A Modern Day Bard: An Interview with Kevin Spenst

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By Lauren MacFarland



Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 10.17.42 PMIt’s not too common to meet a poet in today’s world, but Kevin Spenst is proving that this form of the written word won’t be dying off anytime soon.

It started when he was five, pretending to write and putting the pen to page that started him down the path to authorship. “I grew up with a schizophrenic father, so there were a lot of question marks all over my life, and I think I was trying to find some sort of answer, decipher the uncertainties of my world.” These uncertainties led him to explore religion for some years, before he began meandering through the arts at the age of sixteen. Kevin developed skills in different mediums before settling on poetry around seven years ago.

When Kevin moved to Vancouver, he was encouraged to audition and participate in theatre, getting roles in professional productions which let him fall into the world of film and television, collaborating with a group to create short films. While writing these scripts, Kevin found his niche. “I really liked the fact that I could just write a story every day, which is what I started.” It’s no small feat to commit to a daily output, but Kevin held himself to his work and found the traction he needed to develop his craft as a writer. “I’d wanted to write since I was a kid but I’d never found the right circumstances and the support of these people in Vancouver kind of gave me that encouragement to set up on my own and set up my own website.” His website is a collection of poems, drawings, prose, all lending to the growth of his own personal voice.

“It was fun to write in this short, freeform way,” Kevin explains, and with his portfolio, he found himself attending UBC, pursuing an MFA and there he really settled into writing poetry. “It has this weird, amorphous bad smell to some people, but I think that’s because it has so many different sides, and so many different practitioners.”  Poetry, in its openness, has potential for performance, there exist so many different ways to lift the words off the space and work with sensation to make the work come to life.

Coming to poetry in this day and age isn’t a normal occurrence, and Kevin sees the beginnings of modern poets in the slam poetry scene. It’s not a set career path, ever evolving and changing. Inspiration can be drawn from life experience, from neighbourhoods and people. Local poets are a constant source of encouragement of lessons, and it’s fascinating to take in the different viewpoints that they have of the world. “If you’re a poet, you’re a professional noticer. Little things like watching the sunrise, paying attention to changes, it’s all essential. Fiction writers might look at that like a setting, but a poet pays attention to what’s going on in the setting, what’s the bigger ramifications of those changes?”  A line can be put on a page with the potential for endless growth, and Kevin uses himself to observe and challenge his description of the world.

                  It’s important to change and challenge himself to grow, and while writing has taken a back burner to the promotion of his upcoming book, Jabbering with Bing Bong, it remains on his mind. His new collection of poetry is mainly sonnets, telling his story in tangents. Growing up in an uncertain environment, coming into poetry all factor into his work. There was no set path that he had to follow, and it was a different world, one that allowed freedom and lends itself now to his writing. “The thing about writing, it doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is,” Kevin describes.  Writing allows one to accept what’s happened to you and put it into words, mold it into a story. He doesn’t shy away from tackling issues such as suicide, loss, and his book is “a little troubled, a little tortured, but also optimistic and it makes use of what I grew up with.”

Kevin now looks forward to live performances of his work, engaging with people who will be listening to his work and engaging with him. He has his own interpretation, but it’s always interesting to see what other people bring to his poems. “Other people are going to have a sense about what it’s all about, but I’m reading my own interpretation of my work, I’m connected to that particular reading and certain aspects fall out of meaning, other moments, any number of things can happen.” Poetry is an ever changing field and Kevin will continue to write, challenging himself, his observations of the world and keeping this vibrant, beautiful, important form of literature alive for a contemporary audience and generations to come.


Kevin Spenst: In addition to the UK, the United States, Austria and India, Kevin Spenst’s poetry has appeared in over a dozen Canadian literary publications. In April and May of 2014 Kevin Spenst did a 100-venue reading tour of Canada in support of small poetry presses with his chapbooks Pray Goodbye (the Alfred Gustav Press, 2013), Retractable (the serif of nottingham, 2013), Happy Hollow and the Surrey Suite (self-published, 2012), What the Frag Meant (100 têtes press, 2014) and Surrey Sonnets (JackPine Press, 2014). Poet Kevin Spenst is about to embark on a reading tour around BC, 50 stops! His evolving line-up can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/omfb3cn