Kaite Welsh interviews poet Rachel Jury

Rachel Jury

 

Journalist and author Kaite Welsh interviews lesbian poet Rachel Jury about poetry performance and more.

Rachel Jury ( www.racheljury.co.uk )is an award-winning performance poet whose sometimes heartbreaking and always witty poems about life as LGBT in the 21st century have garnered her both critical appreciation and an adoring audience. Her collection of poems, Laughing Lesbians Vol 1, is available from libertas.co.uk

Am I right in thinking that most of your work is about performing your poetry, rather than ‘just’ writing it and getting it published? Do you have a preference? Which do you feel reaches a larger audience, and are those audiences different?

Yep, I’m not so interested in getting published but I think it’s important to do both. I like to think of myself as producing pop poetry. I aim to make the work accessible – it’s about communication. Can’t stand dense ‘literary’ poetry that you need six degrees, an MA, PHD and several nervous breakdowns to understand, it is possible to express extremely profound ideas very simply and in fact complex ideas are more powerful expressed simply. It’s just literary snobbishness and elitism otherwise.

TRIBUTE TO ALLEN, GOT THE BEAT, GINSBERG
OR
MEOW

I saw the best LGBT of my time turn into social workers
before my very eyes
Who tossed aside their radical, LGBT, feminist politics
in search of a Peugot 205

Would you say that you have a performance persona, or is it just everyday Rachel Jury with added chutzpah?

Um, exaggerated aspects of myself I’d say. I like performing as aposed to acting as you do get to be yourself but it’s not all of you. It’s the parts of me that I think are most effective and entertaining in that situation. Oh and lots of chutzpah of course!

Do you have a favourite type of venue – do small, smoky spaces work for you, or do you secretly crave a stage of Carnegie Hall-type proportions? Having lived in London, New York and Glasgow and performed in Europe, is there a marked regional or national difference in your audience?

Oh I’m a gig whore and will perform anywhere any time! Both are very different experiences – small smoky spaces can be very intimate and very atmospheric. Big gigs have a totally different buzz – more of a thrill. I’m greedy and like both. Performance wise though the bigger gigs are more of a challenge as I’ve just had less experience of them – so far.

I’m always quite worried when I have a gig in London as I think it’s all Joe Cool and scary attitudes in the big smoke but actually I’ve gone down well all over – Wayhey! I’m aiming for a universal connection with LGBT across the globe so just as well really.

WOMEN WITH SHORT HAIR

You can spot them everywhere
Down the shops
At the bank
Picking up kids from primary schools
Down the pubs with pints
Playing in parks
But mainly plainly and certainly
They can be seen in purposeful places of work
They are women who try to look straight with short hair

Women who try to look straight with short hair
Why not try
A subtle shade of pink
A purple that glints
A glorious green that could make you gleam
Why not get a tattoo?
Pierce your nips and hang heavy bits from your clits
Let the wine flow bacchic free
And your dinner parties turn into raving orgies

For women who try to look straight with short hair
Throw away your sensible footwear
Chuck those chinos from Gap that look crap
And ask whom do I kid
With this sad looking student day snip snap
For you and I and anyone who looks
Beyond your unisex barbers cut
Can tell you’re queer
Like a two bob watch

Only more so

Tell us about getting Laughin’ Lesbians, your first volume of poetry, published. I hear there were problems with people finding it obscene…

Oh yes had a little time warp all to myself there, flash back to the 1950’s. l published Laughin’ Lesbians Vol 1 because people at gigs were asking basically. Only trouble was four out of the five printers considered the work ‘lewed and lebdinious’ – if only I say! It’s the thin venier of tolerance and acceptability – very easy to scratch away.

You’re working on a project you describe as a ‘butch/femme musical’. Is this a conscious attempt to drag LGBT centre stage? In the past, we’ve always been taking charge backstage and letting the boys do the dancing… Most importantly, who would win in a fight – you or Andrew Lloyd Webber?

Well I was hoping Andrew would perhaps cough up some dough until I saw that Maria programme – ah well. It’s inspired by the Gateways Club 1945 – 1985 – the first ever Lesbian Club in Europe – possibly the world. It’s set in Chelsea, London in 1950 and is a star crossed lover’s tragedy. So far I have a cast of thousands, a full orchestra and need a budget of millions. If there are any wealthy LGBT out there with the odd million knocking about I have just the project for you.

I’m very excited about it though and I’m loving writing it. It’s very glamorous – the butches in it have to be very handsome. So at first the audience don’t realise – I want straight women to be asking questions when they walk out of the theatre.

IT’S COMPLICATED

It’s complicated
When at large family doo’s you don’t know who knows and who doesn’t
Especially when it wasn’t you who told them in the first place

It’s complicated
When starting a new job it takes weeks to
Find out whom you should tell and whom you should not and
Then deciding weather your going to tell them or not

It’s complicated
When you meet a woman you fancy for the first time in – forever only to find she’s best friends with your ex’s most recent ex after you

It’s complicated
When you build up the courage to put an anonymous add out on the Rainbow network only have your ex-lover reply every time

It’s complicated
When you marry a nice man and
Less than a year later meet
The woman of your dreams and
Come out in Glorious Technicolor

It’s complicated
When you want to go out and
Pull at the monthly women’s only night but
You can’t because you know your
Most recent ex will be there doing the same thing too

It’s complicated
When it’s an internal battle to decide
Weather to go to pride each year
For fear of bumping into all you’re ex-lovers
From the past ten years
The ones who have not remained your best pals
That is
And their new girls friends
All of whom
Were once you’re best pals

It’s complicated
When your friend meets a
Sexy stranger form out of town
Only to discover that she knows your friends ex
Who knows her friend’s partner
Who once lived overseas
Who went out with the strangers, friend’s ex
Who is friend’s with a friend’s friend of yours
Who now lives in Australia
Who…
And suddenly a web of LGBT connections
Reaches out across the Milky Way
From one small chance encounter
In an unknown bar
In a small corner of the world
One night

It’s complicated
When your best friend
Isn’t asked to a dinner party Because she’s fallen out with the hosts Who were once Her surrogate family Who have asked most of your
Other close friends
And some other
Casual friends
All of whom seem like a gang
Of which your best friend feels
She is not allowed to be a part
And another of your close friends
Is also not invited
Because she had a fling
With one of the
Hosts best friends
Which ended badly
And they’re still not talking
And your glad you’re away that weekend
So you can avoid losing all of your friends in one go

It’s complicated
When you fancy a woman at work
Who has just split up
With another woman at work
Both of whom you work closely with
And you’re new in town
And at work
And have already had an unrequited
Long distance love affair
With your boss
Who knows you loved her
But whose partner has
Also just moved to town
With her kids and
Won’t speak to you
You think
Because she knows
You had a thing
For her partner
And you’re unsure if you should
Make a move
On the woman you fancy at work
In case it gets too close

It’s complicated when…
It’s just complicated being LGBT

Do you ever worry about being pigeonholed as a gay writer? Alternately, do you get really sick of people asking that?

No not at all. I’m quite happy to be known as a gay writer – it’s the main focus of my work and inspiration so I’m quite proud really. What does piss me off is when a writer or performer makes their name on the back of being gay and then a year or so later it’s all – ‘I’m not just a gay this or that’. I can understand why that happens but I can’t sympathise with it. Do something about changing the limitations that straight main stream society imposes rather than betray who you are I say.

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