Spilling the tea with Jo Bell

by | Feb 5, 2024 | Speaking with poets | 0 comments


In the run up to VERVE Festival of Poetry and Spoken Word, we wanted to get inside the heads of some of our featuring poets. Here we have Jo Bell,  renowned poet and co-author of How to be a Poet (Nine Arches Press, 2017) and founder of The Poetic Licence, noted as a gym subscription for the muse, answering our questionable questions about poetry.

Least Favourite Poem:

This is a mean question. It’s a bit like asking which is your ugliest child. We know, but we love them anyway 😉
In the ongoing debate of semi-colon versus M dash, which side of the punctuation spectrum do you find yourself leaning towards, and why?

Great question. Every mark that you put on the page matters, and punctuation is such a key part of the poem’s machinery. I’m bilingual in this regard – a big fan of both M-dash and semicolon. If you’re asking yourself which is better, you’re already paying close attention to what punctuation does for a poem.

If poetic forms were characters at a party, which one would be the life of the party, and which one would be sitting in the corner sipping tea and quietly observing? And, of course, which form would be photobombing all the group pictures?

The sestina is the person repeating themselves – have I told you this already? The prose poem is the guy trying to persuade you that he’s a Real Intellectual and mansplaining feminism. The sonnet would be looking you in the eye and quietly understanding everything. 

Unexpected Influences:

Archaeology, my first career, taught me a precept which is just as valid in poetry: record what you see, and not what you expect to see. The act of observing without judgment, then interpolating from what you’ve observed, is key to both undertakings. 

Favourite Line or Phrase:

All water wants, all water ever wants, / is to fall. From my poem Lifted: I’m not quite sure why it’s so powerful, but I like it and so do many readers. I was trying to get across that water is absolutely inanimate and has only one need, but it has something in it of the way that none of us can escape who we are. 

SATURDAY NIGHT HEADLINE EVENT: Nicole Sealey, Rebecca Goss, Alice Hiller. Hosted by Jo Bell

Sat 24 Feb, 5.30 – 7pm, Patrick Studio

We’re thrilled to be hosting a rare UK appearance from Nicole Sealey whose most recent two collections have been recently published by Bloodaxe. An extract from Nicole’s The Ferguson Report: An Erasure won The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in 2021.

Joining Nicole are Rebecca Goss and Alice Hiller. Rebecca’s newest collection Latch (Carcanet, 2023) follows 2019’s Girl and the Forwards shortlisted Her Birth (Carcanet, 2023).

Alice’s debut full collection, Bird of Winter (Pavilion, 2021) was shortlisted for Best First Collection at the Forwards in the same year. Hosting these three amazing poets for readings and discussion is Jo Bell, renowned poet and co-author of How to be a Poet (Nine Arches Press, 2017).

Tickets £8 (concessions £6)