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Poetry Competitions UK
15 Jun 2011

Catherine Brogan

'Catherine is witty, wise and a great entertainer. Her poetry makes the personal political & the political personal' Paul Burston, Time Out
Performing and interviewed on Radio 4 Today programme on New Year's day
Edinburgh  Fringe - Outspoken with Sophia Blackwell
Cheltenham Literary Festival - got my own slot and was a finalist in the Lit Fest's Slam
Canterbury Literary Festival -
Larmer Tree Festival
Winner Farrago Best Slam performer 09 & 08
Represented London in the Semi Final of the Radio 4 UK Slam
Representing the UK at the European Slam Days in Berlin

twitter: catherinebrogan

How old were you when you started writing poetry?

I think I was about 6 or 7

When and where did you first perform?

I first performed aged 6 as well, we have a competition in my home town where school kids perform the same poem, I used to win. My teacher would get me to go around all the other classes and perform my own poems.

How would you describe your poetry style and what/who inspires you?

The rhythm, rhyme and story drives the poem forward. I try to make the personal, universal. It's political with a small p. It's about identity, place, telling stories that don't get told, finding a way to talk about difficult, hard to look at realities. Most of my poetry is based on my experiences which when it comes to performance poetry, I think audiences respond to.

You have supported the likes of Skinny Man, what was your response from his followers and what approach did you take for your performance? 

I used to MC so for that gig I did some of my music tracks. That gig was in Belfast and I think the audience was happy to see a female from N.Ireland performing. However, you can get a lot of negativity from the predominantly male hip hop environment, they think because of your gender people will go easy on you, so they go hard on you. I recently performed in front of 1000 Kenyan hip hop fans without music and for that I just had to bring lots of energy, expression and choose pieces they would respond to. I have a very forceful performance style when I want to and that's key to winning over tough audiences that aren't exactly prepared for poetry.

Do you have a special place you write?

I seem to mainly write when I'm moving, sometimes a poem will end because I've reached my tube stop. I am not a disciplined writer. I'll carry an idea around for ages, then the first line or a phrase will come to me and I'll just jump from there. Then the poem just flows, takes on a life of its own, I find it difficult to stop sometimes. I'm not very good at editing, but I'm trying. I keep most of my poems in my head. I lose my books all the time. Memorising and perfecting the performance is a big part of poetry for me, the writing is the foundation but the rest is as important. Oral culture is important to me, I think it's my way of keeping the spoken word alive. I am dyslexic and my mother can't read/ write/ speak very fluently because of a head injury which made me more interested in oral culture.

What is your greatest (poetry) success to date?

I really loved performing in Kenya, the Nairobi performance poetry scene is great! It was a brilliant challenge to write and perform for a Kenyan audience. I'm looking forward to taking my poetry global and that's a lot easier these days, what with the internet. I think my greatest success hasn't happened yet, at least I hope there's more. I think that recognising that I am a poet and that poetry is something I can do with my life, as a proper career is a personal success for me because it means I can take my poetry seriously and move it beyond a hobby.

You represented London in the UK Radio 4 Slam, what place did you come, and how was your poetry perceived?

I came 5th, in the semi final, the top 4 went through to the final. One of the poems I did in the London heat, the Radio 4 guy said I couldn't do on the Radio. I think Radio 4 is just not ready for poems about lesbian desire, despite the fact it had no swear words in it. A poem about rape and suicide won, I guess I just can't top that! I got good feedback from it and it was great to put it on my CV. I learnt a while ago not to take slams seriously. My mum and dad where very proud!

Do you have any poetry ambitions left to fulfil?

Loads! I'm only 26! I'm really interested in poetry and film. I've just learnt to edit my own videos. I've just given up working full time in Fairtrade to concentrate on poetry so 2011 should be a good poetry year for me.

Tell us more about Soul Spun Soundsystem and your involvement?

At university I was part of a group that clubbed together to buy a sound system and put on events in York. It was a fantastic experience for me of event organisation, marketing, booking big name acts and finding venues. I also MCed at events and rapped to some beats. It was a great growth period for me as a performer and built my microphone confidence. It was fun but as I've got older I think the poetry scene is more my thing. I like that people can actually hear what I am saying and are there to listen.

You were part of many events in 2010, what was the best experience and performance for you and why?

I'm a massive Radio 4 geek so being interviewed live on the Today programme, in the Financial section on New Year's Day was a great way to kick start 2010. I made the presenters laugh and it was great to take poetry to a place where people don't expect it and to give my views on the credit crunch, on Radio 4!

Do you have any projects in the pipeline you'd like to share with us?

I want to do a poetry documentary, another poetry hitch hike (hitching to different poetry events) with live video updates, more poetry videos and I'm working on a one woman show for Edinburgh Fringe. I'm thinking of making a written collection of my poetry but as a performance poet I'm still toying with this idea as I don't know if its the best way to present what I do.

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