An Interview with Spoken Word Poet Harry Baker
By Sara Aslagson-Sahar
59 wakes up on the wrong side of the bed,
Realizes all his hair is on one side of his head,
Takes just under a minute to work out that it’s because of the way that he slept.
He finds some clothes and gets dressed.
He can’t help, but look in the mirror and be subtly impressed,
How he looks rough around the edges and yet casually messed,
And as he glances out the window, he sees the sight that he gets blessed with 60 from across the street.
Now 60 was beautiful.
With perfectly trimmed cuticles, dressed in something suitable,
Never rude or crude at all,
Unimprovable, right on time as usual, more on cue than a snooker ball, but liked to play it super cool.
59 wanted to tell her that he knew her favorite flower.
He thought of her every second, every minute, every hour,
But he knew it wouldn’t work, he’d never get the girl.
Because although she lived across the street, they came from different worlds.
While 59 admired 60’s perfectly round figure, 60 thought 59 was odd.
You see one of his favorite films was “101 Dalmations”
She preferred the sequel.
He romanticized the idea they were star-crossed lovers.
They could overcome the odds and evens because they had each other.
While she maintained the strict views imposed on her by her mother,
That separate could not be equal.
And though at the time he felt stupid and dumb,
For trying to love a girl controlled by her stupid mum,
He should have been comforted by the simple sum,
Take 59 away from 60, and you’re left with the one.
Sure enough after two months of moping around,
61 days later, 61 was who he found,
He had lost his keys and his parents were out.
So one day after school he went into a house,
As he noticed the slightly wonky numbers on the door,
He wondered why he’d never introduced himself before,
As she let him in, his jaw dropped in awe.
61 was like 60, but a little bit more.
She had prettier eyes, and an approachable smile,
And like him, rough around the edges, casual style,
And like him, everything was in disorganized piles,
And like him, her mum didn’t mind if friends stayed a while.
Because she was like him, and he liked her.
He reckoned she would like him if she knew he was like her.
And it was different this time. I mean, this girl was wicked,
So he plucked up the courage and asked for her digits.
She said, “I’m 61.” He grinned, said, “I’m 59.
Today I’ve had a really nice time,
So tomorrow if you wanted you could come over to mine?”
She said, “Sure.”
She loved talking to someone just as quirky,
She agreed to this unofficial first date.
In the end he was only ready one minute early,
But it didn’t matter because she arrived one minute late.
And from that moment on there was nonstop chatter,
How they loved “X Factor,” how they had two factors,
How that did not matter.
Distinctiveness made them better,
By the end of the night they knew they were meant together.
And one day she was talking about stuck-up 60,
She noticed that 59 looked a bit shifty.
He blushed, told her of his crush,
“The best thing that never happened because it led to us.”
61 was clever see, not prone to jealousy,
She looked him in the eyes and told him quite tenderly,
“You’re 59, I’m 61, together we combine to become twice what 60 could ever be.”
At this point 59 had tears in his eyes,
Was so glad to have this one-of-a-kind girl in his life.
He told her the very definition of being prime
Was that with only one and himself could his heart divide,
And she was the one he wanted to give his heart to,
She said she felt the same and now she knew the films were half true.
Because that wasn’t real love, that love was just a sample,
When it came to real love, they were a prime example.
You are doing a lot of different poetry events outside of the United Kingdom lately, where is the last place you were and what were you doing?
I was in Cape Town, South Africa! I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say, but it involved filming poetry on rooftops and having to wear safety harnesses! Before that I was touring through Australia and giving workshops in international schools in Beijing and Bangkok!
Is this international experience influencing your poetry? If so, how?
Definitely. I’ve been making notes as I’ve travelled that will hopefully become poems at some point. I’m not so concerned with writing ‘Travel Poetry’ about specific places, but some of the people I met have inspired me in a big way, and I hope to embody some of the kindness they showed me and do it justice in my work.
Between your poetry and your major in mathematics, you have quite interdisciplinary interests. This is reflected in your poems such as “59”. How do you think your seemingly untraditional background has benefitted your poetry?
I’ve always written about what was around me, by studying maths and living in Germany, these things ended up in my poetry, and I think it is more interesting as a result of this! It was never a savvy business decision to give myself a niche, but since going full-time I’ve been keen to do other things outside of the poetry too to keep myself inspired and hopefully keep what I write about interesting too.
What is your favorite part about writing poetry?
Having the opportunity to sit with the words, to be able to try and express yourself in the best way possible. I am not a naturally loud person in a group so it helps me to be given a space where I have a voice as well. When I write poetry, it usually starts with a couple of lines that I really like, or scribbling thoughts around a general idea, and then it becomes a challenge of trying to weave it together with a narrative. I’ve been doing a lot of collaboration work recently which helps spark ideas in a different way, but part of it is finding a way to be inspired initially as well.
Who are some poets that inspire you? What is it about them that you find inspiring?
Kate Tempest is number one. I’ve just been watching some more of her stuff recently. She says what she says because it’s important, there is no element of self-deprecation or maybe you won’t like this, it’s about her words and nothing more, and I find her poems very powerful. Another big inspiration is Hollie McNish, who I find very genuine and as inspiring to talk to in real life as in her poems. She just had a book out of poems and diary entries she wrote from when she was pregnant through to having a child, and I think you can hear her voice very distinctly throughout!
ABOUT THE POET:
World Poetry Slam Champion Harry Baker published his debut anthology The Sunshine Kid with Burning Eye Books in December 2014. His show of the same name was voted ‘Best Spoken Word Show’ of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015. Baker is now a fully-fledged maths graduate and full-time poet/adventurer. His work has been translated into 15 different languages, in addition to being shared and viewed millions of times worldwide on TED.com. In 2016, he took a three-month #Haztralasia tour through New Zealand, Australia, Dubai, China and Thailand, and is now back in the UK. He is excited to be sharing his unique mix of humour, heart and hopefulness.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER:
Sara Aslagson-Sahar is a book enthusiast, writer, and poet. She is a Co-Editor of Sculpt: A Literary Journal of Young Adult Fiction, which finds, reads, and reports on literature that covers mature topics about the struggles young adults face.