On November 19th Scriggler is very excited to welcome James Bunting to the stage, at the second of the live events, once again being hosted at The Harrison in King’s Cross, London. The Bristol born but London living poet and spoken word performer has been praised for his clarity of delivery and sharp show, but even the best performer will be at a startling disadvantage if the words don’t match up. Thankfully James is multi talented — a writer, performer, musician and PR genius, and, as I discover when I have a quick chat with him, all of these make him the creative and formidable entertainer that he is.
In a year when Kate Tempest has made the Mercury shortlist and spoken word is being considered mainstream, I keep hearing that poetry is the new music — do you believe that they are similar?
Poetry and music come from the same creative place, it's just manifested in different ways. I don't agree that poetry is the new music, I think they've always been interlinked, it's just that poetry is being seen as cooler than it has been for a long time. Then there's people like Scroobius Pip and Kate Tempest who have feet in both camps, so they raise the profile of each amongst the other camps.
Scriggler Live events combine music and words, seeing them both as wonderful forms of expression. Could you yourself be a musician?
I was, once upon a time. I started writing songs a long time ago, then decided to channel everything into poetry, so I became a poet. I wouldn't want to go back, I enjoy poetry so much more, but I can see why and how so many poets make music and musicians write poetry.
It’s a clichéd question, but what do you write about?
People always say to write about what you know, so I try to do that. My poems all begin with a line that resonates in my ears and I build around it. I don't set out to write a poem about a specific thing, I just start writing and see where the poem points, then I follow that narrative. It means I write a lot that gets scrapped because I step back and see that I'm not actually saying anything at all, it's just words, but then there's times when the narrative holds up to scrutiny and I can edit through it to craft something with a meaning. There's also an element where the meaning is just how the words sound and interact. There's a famous anecdote where someone asked T S Eliot what he meant by 'Lady, three white leopards sat under the juniper tree' and he simply repeated the line verbatim. Because people so often only know poetry from studying it they think everything has to be picked apart, but sometimes it's just about how the words sound and how that makes you feel. I'm a firm believer that if the line sounds and feels right then it should stay, even if you can't pin-point what it means.
And, who inspires you?
So many people inspire me. I'm just fascinated by people. In poetry terms, Buddy Wakefield is the biggest inspiration. If I have a block, I listen to or read Buddy and it helps me. But beyond that there's inspiration everywhere if you take the time to look for it. I'm an early bird, so cycling through London as the city is waking up is always a source of inspiration, but I'm at my most creative when I'm in Bristol. I like walking the familiar streets there and breathing in the city. There's so much to see and feel and write about. It's home. Always home.
There’s almost a sense that poetry is a traditional art form, whereas spoken word seems to be associated with younger and more modern performers. What's the difference between poetry and spoken word, if any?
Trying to differentiate between poetry and spoken word is like trying to differentiate between a moose and an elk. It's just different names for the same thing. I use the term performance poetry because I want to make explicit that I write to perform. There are poets who stick to the page, some do both, and so on. Ultimately, we're all doing the same thing, it's just being consumed differently. Whatever you choose to call it, we're all still poets at the end of the day, so it's simpler to just call it poetry. There will be plenty of people who disagree with this, but I don't think anyone has the answer.
You moved to the capital from arty and creative Bristol. How do the two compare?
Bristol is one of the most vibrant cities I've ever been to -- though I know I'm biased. The arts and culture scene in Bristol is buzzing with so much going on. London will always be the cultural centre because of the number of people who gravitate there, but Bristol holds its own. The poetry scene there is incredible for a city of that size, and the appetite for it is insatiable, which helps it maintain its vibrancy as more people move from audience to stage. I couldn't have asked for a better scene on which to cut my teeth and the calibre of people who perform on the circuit there is testament to its strength. I've been very lucky to share the bill and stage with some inspirational poets and I don't think I would have had that anywhere else.
You currently also work for a PR agency which also involves a lot of writing and communication — does it come from the same creative route?
My job involves a great deal of writing and a lot of it creative. You have to think like a journalist, so it's closer to that kind of writing than poetry, but the poetry helps because the things I learn about words and language whilst writing poetry I can bring into my job. I've always said I don't want to be a full-time poet because I don't want to rely on writing to survive. I'm too scared it would take the fun out of it. Being able to write every day means I don't get too rusty if I haven't written a poem in a while, even though it isn't quite the same.