Small Talk with Cynthia Miller

Small Talk is now so close you can almost smell it. Here’s our final instalment of speaker insights, say hello to Cynthia Miller.

Verve felt like a long established festival. What can we expect in the future?

Thank you! That really means a lot. Well, the planning team will start conversations about what Verve 2018 looks and feels pretty soon, so we’re at the very beginning of that process. The same ethos will be there: the commitment to diverse voices, to unexpected programming, to both national and local writers, to being able to hold the space for important, talented, relevant poets.

For next year, I’m particularly interested in exploring different formats. Most poetry events tend to be ‘stand up and perform for 15-20 minutes’ gig, maybe with a bit of Q&A or panel discussion thrown in at the end. I’d love to experience something different. That’s not just to keep things interesting for attendees but also to allow poets innovative ways of engaging with audiences and with their work. This is where Verve intersects with my day job – a lot of what I do is workshop facilitation, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with set up, how the layout of a room changes the atmosphere and dynamic, how to make things more inclusive… all of that. Stay tuned.

Was there anyone who didn’t appear at Verve who you would have wanted (alive or dead)?

Oh man, where do I start? I tend to read a lot of American poets, so the first one that comes to mind is Maggie Smith (the poet, not the actress) who wrote a goosebump-raising poem called “Good Bones” that went viral and was declared “the poem of 2016”. Read it and weep.

After that, I have a ‘dream list’ that would be enough to programme a half dozen festivals.

What are your five favourite words?

Rambunctious. Gambol. Incandescent. Neon. Petrichor.

How much does your love of words help you in your day job as Brand Strategist?

Immensely. A large part of what I do is copywriting: playing around with words to come up with the perfect phrase, strapline or sentence that captures the essence of a brand. My love of words goes beyond simply writing too – so much of what I do is about communication full stop. Language is strategy. We communicate for an end: whether it’s selling in an idea to a client or trying to move your reader, you have to get it right.

Being able to read in between the lines to get a feel for what people aren’t saying, how to phrase things in the best way so that you’re really speaking someone’s language in a way that’ll make them tick, finding the right metaphor for a complex scenario or situation – it certainly makes you aware to how alive and powerful words are.

What would you prefer as a super power, invisibility, or mind reading?

Invisibility. As a poet, you’re in your own head too much – being in others’ would be terrifying!


And that’s all for now. Thanks to Cynthia, we’re looking forward to hearing more later this week.

Tickets for the event are now sold out, but you can join the waiting list and we’ll let you know when some become available. If you have a ticket and can no longer make it, please refund it so we can pass it on! Thanks!

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