The Poet Q&A: clinic

The Poet Q&A: clinic

By Amelia Forsbrook 15/02/12

We’re currently running The Poet, a brief in partnership with art and poetry collective, clinic. As applications fly in, they talk about creative disagreement and ‘breeding’ audiences...

Could you just introduce yourselves and tell me about your roles in clinic?

Rachael Allen: We all do a bit of everything, but I’m Rachael and I mainly do poetry.

Andy Parkes: I’m Andy and I also do a bit of everything. I help out with the poetry and the events and I do a lot of the administration work.

Sam Buchan-Watts: I’m Sam and I do a lot of poetry and I’ve done a lot of the booking of bands.

Sean Roy Parker: I’m Sean and I’m responsible for the aesthetic of what we do. Books, pamphlets, flyers, websites…

How did you all come together?

SBW: Rachael, Andy and I did the same degree at Goldsmiths. Rachael got in contact with a tutor who is a poet and then she organised a workshop in a pub. This was just an awesome place to talk about poems – our own and other peoples’. We got to a point where we were going to readings and thought we might read out our own work. Then we just knew that we wanted to put on events and make zines.

How did you develop an audience for your work?

RA: I guess we had a lot of friends who weren’t really into poetry. It was basically us three and we were thinking, “Why aren't our friends reading this awesome stuff?’

AP: A big thing for me when we started was about trying to take away some of the perceived elitism about poetry.

RA: So we sort of bred this audience – this music audience and this poetry audience and an art audience.

AP: It’s sort of breeding them, gently tricking people by being like, “Oh, here’s this band that you wanted to see and here’s some poetry”. It’s really nice when you hear people saying, “I’d never been to a reading before and I actually really enjoyed that”.

Do you ever disagree about poets?

SBW: All the time.

RA: I don’t think we disagree as often as we could. By and large, we agree on stuff and I think we know when to compromise. A lot of compromise takes place when we’re putting the poetry in the anthology, at the stage of choosing the poets and the poems.

SRP: We’ve had many long discussions about the reasons we like something and why we think other people will like it.

SBW: Yes, It’s about making sure that belief is there, even if you’re not the one who likes it. 

Tips from clinic:

  • If you’ve got faith in something that you’ve written, send it. Don’t be scared.
  • A poem should be able to speak on its own – unaccompanied – in an anthology.
  • Use workshops and friends to make sure you have a number of perspectives on a poem. An objective workshop where you’re hearing people respond to the poem is as close as you can get to actually hearing what’s going on in people’s heads. If the poem’s good, it should be answering the questions that are asked of it.
  • Don’t be precious. When someone says, “this part of your poetry doesn’t work”, that’s healthy. A poem is like a deliverance of a concept or an idea. The poem isn’t you.


Think you have what it takes to impress clinic? Enter your short poems to our The Poet brief before Friday 24 February.

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