Interview: Leo Cookman

It cannot be denied, Britain has produced many an excellent poet in the past: take your pick from Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats and T. S Eliot, to name just a few. Poetry itself still has an important presence in our contemporary literary landscape, with the post of Poet Laureate still a relevant and celebrated position, and by still featuring heavily in our national curriculum. However, despite its contribution to our cultural heritage, it has developed a reputation for being ‘boring’ and frivolous.  I think that it’s time to get excited about poetry again, so I interviewed Leo Cookman, an emerging poet and musician originally from Kent and now based in Manchester.

Leo has been published by Penguin in a collection called ‘The Joy of Sex’ in an anthology featuring the likes of Shakespeare, Philip Larkin, Carol Ann Duffy and Alice Oswald, due for release in January 2014 (conveniently close to Valentine’s Day). His work has also appeared in ‘The Best of Manchester Poets Volume 3’ anthology, published by Puppy Wolf, which can be bought online and in literary shops. His sonnet sequence can be found at, and copies of his poetry pamphlets can be requested from Leo himself at




How long have you been writing poetry for?

Three years. I used to absolutely hate poetry, but then two friends got me into reading it with a poet called John Berryman, who was inspired by Nick Cave. The more I read, the more it occurred to me that there was an art to this: that it was a craft, not just a bunch of pretentious knobs writing any old words down. Poets are like word sculptors and poetry is amazing. After that realisation I started trying to write it myself.

Why do you write poetry? How does it compare to prose?

Prose is like a long three course meal: you can develop your argument, state a case, and hear different opinions from any point of view you want to share. Whereas poetry is like a very sweet effervescent snack, like a sherbet lemon. You get an instant rush from it because it can recreate a specific moment really quickly and thoroughly through its language.

Who are your favourite poets?

You can’t write poetry without acknowledging that Shakespeare was the best there ever was, he set the bar, people have met it but no one’s surpassed it… yet.  I like Blake and Byron, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and I’ve really got into Louis MacNeice recently. Then my favourite living poet is Don Paterson.

What inspires you?

Very specific, sensual things: something I spontaneously smell, see or touch triggers a specific memory or feeling that then develops into an emotional response. I talk about big concerns like love death and happiness, but my feelings regarding those things are triggered by something very small and specific.

How do you start the process of writing a poem?

Most of the time I come up with a title first, pick the form I want it to be in and then write the whole thing in one go for about an hour. Then I’ll leave it and come back to it and edit it. It needs distance and separation because you get whipped up in an emotion when you’re initially writing, and you need to take a step back and change it so that it’s actually coherent and not embarrassing.

Why should people read poetry?

People are put off by it and I get that, I completely hated it because I thought it was snobby and pretentious. But I really do believe that there’s a poem for everyone and a poet for everyone. Something or someone will speak to you in a deeply personal way, which will make you do a complete 180 in the way you look at and think about the world. It’s very powerful in a way that cinema or music can never be.

Beauty and Soul Brought to London: One to Watch: Kenzie May

Boston-born, yet Britain-bred, Kenzie May is one of London’s young talented musicians using her experiences in the city as both her backdrop and inspiration. With admirable amounts of experience under her belt, Kenzie’s beats are organic in that they flow freely,  consisting of tongue-in-cheek wordplay and fluid, honest lyrics.

With songs such as the raw, moving “Say Nothing” which is almost reminiscent of ballads of the early nineties, to the upcoming single “Hide & Seek”, her word play based on love, with the twist of childhood games, memories, and nursery rhymes are honest and right on point for the more literary, thinking crowd.

Moved by  art and creativity, the mesmerising Kenzie May is both beautiful and talented. Her writing style and composition are one of the most relevant pieces of work for someone so in touch with our generation. The rawness in her synthesized and digital sounds  break the mold from the forgettable radio releases we hear constantly.

Having collaborated with favourites and pros, such as Sub Focus in their tune “Falling Down” ad well as BeatauCue “Slow Down” and Bastille & F Stokes “Bad Blood”, Kenzie May is hard working and experimental with different techniques.

Writing in a flow which makes the surface of your skin chill, as well as your body to rock form side to side, is a rare talent which Kenzie May possesses, as each song is haunting in a way to lead to an afterthought and reflection – pop music for the thinking set, if you will.

 Kenzie’s single “Hide & Seek” produced by Jocke Åhlund of Teddybears, is set to have its video release by the end of the month, done by De La Muerte Films.

For some pop with honesty and edge, check out more on or check out her most recent collaboration with FTSE, “Float” on Soundcloud.

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