Interview

Hello Poetry Lovers

Yes, I know. Another treat in the talk show studio. Today our guest will be Chris the Postman Poet! (Rapturous applause. Security is called)

(Chris glides down the lighted stairs effortlessly)

Thank you so much for coming on the show, Chris

The pleasure’s all mine. (Standing ovation. Host silences them with a look)

May I say I love that long hair. Do you blowdry it regularly?

Oh yes, I took great tips from Vidal Sassoon and Timotei

Well, it’s paid off. Lovely flowing locks there. Also adore the shirt. What a cool guy! (Audience cheer) Now, Chris, take that comfy seat and tell us about your background

Secondary education was largely a disaster for me. Doing the wrong thing with the wrong people. Less of a school – more of a regime. However, there was a brilliant undervalued art teacher who offered praise and encouragement and let me use his own watercolours. There was also a young forward-thinking English teacher, and I was lucky enough to be taught by him for a year. He read us Little Johnny’s Confession by Brian Patten. I didn’t realise how important this was at the time.

School finished abruptly for me after coming last in ”O” levels. A relief really. Then I was at the Ministry of Agriculture for seven years. Art took centre stage for me in pen and ink and watercolours, and I developed my style and started selling my work.

That’s amazing, Chris. There’s always a small ray of light, isn’t there. Some teacher with saving graces. Then you came into your own as an artist.

When did poetry become a part of your life?

During this time I was quite happy reading and enjoying poetry, along with other classic literature. Graham Greene, Thomas Hardy, Mervyn Peake, Iris Murdoch, so many great wordsmiths. Such great music and textures in words – The Tingle Factor! I was a sponge soaking it up. I became a postman nineteens years ago and it was a lifesaver! Painting and reading again. When you stop hitting your head with a hammer, it doesn’t hurt anymore. I started writing poetry four years ago.

I’m loving this journey, Chris. It wasn’t an easy one but you got there.

Who are your biggest influences?

Roger McGough, Adrian Henri, Brian Patten. How could they not be?! They’ve been simmering away in my head for decades! The mighty John Cooper Clarke. Always there. I love alliteration and the sound and rhythm of words, as he says: ”If it don’t sound good, it ain’t good.” The tragic Kirsty MacColl. She could write a funny and thoughtful story and put it into three minutes. And anyone who throws me a good line or idea.

That’s an impressive list, Chris. Are you working on a book or collection at all?

I probably am working on a book and if you’d asked me two years ago, I would have shouted Yes! The plague knocked my confidence and doubt crept in. When a live performance is up and running again, and I can do a proper gig, ask me then.

I know, we’re really living in limbo at the moment, aren’t we. And what live poetry there is now, it’s all very tentative. Well, I really hope you do. Your work is so funny and poignant (Audience cheer in agreement) Okay, we come to that most anticipated question; what is the best gig you’ve ever done, and the worst…?

Two gigs, if I may…. A few summers ago I was asked to do a 45 minute poetry slot at The Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary open day. The building exudes a calmness and serenity, it felt like walking on air. The time went in a flash and was blissful. Forty people went away happy and smiling.

Dorking is Talking in November 2019, Isabel Morris’s brilliant poetry night – please come back! The Dirty Carols were the main feature and were staggeringly good. I was the first featured poet and after a shaky start, it went well. Isabel asked me back to do ”Cyclist” and the response was overwhelming. Thank you so much, Isabel.

As for the worst gig, my poetry is lightweight and I make no apologies for it. Although I do address serious issues. I want to make people laugh and perhaps take away a line that sticks in the mind. Sometimes open mic gigs can be very dark and claustrophobic, I want to run away screaming. I wrote ”The Poetry Imposter” after one of those gigs. Not a poem for a live set. Not yet anyway.

Ah Chris, you took me on another journey there. Yes, Dorking is Talking, what a great concept by Isabel Morris. Took me back to those heady and unsuspecting autumn days of 2019.

And you’re so right about some open mics, only another poet can understand that unwelcomeness.

Thank you so much for coming on the show, Chris (outstanding ovation from the audience. Security look nervous)

Now you must be going off somewhere really cool. The Lightbox disco perhaps?

I’ve got to condition my hair tonight, so I’ll probably give it a miss.

Me too. Feet up and watching Simon Dee for me. Thank you so much, Chris. You’ve been a lovely and insightful guest, hasn’t he, Poetry Lovers! (Pandemonium- Security are called). Our esteemed guest is smuggled out the building.

Wasn’t Chris the Postman a great guest?! Do catch him when you can, a lovely, funny and engaging poet.

Thanks for tuning in, PL’s, we’ll be back real soon….

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