Editor's Interview: Can Luke Wright Represent The Entire Nation?

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As many of you will know, over the past two decades Luke Wright has toured the world with his poetry, won awards, published books and regularly performs alongside the likes of John Cooper Clarke.  Such is his talent and on-stage charisma that his star is still in the ascendency, and when I had the opportunity to speak to him about his life in poetry so far, I wondered just how far he was hoping to go.

Who really inspired you creatively when you were young?

Listening to Blur was the first time I had an urge to emulate art. I loved Damon's lyrics. I thought they were so clever and beautiful and sad and inventive. I just wanted to do that. I still do, really.

Did you/do you go to open mic nights?  How did/do they go?

I did. But there were none near where I lived in Colchester so my first gigs were supporting bands, or gigs that I had put on myself. They didn't always go that well. But it made impressing at an open mic a mic less daunting prospect. At UEA we had a good poetry night which I used to do open mic at. In my second year I took over as compere. We had some great poets come through that gig - Levi Tafari, Linton Kwesi Johnson, John Cooper Clarke, Martin Newell, Adrian Mitchell.

Best gig you have played so far?

They're all good these days. Either the one I did in pub in Ashford last week or supporting John Cooper Clarke at Manchester Palace. It's a rush to perform to 2000 people, to hear their applause. But the connection you can make with people in a pub is much closer to that this should be. Artists should go into communities, introduce them to something a bit different, something that delights and surprises then stay for a pint or a meal after. I'm all about The Inn Crowd right now. Gigs in pubs - check their website out.

Of what are you most proud?

My children. But maybe you meant work-wise? In which case I guess my second collection - The Toll. 

Do you find writing poetry easy?

No, does anyone? If you find it easy you're not working hard enough 

Do you feel there is a big difference between performance poetry and poetry for the page?

Good poetry usually works in both formats. Bad page poetry is usually dull and precious. Bad performance poetry is trite and pointless. 

Which other poets or performers are must-see tickets in your diary?

Catherine Smith, Jemima Foxtrot, Salena Godden, John Osborne, Rosy Carrick, Tim Turnbull, Martin Newell. 

There isn't much diversity in UK poetry.  Any suggestions on how that can be addressed?

We need to encourage a diverse cast of poets. We need to make it easier for people for working class backgrounds to access art, to make art. The audience will take their lead from the artists.

By the look of your new show, it seems like you would quite fancy being Poet Laureate.  Do you have a strategy?

You'll have to come and see the show. But can one person really represent an entire nation?


Luke Wright's new show Luke Wright, Poet Laureate debuts at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2018.  He is also touring Frankie Vah, and all his details are at LukeWright.co.uk


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