Debris Stevenson

How has being a London Laureate impacted your career? 

Having a week away, with 5 other writers and many inspirational leaders in our field was insane. To have time and commitment to challenging myself in the context of such brilliant peers was inspiring, intense and emotional and basically everything I am about as a writer – pushing myself, learning about myself and learning from others. Since then, seeing the London Laureates grow alongside me has been really inspiring. The London Laureate team is there as and when I need them, and it is lovely to know that I have someone there to ask many professional questions that until now I have felt relatively alone on. I have done one commission with the London Legacy project, Elle, since being shortlisted, and that was a really beautiful experience to work alongside young East London women like myself, aspiring for careers in the creative industry. It was a unique commission, to create something using the words of other and also a wonderful opportunity to network and perform amongst my peers.

Tell us about what you’ve been involved with since last National Poetry Day

Since National Poetry Day, a lot has happened to both me and my company, the Mouthy Poets CIC, which has received £165,000 from Grants for the Arts, Arts Council England, which involves many initiatives including several Arvon Retreats, a new office, several new members of staff and starting up our own Spoken Word Education Training amongst much much more. At Mouthy, I have also been able to take 9 Mouthy Poets to Germany to perform alongside #LoewenMaul a collective of poets I started at the Statetheatre in Brunswick.

Aside from the wonderful Mouthy Poets, I am currently working with the Poetry Foundation on an exchange between a school in Nottingham and a school in Chicago which has enabled me to travel to Chicago teaching, performing and writing and also has enabled me to attend AWP, the biggest writers conference in North America.

I am currently working on a children’s show with dancer (and boyfriend) Joêl Daniel at Curve Theatre, Leicester, where we are both associate artists. And, as I finish my Jerwood/Arvon mentee position with Clare Pollard, I have just been able to confirmed that through my YPL bursary I will be working with founder of the Poetry School, Mimi Khalvati to develop my writing over the next year.

Lastly, I have become the co-leader of the Roundhouse Collective (where I started writing myself 8 years ago) with Bohdan Piasecki, where I am also a host artists on Talking Doorsteps, which in May 2015 will bring poets from around the world to work on group poetry videos about home, within which myself and Deanna Roger will be making our own video!

Not to mention, I am now a trained Zumba instructor – inspired by the dancing energy of which YPL represents!

What would you advise anyone who’s thinking of applying for the Young Poet Laureate 2015/2016?

Do it for the development; your writing, your craft, your love of poetry. As someone who runs an organisation, I know every position carries its own aims and objectives for the organisation facilitating it, it is not your job to become those aims and objectives – step into this process with your own and achieve those.

This process, in many ways, has been the hardest of my life, so be prepared for that, be prepared to have your work challenged, your ethos challenged, your artistry challenged and hopefully you will come out of it all the better for it.

What are your interests and what opportunities are you looking for?

Writing and performing in and for unusual and interesting contexts. I am particularly interested in narratives that struggle with the binary nature of every day language; gender, disability, race, culture, religion and sexuality. I have really enjoyed making poetry films with a collective in Beirut, writing poems with high school students in a struggling school in Chicago, making a poem from verbatim quotes from interviews with people with varying disabilities, and performing on street corners, in derelict buildings and in concert halls.

I love working with music, film, dance, images, translation, and people.

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