Scarlett Kennedy

Meet the I:M Poets - Maya Blackwell

Scarlett Kennedy
Meet the I:M Poets - Maya Blackwell

In preparation for the Cut The Crap Poetry evening, I:M sits down with the poets and performers. With honesty the core theme for the event, we look to hear some truths from the artists and to also celebrate the beginning of the new poetry section of the magazine. The event is fast approaching, on October 17th. In this interview we talk to arguably most experienced Spoken Word performer, Maya Blackwell. She’s been an involved member of the Bristol poet scene for the past year.

What is your name and what do you do/study?

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Maya Blackwell. I’m not studying at the moment, but just finished a year doing the ‘Practical Sustainability’ course with Shift Bristol. It was the most inspiring year of my life so far, which is a rare and wonderful thing to be able to say about a course. I discovered a lot about the Natural World and my place within it- spending much time focusing inward, developing a deepened awareness of who I am. 

When and why did you start writing poetry?

I’ve always written from a young age, but never felt drawn to poetry because of how it was introduced to me. At school I had only experienced written poetry, and what I was exposed to seemed lifeless and regimented in such a way that I could never really engage with it. When I discovered Spoken Word I was drawn to the aliveness within it. I had stumbled upon a whole world of magical story-telling, the rawest truths shared in a safe space on a platform that welcomes and is fuelled by diversity and thrives off different voices having the space to speak. I realised that I had found the way I wanted to write. At Shambala Festival four years ago, after seeing Toby Thompson perform, I was awe-inspired and felt like I’d finally found a way of writing that suited my voice. It was rhythmically beautiful, authentic, free-form and playful. I sat by the lake with two of my dearest friends and started free styling poetry out loud for the first time. I will always hold it in my heart as the moment that put me on my path with poetry. I owe those people a lot of gratitude.

Have you performed your poetry before?

I started doing open-mics just over a year ago, and have been so blessed with my experience since then. I've performed at some of my favourite events in Bristol: 'Milk Poetry', 'Raise the Bar' and also headlined at a new monthly event 'Tonic'. I have been lucky enough to go to festivals such as Nozstock and Valley Fest. It's been a wonderful year and I never would have expected to be given these opportunities- the Bristol poetry scene has really nurtured me as a performer and allowed me to grow as a poet. 

Who inspires you in the world of poetry?

A poet who I take a lot of inspiration from is definitely Toby Thompson. Others are Malaika Kegode, Beth Calverley and Sam Grudgings- who run Milk Poetry. They have given me such an opportunity to share my work, and really do so much for the scene with how they nurture young and ‘up and coming’ poets in Bristol. The same goes for Danny Pandolfi who runs Raise The Bar. Among my close friends there’s Tom Dewey and Saili Katebe who are some of my biggest influences, their work is truly incredible. Besides that, one of my biggest inspirations is Buddy Wakefield. His story-telling and use of metaphor is astounding, and the way he is vulnerable and truly seen with his writing is something I strive for whole-heartedly in my poetry. 

What does ‘Cut the Crap?’ mean to you?

I guess it means being authentic. Being vulnerable and showing your rawest, unedited self is brave and powerful. It’s being able to free yourself from assumptions and the barriers that hold you back from yourself, your creations and the people you share them with- especially within the parameters of poetry.


Check out Maya’s Facebook page here and follow her Instagram here.