At Burning Eye we know the kind of poets that we’d like to work with because they all offer something above the ability to deliver a good poem. Some inspire us because of their politics, their ability to break through barriers (and borders) and because of their activism. Pete Bearder (better known as Pete the Temp) is a very inspiring poet and if you’re lucky enough to catch him live, you’ll be left feeling galvanised and ready to tear down some authority.
I have been a big fan of Pete’s work for a long time so it’s been a pleasure going back and forth about the book via emails – this is a person who takes careful detail over the finished product, and I’m happy to say, it’s paid off wonderfully. As usual, I got Pete to answer a few questions about the new collection Numbered Boxes:
So, Pete, this is your debut poetry collection but you’ve been performing and writing for years – what was the motivation to get a book together?
If my live performance resonates in people, I want them to go away with a small incendiary device in their pocket that will resonate with them again. It’s not that I want to contribute to a culture of reading poetry, or even share my story, I’m just into explosives.
‘Numbered Boxes’ is the product on a two year journey through a Writer / Teacher Masters course, and school as poetry teacher. I read and wrote tons of poetry and tested it in classrooms to see if more of the same came back. There is also some deeply personal stuff here. I was so nervous to show it to anyone that I decided it should probably be published.
You were one of the first to do the Spoken Word Education MA at Goldsmiths University. How has writing and teaching changed for you since then?
The Spoken Word Education Project and the Goldsmiths MA it is linked to has demonstrated that it is possible to have lots of spoken word artists, embedded full time or part time as permanent poetry teachers in schools. This is massive. The ripple effects of this experiment will be felt for decades.
Because it is based on social-emotional learning, it changed the content of my poetry to meatier more difficult subjects. But it’s not all deep stuff. One of the benefits of teaching spoken woken word in English class is that you can do things like comedy and improv’. There is a poem in the book written by the kids of Curwen Primary school. In fairness, it’s the best material in the book.
On to the book, what are you favourite pieces and why?
I really enjoyed writing ‘Der Take o Bellingham Yael’ as it involved creating an entirely new hybrid English language. I recommend trying this, but be careful.Once you have created a new language you have to stay within its rules of vocabulary and gramrule It took months of editing to draft just a two page story.
Editing performance poetry into book form can be a bit of challenge, how was this process for you?
Most of this book is designed to work best read, not performed. That said, I have aimed to pin down the best of the world of spoken world inside it: its visceral sensibility, it’s accessibility beyond the English department; it’s raw, alive testimonies of the street. Spoken word turned so many people’s eyes and ears to verse in the last two decades because it is motivated by the belief that poetry is agency in the world. That mission continues for me in this often very personal and introspective body of work.
Why did you decide to include the poems commissioned by Glastonbury festival?
Glastonbury festival is a huge part of Britain’s cultural conversation. It was a huge honour and challenge to be asked to capture it in verse. Given how muntered I was for much of it, I think I did pretty well.
Finally, you’re back in the UK and about to take Numbered Boxes on tour – do you have any more plans for the book or future projects?
I am touring Numbered Boxes as part of my national tour of poetry and live looping street music: The Exploding, Dancing, Wording, Verbing, Revolting, Loving, Street-Beating Tour of Action and Revolutionary Imagination. That title is as succinct as I am willing to be. It is taking place this Winter and Spring 2017. If anybody is interested to host or has ideas for the tour Im very happy to hear from them and can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org