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The Comedy of Errors

Comedy Poet Elvis McGonnagall is Tartanned Up in Nottz

26 April 18 interview: LP Mills and Aly Stoneman

Described as “side-splittingly funny”, “flamboyant” and compared to performance poets Adrian Mitchell and John Cooper Clarke, World Slam Champion and festival favourite Elvis McGonnagall is set to take Nottingham by storm on Friday night at Antenna. Tackling topics of the day head-on, his stand-up style of delivery and polished verse critiques the world’s woes with charm, intelligence and a bag-full of Scottish colloquialisms. LeftLion caught up with him for a quick chat ahead of his show with support from Poetry is Dead Good’s Stephen Thomas and our very own Bridie Squires…

photo: Anna McCarthy

Welcome to Nottingham, Elvis! We’re looking forward to your show. What can we expect on Friday?
It’ll be an hour of "dazzling Weltschmerz, satirical verse and anarchic wit”. And a tartan jacket. It will pass. Time passes. Hopefully someone will laugh. Or think. Or both.

How did you go about preparing for this year’s festival?
I bought a train ticket to Nottingham. I lay awake at night worrying. I watched Forest Green Rovers’ ongoing attempts to retain their League Two status. I have been acting as a gofer for my two cats. I have been wandering around the house singing Sleaford Mods’ Tied Up In Nottz.

Your poetry uses a lot of rhyming and sing-song rhythms. How does the form of your poetry reflect its content? 
I’m a sing-song kinda guy. My soul is alive with the sound of music. Tra-la-la. Rhyme works well for comic verse. Also, it helps focus if you’re using a strict form; a bit like doing a crossword or a jigsaw puzzle. And it all lends itself to performance. Nothing is more terrifying than an empty page and no rules. Like freeform jazz. Nice.

photo: Anna McCarthy

Politics also seems to be an important theme in your work…
It seems to be the way it comes out. Not surprising really. Look at the state of the world. Fake news. Artisanal novichok. Piers Morgan. The good ship lollipop is sailing down the shitter. Hence the scurrilous diatribes against the powers that be. But I’m just a fluffy ball of whimsy underneath the carapace of deep-fried disillusioned bile.

Who are your main influences as a poet?
E. E. Cummings, Ian Dury and whoever it is who makes that really nice Portuguese red wine that’s on offer in our local Waitrose just now.

What are you most looking forward to at Nottingham Poetry Festival?
To be honest I’m always chuffed if anyone turns up to a gig so I’m looking forward to seeing an audience out there. Fingers crossed. It’s just a fleeting visit to Nottingham for me – a Friday Night and Saturday Morning if you will – so I won’t see much of the city at all, but I may say hello to the mini-bar in the hotel.

Elvis McGonnagall will be supported by LeftLion Editor and poet Bridie Squires and poet and rapper Stephen Thomas on Friday 27 April, 7pm - 10.30pm, at Antenna, 9A Beck St, Nottingham, NG1 1EQ. Tickets are £9, two for one, and you can grab 'em here.

Nottingham Poetry Festival website

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