Chris Bennett  is one of the poetry coaches in the South East. Together with Paul Cree he coaches a team of young people at the Forest Education Centre in Hampshire.


When and how did you start writing and performing poetry?

I’d written poetry since I was a kid, then, in 1989 I’d been dabbling with theatre for a while and trying to write plays when I saw Lemn Sissay perform at a little theatre in Southampton called The Gantry. I remember thinking, ooh, I could do that! I get into storytelling and the performance poetry just kind of joined in.


How did you get into teaching poetry/performance?

It developed over several years. I was working in Youth Work and doing part-time storytelling/poetry and schools asked me to do the odd workshop here and there…


What does working as a Poet Coach for Shake the Dust mean to you?

It means that I can take longer with a group. Usually I do one day in a school and I can’t get my teeth into it. I’m also excited by working with other poets. Being a freelance performer can be a lonely job amongst a lot of people.


What have you enjoyed the most so far?

Meeting the young people and trying out new ideas and activities with my shadow poet Paul who is excellent.


What has the biggest challenge been?

Trying to motivate people who think they can’t create poetry or that they have no right to do it. I try to tell them that their voice is valid and people want to hear it.


Can you tell me about any of the exercises you use?

I like to use images cut out of magazines as inspiration for some random, surreal poems. They create brilliant word pictures.


What’s your advice to budding poets and performers?

Get up there and just do it and if it goes wrong get up there and do it again. It’ll gradually get better and you can’t beat real live experience. Then, when you’re old, you can say, “I got up on stage and belted out my poems and people listened. Not everyone’s done that.”