INTERVIEW | Jeremy Reed18th October 2012
Jeremy Reed is a writer with a prolific output who presents a bold contrast to grey mainstream poetry.
He has published over 40 books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, winning numerous literary prizes. On coming to live in London in the 1980s he was patronised by the artist Francis Bacon and has since continued to dazzle, delight, outrage and horrify.
Numbered amongst his fans are J.G. Ballard, Pete Doherty and Bjork who has called his work ‘the most beautiful, outrageously brilliant poetry in the world.’ Jeremy writes about every subject that British poetry considers taboo, glamour, pop, rock, sci-fi, cyber, mutant, gay, drugs, the disaffected and outlawed, and the fizzy big city chemistry of the London in which he lives and creates. His performances solo, or with The Ginger Light are unrivalled in intensity
The first section of the book and the accompanying Marc Almond C.D. focus on Soho. The evocative imagery suggests a deep love of the area. Why has Soho been such an inspiration to you?
When I first knew Soho in the eighties, it was a bohemian village, its network of undeveloped alleys creating an ideal ethos in which to write and socialise. I still use the place for both, so its importance to me remains undiminished. I like it because it’s like being on an island in the West End.
What are your views about contemporary Soho and how it is evolving?
Every generation creates its own Soho. My only criticism of today’s Soho is its over-commercialisation. It used to be full of Dilly boys, rent who hung out at Piccadilly Circus, and that very colourful aspect of street life is now lost.
I’d always imagined that all poetry readings would be dry and pretentious affairs with posturing and affectation. I’ve since learnt this isn’t the case. What can we expect from your forthcoming piece with Itchy Ear at the Chelsea Theatre?
I’ve always differed from most poets by making readings into performances, involving visuals, glamour, and for the past five years the brilliantly inspired soundscapes that Itchy Ear provides. Working with Gerry McNee greatly enhances my performance.
How did you come to collaborate with Marc Almond for the book, “Piccadilly Bongo”?
Marc Almond and I share very similar cultural sensibilities, and so the Piccadilly Bongo collaboration came about as a shared enthusiasm for each other’s work, and as a chance to celebrate a Soho, past and present, that has deeply influenced us both creatively. We performed Piccadilly Bongo together at the National Portrait gallery November 2011.
Your work has a diverse range of cultural references. What are your current inspirations?
My current inspirations are still the dynamic of London’s West End for energy, Jake Arnott’s novels, John Ashbery’s poetry, the sparkle in London’s rain, searching out rare books and music, and the basis of my life – friends.
Jeremy’s latest work, “Piccadilly Bongo” is available on AMAZON
Tickets for Jeremy’s show at The Chelsea Theatre on 22/10/12 are available online: /www.chelseatheatre.org.uk/piccadilly-bongo/