In conversation with Anna Percy

-Interviewed by Claire Trévien


Anna Percy was born and educated in Norwich, she gained a Joint Hons BA in Creative Writing and Contemporary Culture from Cumbria Institute of the Arts in 2007 and a Creative writing MA from Manchester University in 2009. She is one half of Stirred Poetry Collective who run a feminist poetry event in Manchester. She is the author of several chapbooks, notably He is in the Stars (2012) and Ghosts at the Dinner Table (2010). She is participating in the Penning Perfumes, which I am co-organizing.

1) First, thanks so much for taking part in Penning Perfumes, it’s great to have you on board. What made you decide to accept the challenge?

I write a lot from art and music and film so I think it was the idea of making poetry from something that isn’t poetry. That’s one of the qualities I find interesting in modern and experimental poetry. It’s also that smell is the strongest link to memory.

It’s a marvellously odd project, I’m so pleased to have been a part of it. Art and poetry should intrigue people.


2) How would you describe the place of scent in your writing up until now? Has this challenge made you more aware of it?

I have always attempted to use vivid sensory description in my work. I have written some purely smell memory poems and some that use it as it as part of synthesia as a device.

Sensory description is the thing I always impress upon people as being the most important thing for making people feel what you are feeling when I am running workshops. Smell is one of the most visceral like sound it just comes upon you and your brain fires up the memory unasked.

3) It often feels at spoken word nights that there is a pressure for poets to be funny, to the extent where the lines become very blurred between poetry and stand-up comedy. Can you tell me a little about what makes Stirred so different?

Through choosing the guest poets we have chosen who while are picked for their ability to perform poetry effectively are picked largely because they the qualities of poetry we think are important. These are for stirred first and foremost lyrical qualities, innovative use of form, feminist values and surprising use of language. We are a team and know exactly what we are looking for in a guest. I think it is this in part that ups the game of our open mic’ers. We also have a space that is very open to new performers, queer and mental health friendly and this leads to some surprising poetic voices.

4) Somewhat related, but who are your contemporary poetry hero(ine)s?

I love the way Moniza Alvi gently brings in the surreal into her gorgeous poetry in poems like ”I was born in a glove compartment”, I had the great privilege of being taught by Vona Groarke for my MA she writes very tight often short biographical poetry. Steph Pike is a local poet who manages to write beautiful lyrical political poetry, she and Becca Audra Smith’s (my stirred co host) ability to write seriously and well about the inequities that exist in the world inspired me

5) How would you describe the Manchester literary scene, what are your favourite nights?

The scene is vast so you can find events for any kind of poetry you can imagine and its very supportive I’ve sometimes had lovely emails from people checking their event isn’t clashing with mine. We have all kind of festivals that happen the last one Stirred was involved with was Sapphormation we ran a wonderful workshop on lesbian and bisexual women writers. Bad Language is consistently one of the best events around and is packed out. This coming Tuesday is this. Knowing the organisers I expect is to be gloriously political and experimental and raucous. There’s dozens more I could mention like Paradox or the 2nd Sadcore Dadwave event. We are totally spoilt here and its wonderful. I have started up a new purely open event called Shaken that runs the first Sunday of every night running from Fab Cafe which has a sci-fi interior so the theme runs through teh poetry and prose read its been running for several months and attendance keeps going up!

6) Any big projects in the pipeline?

The first Stirred Anthology is coming out this year our first collection of feminist poetry from men and women countrywide which we are very excited about. I have other things to announce later in the year!

Anna Percy will be reading at Penning Perfumes in Manchester on 23rd February. Buy tickets here.

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