Last weekend, the 89plus project took over the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London's Hyde Park with a no-holds-barred marathon of digitally-engaged speakers and artists born in or after 1989: the year that also saw the launch of the internet. Two of the most arresting speakers were Dazed contributor Crispin Best and Sophie Collins, editor of the Tender poetry journal – both emerging poets in their own right, and British counterpoints to the alt lit scene that has emerged on the other side of the Atlantic with writers like Tao Lin and Steve Roggenbuck.
Dazed talks to the two writers about transatlantic differences, performing live and the unlikely allure of Harry Potter fanfiction.
If writers were in it for the money they would be in something else. They would be ghost writing for Leona Lewis
Crispin Best: When did you start thinking you were going to be a writer?
Sophie Collins: Always, but I didn’t write poems until university. I was in a creative writing course and I wasn’t doing very well and then they suggested I write poems. And then it was like, “Oh okay, this is something I can do.” I think fiction requires a lot more like application. It seems harder.
Crispin Best: Do you think you’ll go back to writing fiction?
Sophie Collins: Maybe, because I need like some money. There’s no money in poetry. I need to get like an advance. A big advance.
Crispin Best: That’s why most people write fiction. It’s for the money.
Sophie Collins: No! If writers were in it for the money they would be in something else. They would be ghost writing for Leona Lewis. Maybe they are. Maybe Joe Dunthorn secretly writes all the Jodi Picoult novels. What about you, how did you start?
Crispin Best: I have like a story that I read once in a while that I wrote when I was nine. This character called Adventureman or something, I actually think it was hilarious, I don’t think everyone else did. Even when I was nine, I guess my parents thought of me as a writer so they just kept pushing me, buying me notebooks.
Sophie Collins: My parents did that too!
Sophie Collins: I just realized the first thing I started writing was Harry Potter fanfiction. Like, on GeoCities or something. That’s when I learned how to do HTML and started writing.
Crispin Best: I’ve never written a single fanfic apart from this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was just them in normal life, like them a bit older. It was kind of bleak. What kind of fanfiction did you write?
Sophie Collins: Like, characters having sex—well, not having sex, but forming unlikely relationships with each other. I feel like that’s a big part of fanfic. Especially for girls, I don’t know why.
Crispin Best: I’ve never written a sex scene in my life, I think. Instead I say things like, “I will fuck you in this bowl of soup”, or something. I’ve never written an explicit thing. I’m kind of a prude I think. I’d be too squeamish to try.
Sophie Collins: I would never go there.
Crispin Best: I would assume that every single word I chose was revealing something about myself that I didn’t want to reveal. If I like described the part of the body specifically, they’d be like, “He has a fetish, he’s got a foot fetish. A footish.”
Dazed Digital: Does it ever get scary performing live?
Sophie Collins: It gets better every time you do it.
Crispin Best: I think it depends on how drunk I am. It just settles my nerves. I’ve done readings where I was completely drunk that I felt was good.
Sophie Collins: Some readings feel a lot more high pressure than others. Other ones you’re not nervous because it’s just your friends in a pub.
DD: Do you think there are any commonalities between all the young poets coming up right now?
Crispin Best: There is a preoccupation in everyone’s work with the internet. Sophie, you’ve used a lot of translation with the ghost poems and various other things. That’s where I start. My poems basically start on Twitter.
Sophie Collins: I’ve had ideas for a tweet, then deleted it, like, “Uh oh I’m going to put it in a poem!” and end up saving it in a Word doc.
Crispin Best: I don’t delete mine, I just keep it up there – Twitter is just my notebook.
DD: Do you think there’s a difference between American and British poets?
Crispin Best: I feel like Americans are a lot more open to the idea that you can have a lot more flexibility with what poetry can be.
Sophie Collins: That’s like everywhere else apart from England. England’s pretty uptight.
For more head-to-head interview with the movers and shakers of 89plus, head here.
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing