Ahead of the release of Good Listeners, Pascal reflects on editing through the scenic route

The question I have the most trouble answering in regards to Good Listeners is how long it took to put it together. In terms of when I decided to start writing a pamphlet to its publishing date, it has been two years or so. But that is a neat and tidy answer that forgets all the experiences and dead-ends I had to find before coming up to that point. 

Creating the works that came together for Good Listeners had no set process and that process adapted as I grew as a writer. When I first started writing for open mics it was either whole or in parts. I have quite a few dedicated notebook pages and text files for scraps of words and lines which felt pretentious and tawdry on their own. And when they came out whole, you could tell. My work never felt applied to the technique and voice I was aiming to follow.

Moreover, my editing process wasn’t a series of organised drafts on google docs, each labelled and in their dedicated folders. I was told a poem should go through seven distinct drafts before reaching a publishable or performable state. This wasn’t possible for someone as scatterbrained as myself. ADHD punishes you creatively with thousands of beautiful and incoherent ideas that never come together seamlessly.

I had to accept my work had to be built over time. My performances and practices became a part of my editing. Workshopping and re-writing was a vital part of creating my poetry, yet feedback from audiences and the actualisation of poetry on stage is what made the essential parts of the poem come to light. I’ve been privileged to work to bring quite a few poetry events to life, such as Tonic Bristol, Meta Slam and To Be Frank. The events I have been a part of have always embraced growing pains and evolution. Performance poetry will never have the immortality of work on the page, however, this is an unsung strength.

This is my performance at an open mic at Bath University, an informal get together in the student union. I flounder with the mic and I’m not sure where to keep my hands, I stumble on the banter and awkwardly finger gun a friendly heckler. It goes without saying, I needed more experience on stage. But this performance was the first to let me know I look away from my poem without panicking, it was the first time the poem solidified in my mind.

The edits I made at times I disregarded as edits in the first place; the structures were shuffled so I could remember them more easily without looking at my phone on stage and stanzas were extracted and transplanted from one poem to form another. I would perform the same poem over and over, hopping from open mic to slam, with a different version each time. No one heard the same poem twice. The poetry was never finished until it had been shaped by my performance. 

I started performing in 2016 and I started writing poetry when I was twelve. I’ve done every ratty poetry trick you can name; I’ve recycled metaphors, changed the name of a piece to fit a contest’s theme, I’ve remixed poems whilst in the spotlight and I’ve scribbled something down on a napkin two minutes before I’m called up to perform. I’m shameless. I adore watching a poem grow over time and adapt to my voice, wherever I find myself at that time.  

As poets we are so lucky that our work is small enough to carry in our minds at all times. The creation of a poem does not end with the final punctuation, it ends when it is your poem.

Pascal Vine

Good Listeners by Pascal Vine – out 20th April – burningeye.co.uk

“Pascal Vine is a raw, honest writer who plummets you into the world as he sees it. A world full of sensual, spiritual and visceral reflections on nature and humanity. He knows how to walk you into the core of the heart and leave you there.”

Rebecca Tantony