Can poetry help us in troubled times? How do you take it off the page and onto the stage? What can it tell us about the music industry? We caught up with poet and performer Genevieve Carter about her new genre-busting show A Beautiful Way to Be Crazy. Time to get booking for dates at Camden People’s Theatre and VAULT Festival!
I am thirteen years old. I feel very grown up, and I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to do with my life – I’m going to ‘be a famous musician’…
Based on interviews conducted with female and non-binary practitioners across the music industry, A Beautiful Way to Be Crazy is a tale of growing up and finding a voice. The piece weaves together spoken word poetry, storytelling, live music, audio clips from the interviews, and some genuine teenage diary entries.
Award-winning poet Genevieve Carver and her multi-instrumental live band The Unsung (Tim Knowles, Brian Bestall and Ruth Nicholson) explore what it means to be a girl in the music business – with help from Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Delia Derbyshire.
A Beautiful Way to Be Crazy comes to London in March with dates at Camden People’s Theatre (14 March) and VAULT Festival (17-19 March). In addition to the these, it visits Birmingham’s Verve Poetry Festival, Halifax’s Square Chapel Arts, Sheffield’s SheFest and Slung Low in Leeds, where the tour leg concludes on 24 May 2020.
Talking to… Genevieve Carver
Genevieve Carver is a Sheffield-based poet searching for humanity amidst the chaos. Her work has appeared in publications including Iota, Envoi and The North, and her first collection is published by Verve Poetry Press in 2020. Genevieve Carver & The Unsung are a multidisciplinary performance project celebrating unsung heroes and marginal voices. They are double winners of Buxton Fringe Spoken Word Award and released their first studio album in 2017. Learn more at www.genevievecarver.com.
What made you want to become a poet?
I don’t think I ever set out to become one, but found myself writing poems to make sense of things when I was younger, and it just kind of grew from there! Despite being a stage performer, at heart I’m an introvert and putting things down on paper allows me to reflect and recharge.
Do you think poetry can help us in troubled times?
I think poetry can communicate ideas when ‘normal’ language isn’t enough. Human emotion is so complicated and sometimes expressing things at a slightly oblique angle can convey an essence of feeling in a way that plain old sentences can’t. I also started my career on the open mic circuit, and I think sharing your work that way is a such a vulnerable and unique experience that it really brings people together.
Tell us about The Unsung & its purpose.
We have a dual purpose – to broaden the audience of poetry and make it more accessible by combining it with the music and theatre elements, and to tell the stories of unsung heroes and marginalized voices.
How do you and the band work together?
Usually, I begin with a concept and start to write the poems, then throw these out to the band and see what they come up with musically. Often this might result in going back to the words and changing them, it’s a give-and-take process.
How did you research A Beautiful Way to be Crazy?
I interviewed almost 50 female and non-binary practitioners working in different aspects of the music industry, including tech and behind the scenes as well as performers. I did a lot of background reading as well, and looked at articles, podcasts and documentaries – so I tried to look at both individual experiences and the broader picture.
How much of your own experiences (& diary) have you included?
My personal story was never meant to be a part of it, but I needed something to tie all these threads together and it made sense – I think sometimes you don’t realise you have a story you want to tell until you start trying to tell a different one! The diaries and personal experiences are the linking passages that run between the poems, and people really seem to connect with them, so I’ve kept them in.
How difficult is it being a woman in the music industry?
The point of the show is not ‘Oh it’s so hard to be a woman in the music industry’. It’s more to highlight that, though there’s still a big gender imbalance, the women who are doing it are worth celebrating – there are so many communities of women supporting each other within the industry.
Which female musicians & poets most inspire you?
Bjork, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Sylvia Plath, Vanessa Kisuule.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We have just recorded a new single!