When I first met Laurie Bolger (she may not remember this) we were at a Buddy Wakefield workshop in Bristol organised by Sally Jenkinson. I had just moved to Bristol, I didn’t know anyone very well, especially in the spoken word scene and I decided to get up a do a poem. Laurie was incredibly supportive and warm, she was down to earth and kind and exactly what I needed at that moment. When she got up to do a poem herself, I knew that this poet’s voice was unique and brilliant, accessible and strong. I’ve had a real adoration for her and her work since.
A few years on and Burning Eye is very pleased to publish her first collection Box Rooms. We even managed to pin her down from her various projects for a quick chat about the book.
So Box Rooms is your first full collection. How was the process of putting a manuscript together and then editing for you?
I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard on anything in my life mate! I’ve learnt so much about my writing along the way and at times it’s been pretty bloody emotional.
Massive thanks must to go to the lush ones that are Caroline Bird, Stuart Silver, Zia Ahmed and most of all my old Mum for knowing my voice and helping me translate it onto the page.
I couldn’t be happier with the finished collection and have had gorgeous feedback from readers already :) massive love to you lot!
These poems are quite often set in different rooms, or different houses – did the collection title come before or after the poems and were you conscious of creating this kind of theme?
I have always been totally fascinated by artists like Edward Hopper and directors like Mike Leigh, I love naturalistic drama and art that finds meaning in the everyday. I wanted to create a collection that everyone can relate to and understand, and everything seemed to link back to the idea of living in box rooms piled on box rooms. The title ‘Box Rooms’ came after the collection was finished but I think I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with how we fill space with so much stuff.
Apart from visits to Bristol (as in ‘Stapleton Road’) the book focuses on your experiences of living in London. The poem ‘The Tarted-Up Boozer in Shoreditch’ says a lot about gentrification by comparison of the two pubs. Is this an issue that you think should be explored further in spoken word?
Stapleton Road is a real special poem for me, it really does shout out to missing Bristol and Bath and loving everything about those cities.
The cover of Box Rooms is the street both me and my brilliant Dad were born on and my grandparents lived. As for the pub poems they are a tribute to community and how we can all get a bit lost these days. I wrote Public House in response to the best pub in the world The Ivy House in Peckham amongst others in London. Proper boozers.
I think it’s very sad that our pubs are disappearing at a time when we need them most. Everything’s getting faster and cheaper. Dancing is being replaced by online dating, the Black Cab trade is being replaced by Uber and local pubs are cafés are being replaced with hipster bars and artisan bakeries. We’re losing our identity and I hope my book reignites memories for people.
What’s next for you and your writing?
Well I’ve started new writing towards a second collection and am also working on my first children’s book which is pretty exciting! Gigs wise there’s lots happening. Check my website and come and find me in a festival field for a cuddle and a signed copy of the book.
Finally, any advice for anyone wanting to get into spoken word in London?
The poetry community are some of the most supportive people I’ve come across, be yourself and embrace nerves. Someone told me once that when you’re out of your comfort zone you can never fail…and that’s so true. Come and see us at BANG Said the Gun
, check out Roundhouse
, The Poetry Takeaway
and Spread The Word
for cool events to enjoy and network at.
If you enjoy it other people will too.
Find Laurie and Box Rooms at these upcoming gigs:
Wednesday 13th July -TONIGHT
Roebuck Pub, Great Dover Street, London, 7.30pm
Friday 15th July
Sunday 17th July
Tuesday 19th July
Sofar Sounds London
Wednesday 20th July
The Great Barn Ruislip
Wednesday 27th July
Jawdance at RichMix
Friday 29th July – Sunday 31st July