At Crocstar we have a thing for words – we’re obsessed with them.
That’s why we’ve created a brand new blog series: The Power of Words, in which we’ll meet the people behind the writing. From authors and musicians to poets and journalists, we’ll delve into the different uses of language and the impact words have had on their lives.
This month we’re talking to Derby born-and-bred spoken word poet Jamie Thrasivoulou about his debut poetry collection, his inspiration and what really gets under his skin.
I’m not looking for that moment of clarity, I’m looking for the normal, everyday, mundane stuff.
Music and lyricism has always been a passion of his, starting when he was a teenager, writing lyrics – and singing them – in a band.
A self-confessed ‘jack the lad’, Jamie spent a brief amount of time in prison and it was then he realised he needed to turn his life around. He enrolled on a creative writing course at Derby university and it was there he was inspired by lecturer and poet Matthew Clegg.
“After I discussed my creative process with Matt he was blunt, but helpful. He told me that not every idea that I might have is going to be a fully formed short story or novel. He suggested that I should try my hand at writing poetry instead.”
For a young man who had been in a prison cell just a year before, Jamie found the idea of being a poet strange.
“I didn’t identify with being a poet at the time as it seemed like a highbrow thing. Most people who are into it you imagine to be middle to high class individuals, not lower class scruffs like me.”
He was in a band when he was 14 (“it was a bit embarrassing”) and says writing lyrics turned out to be a useful training ground. It was this experience that helped him transition into feeling confident enough to perform his poetry in front of people.
“I enjoyed being in the band, but I realised that I could do something more with my words. I started to write poetry and that’s when I felt comfortable.”
Jamie credits the lyricist in him for encouraging people to read and listen to his poetry. He adds: “I say things how they are”. He knows he talks about different things than other poets do and he doesn’t like to stay ‘safe’.
Jamie isn’t comfortable unless he’s making people feel uncomfortable.
“People tend to think that if you write poetry you’re supposed to be profound all the time. I think that comes naturally, you shouldn’t have to find it. If it’s real it’ll come through.”
Thinking about attitudes towards poetry, Jamie says he often experiences highbrow ‘poetry has to be for the page’ people. He says they tend to see spoken word poetry as less relevant than written work.
There’s a lot of arrogance in the poetry world. A lot of people may be my friend on Facebook, but won’t bother to like my poetry page. I think they see me as a threat. Because there are a lot of people trying to do the ‘I’m a working class poet’ thing, and they’re not.
I think there’s an element of envy because I’ve lived a life that they can’t imagine, and I can write about it. They certainly haven’t seen the life I’ve seen.”
When performing his poetry Jamie tries to get back into the mindset he was in when he wrote it – he finds it a great way to channel his emotions and keep him out of trouble.
Before his book The Best of a Bad Situation was published, Jamie admits he was conscious about whether women would read it.
“I kept thinking: What if I’m too ‘blokey’? But a lot of women have bought the book, which is great. It surprised me, but I think it’s because the collection is so honest it appeals to everyone.”
Although a lot of his work visits stories from his past, Jamie always manages to find new inspiration.
“I like to go on long walks with my dog around my area. I pick up conversations and I’ll use a line someone says. The world is full of inspiration and influences and I tend to find it where you’d least expect it.”
There are subjects such as politics, class and diversity that regularly influence his writing. He acknowledges people are doing their best to ‘be diverse’ but says class is a diversity issue that’s conveniently ignored.
“A lot of people think the class system doesn’t exist any more, but it does. I notice it even more working in the environment I’m working in – I don’t tend to hear a lot of voices like mine.
For me equality is so important, but it has to be on all levels. To me diversity isn’t having a mix of white, black, asian, gay, and transgender people if they’re all upper class - it’s more than just skin colour or sexual preference.”
Jamie is currently writing his second collection of poetry, in which he’ll explore topics such as domestic violence against men – something he says people don’t necessarily want to discuss.
After reading The Best of a Bad Situation, we were enthralled with Jamie’s vision of Derby. His unconventional style and ability to push boundaries create a brutally honest look at life in the undercurrent of a city.
Looking for your new favourite poetry collection? You can buy Jamie’s debut book The Best of a Bad Situation, or head over to the Maypole Bar for Word Wise – Jamie’s monthly poetry and spoken word event funded by Arts Council UK.