Money, Radio Solent, and how I singlehandedly confirmed a lot of preconceptions about poets

Things have been busy on the Hampshire Poet front this week: two radio interviews (JackFM Monday, Radio Solent Tuesday), articles in local newspapers (such as the Hampshire Chronicle), Winchester Uni putting out a press release, a first couple of places suggesting projects I could be involved in, and lots of people getting in touch to say well done. It has been quite exciting. Somehow I”ve also managed to do a fair bit of Open University marking as well.

The interview with Solent was particularly good fun. I spoke to a nice young woman who said they wanted to do an interview with me about the Hampshire Poet 2012 role, and I said of course. Then I found out it was live. This was daunting: I”m used to doing redraft after redraft of anything that goes out into the public arena – not having the first words I think of registered indelibly by however many thousands are listening to Solent”s DriveTime.

But I wasn”t going to say no. Apart from anything else, I want the Hampshire Poet role to be a chance to tackle lots of things I”ve not done before. First every radio interview? Did that yesterday. First live radio interview? Yes, I”ll do that.

So at 4 o”clock I got to the building where Solent has its Winchester studio. By 4.20, the scheduled time of the interview, I was still in the building, but very much not in the studio. (It”s an unmanned studio, and I was supposed to let myself in and follow some instructions to set up the I casino online Blue ar indelningen inte lika exakt, men du ska inte ha nagra problem att hitta ditt favoritspel. equipment).

I had tried the first key. It wouldn”t go into the lock. I tried the second key. Same result. I tried the first key upside down. The second key upside down. The first key again, any way I could think of. Ditto second key. I pushed really hard. Neither key was having anything to do with the lock.

I went back upstairs. The man from the Solent newsdesk on my mobile was being exceptionally patient.

I got more keys, then out of sheer panic tried to use the first set again. Unsurprisingly, they still didn”t work. The first key on the second bunch didn”t work. The man on the end of the line was being a saint. Suddenly, a key worked. “I”m in!” I yelled, like a contestant on The Crystal Maze, circa 1991.

Lights on, sit down at mic (thankfully there was only one), switch on the box with lights and twiddly bits because it looks important – and wait. And wait. And Wait. I tried pressing some buttons on the important-looking box, but only started a high-pitched squealing in the earphones that I then couldn”t stop.

Then I noticed a phone; saved. I called Solent and we did the interview using a wonderfully simple, cheap piece of white plastic where the only technical challenge is to put the right part to your ear and the other bit towards your mouth. Hoo-rah. And they were very good about my being late on air.

Actually, all that technical faff helped: it distracted me so much that I forgot to worry about the content of the interview, so when it started I was fine: my belief in the Hampshire Poet job, and poetry in general, took over. It was a lot like the exercises I set creative writing students, where I ask them to tackle something apparently silly and difficult, so that they stop worrying about their writing and just let it out.

Steve Harris at Solent asked me one question I hadn”t anticipated at all: is the Hampshire Poet role a good use of public funds? I”d never looked at it that way – being a lover of poetry, I assume everyone else sees its value too. But it”s a fair question; it”s related to the much bigger one of when and whether artists and writers should get public money, but I haven”t got time to go into that. Short answer: yes, I think it is. Having a title like HP2012 opens doors for poetry (witness these two radio interviews), and that opens doors for people to hear it, read it, write it, love it. As I said on the show, I believe that poetry can always bring deep, important pleasure and comfort to a wider readership (and writership); and I believe the HP2012 role can help start some of that readership on its journey. And I think that”s worth the money.


The interview is on listen again at until 16th Jan; the Steve Harris show, about 16.25 (ish).

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