Exclamation Marx - COVERIn my eleventh interview for In the Booklight, I talk to Neil Laurenson about his poetry pamphlet Exclamation Marx! (Silhouette Press)…

How did the pamphlet and its title come about?

The title comes from the poem, which was first published in the ‘Rogues’ edition of Here Comes Everyone magazine. I started with rogue apostrophes and went from there. The pamphlet came about after I spotted a request for submissions from Silhouette Press. Everyone dabbling in poetry wants to be published, don’t they?

‘Exclamation Marx!’ makes me think of politics, word play and humour, which is extremely appropriate for this book. Could you say something about these three aspects and how they fit together in your poetry?

I’ll only share poems that I think are funny, and if puns are included then that’s a bonus. I don’t set out to write political poems – poetry is often my escape from politics because it makes me happy, and politics is often depressing and hard work.

I know, from hearing you read, how well your versatile and quirky humour goes down with audiences, and across a wide range of subject matter. Where do you find your inspiration?

Thank you for your kind comments! I find inspiration in things that happen in my own life (such as shrinking my wife’s clothes) and by reading stories (real ones, mostly) and the work of other poets.

Neil Laurenson photoMy next question follows from the previous. Do you write first and foremost for the page, for performance or always for both? And what are the similarities and differences between these two arenas that most came into play for you when creating the poems for ‘Exclamation Marx!’ and more generally in new work?

I write for the page mostly. I try to make mine funny and I try to be funny on stage. Sometimes I’m surprised by the ones that get the big laughs and the ones that don’t get the laughs I had hoped for. I like what Byron Vincent said: ‘I’m a stand-up poet: I’m not funny enough to be a comedian and I’m not good enough to be a poet.’

I want to ask what your thoughts are on line-ends and rhyme. I guess I’m thinking in terms of how and why they work, of using them to build anticipation, to make – and break – expectation, to give lines a dynamism, energy and pace…as these seem to be a few of the techniques you work so well in these poems. Are these effects that you craft into your poetry or are they there naturally right from the very early drafts?

Again, thank you for being so kind! Sometimes I know right from the start that I’m going to write a poem with a clearly defined rhyme structure because it will make the poem funnier. Sometimes the rhymes reveal themselves in a 2nd, 3rd or 4th draft. I’d like to try more internal rhymes, as they can add pace and I like the repetition of sounds. A local poet, Charley Barnes, is wonderful at this, and so is Gerard Manley Hopkins!

So how many exclamation marks are there in ‘Exclamation Marx!’? (I had to ask that one!) More sensibly, do you have a favourite punctuation mark when it comes to poetry? What is it and why?

I don’t know! I’m going to have to count them all now – thanks for the homework! My favourite punctuation mark is the full stop because no one wants a poem that goes on forever.

Where can people get hold of a copy of ‘Exclamation Marx!’?

Exclamation Marx - COVERFrom the lovely folk at Silhouette Press: http://silhouettepress.co.uk/shop/exclamation-marx-by-neil-laurenson/

Thank you, Neil, for sharing these thoughts on your pamphlet and punctuation, rhyme and humour.

To read more In the Booklight interviews with authors, please click on this link.