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Poetry Competitions UK
15 Jun 2011

Charlie Jordan

Charlie is a poet, radio presenter, event host and workshop facilitator. She's presented on Radio 1, Radio 2, BBC London, LBC, Capital FM and Heart FM to mention but a few. Charlie has hosted many events all over the UK and also hosts workshops for children of all academic levels. Charlie was Birmingham's Poet Laureate for 2007/8.
For further information on Charlie and her projects visit www.charliejordan.co.uk - we recommend the audio section, where you can hear Charlie performing some of her poems.

How old were you when you starting writing poems?

At school I wrote one about a centipede taking off his 100 pairs of Dr. Martins Boots before he got in the bath ... then boys and music distracted me until a few years ago.

When and where was your first poem published?

A few years ago in Raw Edge magazine. This October in the 'Bugged' anthology will be the next time, it's not something I've chased - being more of a 'spoken word bird.'

How would you describe your poetry style? 

Hmmmmm ... pick 'n' mix from laid back/elegant/sensual/humourous/hip hop inspired?

Do you prefer contemporary or traditional poetry?

Why? I either love a piece or not, however ancient or brand spanking newly squeezed it may be. I once saw Benjamin Zephaniah talking about the works of Blake and it was brilliant, made me pick up some Blake to flick through in Borders. (RIP.) I don't know much about so-called 'traditional' poetry, having never studied it at school - but wouldn't be so rude as to not give it a chance.

Who is your favourite poet and why? 

Love Buddhist writer Thich Nhat Hanh, Wilfred Owen and Seamus Heaney first got me excited about poems at school. Maya Angleou as a fellow 6-foot woman who loves food will always connect with me. I love Sharon Olds and Billy Collins for the way I have to slow down and savour every word.  But really it has to be one of the performers who opened up the way I understood what poetry can really be, in 3D - many of whom I'm lucky enough to know and have been encouraged by in their friendship ... like DreadlockAlien, Spoz, Jo Bell, the late Roi Kwabena, Polarbear, David J Pugilist, Byron Vincent, Tony Walsh, Zena Edwards, Emma Purshouse and many more ...

What, in your opinion, makes a good poem? 

You feel it physically, or at least I do … something resonates in my body from the inside out. It has to be truthful to work for me, something genuine will connect deeper than if style and format have taken priority over the heart of a piece. You  may remember a line or your way of looking at the world may subtly change after a powerful poem.  Keep it real though, never try and copy someone else.

Do you have a favourite poem that you've written?

There's one I use in schools a lot, working with groups of young teenage lads that's a dynamic performance piece I can speed up and slow down in a lot and move around to keep 'challenging behaviour' in check. The rhythm and rhyme of it trickle along, like a Massive Attack album in places and I'm so familiar with it I can play around within it.  It's about a car crash, then they always ask to see my scars from it afterwards!  Or for a grown-up audience there's a sensual piece called 'Your Hands' which wrote itself very quickly, about when you first realise you're attracted to someone and when you look at their hands you imagine what they could do ...

As an established performance spoken word poet, what advice can you offer to anyone thinking of performing their poem at a slam or open mic night?

Learn it if you can - keeping up eye contact and engaging an audience will increase its power exponentially. Martial arts teaches you a good stance is vital - so don't wear 6-inch wobbly stilettos, and stand with your feet hip distance apart for a strong base to start with. Although I also like to move around and walk within the poem  ...  and just be yourself and enjoy it - a well- hosted night will give an appreciative audience response to any newcomers. 

Can you recommend any spoken word poets we should try and see?

As the list above - Spoz, DreadlockAlien, Polarbear, Jo Bell, Byron Vincent, Tony Walsh, David J Pugilist, Zena Edwards and Emma Purshouse.

Are you performing in any spoken word events in the near future? 

Hopefully, and if I'm organised - they might even be listed on my website ... www.charliejordan.co.uk.

Tell us more about your show 'Buddhism and Ben & Jerrys' … 

It's a 15 minute solo piece (so far, may be extended ...) written for the Litup project, for which I was the West Midlands Associate Artist. Performed at Rhymes at the Custard Factory and Bristol Old Vic in 2010. I had a day working with the hugely talented director Rachel Mars to stage block it out, so it does feel like the most professional performance piece so far. Described in one review as being like a 'Grown-up Jackanory' - as some of the piece is performed seated next to a Buddhist statue. Then in other places you get to find what other objects are hidden behind the statue … hence the piece is only suitable for grown-ups!

And about your Artist's residency at WBA Football Club …

For Apples and Snakes I spent time at WBA football club, and had to blog and write about it all … then perform at the Big Chill Festival alongside the stunningly talented Byron Vincent, Rukkus and Emma McGordon. We'd all been working in different parts of the country, and our separate narratives came together a few days before we were onstage at the 'Big Chill'. We were so lucky, although it was terrifying - as my first proper 'poetry show' - we had so much support from our fellow poets it was lovely. Although I got many strange looks running around the fields in a WBA football shirt. If only I'd put fairy wings on it, I'm sure it'd have been fine :)

What was it like, being the female host of the first ever Brit Writers' Awards Unpublished? 

It was stunning being in the O2 in London, even star performer David J Pugilist was excited by the venue! The team in charge, headed by Imran Akram and Zareen were so calm and professional and that attitude filtered through the rest of the crew. There were some incredible guests - Terry Pratchett was lovely and gave a really inspired speech to all writers in the audience. Seeing the excitement on all our winners' faces was such a privilege to be a part of, and the event really supports and celebrates the wealth of talent we all know is out there. Roll on next year …

What's been your highlight of a very busy year so far? 

Performing my own show at Bristol Old Vic, in front of an audience including the legendary Baba Israel - and being able to hear him laugh at one of the first few lines! I've never been so relieved ... I think I'd have been even more nervous - but I'd been up since 4am to present a Breakfast radio show in Birmingham first and was absolutely trashed with tiredness :)  I don't have a very big ego, and did spend time beforehand thinking 'who the hell am I to be up there taking up people's time with my ramblings?', because I was scheduled to perform and had to do it, it helped me gently through that barrier.

For all budding poets, who'd love achieve your success, what advice can you offer them? 

Keep going, hook up with other writers for coffee or online so that you can keep connected. Do things that scare you as often as  possible. I don't mean like scary rides at Alton Towers, but pushing outside your comfort zone - i.e. performing or pitching for projects. And be patient, it takes time for your style to evolve.

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

There's something I've got in the planning stages and as nothing is remotely confirmed yet, I daren't tell you any more or this email will dissolve and crackle like Spacedust ...

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