Livvy J Hooper continues her look at the University of Greenwich’s brightest talents; focussing her spotlight on undergraduate poets who featured in the end of year exhibition and reading; these are the ones to watch.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be getting to know some of the best poets from the University of Greenwich’s Creative Writing poetry programmes, with interviews and excerpts from their debut poetry collections. The majority of these poets have recently finished their studies and are looking to careers in the arts, so I’ll be putting them under the microscope to find out what makes them tick, how they tock, and just why we should be keeping our eye on them.
SPOTLIGHT: ALEXANDRA SIMS
Tell us a bit about yourself I’m Alexandra Sims and I’m 21, from Finchley, North London.
How did you ‘get into’ poetry? I always liked writing songs and when I realised my musical ability wasn’t up to these ‘compositions’, my lyric writing started to shift towards poetry. Growing up it was always a venting mechanism, it wasn’t until I went to university that I actually took a real interest in it.
So tell us about the collection of poetry you created in your final year – what’s it all about? Character Catharsis plays with the voices of established fictional characters; those who perform well on our pages and screens but would be terribly messy beings if they existed beside us. Each piece is from the perspective of a character trying to work through their issues and traumas, alongisde their therapist’s notes and deductions made from the poems.
Your collection references a lot of popular culture figures, particularly from film and TV – how else has modern media culture influenced your writing? This digital age provides a platform for so many talents, and being able to discover the work of other writers in more than just print is really motivational. YouTube has opened me up to slam poetry which I’m thankful for.
Has your writing style changed during the last 3 years? If so – how? I was initially enrolled on a digital arts exchange course set on becoming a journalist, but down to whatever divine intervention (perhaps my devotion to the snooze button) I didn’t want to attend and decided to take an afternoon class of poetry and prose instead. From there, I genuinely enjoyed shaking off the rhyme habits and experimenting with forms and styles. I’m definitely more open to different avenues of writing after now.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt during your time university? To remain open to opportunities. It’s easier in theory but I’ve had many great experiences after pushing myself to volunteer for things and sign up to various projects. It’s going to be harder to find them now but I will certainly try.
How does it feel to have written a full collection of poetry? Satisfying and glossy. It’s a culmination of so much more than just a final year project. Seeing my work in a book really encourages me to keep going, a reminder that I am capable of producing something like that and a push to even more good things.
Where do you find your inspiration when writing? I love film and I think visual appreciation always helps with writing. Being able to draw emotions and images from beyond my own experiences can be a lot of fun and just allows me to get out of my head sometimes.
What is it about poetry that works for you as a creative output? No one can tell me that it’s wrong; simply that it can become more powerful. Poetry can be so personal yet equally rousing for others. I’m not a long-winded writer either so it’s great to get a chance to be concise.
What’s it been like studying in the beautiful grounds of the Royal Naval College? Spotting it in films is always fun and having all the grand buildings become just things I passed on my way to a lesson is a real privilege.
What are your highlights from your time at the University of Greenwich? Watching Robert Downey Jr do his thing in person while Sherlock was filming.
How does it feel to have finished university? Like strolling around nude and hearing a key in the door. I was liberated, and now I’m slightly panicked.
What once piece of advice would you give to any would-be poet or writer? Don’t think you need to consciously eat, sleep and breathe it or you’re not a ‘real’ writer. Write because you want to, when you want to and because you’re passionate. Practice is necessary as it is for most skills but don’t ever let it become a chore.
So what’s next for you – what are your plans now you’ve finished university? Any projects we should know about? I’m looking into copywriting and publishing to pay the bills instead of retail work. I hope to be working on a couple of screenplays alongside that though and maybe get some of my poetry in a pamphlet somewhere.
Follow Alex on Twitter, and buy a copy of Character Catharsis from her website!