We had a chat with upbeat wordsmith King Stammers (aka Tim Callaghan Martin) about learning new things in Lockdown and what makes a great poem.
Interview by Megan Stisted
Hi Tim, how are you doing? What’s your daily routine looking like amidst all this?
So my daily routine is a little all over the place to be honest. There isn’t one set day. I’m trying to keep the same sleep schedule though. I’m up at 6 AM to feed the cats, make my better half and myself a mug of tea, and then as she heads off to her day job, I work on SOMETHING. The ‘Something’ in question has been a little open-ended. Mostly I’ve been trying to tackle things I haven’t had the time to attempt. Some of its artistic endeavours. Some of it’s DIY.
I’ve been doing a tonne of gardening on the sunnier days. I’m finally working on my first book and a second EP. I’m trying to finish a one-man show. I’ve been trying to learn some new skills too. I recently started looking into live streaming, and we hosted an online festival last weekend that raised £400 for Trussell Trust, which was INCREDIBLE. I’m really inspired to use the skills I’ve learned to create some sort of platform that opens up spoken-word and poetry to folks who struggle to see it in more conventional settings because of accessibility issues.
Sorry. I’m rambling. It’s early and I’m only on my second cup of tea.
For those who haven’t heard of you, how would you describe your poetry?
Bloody awful. No. I mean, Well…
This is awkward. I struggle to describe myself objectively because I get imposter syndrome in a massive way. I think the most succinct way to describe it as ‘Energetic and Optimistic’. I’ve heard some folks talk about my sense of humour before, which I’m thrilled about, but even in the more serious pieces, I always try to find something uplifting at its core. As much as I love more sombre, introspective poetry, it’s just not me, I don’t feel I have the pathos for it. I’d much rather an audience leaves feeling uplifted.
Rob Auton, who’s a huge inspiration to me, says it best; “An audience won’t remember a rhyming couplet, but they’ll remember how you made them feel”. That’s a quote that’s always stuck with me.
“As much as I love more sombre, introspective poetry, it’s just not me, I don’t feel I have the pathos for it. I’d much rather an audience leaves feeling uplifted.”
Are you writing anything new at the moment? How did it come about?
I’ve just finished ‘Escapril’ which is a writing challenge inspired by ’National Poetry Writing Month’ which challenges folks to write 30 poems in 30 days. It’s been an interesting change of pace because I normally labour over poems for weeks at a time. Forcing myself to work to a deadline has been a nice challenge because I know it has to be on Instagram before I go to bed that night.
I think out of the 30 pieces that came out of ‘Escapril’, I have uses for about 10 of them. So if nothing else, that’s 10 new poems in my arsenal. With the book, there’s been a lot of revisiting old material, and it’s an interesting journey to see how my style has changed over the years, and how over time I’ve been writing more and more with performance in mind. It’s early days, but I’m enjoying the process of adapting it for the page.
Are you finding it difficult to find inspiration in lockdown?
I mean, My cats are making it difficult. It’s hard to be productive when Pumpkin falls asleep all over my notebook, and Nova’s curled up on my laptop. I can’t stay frustrated though. They’re too cute. Weirdly, It’s been quite a blessing. Usually, by the time I come home from the day job, I’m knackered. So having time to step off the planet and focus on ‘me’ has been a godsend.
Who/what inspired you to get into poetry?
OH MAN. How long have you got?
I gravitated towards it at the start of what folks now sort of view as the second great renaissance of British Spoken-Word. Folks like Kate Tempest, Polar Bear, Scroobius Pip, Rob Auton and the like. I absolutely fell in love with it, and slowly transitioned from writing short films and sketches towards poems and monologues. It was another few years before I had the confidence to read anything to an audience though.
I think going even further back than that I’ve always been into songs with a strong lyrical element. My earliest musical memory is my older brother playing me ‘3 Feet High & Rising’ by De La Soul. I was about 4 at the time, and though I wasn’t quite old enough to grasp all the wordplay, I remember trying to copy the flow.
People are using this time to work on all sorts of different things, what might it mean for you creatively speaking?
I’ve touched on it before, but I’m working on a few new projects. Mostly though, I’m excited to see all of the collaborative efforts that have come out of it. The whole online aspect has had a profound impact on me too. I wasn’t aware how many people struggled to experience performances because of accessibility, Be it something as simple as finding a babysitter, or on the other end of the scale being diagnosed with agoraphobia. Moving forward, that’s something I’d love to focus on in spoken word. I’m really passionate about it as an art form, and I’d love to remove as many barriers as I can.
Lastly, what poem or poet would you recommend we take a look at?
So many. Rob Auton’s Daily Podcast has been an absolute ray of sunshine through the last few weeks. Also on the podcast front, Dead Darlings have been doing a belting job of continuing to champion talent during this Lockdown. If you’re new to spoken word, maybe go check out Mark Grist, Hollie McNish, Dizraeli, John Cooper Clarke and Raymond Anthrobus. They all have material on YouTube, They’re all very different in style, but all equally fantastic, and there’s a joy to be found in all of them.
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