23rd March 2019
The Saturday Interview: THOMAS
Hi and thanks for your time. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Of course, I’m a 20-year-old university student currently studying at Manchester Metropolitan in English Literature and Creative Writing. That’s the boring stuff though, outside of studying I love writing, taking photographs, exploring different places through the country and indeed the world. Also, I’m an activist for LGBT+ rights and equality.
That’s really interesting; I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed an activist before. Could you describe what you do?
Personally, I’d describe my style of activism as attending pride rallies, working with LGBT+ charities, supporting LGBT+ artists and creators - whilst also challenging people’s behaviour (in a respectful way) if I feel that it isn’t inclusive. It’s all about educating today, for a better tomorrow.
‘places between places’ is your debut poetry anthology. What are you hoping to achieve with it?
That’s a good question, with ‘places between places’ I really wanted to just make a statement and prove to myself that, yes, I can do anything I put my mind to. Over the course of a couple of years, I found myself with a mass of photographs and poetry I had been working on for a while and just thought it would be such a shame not to do something with all of it. This anthology for me, has been a way to introduce myself into the writing world and build a foundation for myself which I can be proud of. I also want to show other people that it really is possible to do anything you put your mind to - I think this is a message often portrayed in the media but unless you do it for yourself, you find yourself taking other people’s word for it.
Can you recall the trigger that got you started? Did you wake up one morning and start or was it a conversation with a friend?
I found myself going through a point in my life where all my emotions were running on all pistons, and I wanted to channel that energy, which was affecting me in a negative way, into something positive that I could be proud of. Looking back, it’s almost like an extremely honest and raw insight into how I felt for those months.
Was there ever a point when you wonder if you’d be able to finish it? If so, how did you overcome it?
Definitely, it came to many points where I loved what I was doing, but then equally I had days where I absolutely detested every word I wrote. You have to believe in your vision and trust in yourself, which can be extremely difficult.
What attracted you to express yourself through poetry?
The freedom of expression; if you want to follow structured rules when it comes to poetry you can. However, you can also express yourself freely, with no boundaries or limitations - which is a brilliant way to be able to explore how you feel.
What different skills do you think are required for writing poetry and prose?
I feel you must be an avid reader and it’s always important to take note of the little details that are everywhere once you look for them. It’s amazing how much of my poetry actually is based in these little details, it could be a cracked pavement or a poster stuck to a lamppost - there’s always something worth thinking about. Most importantly, you’ve just got to enjoy what you’re doing - that’s the only main skill required. As long as you enjoy what you’re writing, nobody can tell you if it’s right or wrong, or good or bad.
In ‘places between places’, you explore emotion and physical location. How do you feel these two are connected?
Well, personally I find that emotion and setting are linked in so many ways - life is about how you feel, how you react in different situations and I find it’s also about the places that you visit and the people you interact with along the way. It doesn’t matter if you’ve travelled the globe or are in the middle of a quick dash to the corner shop, in one way or another, where we go inspires our emotions whether we realise or not. Everywhere we visit has a personality, every person we meet has a personality, streets tell stories in the same way people do.
A lot of the photos from your collection record instances of transport or motion. Do you think these are important to the human experience?
I think travel and motion are definitely a large part of the human experience; we are always shifting from one place to another and it doesn’t matter if that’s on a train travelling somewhere or if you’re absorbed in your thoughts and travelling across an emotional plain. You’re always in one place, travelling to another.
I understand that you got booked into a spoken word night recently. How did you find that?
Yes! Spoken word nights are the most fun, it’s amazing to be able to share your work in such an open space and with such brilliant creative people. Also, it gives you a brand new way to interpret your own work, the words have different meanings when they’re off the page. Plus it’s a great space to network with other writers and get real honest feedback.
Could you describe your artistic process?
I’m always writing and often my poetry manifests itself in different ways. For example, occasionally I feel so strongly about a situation I will write a poem entirely based on the whatever or whoever has caused me to feel that way. These type of poems often seem to just flow out of my fingertips and onto the page - I do much prefer writing the first drafts in a journal which I carry with me at all times. I then transfer this into a word processor and edit it from there.
Alternatively, I can sometimes see something, such as a missing persons poster stuck to a lamppost, which for some reason buries itself in my mind and I feel compelled to write something about it. Or, I’ll be on the train and a line of a poem pops into my head, in these instances I record it in the notes section of my phone and then I build a poem around that one line.
With my photography however, I just photograph things I find interesting or different about a place and then hopefully find the poem or words which match the photos I have taken.
Being completely honest, my skills interpreting and understanding poetry are pretty minimal. It just wasn’t a big part of my education at school and it was often completely dominated by the study of prose. Was that your experience? Do you think that more poetry needs to be taught in schools?
I think poetry should be given a fair chance at being taught in schools - it’s just as important as prose in my opinion. On the other hand, I was taught poetry as part of my studies however, I find it’s often a form which is seen as outdated and uninteresting - at least, in comparison to prose. Poetry is absorbing and compelling, but the way it is taught makes it appear as the opposite of that.
With your permission, I’d like to discuss one of your poems: Rail Replacement. For the sake of readers, I’ll include it in full below:
Sat next to the window boxed in by a smoker
Bare knees pressed against the hard mesh pocket attached to the seat in front
Ankles burning from the scorching heat of the radiator
Unable to move.
Stroking a strangers coat by accident.
Peering through windows of homely homes and
Staring into the graveyard from above
Watching the dead sink restlessly.
A young couple locked in each other’s eyes fill the window of the pub you’ve never visited
Meanwhile, an elderly man sits at a table for two accompanied by only his thoughts.
I’m often told that poetry is about word choice and evocation. What made you choose the particular words above?
This poem was all about recalling that vivid memory of being stuck on a rail replacement bus - which I understand could seem very mundane, but, on that journey I was able to uncover the way the ordinary inspires me. I felt so trapped in that situation with my bag on my knees, it was almost as though I had to observe everything in that moment. I actually wrote the first skeleton version of the poem on that journey, I recorded the images which stood out the most to me, specifically seeing the graveyard from above the hedgeline and seeing the graves consumed by the land. It’s moments like these that strike a chord with something inside me, and I feel an obligation to preserve them through words.
If people want to read more of your work and engage with you online, what’s the best way of doing that?
I’d love to engage with more people online so if anybody would like to contact me I’m always on Twitter over @teenagecrazetom. Alternatively, I have a Wordpress site www.teenagecrazetom.wordpress.com which can be subscribed to via email. Get in touch and let’s say hi and have a chat! Thank you.
Thanks very much.
One of Thomas' recent live performances can be viewed below.