Thanet Writers Question Sadie Davidson
My name is Sadie Davidson and I’m a writer and performance poet.
I’ve always written to some extent but didn’t start writing poetry seriously until I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, Ronnie, about five years ago. Being largely bedridden with complications in the last few months, I started looking for a creative outlet to keep me occupied and was making multimedia collages until I realised it was too messy and I couldn’t be bothered to clean up all the glue and whatnot. I needed a mess free, creative pastime which required minimum outlay, and struck upon the idea of writing.
And then I couldn’t stop. Being able to get things out of your heart and on to paper is an incredible feeling, and lets you see yourself with some sort of clarity—which I had sorely lacked.
I wrote Tales from the Estate at that time, which is about my upbringing and experiences living in a high rise flat, and was convinced it was ok, but I was also concerned that it was tripe and I was tripping off pregnancy hormones, so at John Bulley’s insistence I took it to Dangerous Poetry (Southends open mic poetry night) to give it a spin in front of an audience, and the feedback was largely positive.
My writing is influenced mostly, as I think it is for most writers, by my experiences, by life, by people I’ve met, by things that have happened to me and that I have allowed to happen to me. Over time I’ve realised that I find it easiest to write about these things through the lens of class, and the collective underclass experience. Over the past few years I’ve engaged with a lot of people who share that experience and who’ve identified with my work, and that feels great. When people connect with the words of your heart it’s incredible; having these shared experiences is a wonderful thing, even if they are sometimes harrowing in nature.
I love the entire process of producing performance poetry—it’s what motivates me to write. I love to write in rhyme, and the initial writing stage for me is almost like assembling a puzzle or playing a complicated word game—it’s brain exercise: this bit doesn’t work, that bit doesn’t rhyme, that part isn’t expressing well enough, so let’s find a better rhyme, a better word, a more succinct way of saying what we’re saying.
The habit of thinking about the effect your words will have in the world, before you put them out, is something I wish I’d cultivated years ago. The same applies to memorising poems—it’s like beating your own brain’s natural inclination to forget things. I realise this makes me sound like I’m at war with myself, but we all are to an extent. When I feel that I’ve committed a poem to memory well enough I have a sense of accomplishment, and I’m happy.
Lastly, I just love being on stage. I loved acting as a child, and as a pole dancer in my twenties I loved the performance element of that too. I’d devise complicated concepts and outfits for stage shows and get told off by various strip club managers who told me I was missing the point. I told them they were the ones missing the point, and then I’d get drunk. I got fired a lot.
I take writing seriously. Writers often ask each other about their writing habits, and I’m pretty strict with myself. I have child free mornings three days a week, and from 9am until 1pm I sit and write with no interruptions. I drink multiple coffees and smoke like a demon, and put all cooking, cleaning, admin, and any other jobs on hold. Then I collect my kids and concentrate on my priority, which is parenting, until they’re in bed, then I spend most evenings writing as well.
My children inspire me massively—I’m driven to achieve through writing so that when they’re older, I can demonstrate to them what is possible when we work hard and focus on doing the things we love, what becomes possible when we make enjoyable, creative and constructive output a personal priority. Pearl is three and her current priority focus is learning to whistle and ride a bike with two wheels. Little steps, man.
Winning a poetry slam to me feels like a strangely niche thing to be good at, but I’d take it any day over being a successful accountant or stockbroker, for example. Numbers make me feel sick and I can barely complete the most basic calculations. Getting to the semi-finals of the UK slam championships was a good day for me. As a recovering addict and former stripper, I’ve had some pretty low days as you can imagine, so being a semi-finalist nationally felt a kind of good I’ve rarely experienced before. Feeling that you’re worth something is necessary to a happy life and is to be cherished, but you have to earn it yourself, I think, or it isn’t truly self-worth. No one else can give it to you.
I would have to say my greatest achievements so far would be that I’ve managed to have a book published at all. I think it’s a huge accomplishment for anyone, and I’m pleased because my mum is proud of me. My mum is voracious reader, a highly intelligent and decisive woman, and an all-round total legend. Making mums happy is where it’s at.
If anyone were to ask for me writing advice I’d say: sit down and do the work. Just sit down and do the damn writing. I mostly wear Nike Air Max for comfort, and—evil corporation or not—their tag line has it right: “Just do it.” Do it or run, man. It’s up to you.
At the moment I’m promoting my second poetry collection, The Poverty Guide Handbook, which is a sort of layman’s walk-through of issues that affect the poverty stricken in the UK—food bank usage, social mobility, regeneration, that sort of thing. There’s what I would call a mini-essay outlining the various problems followed by poems from a personal perspective of my own experiences. It was harder to write than I expected, as it made me look more closely at how exterior influences have shaped my own understanding of the world while at the same forcing me to take greater responsibility for my own decisions.
My final poem at the Kent Poetry Championships was called ‘Epic: An Urban Hero’s Journey’ and was based on the traditional hero’s journey as laid out in Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and so on, and I enjoyed writing that more than anything I have in a long time. As it was for a slam format it had to be kept within a three minute time frame—who does that?—which was a bloody stupid decision on my part. Anyway, there was so much more I wanted to include and had to edit out which was frustrating. I’m going to be working on making Epic into a long-form poem so I can include all the things I’ve missed, and I’m more excited than I’ve been in a while. The hero’s journey is, if not a universal experience, then something which all humans relate to on some level. I recently read the quote “Write the book you want to read,” which seems sensible. Epic is the book I want to read.
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© 2019 Sadie Davidson
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Sadie Davidson is a writer, poet, performer, producer and playwright.