I was lucky enough to do my teacher training at King’s with Caleb. He was a great teacher, able to mesmerise even a group of sleepless grown-ups with grammar; I believed every last thing he said about double negatives and pronouns. Last year, after months of not being in touch with him, I read that he had been named Young Person’s Poet Laureate of London and I was so excited. Not just at the fact that something good had finally happened in the year of all things shit, but because he would now go on to inspire young people beyond the four walls of his classroom in London and spread a love of poetry – something pupils notoriously loathe – across the country. I immediately text him and demanded he let me interview him for my blog. Here’s what I asked him and here’s what he told me.
Do you write poetry for a living?
I write poetry for a living, for necessity, for survival and sanity.
How did the whole ‘Young People’s Laureate’ thing come about?
It’s pretty mental. Mental indeed, I was watching Orange is the New Black one day in July, I had just quit teaching full time as a secondary English teacher when I received an email stating that I was part of a shortlist of poets considered for the role. From this, I was invited to interview, so I went.
They only bloody gave it to me.
Are you currently working on any exciting projects you can talk about?
I’m currently working on a poetry pamphlet, which will be out sometime next year. Also, I have a theatre show called Goldfish Bowl I’m creating, which will be showing in the summer.
Where do you source inspiration from?
Life, everyday life. All the good and bad stuff that happens and, yes, that includes my time as a teacher, which was both good and bad.
Did you find teaching poetry easier than teaching, say, a novel?
I think it was more of a matter of the quality and accessibility of the work, be it a novel or a poem. I don’t think there’s much difference between a novel and a poem at the heart of it. They are both trying to convey a human experience, so it’s quite hard to say…
Who am I kidding?
You’ve said in interviews that young people need to create a new voice for themselves. In the fallout of 2016 (AKA the year of shade), what do you think that voice might sound like?
A fog horn on the morning of a hangover, if you’re doing it right.
Favourite poet? Dead or alive.
Impossible, can’t answer that one.
What piece of advice would you give to a young person with a passion for the Arts but without a way in?
Keep knocking until someone opens. OR, you could forge your own route, find like-minded people and dig your way through with them.
I know you’ve spoken about finally being able to embrace all aspects of yourself – do you think London breeds this sort of mentality and allows people to do just that? Or do you think it’s down to the individual?
Definitely down to the individual. London isn’t some utopia where everyone embraces you, it only becomes something closer to that when you can make peace with who you are and understand that you don’t need to justify your humanity to anyone, only then does the city seem more like a beaut.