Is This the Face of Shakespeare Today?

Henry #1

Shakespeare was a product of his time. Though his themes are universal and still resonate today his creations were solidly rooted in the circumstances of London life circa 1600.

The expression of artistic impulses continue to provide a social barometer in these modern times. Over the coming weeks, iBardBooks will present a series of conversations with young artists who use various media to examine their worlds. Who knows? Perhaps one among them shall prove to be Shakespeare’s “Heir- in – Waiting”

First up: Henry Raby, a poet based in York, England. @henryrabypoetry

iBardBooks:What brought you to poetry as a form of creative expression?

Henry Raby: I come from a theatre background, I was a member of York Youth Theatre and went to study English & Theatre at Leeds Uni. I never considered myself an actor, but I loved writing and performing, and couldn’t get a band together, so performance poetry seemed to work for me as a performer.

What role does poetry play in your life?
HR: Someone asked me the other day what I would be doing if I wasn’t doing creative arts. I genuinely don’t know. Arts and theatre are integral, and even my other obsessions, politics, gaming, comics etc, seem to link back to performance/poetry/writing. It tends to fuel how I see the world, how I understand passions. On a basic level, I’m just known around as a poet, whether that’s within the local arts scene or with my non-arts friends I’m still known as “that poet guy”.

How do you describe yourself/what you do vis a vis poetry?
HR: I always write for performance, so my work is always thinking about audience reaction, pauses, voice and vocals. I want my poems to be eye-catching and visual, even if it’s only one skinny man in a small room it’s got to hold people the same way a decent 2 hour play could. I often write about politics or protest, or geeky stuff like cartoons and comics. Sometimes I really think hard about writing for an audience, and sometimes just write for myself. It depends on the gigs I’ve got coming up, or what’s happening in my life or the world.

What’s the poetry scene like in U.K these days?
HR:It feels like a spotty teenager. Like it’s confident, and brash, but a little rough around the sides. It’s experienced, but still flowering. There are lots of debates around the growth of slam poetry, as well as what exactly ‘stand-up’ poetry means. I think, like all arts in The UK, there’s a big north-south divide, and a London-everywhere else divide and while most open mics will be roughly similar, there are varying degrees of unity and styles. Some cities have a more urban/rap inspired scene, others still traditional and from the page. We’re learning.

Is there a measurable renaissance of poetry appreciation in U.K?
HR: I think we’ve always appreciated poetry, it’s always been part of our school syllabus and poets are household names. But I think poetry as a night out is certainly on the rise. Stand-up comedy had a resurgence a few years ago. You go on a night out, you might see a band, a film, a comedian, a play, a musical or, now, people are actively choosing to see a host of people reading poems. Before poetry nights were all readers sharing their work. Now audiences appreciate the form as a critical audience.

Who turns up for your performances? Where do you perform?
HR: In York, I’m often found performing with acoustic musicians. That’s the nature of York. Small venues, often pub function rooms, and people strumming on guitars. I’ll either do some poems in-betweens acts, or to introduce them, or even compare. In York, we have a lovely acoustic community and I hope my work feels as part of that intimate, story-telling vibe. There’s nothing pretentious or snobbish, we’re all just sharing stuff over some pints in a friendly room. Other than York, I get up to Newcastle and round Yorkshire, such as Hull, Sheffield and Leeds, and further afield to Manchester. I also get up to the Edinburgh Fringe to do a slot.

Check back next week for Part Two of our interview with Henry Raby