Crispin Best has been dubbed London’s ‘most original and oddest poet’, and although some may disagree, his internet presence may lead you to think he is. His poetry largely exists online and his work is heavily influenced by internet culture and humour; recent poems even being written in meme form. The hyperlinks on his website lead to not only his poems, but to his Tinder, OK Cupid and to a YouTube video of him dancing, aged six.
That being said, Crispin exists offline, too. He was published among the Faber New Poets of 2014; an accolade where poets receive their first published pamphlet as well as mentoring by Faber. He has read his work throughout the UK and also internationally, in Europe and Australia.
I spoke to Best (online) about his work…
You are ‘London’s most original and oddest poet’ according to I-D. Are you ok with this? Are there any contenders?
obvs i’m sure i’m not even in the top 100 of either category but tbh i’ve taken that quote to the bank and am dining off it still.
How did you start writing?
when i was, idk, 8 years old, i wrote mostly goofy intergalactic sci-fi, or own-brand computer game fanfic (so ‘the adventures of… lightning… the porcupine’ or ‘super… toilet cousins’) and so for birthdays and christmases, my parents started giving me notepads, stationery, all that good garbage. gift-giving has this coercive function, so lil bb me probably thought: ‘ok – wow, i’m… this guy now, i guess’ and wrote more and so on. now we’re here.
What made you start sharing your work?
from the beginning i was writing to show it to people. my big brother – who’s 9 years older – was an actor and he’d sometimes show up on the kids tv shows i’d watch, so – idk – i found that confusing. so for a while i just started writing scripts for him, i guess i was thinking that somehow… that’s how tv programmes come into existence, probably, right? these actors’ little siblings are pulling the strings behind the scenes, surely. anyway. he ignored them completely, but even then i was definitely always writing things with the idea that they were for … someone.
Was publishing always the goal for you?
not really. i’m an age where i’ve been interacting with people online for as long as the internet has existed, p much. chatting with folks in the wild west 90s just became reading blogs, getting into people’s work, publishing my own. i had a geocities back in the day. my finest hour. the goal was just the possibility that it would find someone.
How often do you read in public? You’ve expressed that people don’t go to spoken word nights to hear poetry to demonstrate that they have an interest in it (which I think is true for the London art scene), so are you skeptical of live poetry?
look around at any reading and it’s usually pretty clear that poetry is a pose, at least partly, as well as an endurance sport. you’re going to get used to sitting through a lot of stuff you can’t stand to get to the stuff you do, and it can be a ball-ache. whoever the hell these people are out there who actually can’t get enough of poetry…. i would just like to say: i love you, i admire you, i bow to you, you’re insane.
but nonetheless, i learn the most about my work – good and bad – from reading it out to people, however fed up they are. it feels cute when the audience becomes part of the poem and i know that at least some of them are absolutely hating it. bliss.
Do you often feel as if you ‘read to the converted’ instead of reaching new people?
of course if i’m not reaching new people, it’s my fault, but really my priority is to read and hear new people’s work myself; if i’m not doing that then it’s really my fault.
Is a ‘poetic legacy’ something you think about?
🙂 don’t think i’m in any danger of having one of those.
What poetry have you read that has made you think ‘fuck I didn’t know you could write poetry like that.’
early on it would just have been all kinds of internet writers, but more recently it’s been people like chelsey minnis, morgan parker, holly pester and emily berry. i recently saw the dutch poet maarten van der graaf read and the few things i heard of his caught me off guard in different ways.
Your poems make me laugh a lot, is humour a big thing for you in your poetry? Do you intend to get a laugh?
simply put: that’s all i want. i sometimes have a little breakdown when i think about all the dirty, rotten jokes that lurk and ruin my poems at every turn. my greatest shame and greatest pleasure. thank god.
Are all your poems love poems?
there was a period where they were, yeah. then some people took me aside and told me it was getting out of hand. so i had a moratorium on the word ‘you’. but now in the last year or so my writing has become way more self-involved and unreadable, it’s sort of unbearable. here’s hoping i fall in love soon and call the moratorium off.
You have explained before you like to feel ‘useful’ in terms of your art. I agree, and for me when I write it is often with the awareness of what I think there should be more of in the world or what I think people need (pretty self-indulgent I know.) How do you feel useful as a poet?
definitely i do think you need to consider how your work might provoke someone, in whatever direction, or how it is engaging with the current state — as best as you understand it — of whatever you’re trying to be a part of (‘literature’, ‘poetry’, ‘spoken word’, ‘performance’). of course it’s good to ask yourself whether there’s a need for more of [x], but also thinking about that is what usually stops people from writing.
For a poet starting out, would you recommend searching for an online community? Is there one?
there’s always so many good people away from the establishment. there are some halfwits and buffoons too, but i would have given up writing years ago if it wasn’t for the people i met around the edges of it. finding a community is always going to be a crapshoot, but the times that pay off are worth the times that don’t.
Whats next? Has your Faber book given you ‘first album’ complex.
i’ve got an awful manuscript pretty much ready to send off. but it’s even worse than the faber pamphlet, so be warned that it might not see the light of day.
If you could fight any historical figure who would it be?
the horse from tangled. i’d just sit back and let him kick the shit out of me. i’d love it.
Do you have a favourite poem?
Who should we be reading at the moment?
daisy lafarge, xim xom, if a leaf falls press and SPAM zine.
Whats the best and worst advice about writing poetry youve been given.
i’ve never listened to any of it, yet.
Any bad advice for us?
be a poet
Words, Holly Bond