Bio: Dean Rhetoric is a working-class poet currently living in Manchester. His pamphlet, Cancer [+Pop Punk] is available now via Broken Sleep Books. His debut full-length collection, Foundry Songs, is due out February 2023.
Q1: When did you start writing and who influenced you the most now and currently?
Dean: I started writing short stories and song lyrics when I was about 13. I was mainly influenced by lyricists, especially Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz who wrote the songs for one of my favourite bands, Bad Religion. I loved J.D. Salinger as well, and Stephen King. The usual.
Now I mainly admire poets like Natalie Shapero, Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins, Wayne Holloway-Smith and countless others who are currently/have been on the Broken Sleep Books roster.
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Dean: I had to write an essay for my Religious Education class at school. I couldn’t remember what the theme of the essay was meant to be, so I just scribbled out some random story about dogs forming a cult and enslaving humans.
I got in a lot of trouble over it, but every time a teacher read out a few lines of it they’d burst out laughing. I was failing every class apart from English Lit, so I think it just all clicked.
Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?
Dean: That would probably be the friends and peers who are comfortable enough with me to give honest feedback on drafts and things like that. I think every poet should have at least one mate they can rely on to push them a little further and say ‘you can do better than this’.
Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your work? Have any travels influenced your work?
I grew up in Hereford and lived there until I was about 25. My forthcoming full-length collection Foundry Songs has been hugely influenced by growing up there, and my 8 years there as a foundry worker.
I live in Manchester now and have always considered it home. I can’t really afford to travel. I’ve had one trip abroad my whole life. But I was fortunate enough to go to Edinburgh a few years back for the Fringe Festival to do a few gigs and they certainly inspired some poems.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?
Dean: Probably my poetry pamphlet, Cancer [+Pop Punk], because it was such an experimental idea and I’m proud of the fact that all my royalties go to a charity that supports young widows. It was rewarding to see how others interpreted it.
In fact, Colin Dardis wrote a really insightful review of it for you, which meant a lot to me.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Dean: I’m not good at relaxing but if I want to let off steam or enjoy myself, I’ll either watch pro wrestling, take a long walk, watch a film, or write. I’m probably happiest when I’ve got nothing to do but write.
Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza/lyric from your writing?
Dean: I feel like a right big head posting lines I’ve written that I think are good. There’s a poem in Foundry Songs called ‘Me and my Big Fuck-off Nose’ where I describe my septum as:
Swollen to the point of Agoraphobic sundial
I’ll cringe that I even answered this at all, but let’s go with that one as it’s the last poem I looked over when proof-reading.
Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or song that always come back to you as an inspiration?
Dean: I mostly listen to punk rock, Motown, film scores, and the usual cliché stuff that poets listen to. Joanna Newsom is great too. I return to Automatic for the People by REM a lot, and it plays a huge role in Cancer [+Pop Punk].
And yes, I’m aware that REM isn’t punk pop!
Q9: Do you haven recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc. that you would like to promote?
As I said above, Cancer [+Pop Punk] is available now and can be purchased here. I don’t want to guilt trip anyone into buying it, but if you don’t purchase a copy, it basically means you hate charity.
Foundry Songs is my debut full length and its due out February 2023. I worked very hard on it, and it would be great if people grabbed a copy.
And just to promote some other people, I’ve recently been reading Obligate Carnivore by Stuart McPherson, Salt & Metal by Sallyanne Rock, and The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju by Sascha Aurora Akhtar. They’re all fantastic collections that I highly recommend.
Review: Cancer [+Pop Punk by Dean Rhetoric (review by Colin Dardis)