Interview with Deanna Rodger
How old were you when you started writing poetry?
I was 17 when I took part in a poetry workshop called lyrics@lyric.
When and where was your first poem published?
I haven't had anything published for myself as yet, however I supported a writing workshop with a group of young carers last year for four weeks and had a poetry anthology published for them called 'Handle with Care'.
Your poetry collections have some eye-catching titles and your poetry is unique in its style – where do you find your inspiration?
The inspiration comes from the same place as everybody else's inspiration: from being alive, living in a world filled with other people and by having a brain that works. There's no secret.
Which of your poems is your favourite and why?
It varies, at moment I am in love with my anti BNP poem because it addresses issues that are quite serious in a light-hearted, non-confrontational way, while remaining focused, conscious and truthful.
What has been your greatest (poetry) success to date?
Probably winning the Farrago UK poetry title. It opened up a world to me that I think would have been a lot harder to infiltrate and gain recognition from. Also touring Germany, which was simply AWESOME!
Do you have a special place you write?
Public transport! I'm writing this on the Piccadilly line!!!! I find it really relaxing and a productive use of time! If I'm not going to speak I may as well write!
How would you describe your writing style?
Rappy!! I have a natural rhythm that is definitely invested in my poetry! It's also quite wordy and there is a lot going on below the surface. I ensure each word needs to be there!
Who is your favourite poet and why?
Erm, I don't have a particular favourite. I look up to people like Polarbear, Amen Noir and Inua Ellams while maintaining the upmost respect for poets like Dean Atta and Hollie McNish who are inspirational, motivating and good friends.
As the youngest UK Slam Champion winner (Deanna won in 2007) – what advice can you give to aspiring young poets who'd like to follow in your footsteps?
Write from your heart and soul. There's nothing worse, in my opinion, than hearing a people-pleaser poem that has no root in life. I think that the ability to transfer feelings, emotion and experience, good and bad, through words is rare and precious and is what writing to perform is about. Do it with passion, not for recognition.
If you had to pick acting or poetry, which would you choose and why?
Wow!!! I actually don't know! I've always secretly wanted to act professionally and that opportunity would be stupid to pass up. However, poetry has become part of my existence. I guess I could act in my performance. But in money terms acting is more lucrative … I don't know!
What impression of poetry do the school kids have where you work?
I think that it depends in the teacher they have. If they can get stuck into the analysis then they love, like it!! But if they are preached at and are not able to access it on their own personal level it becomes very difficult to engage and understand. When I have performed at the school I worked at, the girls were shocked that was considered poetry!! It's good to show them that there's not one type of poetry writing so they feel that it's a medium they can express themselves on if they need to.
Are you running any workshops in the near future?
Nothing has been confirmed as yet other than slam workshops in Jersey secondary schools with Farrago Poetry. But I'll hopefully be working with primary school students in a general writing workshop. Young people are, quite literally, the future!
Is it difficult to judge other people's poetry?
Yes and no. Yes because you don't want to offend anyone's masterpiece and no because I either feel, understand and relate to it or I don't!
What was it about Andrew Barber' poem that won him the Poetry Rivals competition?
Andrew's poem stood out, to me, for it's quirky combination of humour and irony of a topic every single westernised person is attached to. In saying that, we were to and fro-ing because there were pieces that would work very well on paper. I think Andrew's was clever, well structured and very relevant. I'm glad he emerged our winner!
Do you have any poetry ambitions left to fulfil?
I'm in the process of writing a play for a workshop I take part in. I have six weeks to do that. I also really have no excuse for not being published so I hope to have achieved that by the end of this year!
What is the greatest accolade you have received for your writing?
I guess it would have to be the feedback that I receive from both people who have seen me perform and those who have heard of me and express their anticipation. I mean awards are great but for someone to take the effort to comment on my work and performance is seriously cool!
Do you have any projects in the pipeline you'd like to tell us about?
I am currently writing a play and take part in workshops that involve acting and screen writing. I also got in to the National Youth Theatre and so hope to perform in some of their shows!
"There's nothing worse, in my opinion, than hearing a people-pleaser poem that has no root in life. I think that the ability to transfer feelings, emotion and experience, good and bad, through words is rare and precious and is what writing to perform is about."