INTERVIEW: FIRE & DUST MEETS EDALIA DAY
Stories that delight to be told,
That quiver on your teeth,
Snuggle up to your clammy hands from the page,
Stories that hunger insatiably for life,
That lust to be spoken,
That itch to infect a bystander’s imagination,
That squirm in their seat, having to wait 20 minutes before they get to go outside and play.
Stories, tales, tragedies, barely spoken dreams, fond frissons,
The projection of your soulmate on a guy you just bought shoes from,
Fantasy, Vulgarity, Indifference, Blasphemy, Outright Lies!
I want to tell dreams into existence.
I want to paint reality in a way that makes it visible even to people who get paid not to see.
I want to gently bleed truths from hearts that long ago said they’d never even beat again.
I want to hug you, each and every one of you,
Wrap you in a blanket of cosy charm
And feed a feast of fable,
A story sandwich,
The most juicy, succulent, firm crusted, gooey, Parable pie –
I love pies.
If you don’t:
Feel free to replace it in your mind with a pie free substitute.
I want to dish out a banquet of wonder.
More than enough to go around.
Everyone gets their fill and what’s left over you take home to tell your friends, your lovers, and anyone you see in need of a good yarn,
Whether reimagined or still hot from tonight’s unveilings.
I want to start small but then before long you’re gripping the railings in excitement,
Gnashing your teeth with wild abandon.
How could she do this? “Yes!” With the triumphs, and “Nooo don’t marry him!”
Let us gasp together
I want to start small but by the end we’ve been around the world and back again.
Whatever that means. Whether travelling to another dimension or just stepping into the house next door.
I want to ask you to trust me.
To go where I go.
To step into the unknown.
Don’t worry, I’ve been here before.
I know how it ends.
Take my hand. Give it back to me once you’re done with it. I need it for writing.
Think of it as a deposit.
And follow me.
–Stories that delight to be told
Edalia Day is a transgender spoken word artist, animator and theatre maker based in Norwich. She’s worked with The Young Vic, Harrogate Theatre and Theatre Royal Norwich, and her work has featured at Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. and Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin. Currently she’s making an animated YouTube sketch comedy show about trans people, a young adult novel about a trans girl surviving the apocalypse, and a trans version of Shakespeare’s Pericles.
Edalia was the guest headliner at our virtual Fire&Dust poetry night on 8th June 2023. We caught up with her after the event, to ask a few questions…
HCE: Tell us a little about your background and journey as a writer and publisher so far. What inspired you to step into the world of poetry?
EDALIA: I’ve always loved poetry ever since I was a little kid and I had this book called a Cat-alogue of comic verse, but the word cat was scribbled out and replaced with the word dog. It was by Rolf Harris, which always feels problematic to remember, but as a trans girl I guess admiring problematic authors is something that I’m a natural at (see my poem about a certain wizard writing cretin). At drama school I read The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry and it inspired me so much I started writing a poem a day for a year and that really kicked off my poetry writing buzz. I didn’t know there were communities or poetry scenes or slams though until twelve years later, aged 33 when I discovered the Swindon poetry community and since then my love for the art has blossomed and grown in beautiful and wild ways.
HCE: Who is your work aimed at – do you have an ideal audience in mind when you’re putting a poem together?
EDALIA: I’m trans, autistic and have adhd and my poems tend to land especially well with people who share those experiences. I’m a very picky poet and performer and there’s a lot of mainstream work that doesn’t appeal at all to me. Something about how my brain works means I just can’t access it or enjoy it at all and that’s something that has left me feeling alienated in the past. So, I guess I make work to try and cut through that – I want to appeal to everyone’s humanity and especially to write for people who feel like outsiders for whatever reason.
HCE: What messages(s) do you hope readers take away from your collection Too Pretty to Punch?
EDALIA: That being trans is a glorious thing. That there’s hope for us and the world and also, for the cis people especially, that the ideas we’re taught about gender aren’t straitjackets or prisons or narrow confined space or platforms we have to limit ourselves and others to. That gender is often a scaffold, meant to be taken away once the house is built and knows itself.
HCE: Would you say there are themes or motifs that you gravitate to in your work?
EDALIA: As a trans person, I write about that a lot, but that’s my normal. I also love sci-fi and geek culture. My show Super Hamlet 64 is a celebration of that. I love connection and I also love/hate injustice. and I love to unpick the hypocrisies around injustice.
HCE: Who or what would you say are the biggest influences on your writing?
EDALIA: I love comedy writers like Wendy Cope and Roger McGough and also rhythmic writers like Shakespeare and Jasmine Gardosi. As an actor I’ve done a lot of Shakespeare and that’s influenced me a lot. I know a lot of people think of Shakespeare as lofty, pompous and old-fashioned, but as an actor, when done right, it’s like playing jazz with our everyday speech patterns in beautiful powerful ways while speaking 500 year old words that sometimes feel like they could have been written yesterday.
HCE: You’re both a writer and a visual artist. Do you find these two interests complement each other? And which medium do you usually turn to first as an outlet for self-expression and developing your ideas?
EDALIA: I usually write to express ideas. My art and animation actually rarely combine. It’s usually one or the other to express a given feeling or idea. Or if I do marry them then one always takes the mic and runs with it and the other is the supporting act. I love combining them though when I can. I made a 25-minute animated poetry slam over lockdown and that was a dream to create.
HCE: In your opinion, what more should arts communities be doing to support LGBT+ poets and writers, to make sure their voices are platformed and heard?
EDALIA: I think making an effort to include a wide variety of different poets as headliners in spaces and poetry nights that maybe don’t feel as LGBT. I think that’s the main thing. Getting our voices outside of the mainstream LGBT hubs like the cities. When I’ve done rural touring with my shows that’s sometimes the best as I’m reaching people who don’t encounter people like us as much, and even people in the closet who hunger for more positive representation around them.
HCE: In your experience, is Norwich a good place to be a creative and does the region have a thriving literary/arts scene?
EDALIA: It’s a gorgeous place in my experience, with a lot of character, and for me that’s the main inspiring thing. There is a lot going on. I wish there was more slam poetry. That said, I keep not managing to go to the one night that there is. There’s a lot of support for writers such as the national writing centre. I’m mostly a hermit generally though, writing from home and loving it.
HCE: There was a good dose of humour in your set. How important a device do you think humour is, and what purpose do you believe it serves in poetry and performance?
EDALIA: I love humour, especially when tackling hard harsh themes. There’s totally a space in the world for poets full of anger and rage, spitting out fury, but I think often humour and softness can win minds more strongly. And as an artist and a theatre maker, part of my process and ethos is respect for an audience. They put their time and trust in your hands and you need to earn their enjoyment and then take them on a journey. I love from that point onwards playing with where you take them and keeping it balanced. There might be a really hard gut punchy moment but then I follow it with laughter – diffusing the pain – and keeping them with me.
HCE: What, in your opinion, do most well-crafted poems have in common?
EDALIA: Truth and a lack of bullshit. And by that I mean they connect to something honest and human and relatable and they’re written and performed in such a way that that truth comes across even to people who don’t live those experiences. And by “a lack of bullshit” I mean…sometimes people use flouncy words because they think it makes their writing better and I’m a firm believer in trying to communicate something in the most simple way possible. And sometimes ideas are complex and nuanced or playful and those might be the right moments for flounce and frivolity. But knowing when to use which words is part of the art.
HCE: What’s next on the horizon for you? Are you already working on projects/booked for upcoming performances?
EDALIA: I’m actually feeling really invigorated and inspired writing-wise at the moment. I’ve a new practise of starting and ending every day with writing my novel and I have all sorts of aims for the year – two brilliant poems, a play, the first draft of my book done, and writing two songs for my new trans barbershop singing group I’ve made.
HCE: Is there anything we didn’t cover that you’d like to share with our readers?
EDALIA: Just that I hope everyone reading has a lovely day and delicious writing experience next time they put pen to paper (or finger to key).
HCE: What’s the best way for people to keep connected with your work or contact you for bookings?
Edalia’s two poetry books based on her shows are available to buy online direct from the creator.
*Views expressed in this interview remain the poet’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by all members of the HCE team.