Spine 2024 AiRs

Justin is part of SPINE Festival 2024, along with an incredible team of poets they’ll be leading workshops and arts activities for children in Libraries and schools across London this Spring.

Describe yourself in 3 words…

Not Mr Tumble 

What inspires you?

There’s a poem in anything. Today is all about biscuits and bicycles – and also, for some reason, spoons.  

Tell us about your worst ever gig?

One of the first times I was on stage as a poet was at a small festival where my job was mainly to introduce the bands. I managed to forget the names of the first three bands I introduced – the fourth band said they’d rather introduce themselves, thanks. There was another memorable one early on where I performed on a bandstand in Bognor Regis to two old age pensioners in their motorised-wheelchair buggies. Instead of applauding the poems they just tooted their hooters. 

What’s your number one poetry pet peeve?

The excessive use of alliteration. I’m only joking – I love it!

Whose words do you love at the moment?

I’ve always loved books but struggled with concentration – which meant I didn’t read all that much as a child. I’m trying to make it up for it, as best as I can, now. I read a lot of children’s poetry. At the moment I’m lapping up The Shape of Rainbows by Neil Zetter. Of recent reads, I’m a particular fan of Kate Wakeling’s quirky A Dinosaur At The Bus Stop – it’s full of very clever and kinaesthetically pleasing poems for younger children. I’m very much into verse novels. The best one I’ve read recently is The Final Year by Matt Goodfellow. Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is another richly rewarding read that I’ve got on the go. And, at last, I’m finally about to finish Dickens’ David Copperfield – I’ve enjoyed it for the most part, although the female characters do seem to do a lot of feinting. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

How about “stay in your day job so you’ll save up enough money to write comfortably when you’re older”. I’d never have listened, of course, and probably a good thing too!

How do you relate to the themes of magic & imagination?

Magic to me is all about joy and surprise. The imagination is the portal to finding magic in the mundane. Poets are good at locating and celebrating magic in the everyday (which is hopefully what I did in my book The Magic of Mums).

What do you enjoy most about working with children, families and libraries?

I love that library shows are accessible to everyone. And working with children and poetry together is such a joy. I like to write interactive poems and funny poems – because a crowd of lively, laughing children is a very addictive buzz.

If you could have an extra hour of free time every day, how would you use it?

I’ve got three children, I work in schools on poetry projects in the week, I work weekends as a carer for my disabled brother-in-law, I’m trying to finish my novel, I make time for reading, riding my mountain bike and playing the guitar very badly,  so in that extra hour, I’d probably just run a hot bath and go to sleep in it. 

An image of poet Justin Coe. Justin has short brown hair zinc wears a blue jacket and brown shirt. He looks at a pop up book he is holding.

About Justin Coe

Justin Coe is a poet and spoken word theatre creator, specialising in work for young audiences. 

He is the author of The Dictionary of Dads (Otter-Barry Books, 2017) and The Magic of Mums (2020) and the writer/performer of more than a dozen family shows, including  The House That Jackson Built (with Half Moon Theatre)a play inspired by Justin’s love of libraries. 

For over twenty-five years, Justin has shared his heartfelt humour and passion for poetry in hundreds of schools, libraries and theatres, entertaining and educating everywhere, from Sheppey to Shanghai and from The Savoy Hotel to a bandstand in Bognor Regis.

Twitter: @literacyoutloud
Website: www.justincoe.co.uk
facebook: facebook.com/literacyoutloud