Deborah ‘Debris’ Stevenson decided she wanted to be a poet at 16 in The Roundhouse in Camden, so it’s only fitting that she would return to the very same venue to launch her debut pamphlet collection, Pigeon Party.
After working tirelessly (and apparently finding at least nine more hours in a day than normal folks) to tour the world with her poetry, run Mouthy Poets (if you haven’t heard of them you must Google, immediately) AND teach on the Creative Writing BA at Nottingham University (amongst about 1000 other things), no one would have blamed her for allowing this pamphlet launch to be all about her … a celebration of her achievements within writing. But Deborah had other ideas.
Firstly she brought industry experts together for a panel discussion on the relevance of publication as a poet today, and to ask the question ‘can we harness the reach of YouTube whilst maintaining the quality of a bound, published, collection of poems?’, along with fielding burning questions from the audience.
The performance element combined readings from a host of poets who have inspired Deborah along her journey (including Bohdan Piasecki and Kayo Chingonyi), slickly hosted by Jacob Sam-La Rose. She then opened the floor to the Mouthy Poets who wowed the crowd with creative interpretations of poems from the collection. When Debris finally took the floor as her own and splashed the often dark, raw images she peppers her poetry with onto landscapes we all recognise, she reduced the room of pigeons to a stunned silence (not a single coo to be heard).
What she had in fact created was a packed gathering of mouthy misfits (hence the pigeons), doing what they do best: cheering, clapping, clicking and bringing jaw-dropping poetry to life for the whole room to enjoy (hence the party).
As if that wasn’t enough, Deborah had cunningly concocted an entire networking event on the back of the programmes in order to continue the discussion, both in person at the event and virtually, #pigeonparty.
The real beauty of both this event and the pamphlet is to see the journey that the poems have travelled. Unlike many traditional printed collections, all of Deborah’s poems were born onto the stage. They grew and developed there using audiences as editors instead of a red pen and have been captured on a page when many people might already know them by heart. Seeing how the world of spoken word and printed collections have fused is exactly the point that was made in the panel discussion; to be a successful poet in today’s world you have to be both talented enough to attract the attention of a publisher and engaging enough to grip an audience.
Pigeon Party is available to purchase from Waterstones online for just £4 – http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/debris+stevenson/pigeon+party/10730166/