Peter Wyton

I don’t remember when I began writing poetry, but when I’m asked why I write it, I generally say that it’s an itch I feel periodically obliged to scratch. Certainly I started in what must be a fairly standard manner, inflicting my efforts firstly on my family, then in the magazine of Friends School, Lisburn, in Ireland. From about the age of 12 I appeared periodically on BBC Radio Children’s Hour, broadcast from Belfast. There was no payment, but for each performance you received a book token for seven shillings and sixpence.

At 15 years old, I joined the Royal Air Force and served in it until I reversed the numbers and left at the age of 51. During the majority of my service career, my poetry output was limited to ‘crew-room verse’, very parochial and purely for the amusement of my colleagues, who liked their verse (a) to rhyme (b) to be about them (c) to be funny and, for preference, rude.

However, in the early ‘90s, I discovered the small poetry press and began to subscribe and submit to a variety of periodicals such as Iota, Smiths Knoll, Orbis, Envoi, etc. At first, I imagine like many others, I fired off poems, machine-gun fashion, in all directions, gradually discovering which magazines seemed most inclined to accept my work and which wouldn’t. I also began to send work off to written competitions and found that I could gain some success in that field as well.

The notion of performing in public never occurred to me at that time. You can’t blithely tell a promoter that you’ll appear at such and such a venue on such and such a date in the future, only to find that Her Majesty would prefer you to be in some remote part of the world instead.

However, four days after leaving the R.A.F., in April 1996, I hopped onto the stage at the Gloucster Guildhall, took part in my first Performance Poetry Slam and discovered a competitive and exhibitionist streak I didn’t know I possessed. There is something particularly appealing to me about Slams. A lot of it lies in the total unpredictably of what’s going to happen, what you’re going to hear and who you’re going to meet. I never tire of them, although though they rarely earn you any money on the night. But right from the beginning I found that a good performance might (and did) earn me support slots with established figures such as Brian Patten, John Hegley and Attila the Stockbroker, or invitations to appear as a featured artist at a poetry evening, or even, in one memorable instance, to be presented with an expensive sex toy donated by the Ann Summers company (which I contrived to sell to an appreciative audience member before I left the stage!).

More conventionally, within a couple of years, I began to acquire a smattering of invitations to appear, not only at literary festivals, but at an eye-watering variety of disparate events, ranging from the W.I. to jails, from an Air Guitar Championship to a classical music festival. I’ve performed poetry from the back of a flat-bed truck in a Welsh field, a ferry boat bobbing around Bristol harbour, a knitting convention,a couple of comedy clubs, several schools and goodness knows how many pubs and clubs between Devon and Yorkshire.

Particularly pleasing has been a stint as the Poet Laureate for the Gloucestershire1000 project, a brace of nominations for the National Poetry Prize and reaching the final of Radio Four’s first ever broadcast Slam. I’ve produced eight slim volumes of my work, the latest of which, ‘Not All Men are from Mars’ I sell in support of the charity Women’s Aid. Poems of mine have found their way onto the BBCs Poetry Please and Something Understood, into national papers like the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph.

A decade and a half since I first climbed onto a stage, I’ve enjoyed and am continuing to enjoy, innumerable evenings in good company all over the place. I’ve indulged in poetic collaborations with a number of talented individuals including Emily Wills, Jo Bell, Paul Eccentric and Alison Brumfitt. I’ve met a fair proportion of the great and good on the contemporary poetry scene and have every intention of carrying on for as long as I can put pen to paper, or stagger up to a microphone.

Lately I’ve started to pay more attention to poetry on-line. I’ve contrived to inveigle myself into some very good company appearing on webzines such as Chimaera, The Flea and the wonderfully named Shit Creek Review, thereby putting my work before audiences in America, Australia and beyond.

If you’re interested in knowing more about what I do and where I do it, try