Kadish Morris’ Heartbreaking Aesthetic
One of six poets featured in the critically acclaimed film We Are Poets, 23-year-old Kadish Morris has come a long way since competing at the finals of the Brave New Voices Poetry Festival. Often reading her poems feel like an open wound yet to cauterize but the beautiful poignancy of her writing makes it worth. She describes her passion for poetry as an ‘more of an ache’ and I believe this is the case for many of her poems as well – they make you ache but in a good way. It was a pleasure to speak to her – raised by Leeds but now living in South London – and gain some insight into the mind of a truly special poet
Do you remember the first poem you wrote?
I do, unfortunately. I was about my imaginary pet that was long and strong and dry and loved apple pie. I was probably 8 when I wrote it.
How did your interest in and passion for poetry develop?
I joined a writing group called Leeds Young Authors when I was 13 and whatever it was that made me want to write poetry was an instant overnight thing. I can’t even say my interest developed because one day it wasn’t in my life and then the next day it was in my life. I was definitely really lucky. I was surrounded by other young people who liked to write poetry so there was no qualm about it not being a ‘cool’ thing to do. My mother who is a songwriter co-founded the group I joined so I always had her support. I was traveling around the UK and America to read poetry and I was meeting so many aspiring and established poets, it was hard not to be interested in poetry back then. My passion however, is a lot more recent, although passion is such a sexy word, it’s more of an ache.
Do you find that your poems have any common themes?
I used to think that love poems were the worst kind of poems but now I realize that every poem to ever be written is a love poem. I write a lot about my own every day emotions – disappointment, frustration and then the paradoxical optimism that follows those feelings. Hopefulness too – I have looked back at some of my saddest poems and noticed that they have these unexpected happy endings. I usually try to avoid themes though as it makes it too easy to use the same imagery/analogies/words and just repeat something I’ve already said. I am however controlled by the idea of having an aesthetic. Someone once said that my poems were heartbreaking and I’m happy with that for now.
When did you first start performing your poetry?
I started performing within in a week of joining Leeds Young Authors. I had done talent shows before so being on a stage wasn’t that alien but sharing parts of myself aloud definitely was.
Do you have a specific process when you write? Do you need specific conditions or can you write anywhere and everywhere?
I get up as early as I can and by the time I end up writing it is almost midnight. I write more and best around 11pm and then I write into the morning of the next day which I guess makes me a morning person. I usually edit as I write. I also have this addiction to buying books and not writing in them. I just find it easier to write on a computer. I’m kind of upset about that, but I recently discovered the beauty of a typewriter. I use it when I want to freewrite as it’s harder to be possessive over something when you can’t easily delete it. I can write anywhere if I have to. I’ve written in the pews of a church in Munich and by a canal in Venice. It was as romantic as it sounds, but I would still much prefer to be at home in my chair surrounded by books.
How do you feel just before a performance – nervous? Excited? Both?
Yes both. The nerves feed the excitement.
Do you have any major influences? If not, do you have certain ways of getting inspiration?
Anything can inspire me. The way the pinkish sun comes through the window of my living room can inspire me, but articulating the inspiration that I get can be difficult. I’m still working out what my catalyst is and how I can access it whenever I want. Reading is what I usually do if I need to be inspired. If it’s been a while since I last read some poetry or fiction then I notice that my excitement to write tends to lessen. I sometimes look at old work and pull out the things that I like and try to build something new. I’m influenced by anything from the authors I read to the young poets I have mentored. It changes day to day. I saw John Agard perform recently and he absolutely blew me away. I’m also currently mid-way The Complete Cosmicomics, a collection of short stories by Italo Calvino and I’m still recovering from the first few pages. It’s a truly extraordinary piece of work that is beyond anything I ever thought could even exist in the form of a book.
You were one of the poets featured in the film We Are Poets – what was that entire experience like?
It was an amazing experience. It’s always a great thing when something that would otherwise go unnoticed is not only documented but wins awards and travels the world. The whole thing is still unbelievable to me. I found it strange at first when people would say that they felt as though they knew me personally after watching the film but now I think those are the best kind of reactions. I was 18 in the film and since I no longer live in Leeds or compete in poetry slams, the film is nostalgic for me. It is great to have the opportunity to look into past and be embarrassed but also kind of proud of my younger self. It has also been really great to attend the screenings and take part in the Q+A’s and hear what people think about the film and how it has changed their idea of poetry and what good they believe it will do for poetry.
Has anything changed for you personally since the film was released?
Well it hasn’t made me famous, though I stopped believing it would make me into a film star a long time ago. I’ve done some cool things though like performing at the ICA and at the BFI. I guess personally some things have changed – I graduated University where I studied Creative Writing, I write a lot more prose and fiction now and I wouldn’t consider myself a performance poet anymore but only because I am exploring other things like publishing.
As a poet, what do you consider to be your greatest achievement so far?
An amalgamation of being featured in We Are Poets and competing in the finals at Brave New Voices Poetry Festival. They were amazing things to be a part of personally but also because they have given Leeds some much deserved attention. Anything that I do that may add value to the city that helped to raise me is an achievement to me.
What advice would you give to other young, aspiring poets?
Read, write, edit, re-edit and then step away. Read what your favourite writers read. Read evenly. If you religiously read only one writer, your words may eventually feel as though they don’t belong to you. Write for yourself. Don’t be afraid to write something bad. Be afraid when you don’t write anything at all.
Where do you hope to be in the future and how will you get there?
I hope to be read, to be published, to contribute to literature in some way, to be someone’s favourite writer and I guess I will get there by continuing to write.
Visit Kadish’s blog to read her work.