Poet, Writer, Artistic Director
Deborah 'Debris' Stevenson
Debris found poetry at 16 in the gut of the Roundhouse, where words enabled her to navigate her dyslexia. After being followed by Channel4 for 2 years, she was published by organisations such as, Louis Vuitton, Oxford University, Holland Park Press and BBC Radio’s The Verb. Flipped Eye has recently published her debut pamphlet, Pigeon Party
Deborah 'Debris' Stevenson
WM: Inspiring, I personally know people with dyslexia, successful people, and to hear the intensity of which your experiences speak with, all the more inspiring, and being that a lot of things seem intense; the world being an intense place right now, how do you feel about it being necessary to have humour, doing what you do?
DS: Really important, being poetically intense as I am, you have these moments when you realise the importance on having humour reflect your work, these moments usually when you realise that your work has a certain hint of melancholy about it. I guess you could say my humour has a hint of dark comedy about it, you know; things that are true and relevant, yet funny, so yes humour is important when it’s relevant, and I’m from the UK, we are people known for our dry humour.
WM: Yes we are, says the man accused of needing to find an oasis. And so Deborah, your musical roots, your love for Dubstep, talk to me, how relevant is that?
DS: Ahhhhh yes, the music. Dubstep, Dancehall, the music is all about, for me; the bass and rhythm, there’s a particular quality of darkness that is very appealing, I would say it appeals to the darker side of life, and when I refer to the dark side we are referring to things that don’t get highlighted, the adversity and isolation from the social ‘norm’, it’s about being within these confines developing a language like-minded people. My music takes me back to Nottingham, Birmingham, parts of those cities, with people in them existing with thought processes the rest of the country largely ignores. I’m very interested in the impact of music, the way I feel hearing the music I listen to, it takes you to a place, sometimes you need the music, like sometimes you’ll need the silence, and I’m addicted to challenging myself, the music helps me do that.
WM: Okay, before we begin, I’ve been looking at your name: Deborah, ‘Debris’ Stevenson, interested in knowing what exactly ‘Debris’ represents about you?
DS: Funny you should ask that, somebody asked me about that just yesterday. ‘Debris’ represents my personality in a way; I’m fiery (not sure if your research hasn’t already picked up on that). So, when first starting out I wanted a name that told you something about me, ‘Debris’ does that, it has parallels with my destructive nature, and destructive in the sense that my poetry breaks down communicative barriers, it has a wanting to be heard”.
WM: Well let it be said that interviews tend to follow a particular format, most of all impartiality being a paramount element of any interview, I for the record very much likes what ‘Debris’ represents, which brings me onto my next question. With regards to your dyslexia, what essentially did you have to achieve, or better still overcome; being that writing and reading is an essential element of your art?
DS: DS: The dyslexia was no easy thing to come to terms with, I mean before we even get to talking about the impact on my work, to even be correctly diagnosed as dyslexic, for me to come to terms with what I saw as something hard to talk about, those things essentially were big challenges, and the stigmas do exist. In my family, growing up, I was surrounded by success with regards to my siblings and their careers, so when I was in school and teachers referred to me as being lazy or slow, because I couldn’t read at the ‘normal’ speed, but I always knew I wasn’t either of those things, and when it came to doing my A Levels I knew something wasn’t right, but because of the stigmas, my own reservations, and a lack of educational assessment budget, it was only when I was doing my degree in creative writing that I got tested and immediately got told that I was dyslexic. ‘Abstract symbols and sequences’; that’s the area most effected by my dyslexia, this means that I don’t understand words and sentences without understanding the meaning, purpose or context behind those words. Never is there more meaning, context or purpose behind each word than in poetry. But it was tricky, a tough journey, and me wanting to prove the ‘establishment’ wrong, (and when I say wrong I mean the way the ‘system’ labels individuals without having any real understanding of the case before them). After correctly being diagnosed I graduated, top of my class for both my BA and MA, and since then I haven’t looked back.
...Abstract symbols and sequences’; that’s the area most effected by my dyslexia, this means that I don’t understand words and sentences without understanding the meaning, purpose or context behind those words. Never is there more meaning, context or purpose behind each word than in poetry. But it was tricky, a tough journey, and me wanting to prove the ‘establishment’ wrong...
WM: So what about Deborah ‘Debris’ Stevenson’s future aspirations, what now for you?
DS: Busy, thankfully, amongst other initiatives I’ve set up an organisation called The Mouthy Poets, an impassioned collective of 15 -30 year olds in Nottingham who write, edit and perform their own poetry, we are 4 years old and now going on tour around the country. In essence Spoken Word is a form of creativity encouraging those to articulate their own differences. Mouthy has recently been awarded over £100,000 to develop our program locally, nationally and internationally as we have done some really successful work with thousands of young people in schools and youth groups and we want to push that work further. At Mouthy, I have seen poetry save lives in a variety of ways and I am so excited to see that grow. I am also currently starting an Exchange programme in Chicago, US, due to take a trip over there to exchange UK and US pedagogy within Spoken Word Education. Oh yes, and recently I had my first collection of poetry published: Pigeon Party, now available with Flipped Eye Ltd, all that, in between being a trained Zumba instructor, co-leading the Roundhouse Poetry Collective, being a Jerwood/Arvon Mentee, Curve Theatre Associate Artist, and developing a show with my boyfriend who’s a dancer - 2015 is already looking like a busy one, and I’m not complaining.
WM: Deborah, I thank you for your time.
DS: You’re welcome, I enjoyed the time.