Prior to her headline appearance at the Southcart Books and Walsall Poetry Society open mic, I took some time to catch up with local poet the multi talented Scarlett Ward and chat with her about how what she’s been up to and more.
Q. Congratulations on getting published by Verve Poetry Press in two recent books (The Leon Priestnall collection and the Beatfreeks anthology) and performing at the book’s launches, how did all that come about?
A. I started going to a lot of Birmingham poetry events because I felt that there was a lot going on in the heart of the city that I really wanted to be part of. I’d seen videos and Facebook events of these spectacularly lively crowds that were joining together in a way that I hadn’t experienced in my own small town. I started getting the train up to brum after work and everyone was so friendly and welcoming. Then I saw a call for submissions from poets that had performed at Beatfreeks poetry night so I submitted and am happy to say I was chosen for the Verve anthology and was invited to perform at Birmingham town hall at the poetry jam. Leon has become a good friend that I look up to and respect very much so please go buy his book ‘Bennetts Hill Blues” and show support because he is a fantastic poet and wonderful human! I also want to shout out to Verve Press because they are doing brilliant things for midlands poetry scene, they really care for their poets and about the diversity and representation of all writers.
Q. I think everyone was very pleased to see your open mic at Caffe del Nino get shortlisted for a Saboteur Award would you mind telling everyone about the event and the award nomination?
A. Thank you so much! I am so proud of everyone that is involved with Ninos for helping get us shortlisted! I had seen online calls to apply for the Saboteur awards, and I thought it was worth a try- what I didn’t expect was for everyone to really pull together to vote for us, the support we received was incredible, and we were in the top 5 poetry nights in the UK up against huge cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and London! I was over the moon to say Cannock was recognized in the poetry sphere by making it to the final round of voting and my heart literally exploded with pride and gratitude.
Q. How long have you been interested in poetry, when did you start writing, what are your influences and who are your favourite poets?
A. I was a bit of a loner emo child in my final years of high school, I was pretty embarrassed by my existence and so used to squirrel away in the library where the other girls wouldn’t find me to tease me. As a result I would devour books and write as much as I could whilst listening to very lyrically rich emo music haha. I got all A’s and A*’s at GCSE’s though so I can thank my bullies really! I’m really into American poets at the moment because I think there is a lot to learn from their blunt way of stating things that really hits the gut. Check out Kaveh Akhbar’s “Calling a wolf a wolf” his book has really changed the way I approach poetry in terms of nailing the bold and raw aspects of life. I’m also reading Melissa Lee-Houghton’s collection “sunshine” at the moment it tackles very hard hitting mental health issues whilst maintaining the personal and unapologetic approach.
Q. Now I know you’re not only a poet but I would class you as an artist as well, what made you start to combine art and poetry?
A. Thank you that’s very kind! I’ve always loved art, my mom and dad were huge influences as they are both artists themselves and always encouraged me to draw and to imagine magical scenarios. I’ve always loved experimenting with the visual aspect of art and poetry and have kept a doodle/scribble journal since 2015. Often, the way a poem is consumed visually can emphasise or augment the meaning of the words. I held a solo-curated art x poetry exhibition last year where I invited artists to create visual poetry or poetic art, whichever they wanted, and held a spoken word open mic alongside the exhibition. It was so much fun I hope to do another one again soon!
Q5. I couldn’t let the question pass without asking what’s on a lot of folk’s lips, do you have a poetry collection due out soon?
A. I have been in talks with a publisher because I definitely know where I want my collection to call home… However I think it’s too early to talk about it yet and I don’t want to get in trouble haha BUT I do have a manuscript and a title and it has always been my dream to bring a book into the world… so I will say more when more is confirmed!
Q.Thanks for answering my questions, if folk want to see what you’re up to where can they find you online?
A. My Instagram is @scarlett.ward
You can buy prints and zines of my poetry at www.etsy.com /uk/shop/SWPoetry
I will be running a poetry stall at A5 Live festival the 3,4,5th of August in Chase town so come say hi!
Thank you Scarlett for the fantastic interview, details on the next open mic at Caffe del Nino can be found here.