Q&A: Jack Emsden – Poet

By Benjamin-Harry Gladwin

Jack Emsden is a poet based in South East London, he recently independently released his first collection of poems called ‘Remember that feeling, I sold it’ after placing first with his team at the 2017 UniSlam performance poetry competition. He is also due to perform at the Royal Albert Hall next year with his team. He did a quick Q&A with us on the 53 bus to Whitehall.

TCBF: Why did you decide to sell your poetry?

JE: It is the same as any creative industry. You have to show that you’ve gone out and done your own thing and been pro-active in promoting yourself; so part of it was that, another part was that it was fun to do. There is a satisfaction in holding something which you created. Another way to enter theses spaces are competitions held by poetry magazines; but some of them cost £5 to enter and you aren’t guaranteed to get published.

TCBF: Are you concerned that you may end up selling all of them to your friends and family?

JE: Yes. It’s always going to be hard for it not to be that way; especially when it’s the first thing I’ve done – so I need to get out into different areas and communities and perform. That way, hopefully I’ll get some attention in a wider public sphere. This has been a bit of a practice run- I think I’ll do another one.

TCBF: How has the feedback been so far?

JE: The response has been really good! I mean I look at it now and I’m a bit hmm about some of the poems; so it’s nice to hear positive things. Even ‘negative’ criticism has helped me develop; which is different from showing someone a draft or reading it because it’s my way of saying “this is the best work I think I’ve done so far” you know? You have to take your cues from somewhere and I feel like this has been good in aiding my growth.

TCBF: What is the Poetry scene like in London?

JE: Bigger than anywhere else in the UK; but that’s not saying much! You can go to a different performance night every day of the week; but you’re kind of preaching to the converted because you will see the same people (performing and watching) all the time. I want my poetry to feel more accessible than that.

TCBF: How did you find poetry in the first place?

JE: When I was younger I loved to write stories (pardon the cliché) and then I got into music. I tried to play guitar and bass, until I realised I wasn’t very good. I could write lyrics though; but I’m not very good at singing either. So when I did GCSE poetry it occurred to me that I could turn the songs I had into poems. As I got more into I started to pay attention to the thing around me.

TCBF: Do you see this as a viable career?

JE: Not in on itself. It would be naive to think otherwise but I would love to be published by someone like Faber&Faber; that’s the dream. The reality is that you have to do other things as well outside of that. Teaching becomes something a lot of poets do, either in university or school. I’m not adverse to that; if my legacy is that I’ve helped someone find a love for poetry- that’s a success in my book.


You can purchase ‘Remember That Feeling? I Sold It.’ for £2 here. On sale for a limited time only.

Photo used with permission from Jack Emsden



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