I recently found time to have a chat with Walsall poet and storyteller Leanne Cooper following the release of her excellent debut collection ” Awake at 3am.” Leanne had lots of interesting things to say so I hope you’ll enjoy this talk with one of the rising stars in my local poetry scene.
Q. Awake at 3AM is a fantastic emotional roller coaster of a collection with some very personal poetry. How do you feel now it’s released and available and everyone can read your work?
A. Well, first of all I want to thank you for asking me to do this interview, and for yet again making me feel like a celebrity! Your support, and kind words mean the world to me, thank you.
If I am completely honest… I am terrified. I have always been scared of what people will say, and think of me as a person, and this worry is there with my writing too. I have had so much support from other people on the poetry scene – yourself included – which has given me the courage to put myself out there. My anxiety is crazy at the moment, and I am dreading my first bad review or criticism; but I have to remind myself that that is eventually going to happen… not everyone will enjoy my work and that’s fine… I can’t let it be a big deal, but instead take it on board, learn from it, and better myself.
Q. If you can pick one, what is your favourite poem from the book and why?
A. Haha.. Well … that would be like asking me which of my children is my favourite. I love them both equally, but for different reasons; the same applies with my poetry. Each piece holds a part of me, and brings with it deep meaning and emotion… I couldn’t name just one, even if I tried. Out of every poem in the book, Wynter, Jade, Belonging, Our Intricate Demise, J, and I Wonder are the ones that were fuelled by the most intense of my emotions, so I guess you could say I have a closer connection with those than some of my others.
Q. After reading the book I was quite shocked to read of some of the things you’ve been through and I applaud your desire to share these poems. How did you tackle writing when the topic is so emotive and personal to you?
A. I had to. When my emotions are at their extreme and most intense, I have no choice but to write. Not only is it something that I enjoy, and do for fun; it is also my therapy. I write myself out of my own head, and writing has saved me on more than one occasion. I am not ashamed to admit some of the stuff I have had to deal with over the years has been tough – unbelievable even – but I hope that through sharing my experiences, I can help those who are going through similar situations. Something that I am most passionate about, is supporting victims of domestic abuse. I went through over 7 years of hell and came out the other side. During that time I didn’t write, was ridiculed when I tried to, and told that I would never amount to anything. Although Awake at 3am doesn’t really represent that time in my life, and only slightly touches upon it, I feel that it has proved to some extent that I have moved on and demonstrated my ability as a writer.
Q. In your book you also included an excellent short story. How do you decide if an idea will make a poem or story and what is the difference between writing them?
A. I honestly do not know. It may sound crazy, but I don’t decide… the ideas form themselves, and lead me to where they want to go. Even with my poetry I don’t decide which style I am going to write in, if it will be spoken word, what metre etc. I will get an idea pop into my head – yes, that is usually at 3am when I am trying to sleep – and I’ll write it down…. the idea will just flow. The more I write, the more ideas will come. The short story ‘Why Doesn’t it Happen’ which is at the beginning of my book, came from listening to a song by a band called Bitch Alert. The song in my story is a real song, I just wrote about the nostalgia surrounding that song, and added some fictional scenes to it. By the way I highly recommend that people listen to the song (Loveson) to get a better understanding of my protagonist’s emotions.
Q. As someone who is making a name for themselves on the local open mic circuit what advice do you have for anyone thinking of performing their poetry for the first time?
A. Do it. Just go for it. I had panic attacks for days before, and after my first performance, but I am so glad that I forced myself to go for that very first time. Yes, it is scary, but it is so worth it. If you are in the West Midlands area, the Walsall poets are such a supportive group, and along with some of the poets from Cannock, and Stafford; it is like a family of like-minded people, who encourage and believe in each other. It is a very positive and up-lifting vibe… definitely a safe space in which to introduce yourself. Not only have I been given the opportunity to share my work with a wider audience, and further my career; I have also met some extremely talented people (who I am still very much star struck by, even now), and I have made some amazing friends. I definitely feel that my writing and appreciation for poetry has improved too. From seeing other poets perform, and listening to their words, I have learned so much more already, and have been introduced to new ways of writing and performing – spoken word, for example… I didn’t really get that before, but now I am quite into it, and aspire to write some of my own spoken word pieces to perform at open mics in the future.
Q. Now your book is out what next?
A. I am already working on my second and third books! Haha! So yeah, I have 2 more poetry books which I am working on that will delve even deeper than Awake at 3am did. The one will be exclusively about the darker side of love… an alternative romance if you will… the second will be exploring the effects of mental illness – depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia etc. Again, these will be poems which are personal to me and entirely about my experiences with the subjects. Other than that, I have 2 novels that I have been working on for a few years now, so I am hoping to finish them as soon as possible! I am, however, the self-proclaimed queen of procrastination so who knows when I will actually finish them. I also hope to be attending a lot more poetry events and open mics across the Midlands, which I am really looking forward to!
Q. Where can folk find you online?
A. I have numerous social media accounts now, but the main places to find my work are Facebook, and WordPress. From these sites you will also be able to access my Instagram, and Twitter. I am not really into twitter, so I do apologise for not having a big presence on there. Please come and find me on Facebook, I would love to hear from people and get some opinions on my work!
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