.
Who were/are your biggest influences?
The poets who have had the most direct influence on my development as a poet are Anthony Anaxagorou from a mentoring and editing perspective and Wayne Holloway-Smith from a teaching perspective, alongside his What Now? Students at the Poetry School. There are a dozen more influential poet teachers and dozens more poets I have read who inspire me and influence my work – so too many to mention.
Last year you had two successful and prizewinning pamphlets, Throatbone and Queerfella. Tell us how they were conceived, and which poems are the most personal to you.
The second, Queerfella, was conceived at the beginning of my poetic journey as I wanted to explore the shame of growing up gay in the 70s and 80s. The legend, Joelle Taylor, helped me improve many of those early poems you see in Queerfella. I am so grateful to Will Harris for recognising the value of the poems and making it joint winner of The Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition, albeit feeling somewhat odd to be stood alongside Selima Hill.
Throatbone, my debut, was published by UnCollected Press in the US after they loved so many of my poems submitted to its partner journal, The Raw Art Review. I was honoured that they nominated Dinosaur Teeth for the Pushcart Prize. Throatbone was born from me wanting to explore my ancestral home and develop my interest in eco-poetry and skills in poetry without me as the central subject. But of course, as Wayne Holloway-Smith says, “if you lean into a poem enough you will leak out” and the queer leaks out from behind the clouds, and in drizzle and rain. It also rages in the Manx Pride trilogy, a social commentary on the island’s queer history.
Perhaps the most personal poems are those that could have been in either pamphlet, Lamping Wild Rabbits would also have been in Queerfella if competition rules allowed and Queerfella and Half-rotten, half-new are two poems I’m glad I didn’t slide back into Throatbone.
Queerfella as a pamphlet is an assault of the personal but described by Will Harris as poems that “have things to teach me about being human, about how to live with trauma, loss and love”. If I had to choose one though, it would be Three Crows, which explores the ambivalence that exists in our lives and perhaps permeates both pamphlets.
Fascinating, Simon, how your work emerged so beautifully, and the support you had. I love those poets.
You deserve your success. Such lovely personal work.
Now, what is the best poetry gig you have done, and the worst?
My worst I’ve attended was at a self-professed inclusive night whereby the person on the door sneered at me and said to a friend, “Ewwww! He’s not my Dad!”
The best I’ve taken part in was a Mind Over Matter Digital last year when every one of the other performers were amazing and a good half dozen knocked it out of the park. Big up to Paul “Fisky” Fisk for such an important poetry initiative.
Well, I certainly like him already!
And that was an appalling comment in the former gig. Rotten apples and a waste of space.
Now, I know you’re off to somewhere really cool…….
Yeah, the magic bus is outside to take me to Woodstock..
Oh wow! Hendrix, Joplin, John Sebastian swearing like a chimney!
Just a cup of tea there will get you high! No doubt, Abbie Hoffman will hijack someone’s performance…..
Er – No, Woodstock in Oxfordshire. An exclusive literary salon discotheque.
Oh wow! I’ll just put on my crocheted waistcoat….
(Our esteemed guest reddens) Er – it’s invitation only, and you have to have the right dress code….
Curses! Foiled again! I’ll make it there one day, you see if I do…!!
Where’s Dobby going? Don’t say she’s invited?!
(Our esteemed guest and black cat make a run for it up the stairs)
Well, it’s back to watching the telly and a frozen meal from Bejams for me. Now, I know he and Dobby are on the magic bus, but lets have an appreciation for the lovely Simon Maddrell who agreed to be interviewed! A fascinating guest and poet.
(Audience clap loud – standing ovation)
Thank you for watching, PL’s. We’ll be back real soon for some more poetry antics…….
Treat yourself to Simon’s wonderful collections – Throatbone is published by Out-Spoken Press, and Queerfella by Rialto. Get onto these publishers for a copy now!