Poetry is a cloak of invisibility…
Kevin Spenst is a west coast poet coming to London, ON to promote his second publication, Ignite, which is inspired by his father and their relationship. Framed by his collection of books, I had a chance to chat with him about poetry, life, his tour, and his upcoming projects.
The Style of spoken word you do is different to what’s normally heard. What influences you?
Theater many years ago. And I’ve always been good at projecting. Being in front of a large group of people feels like a natural habitat, there still is some nervousness. The nervousness jumps out of my body.
I have always loved Roo Borson, she has this beautiful meditative poetry, almost a Zen type quality. I love that quiet place on the page and quiet meditations. When it comes to performing, and reading, I love the shift from the squiggles on a page, it feels like an extension of my body.
What pushes you to perform in public? Do you find that it is the impact of the audience on you or your impact on the audience?
I want to be a better writer, and I think that’s possible through reading. And presenting allows me to find out how well it works. Performing is a shaped moment which is co-created. I think I am in the middle of the two extremes. I would say I am aware of other people’s energies. Sonically it becomes very different.
The current book, Ignite, exposes a very personal situation, what inspired you to write it?
Ignite is my second full-length publication. When I went back to UBC to do my Master’s in creative writing. In a non-fiction class, Liz Ross a fellow poet had suggested writing non-fiction poetry to wrap my mind around the relationship between my father and I.
After multiple trials, I wrote poetry that flowed out of the confusion and the spin. Poems that highlight what was normal in an abnormal situation is what makes up Ignite.
The cover art for both Jabbering with Bing Bong and Ignite are from 2 London artists. How did that come about?
Jason McLean and Marc Bell are both London artists, but they lived in Vancouver for awhile. I had this memory of Mark Bell working on a piece, and it really stayed with me. And it was a departure of what he used to do. So, I asked him if I could use and excerpt, and he responded almost immediately.
With the second book, Jason McClain has had various encounters with mental health, and he deals with it in his art. After reading Ignite he made an original cover for it.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I have been writing a lot of love poems on Instagram. I am working on a third manuscript that will hopefully be out next year. I haven’t given up on love, but certainly there are some old conceits that are pretty exhausted, so I want to try and resurrect the idea of love and add my voice to that.
There is a shift of theme from Ignite to your third manuscript. Is there intention behind the shift?
My first book, Jabbering with Bing Bong, was about the coming of age and coming out to poetic vocal chords. Ignite is about my relationship with my father. So, I am moving from father to son, to the semblance of family. This is an attempt to talk about love in a way that is not cringe-worthy and to be able to add something beautiful to the world.
You are coming to London on June 2nd to do a Poetry Crawl. Tell me more…
An amazing moment was when I read a poem to a random fellow and he gave me the most astute analysis of it on the spot. It is fun to throw poetry out into the world and have these random surprises.
In London, I will be joined by Kevin Shaw, Madeline Basnett, Blair Trewartha, Kevin Hislop and Andy Verboom. I have never worked with these poets and I have never been to London, it will be an interesting experience.
To dig a little more into who Kevin Spenst really is, I asked him some quick-fire questions….
Must read book recommendation?
In fine form, Vol 2
Jordan Able – amazing performer
God Speed, Black Emperor, Fond of Tiger (… or anything from Jazz Records Vancouver Label).
My Dinner with Andre
Poetry is food for the soul and to experience it without the fourth wall join the Poetry Crawl on the 2nd of June. Join the poetic adventure around London with these six amazing poets starting at London Museum at 11 am, Arts Project at 12.30 pm, Fire Roasted Café at 2:15 pm, Jonathon at 3:15 pm and, DNA at 4 pm.
Check out Kevin Spenst on Instagram, @kevin_spenst and for the latest updates on his upcoming books and tours go to kevinspenst.com
Feature photo courtesy of Kevin Spenst