In conversation with Writer, Poet and Performer Joe Williams

You don’t know a Haiku until you’ve seen Joe Williams read a Haiku. If he’s in a super good mood, Joe will treat you to one whilst he’s comparing an hour at our 12 Hour Charity Open Mic, happening on 28th May 2018 11am-11pm. I got chance to chat to him ahead of the event…

When did you first start writing / performing?

I started doing poetry on stage in 2015, but I’ve always written bits and pieces. Before I fell into poetry (entirely by mistake) I’d mainly been doing more journalistic and factual stuff, blog writing and so on. My poetry writing probably came more from music and songwriting. I was a semi-professional musician for many years, and I’ve played in bands, so I have a longer history of performing, though for most of that I was hiding behind a keyboard and other people, which is a lot less nerve-wracking then being on your own with only a microphone.

How would you describe your poetry?

That’s always difficult to do. I think people largely identify me with comic poetry, but I mix it up a lot. When doing a longer set I try to take the audience on some kind of journey, so generally I’ll follow a funny poem with something more emotional or political. That’s my story anyway. It might just be that I have no idea what I’m doing.

Poetry written to be performed or read can be very different. Do you find your poetry gains a new dimension when performed?

For me, the performance aspect of poetry is the most fun part, and I don’t just mean the part when I’m on stage myself, but the whole atmosphere and camaraderie of a poetry event, and the community that comes with it. When I’m performing I try to make it more than just a series of poems, and I try to involve the audience. So yes, for all of those reasons, I think there’s an extra dimension in performance, but it’s not necessarily because of the poems themselves.

If you had to choose one other person to perform your poetry (other than yourself) who would you choose?

Leeds poet Mark Connors, who edited my (very reasonably-priced) book ‘Killing the Piano’, and who claims to be a good friend of mine, always reckons that I copy him, so I’ll choose him purely for the purpose of revenge. I’d like him to read my poems for at least an hour in front of an audience. He’d hate it.

What’s your favourite poem and why

That’s another very hard one. I’d have to choose someone local, because there are so many great poets around Yorkshire, and it’s always wonderful when I hear or read a brilliant new poem by one of my friends. There are loads I could pick, but ‘Flight’ by Sandra Burnett jumps to mind.

Hear poetry like you’ve never heard it before

Come along to our 12 Hour Charity Open Mic (all for a fantastic cause) on 28th May. Perform yourself, or simply sit back and watch the great local performers who will be stopping by. We’ll see you there!

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