Spotlight: Jacob Sam-La Rose

Jacob Sam-La RoseDay job
Poet and creative consultant. I travel around the world writing poems, performing poems and helping other people to write and perform poems (that also involves a lot of work in educational settings). I also devise and direct projects that allow me to do more of the above, or engage other poets and writers to do the same.

Private passions
Fine wine, typography, medium format cameras and zombie-lit. One of those is a lie.

What do people get wrong about you?
I’m not related to John Larose, inspiring as he was. Also, my full surname is Sam-La Rose. The hyphen and the space have caused no end of confusion over the years.

What do you like best about belonging to 26?
Being a member of 26 places me within a community that’s active and passionate about writing in its various different forms. Before I knew anything about 26, I was excited about some of the projects I’d seen, including 26 Letters and the work 26 produced with PEN International. Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to being involved in something in the future…

How do your photography and poetry inform one another?
My photographic practice is very much based in being present and alive to whatever a scene or moment might present. It’s a perfect counter to the way I edit my written work, which tends to be much more of a focused and intensive process, a conscious effort, and much more in my own head. I do as little post-processing or manipulation of my images as possible; everything happens in the camera, and there’s something about training the eye and the instinct to capture the image with as little conscious effort as possible that definitely crosses over to the way I like to approach an early draft of a new piece of work.

What advice would you offer other 26ers wanting to become poets?
Two things to consider first: developing your practice (the routine/rigour of regular writing), and figuring out what you actually have to say. Don’t judge yourself too soon— it’s useful to have models or other poets that you admire and can learn from, but don’t measure yourself by their successes before you’ve had an opportunity to develop your own voice. Allow yourself to write poorly before challenging yourself to live up to the expectation of writing well. On a practical level, as soon as you’ve developed enough confidence to put your poetry out into the world, do so. Develop a routine of submissions to journals and magazines. Attend readings and open mics and get your work heard (and don’t forget to pay attention to other readers). Develop an audience for your work. Find the places you feel your work fits, but don’t be constrained by them. Of course, you don’t expect riches or fame in writing poetry, so understand why you want to be a poet, and stay true to whatever that drive may be.

What’s your favourite piece of advice for good writing?

What does being a poet mean to you?
It’s humbling, really, to know that you can write in a way that has a profound impact on the people who engage with that writing. I’ve had people thank me after reading or listening to particular poems I’ve written because I’d captured something they’d experienced in a way that they wouldn’t have been able to render themselves. But I’m also very much about supporting other people to engage with the act of writing and sharing or performing poetry, and there’s something similarly powerful about that— being able to help people find their unique voices, to help them access the things they really want or need to write and say but didn’t know how.

Tell us what you’re working on right now.
I’m currently: sketching out the next phase of development for a national youth poetry slam programme; beginning a three-year development plan for a youth poetry community based at the Barbican, extending a project I’ve been running there for a while now; working on a cross-art creative exploration of the theme of “ritual and tradition” in conjunction with Performing Arts Labs; researching ways of working with poetry and new technology/applications; and gently nudging towards my next collection. I think that’s pretty much enough for the time being!


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