New Poetry, Fiction, Essays

Meet the Poet 4: Rick Sanders/ Willis the Poet – by Samantha Maw

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Samantha Maw is studying a Creative Writing MA at Lincoln University in the U.K. and is a member of Lincoln Creative Writers and Outspoken Poets. A qualified teacher who has worked in primary and secondary schools in the UK and in Africa; she has now gained the confidence to impose her poems and blogging skills (couragechasers.com) on the general public. She lives in Lincoln with a scruffy golden lurcher and two ridiculously cuddly cats. In her spare time she likes to tread the boards at her local amateur dramatic society, and leads story time at the local village library.





Back in February I competed in my first Spoken Word Slam at the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre. The competition was tough and I had terrible stage fright before I went up, but managed to deliver my two short poems without passing out! I didn’t win, but really enjoyed the performance by Rick Sanders (a.k.a Willis the Poet) who hails from Birmingham and has a knack for comic poetry. Last weekend I had the privilege of performing alongside him at an event called Poetry Fix at The Anchor Gallery in Birmingham. The other Birmingham poets that performed were Ben Moore (The Park Bench Poet – You Tube) and Marianne Burgess (Amateur Grammatics is available on Amazon priced £4.99). It was an event focusing on short, snappy poems and a fun Q&A session at the end, where the audience could ask us questions and pick up some writing tips.


Spoken Word is flourishing in the Midlands in pubs and theatres and there is a real sense of excitement as more people take to the stage to share their work. Lincoln has several poetry events a month for anyone wishing to take part. For example, Outspoken Poets hold an event the first Wednesday evening of every month, and a new venue called The Poetry Green Room `is a welcoming and supportive space that encourages both new and existing performers to develop through experimentation, feedback, and support`.[1]


Rick Sanders has been a professional comedy stand-up poet and artist for two years and is a regular headliner at many events across the country. His intention is to get `his sticky sausage-fingers in as many poetry pies as he can. ` I quizzed him about his travelling poet status and all it entails. Here are his answers.


Who or what inspired you to become a poet in the first place?


I have been writing from an early age, on and off. I first went to support a friend at an open mic night called Permission to Speak in Stourbridge, not really knowing what it was all about, and I was amazed at the quality and diversity of spoken word and poetry there. The following month coincided with my wife’s birthday, so we went back and I surprised her by reading out a short piece I had written. From then on, I was hooked! Permission to Speak was a regular, local event and inspired me to write new material each month, so as not to repeat myself.  In this way I was quickly able to build up a reputation and a good range of material, and haven’t looked back since!

Why a comedy poet?

I have always loved the word play of comedy. Reading for my kids was a good introduction to the works of Roald Dahl, Spike Milligan, John Hegley etc. I also immersed myself in watching a variety of comic poets, where I observed the tricks of performing as well as writing. I wanted to play with words and present a unique style at open mic nights, so I took up writing comic poetry just to be entertaining! As I was still learning to write poetry and prose, it was a good opportunity to hone my skills and still have the brass neck to stand up in front of an audience. I think people engage more with poetry through humour and this is a very big motivator for me. To make people laugh is a brilliant tonic and very life affirming.

Where do you get inspiration from?

Pretty much everywhere and at any time. I am often inspired by watching other poets at open mics or on YouTube and often find topics and themes coming into my head when I am travelling back from events. I think my brain gets into gear and just goes from there! I like to play with common sayings or clichés where often a couple of words is enough to inspire me down a different path. So long as I can find humour in a topic, then I can usually put a poem together about it that makes others laugh as well.

What techniques or forms do you like to experiment with in your poetry?

I really like to take a form and then break the rules. For example, writing a limerick but then extend the last line into a rambling monologue. People often expect something in the form of a poem, or the rhyming patterns, so I go with that for a while and then throw a curve ball in to make it funny or unusual. I do write without breaking the rules as well, but the humour is always the most important part for me. If it’s not funny, then it goes on the backburner. That said, attending writing classes and groups is a great way to improve in the more formal styles and then I can use that knowledge to craft some good comic poetry from there.

What advice would you give to novice poets?

Go to as much live poetry as possible and perform as often as you can at open mics. Find a niche for your work if you can, especially if you want to take it seriously as an artform. Develop your own style. Read a lot of poetry and watch a lot on YouTube. If you like a certain style, then study the other poets or spoken word artists that are similar and learn from their performance style or delivery. Don’t give up – sometimes it can be a hard struggle, but it’s worth it. Write as often as you can and challenge yourself to perform new material at a regular night. Find someone you can trust to give you feedback. This can be done in writing groups, but also get to know a friendly poet that you like and see if they will provide some feedback. Film yourself and watch it back. Always support other poets as much as possible and constantly be on the lookout for opportunities. Doing some performances for free will often lead to other opportunities that are paid. Don’t expect to earn a living doing just performance poetry though; you would have to be very good, very fast in order to do so. Volunteer at poetry festivals – it’s a great way to meet people and promoters as well as immersing yourself in poetry. Always have a card with you and build your network as big as you can, as fast as you can. Enjoy the journey, because it will often seem impossible, but will always be rewarding.

Is poetry still relevant today?



Just look at Tony Walsh’s response to the events in Manchester. He held a voice for the people and was able to articulate their feelings in the public arena. It was very powerful. Poets have and always will hold the key to an immediate cultural response to the world around them. All they need is their brain, a pencil and a mic and it is out there. People always turn to poets for special occasions – weddings, funeral, birthdays etc. It still holds a place in the public consciousness. I also think that it is giving a voice to young people today to talk about the world around them. Go to any open mic and you will see young people expressing themselves with incredible confidence and poise, tackling difficult and relevant topics. This never existed when I was young.


Poetry Fix Q &A Event at the Anchor Gallery featuring Rick Sanders, Samantha Maw, Marianne Burgess and Ben Moore.


If you would like to learn more about Rick Sanders visit:


To see him perform some of his poems go to:



[1] The Poetry Green Room Facebook page.




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