Dada Masilo

Deborah Tyler-Bennett

25 May 15 words: Aly Stoneman
"My advice to any writer lacking inspiration would be to get on their local bus"



Where do you source your fab attire?
I started buying and wearing vintage clothes when I inherited some of my gran’s wardrobe from the late fifties. I collect a lot of forties and fifties hats and these tend to dictate how my clothes look. I buy a lot in Brighton and at boutiques like London’s Pop, but Nottingham’s vintage outlets such as Backlash and Leicester’s Dollymix are also wonderful sources for people like myself. I’m also very influenced by the colours and fashion images of Duggie Fields, my favourite artist.

Besides expressing yourself through fashion you are a talented wordsmith…what inspires you?
A lot of my poems are to do with people. Life’s memorable characters are who really intrigue me. I’ve had five volumes of poetry published, one (Pavilion, Smokestack) set in Brighton and narrated by different characters, and my most recent (Kinda Keats, Shoestring) written in response to a writing residency at Keats House in Hampstead. Both volumes concentrated, in different ways, on character and I’ve had great fun performing from them. Nottinghamshire’s never far away, though. My first book of poems, Clark Gable in Mansfield, came from family history, as did my pamphlet from Nine Arches, Mytton, Dyer, Sweet Billy Gibson, and I’ve returned to Notts for the stories in Turned Out Nice Again (King’s England). Many of these stories were set in variety during the forties, and I’ve been doing readings from them with music hall historian, Ann Featherstone.

Why poetry?
That’s always a good question, isn’t it? I love the craft of poetry and the idea that, in spite of whatever story you want the poem to tell, a poem’s sounds and rhythms have to be true to themselves.

What’s your most recent publication and what are you working on at the moment?
Kinda Keats came out in 2013, and I have a collection forthcoming from Salmon, Anglo-Punk, which tells the life story of Regency dandy Beau Brummell in sonnets. I’m also working on a sequel to the short stories, Mice that Roared, which takes the characters from Turned Out Nice Again into the fifties - it should be out from King’s England in the autumn.



The poems we’ve printed here were written on the Threes bus. Tell us about the inspiration behind them and the process of writing them?
The poems came from one of those unexpected poetic journeys, quite literally. I’ve been regularly visiting my Dad in Sutton-in-Ashfield, sometimes from Derby, sometimes from Nottingham. My advice to any writer lacking inspiration would be to get on their local bus. I remember Ray Gosling saying how what you overheard could be pure writing gold, and he was right. Conversations on buses have their own rhythms, and their shortness - depending on where people get off, sometimes in mid-sentence - often dictates where line-endings come. The poems began with listening, then notebook drafts, and lots of re-drafting, but being careful not to lose those local sounds.

What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to you recently?
Recently, I’ve noticed that my poetry performances have changed. I think this is due to my readings from the book of short stories, where I realised that reading prose aloud comes with its own sounds and challenges, and that, when returning to poetry what you learned as a prose performer makes you pace poetic readings differently. Recently, I even sang a few lines, and that really adapts your voice - I think hearing Ann Featherstone’s talk on music hall songs made me think of challenging myself more as a performer.

Can you recommend any good reads?
As a big fan of Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves, I’d say his Light at the End of the Tenner is great for anyone just beginning to find their way around poetry. It’s funny, sharp, and has a sound that’s pure Notts. I’d also recommend Andy Jackson’s Red Squirrel Press anthology, Double Bill: Poems Inspired by Popular Culture, which includes Kevin Cadwallader’s lovely homage to Eric and Ernie, The Church of Bartholomew and Wiseman. It kept me moved and entertained in equal measure.

What’s next?
When the book of stories comes out (Mice that Roared), I’ll be reading from that and Anglo-Punk.  I’m also writing poems for a proposed anthology of music hall poetry edited by Andy Jackson, and think this will be an exciting project. Next year David McCormack and I will be doing a music hall walk of Leicester in April for Crystal Clear Creators’ First World War project.

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