Imogen Striling is a Glasgow based spoken word artist who is involved in an exciting new project called Words w/ Friends. We catch up with Imogen as she tells us about performing live, collaborating with other artists and how other spoken word performers can be involved in Words w/ Friends.
Can you tell us a bit about the Words w/ Friends project and how you got involved?
This is the third stage of a unique and evolving collaborative project and has been brought to life by poetry/digital music duo Billy Pilgrim with The Heartsease Kid (BPTHK). A diverse band of UK-based poets have produced original pieces which are performed to low-fi electro tracks specially created for us by BPTHK. We put together an album last year (Words w/ Friends vol. II) which we debuted at a launch event in Norwich, and are currently in preparation for our summer UK tour.
I first became involved with vol. II through answering a call for submissions which then led to the recording, album and gig. It was quite an unusual project for me because I was (and currently remain) the only Scottish poet on board meaning that, while most of the team recorded together at a group session, I recorded my piece remotely and didn’t physically meet the other artists until the night of the gig, for which I travelled from Glasgow down to Norwich – the great reveal!
How important are collaborations for you as a poet and a performer?
Hugely important. My background is in theatre so I am used to working with often large groups of artists. Poetry, by contrast, can be quite a solitary venture which is why this project is so refreshing. Working together is the essence of the thing. To begin, BPTHK listened to each poet’s piece in order to craft a track to best support it. We poets could then listen to each other’s work, varying our styles and performances to create wide ranging material for the album. I find collaboration powerful in bringing the best out of your work – you’re introduced to new styles of writing, can receive feedback from the other artists, and generally expand your artistic knowledge by creating alongside other talented folk.
Words w/ Friends is a collection of recorded poems and also a tour. How important is performing live to you?
The immediacy and connection of live performance cannot be matched. My poetry has never been intended for the silent page – it is made to be heard, made to be performed. Recording a piece brings it to being, but it is only when seeing the audience, engaging with them and responding to them that what I have written feels properly completed. Pairing poetry with music is the ultimate fusion, often heightening the emotional intensity and adding to the performance value. The joy in this project is that the inclusion of music makes the show more like a gig than a poetry night. So you’re immediately inviting a new type of audience, and through that widening the accessibility of poetry.
Are there any spoken word nights in Scotland that you regularly attend?
Scotland is absolutely full of top quality spoken word nights; it’s hard to narrow attendance down to a few. Being Glasgow-based, my regular nights include Poetry at Inn Deep (the second and fourth Tuesday of each month) and The St. Louis Poetry Night (the first Thursday of each month). There’s also The God Damn Debut Slam which is a great new material slam night in Edinburgh.
How can other poets get involved in the Words w/ Friends project?
Well, we’re taking three new artists on board for the tour which is exciting – even more so if I can get another Scot to join me… The call for submissions is going out on February 15th and will remain open for a month. We’re looking for an audio or video file and a short bio sent to: [email protected]
Essential is that poets must be able to commit to all the tour dates, which run from July 10th-22nd.
You can also help support the project by purchasing the Words w/ Friends vol. II album here: