Image of a woman stood against a cream background, holding a microphone and smiling

Genevieve Carver

Genevieve Carver is a poet and spoken word performer whose first collection, A Beautiful Way to be Crazy, was published by Verve Poetry Press in 2020.

She was also one of two ILF Apprentice Poets in Residence in 2019. For this role, she performed at an ILF event, On the Rise: New Yorkshire Poets, and performed some of her work. Check out her performance by listening to the track below and keep reading to hear about her experience as Apprentice Poet in Residence!

Can you remember the first poem you wrote? 

I still have a poem somewhere that I wrote at primary school called ‘Happiness is…’ which includes the line “happiness is the sound of a drum machine.”

Who or what has influenced your work?

Reading lots. Some old and current favourites are Dylan Thomas, Kathleen Jamie, W. H. Auden, Jackie Kay, Caroline Bird, Kei Miller.

Listening to lots of music. Joni Mitchell and Nick Cave have both had a huge impact on me.

The sea, swimming, open landscapes, being outside in general.

Making bad decisions, communicating badly, having to make sense of being overemotional and overwhelmed.

Collaborations and connections with other artists.

Which poem do you never tire of reading?

It’s not technically a poem but I used to listen to Under Milk Wood every single day when I went to sleep and when I woke up, and I’m still not bored of it.

What is your process of writing a poem?

I usually let an idea roll around in my head for a while before I start writing. Sometimes a draft comes out quickly and sometimes it’s ages before I can turn the idea into lines, but I always edit a lot and try to leave time between drafts. Sometimes the ‘finished’ poem is completely different to the idea I started with.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to write and publish poetry?

Read as much and as widely as you can, but follow your own interests – read what you like, not what you think you should have read! Work on the basis that only a small percentage of what you write will be something you want to publish, but try to see that as liberating rather than frustrating – you’ll have a whole sketchbook that’s just for you to play with without the pressure of a public output, and you get to show people the best bits. Submit often and remember that rejection is an integral part of the process (granted this is easier said than done) – draw up a schedule of magazines or competitions to submit to each month.

You say you are interested in the intersection between live art forms, especially poetry, music and theatre, and you have worked on your cross-art form project ‘Genevieve Carver & The Unsung’. Can you tell us more about this project and how it celebrates the unsung?  

This is a collaboration between me and three multi-instrumentalist musicians: Ruth Nicholson, Tim Knowles and Brian Bestall. Together we create ‘gig theatre’, which weaves a narrative using poetry and live music. We aim to tell the stories that might not otherwise be told – so our first show was all about lesser known musicians or individuals who died due to music, and our second one was about women in the music industry.

What did your role as ILF Apprentice Poet in Residence entail?

We brought our show “A Beautiful Way to be Crazy” to the festival, and also ran a workshop for young people in which they wrote and performed poetry alongside improvised music from the band. Shash and I also performed alongside Jasmine Sims and Warda Yassin at the Poetry Business Showcase, and it was great to be introduced to their work. I also attended lots of the festival events including a manuscript workshop with Colette Bryce.

What did you enjoy most about your Apprentice Poet in Residency at ILF?

It was great to connect with Shash Trevett and Colette Bryce. I enjoyed discovering new poets as well as getting to see some favourites (Raymond Antrobus’s reading stood out for me). The talent of the young people who performed at our event was inspiring, and finally, staying in a hotel is always one of my favourite things about doing gigs!

How have you been getting creative during lockdown? Do you have any tips for people struggling to write at the moment?

I’ve been extremely privileged in that lockdown has been a really creative time for me. I have a calm and supportive home environment and I work from home anyway so I have my own space. I love being on my own and need peace and time to reflect in order to write, so when things slowed down I was writing loads – I’m finding it more tricky now things are accelerating again, it’s like my peripheral vision is being invaded. I suppose my advice would be don’t force it or put pressure on yourself if you don’t feel up to it, but do try to carve out the time for yourself to play, without the need for there to be an immediate output. If you don’t like what you’ve made it doesn’t matter, at least you showed up. I don’t know if this applies to everyone but I also stopped using social media or worrying too much about self-promotion during lockdown as I know that is a killer for my creativity.

Have you released any new works since ILF 2019 and what is next for you?

My debut collection “A Beautiful Way to be Crazy” was published by Verve Poetry Press in February 2020, and we’ve also released two singles from the live show, which we’re selling to raise money for Refuge domestic violence charity. We were mid-way through a UK-wide tour when lockdown happened, but have plans to bring the full show to audiences online.

I’ve written a couple of commission pieces and had a couple of magazine publications during lockdown, and am now working on two new writing projects that take me well out of my poetry comfort zone – one theatre piece in collaboration with theatre-maker and movement artist Jess Gibson (which is shaping up to be totally bonkers), and one screenwriting on a new drama comedy series commissioned by Sky.

If you want to find out about anything I’m doing have a look at my website, or follow @gevicarver on Twitter!