At a time when we're deeply reliant on scientific advances for helping us understand how to respond to the coronavirus, we're also becoming more aware of the power of the arts and creativity to bring us together. Poet Dan Simpson is leading a fun and uplifting workshop on 16 May to bring people together (virtually) and inspire us through poetry. 

How do you think poetry can help people during this time of social isolation, either by writing or reading it?

I have seen both through workshops and sharing words online that people really relate to good poetry. It connects us in the fundamental way that all art does: making us realise that someone else thinks and feels like me, and that we're not really alone with our inner selves. That can be anything from feeling truly terrible to incredibly happy, and every mood in between.

Who (or what) is your greatest inspiration for poetry?

I'm writing and sharing a poem everyday this year, so inspiration is really high in my thinking! Currently, I'm trying to pay attention to the world a little more and look for prompts - it might be an odd turn of phrase or interesting sentence in a conversation, a small moment in the day, something I read or see online, an idle thought that pops into my head... I think it's important to look externally as well as internally for inspiration to write poetry. 

When did you realise that this is what you wanted to do?

I came to poetry through spoken word performance - which is really the way most literature has been heard throughout pre-literate human history. I loved being able to hold an audience with my words and presence, and help them experience something together. Once I got my first paid gig (10 years ago now!) I thought - with the confidence of a younger man with no responsibilities (and a good business plan) - this may be something I could do professionally. 

Can you 'learn poetry' or is it an innate skill?

Finding a way of working feels like a lot of the craft of writing. I'm lucky in that I can write in lots of ways - quietly on my laptop, on my phone whilst travelling, in the pub waiting for a friend... I tend to write more fluidly when I'm busy, and I much prefer electronic devices for easy and immediate editing. There's no right or wrong way of creating though - whatever works for you!

What do you do when you’re not writing poetry?!

Writing poetry is actually very little of the job of being a poet - at least in terms of time, and for me! I run a lot of workshops in schools and at university, libraries, and for community groups and festivals. I also produce spoken word and comedy shows, as well as performing myself! And then the practical things of essentially running a self-employed business: finances, marketing etc. Writing underpins all of it though, which is why I carve out time for it. 

Where can we go to read some of your poems?

I put up my daily poems on Instagram and Twitter, and more can be found in my two collections.

To find out more about Dan's workshop or to buy tickets, head to the webpage here:

Poetry Workshop