Sussex poet Alice Denny is a charismatic performer of poetry, described as having devastating candour which re-defines and re-invigorates. Graham Robson caught up with the heart-driven wordsmith, who has just moved back to Brighton, to find out what she’s been up to while in lockdown and what the future holds.
How have you been spending lockdown?
I have just moved back to Brighton after four years of living in exile in Hastings. Most of my time since arriving has been taken up with the practicalities of settling into a new home among new neighbours which has been more taxing than expected mainly due to the strictures of lockdown.
Has the pandemic impacted on your creative output?
Socially and emotionally the impact of the virus has been huge. In terms of work, sadly I haven’t spent the enforced time at home very productively although I have several interesting ‘starts’ as well as a little new material complete. There are reasons. I’m not coping well with lockdown.
I’d felt very isolated in Hastings and was very much looking forward to re-establishing friendships, getting back into a more active social and creative life. Brighton is usually a particularly stimulating and encouraging environment. Sadly all that stopped in March and in many ways I found myself more isolated than ever and the sense of loss seems intensified.
Have you seen or done much online?
It doesn’t really do it for me although I have been in a couple of things and one in particular was especially rewarding. However my incompetence and anxieties with the IT stuff absorbs so much time and energy I’m generally exhausted at the end. Performing without an audience feels really weird too.
I’ve not watched much online either, it can be quite frustrating, especially on a small phone screen. It’s hard for performers to make an impact if not filmed skilfully, I think. I did one thing on Zoom recently with my phone propped against a can of mushy peas, teetering on top of a pile of books.
Has the pandemic disproportionately affected LGBTQ+ communities?
LGBTQ+ folk tend to be more isolated than others in the wider community anyway, we’ve all been rejected and distanced to a greater or lesser extent. For many, daily social contact with an accepting and supportive community is an absolute lifeline. Some have recently ‘come out’ or for other reasons are going through a transitional period.
To have that journey, often marked by loneliness and trepidation as well as excited anticipation of the future, stalled or threatened can be heartbreaking. Some, sadly, have lost friends or loved ones to Covid-19 and have to grieve in isolation. The loss of support with long empty days alone with your thoughts can allow all your fears and demons to take hold. Apart from that there is the loss of the warmth and validation of face to face or physical human contact. I know I for one have lost a good deal of confidence and have begun to question myself, reassess my life and future.
Do you think our LGBTQ+ communities will bounce back stronger than ever?
Brighton has a wonderful ethos and the LGBTQ+ communities here are astounding, I have no doubt it continues to thrive ‘underground’ to offer practical and emotional support to others more vulnerable or in need. And I think many of us have realised just what we have been missing. People, I hope, will treasure one another and our communities all the more. I have no doubt the community will bounce back with new vigour, joy and determination than ever.