What is your current job title?
Poet, Spoken Word Artist, Playwright and Novelist. I am also the Artistic Director of SLAMbassadors UK, the Poetry Society's national youth slam championships which I developed in 2001.
When did you first realise that you had a way with words?
The first time I opened my mouth. The first time I opened a book and it felt as though the book was reading me.
When did this become a realistic career choice for you?
I wrote in spite of any promise of a career; I wrote because I couldn't not do it. I began by performing badly in the backs of dusty bars and suddenly it was as though the stage opened behind me to reveal a whole world. A future. I did my first paid gig at the age of around 19 and I had been on stage since around 15/16 years old. Later, I wrote a play that won awards and then my career really began to unfold. People began to book me as a feature act and I began to believe. Then I started to lead workshops to pass on skills as well and this provided me with an income that allowed to live an usual life of freedom of expression, freedom of economy and freedom from the normal work regimes of office or factory.
Do you think creative words can be more powerful politically than academic words?
Absolutely. Poetry is truth, politic is truth. If you tell a tiny story of one person at the heart of an issue you can change the world. I believe passionately in that. When I say 'politics is lies' I mean that party politics is that. Politics is the thing that helps us to define the world. Politicians use it to control the world. Vote for poetry. It allows you an access into a small life directly effected by the bigger issues; it allows emotional connection - and that connection is the thing that leads to positive change. 8 lines written in a small dimly lit room in a land whose name you can't pronounce can change the whole world.
Why do you think poetry and spoken word are so popular right now? Especially to express political and social opinions...
For the reasons above. One voice, one stage, one microphone and an audience unified by the sound that comes out of a mouth is a powerful, inspirational experience. The popularity is also partly due to spoken word artists visiting schools over the last decade, seeding a new generation of unruly mouths and idealistic dreams. Good!
And then there is the spoken word scene itself - a magical, inspirational space in which the sense of strength, ethics, community and love is tangible to even first time visitors. The positive energy follows you home; is a home in itself.
What has been the highlight of your career?
My book launch last year. I've performed at bigger venues - from Glastonbury to Trafalgar Square via Parliament and the Royal Festival Hall - but that was the most moving experience of my career. The launch sold out, and some truly mighty and inspirational poets turned up to support me onstage - just out of love. I replay that night like some might an old favourite tune. Got a standing ovation - rare indeed. The sound of the applause has become my heart beat. Massive thanks to all of you who made it that night.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
Meeting the Queen. I felt dirty. But I wanted to be counted - a side effect of a working class upbringing perhaps. Not proud of how proud I was to be invited...
What advice would you give to any young people looking to get into your industry?
Write. Read. Attend gigs and learn. Get up at the open mic and accept that it will take a while to be as good as you want to be. But keep going. Keep writing. Keep adding your words to the archive of the microphone. Some day, someone will stop and listen to you.
Be you. You're a miracle.
Listen to The Last Poet Standing and get more poetry and gigs from Joelle's website
Want to know more about how to make it as a playwright? Check out Creative Choices, the arts careers website: