Liam McCormick is a new talent to the Glasgow poetry scene, making waves in the city and beyond. After winning entry to the Words First workshop run by Roundhouse in conjunction with Radio 1Xtra, the 19 year-old has worked his way into a select six who will be receiving tutelage from some of the best performers in the UK to improve on his written and stage poetry. Liam’s work infuses a wonderful mix of personal and political, with feeling, comedy and passion in his performance. So, with this up-and-comer so close by, I felt I ought to sit down with him and ask where he felt his work was going, how he felt about his first appearance at the Scottish National Slam (coming up in February) and what he has gained from his experience with Words First. Here’s what he had to say:
First of all, Liam, what was your experience with Words First. Describe the workshop and the journey you’ve been on since you first applied.
Words First was brilliant! It was so different from any other writing experience I’ve ever had. Normally when I write poems I’m sitting in a room alone thinking about what would be funny if I shouted it at people in a pub. At Words First I was exposed to variety of my contemporaries writing processes, learned from Jenny Lindsay and Rachel McCrum about form and performance- even got a wee lesson in how to rap from Hector Bizerk (don’t worry- I did not excel in that class). Since I first applied things have just been getting better and better. I was on the radio, I’m doing loads of performing, writing a lot.
One worry is that all the best poets died destitute and unappreciated in their time so that must mean I’m pish.
And next up, you’ve got the Scottish National Slam in February. Given the success of your fellow Words-Firster Solomon OB at Hammer & Tongue’s UK Slam last weekend, are you feeling good about your chances?
It’s my first year at nationals, my first year of performing regularly and I’m up against really stiff competition. Surely being picked for Words First is enough good luck for one year? I want to win and I’m working towards delivering a performance that can win- but with likes of Katie Ailes and Loki in the running it’ll be hard. Solomon is different gravy as well. When I heard his poem about his foster parents my jaw actually dropped. Incredible command of the stage, his voice and words.
Now, slamming aside, you have already completed a successful Edinburgh Fringe run in 2015, where do you see poetry taking you in 2016? Any big plans, big projects?
On January first I made a list of goals. I will share them with you now
-Complete a new poem every week.
-Write another hour long show.
-Drink less fizzy juice
-Work out how you go about forming a band- but with poetry.
I honestly have no idea where it’s gonna go from here. We’re at a stage in the scene where what happens is really what you make of it- so I’m looking forward to a year full of surprises.
It feels like we’ve been saying it for a while now, but the scene is progressing and expanding. Where do you see room for exploration in spoken word? Is there anything Glasgow, Scotland or the UK is missing out on that you would like to see?
I’m still relatively new to poetry- so take all these with a pinch of salt.
For Glasgow I think we are unfairly focusing on the west-end and the city centre. I don’t know the logistics of starting a night, how hard it would be to create poetry spaces in the north, east and south of the city. All I know is I recently heard someone refer to the Glasgow poetry scene as the ‘west-end poetry scene’. For a scene so focused on being inclusive it strikes me as odd to ignore 3/5ths of the city.
Like most colonial henchmen, Scotland produces a lot of culturally important work despite its small population base. Our work is often specific to us, asking questions we care about in an accent only we understand. I can never decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I am personally not all that fond of the North American slam style: but I recognise that it’s the most popular at this point in time. Should the scene be facilitating work with artistic weight in an attempt to be avant guard? Or should our artists try to have to break into the mainstream so that we don’t even have to call it ‘Scottish’ or ‘Glasgow’ spoken word and it can just be spoken word. I don’t know. There is probably room for both.
I think UK-wide we should try to transition short form content to online spaces and have a greater emphasis on the ‘1-hour show’. There are many great writers who feel restricted by the 10 minute slot and the slam conditions- perhaps we should try and create spaces more conductive to that. We’ll probably never lose them- but they are better for those trying to cut their teeth.
Again, pinch of salt. I’m 19. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING.
Thanks very much Liam.