An Interview with Saskia Tomlinson

Saskia Tomlinson is one of my favourite Devon-based performance poets. Such is the breadth of her subject matter, the beauty and virtuosity of her writing, the ease of her performance style and her engaging personality, she could well become one of the most accomplished performance poets in the country.

I have only known Saskia for a couple of years, having first seen her at the Exeter Poetry Slam, and then booking her to perform at Poetry Island which I used to host at the time. Since then she has gone on to win slams and appear at festivals, while her art and animations go from strength to strength.

At the same time I detect a certain eccentricity beneath the surface, which only endears me to her, and her to her audiences, even more. Who else would give away free organic vegetables at a poetry slam? Who else would walk all the way across Barnstaple to make sure that a restaurant had recycled a plastic bottle? And most touchingly of all, who else would give me a present of a pink zebra-patterned roll of gaffer tape? I treasure it to this day.

As a result, Saskia gives the impression of being a fully rounded individual with a sly sense of humour and a clear sense of who she is and her place in the world.

A couple of months ago I decided to try and interview some of the local performers who make the South Devon scene so exciting, and who better to start with than the performer who might well become one of the finest on the national circuit?

– Hello Saskia. You recently performed a poem that you’d written at an early age. When, and why did you start writing and performing poetry?

“Yes I have been writing from an early age. At school I always loved the creative writing we had to do, and would happily stand up in front of the class to speak them. It’s amazing how children have so much confidence. I started preforming in front of people by singing songs I had written. Then I realised that I couldn’t really sing or play the guitar so speaking my words came much easier to me.”

– Who or what are your influences as a poet / performer?

“I used to be obsessed with TS Elliott’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, even thought I really had no idea what it was about. The imagery really stood out to me. I used to completely nick lines from the poem and put them into mine. But over the last few years I have been going to spoken word events and been inspired by so many performers, and started the find my own voice in that crowd I think.

-Do you rehearse? And if so, how long does it take to become familiar with a poem?
“No I don’t really rehearse, sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to do until I get to the venue. I find it terrifying to read a poem on stage. So I memories my poems by going over them before I fall asleep at night.”

– As well as performance poetry, you also excel in art, animation and film making. Which of these interests you the most? Which are you most proud of?
“I do want to be an animator. I have found that animation and poetry go perfectly well together because they both work with images that are constantly evolving, and this can be really interesting”.

– Do you get nervous before a performance?
“Yes I get very nervous, and sometimes waffle on a bit when I am introducing a poem.”

– Your performance style seems closely related to your personality. Do you adopt or exaggerate certain aspects of your personality in performance? Do you perform a ‘version’ of yourself?
“I think everybody does that when they preform. Don’t they? It is important to stay true to your personality. I think in South Devon we have such a range of personalities in the performance poetry world, and thats why its such a vibrent scene.

Thank you very much, Saskia Tomlinson!

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