We caught up with Tim Clare, a standup poet in Beijing at the Bookworm Literary Festival 2012. The all-rounded performing artist also plays the ukelele, appeared on BBC 2, Radio 1, 2, 4 and 6, and has written for The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Big Issue and Writing magazine, amongst others.
He also appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011. It won a Brighton Fringe Best Show award, and the Independent called it ‘a wide-eyed, brilliant hour’.
What are your greatest challenges in doing what you do apart from having talent?
I call myself a standup poet so immediately the first challenge is that I’m taking traditionally two very different forms and putting them together. Those two things don’t really have an obvious connection. There’s this idea that poetry is for expressing something very important inside of you, that needs to come out. And standup is about making people laugh. I would say where the two intersects is both should be able saying the most interesting things in the least number of words. The element of surprise, engaging with people.
I think the most challenging thing is managing the audience expectations. So, if you come to see me and you are a fan of poetry, you might find me incredibly brass and immature because I’m jumping about and making lots of jokes. On the other hand, when you come to see standup, there is a significant portion of my show where I’m not making a joke but just telling an interesting story and maybe even something a little sad. So, if you’re expecting to have the laughs coming, you’d be disappointed in another way.
So one of the two groups of people will accuse you for numbing down and being a sell out, the other thinking you are pretentious and difficult.
Tell us abit more about the poetry takeaway truck?
Poetry takeaway is the world’s first poetry emporium and we offer fresh bespoke poems done in 10 minutes. We bought a burger van off ebay and got some artists to refurbish it. The van goes to music festivals, we recentlly did it at the Brit awards after-party, we’ve done it in the streets, pulled up outside the South bank Centre in London.
So, what basically happens is you walk up to the poetry takeaway and give the poet an idea/subject for a poem. The poet then interviews the person for 10 mins and get the content to write the poem in 10 minutes. Then they return 10-15 minutes later to get a performance of the poem and they get a copy to take away wrapped in custom made cardboard packaging– abit like those take away burger boxes with the poem inside, signed by the poet and it’s the only copy that exists. We’ve served over 2000 people in the last year, and we have something like nine poets working on a shift.
I’m really surprised how well it’s been received and people get very emotional about it. Some react by laughing or crying.
Where do you find inspiration as you need to constantly have new content?
I often struggle with inspiration and I don’t always have fresh new ideas. I think it’s something alot of writers have to deal with.
That’s one of the reasons why I do alot of projects like the poetry takeway and I do a project once a year called 100 poems in a day and I’m actually working with 10 writers doing 1000 poems in a day, that means 100 poems from each poet. The titles are suggested by other people with parameters locked in. You have about 8 mins to write each poem, you can’t stop for meals but you can go to the toilet 3 times. I think it would be very difficult to do it with 10 poets. I’ve done it myself for 3 years and got away with it. It was very hard and the rest of the participating poets have to be willing to take up the slack.
All the poems get published online as they are written.
I did that to deal with writer’s block to force myself to keep producing new stuff.
Interview and blog content by Juliana Loh, Social Media Manager, Swire Hotels and editor-in-chief of the blog.Follow her tweets: @bilbaobab or 微博 @julianaloh