Unfortunately, this week I missed my poetry class with El Gruer, due to work commitments and the next class is in two weeks time…! However, I did manage to sit down and interview her this morning, so all was not lost…
Writing doesn’t pay. Everyone says it and everyone advises you to stay away from it. As for poetry – don’t even go there. Not so for El Gruer however. This determined performance poet defied everything we think we know about poetry by embarking on a full-time career straight out of university – doing two back-to-back tours in 2011/12 after launching her intentions online and hoping that people would get in touch.
El toured multiple venues throughout the UK and beyond (having written some 30 poems to perform) – from massive music and arts festivals to the decidedly more intimate hospital bedside performances and those she did at people’s homes.
“I saw that poetry had the potential to connect and challenge people and bring new light to situations,” she said.
“I didn’t want to settle for what poetry is doing already. I thought, ‘poetry doesn’t sell the way we’re doing it, so what can I do differently that people want to experience – that will take the industry in a whole new way?’ So, it’s quite experimental.”
She also wanted to show the value she placed in every audience, from the single person to the collective crowd…“I wanted to perform with the same level of heart and vulnerability and all-round attention to detail as I would if it was thousands of people.”
Her first tour – ‘The Bride and the Alarm Clock’ – examined “our identity as humans, as individuals” and during this time, El was busy preparing for her next road trip, which took place in 2012. Entitled ‘The Unlocked Ones Walk’, this second set of performances looked at collective humanity and freedom and came just two months after the first.
She is now living in Portstewart, NI and was recently revealed as Poet in Residence at Coleraine’s not-for-profit boutique, Hope & Gloria. She has also just put the finishing touches to her debut poetry collection, which she plans to publish and she will be running creative writing classes from the Emporium and doing other work in the area, as well as impromptu performances.
My advice – keep an eye on this inspirational poet!
“I’m fascinated with humanity and people as a collective – what you say and don’t say to each other. I’m intrigued about how connection is made through rawness and vulnerability. Within that, poetry is something I love to write and read and so I wanted to totally push the boundaries.”