Four years ago award-winning poet Mab Jones stood up to perform her first gig at Cardiff’s Shot in the Dark, City Road. Three gigs later she found herself in the semi-finals for Radio 4’s National Poetry Slam and shortly after, in the semi-finals at the Funny Women awards. Now she has a busy schedule working as a full time poet after quitting her call centre job last year. Before Christmas she performed eight gigs in one week.
“It’s a catch 22 situation really,” said Mab, sitting in Milgi Lounge, a trendy vegetarian coffee shop which also hosts open mic nights. “If you’re working in a job just to earn some money, you can’t do the work you really want to do. When you’re a poet you’re inevitably going to be a bit poorer than you would like, I can’t buy Gucci handbags but I can still afford cups of tea and nice cake.”
Humbly putting her success down to luck and meeting the right people, Mab is a modern poet who uses sites like Facebook and Twitter to market her work and is sometimes employed through these. “It’s difficult to imagine how it would have been without social media,” she said. “It’s the only thing I can think of that has made the greatest difference.”
Mab’s first foray into the literary world, however, was as a teenager, when she ran a fanzine from her bedroom. Her brother, Mao Jones, photocopied the first issue secretly at school and they sold copies at a local shop. But it was only later on, while attempting to write her first novel, that she discovered a talent for poetry. After three months of writing and living on a Literature Wales grant Mab started to write rhymes for light relief.
Inspired by poets like John Cooper Clarke, Elvis McGonagall and Luke Wright, Mab’s witty poetry is often quick to point out humanity’s failings or idiosyncrasies. Often her poems are based on life observations, on things which have happened to friends and acquaintances. “When I first started I was very angry,” said Mab. “But to have the energy to get up in front of that many people you’ve got to have some sort of anger. I was in my 20’s, I was a trade union rep and I wanted to save the world. Now I’ve mellowed out.”
Since 2004 Mab has visited Edinburgh three times to perform 50 gigs in total for the fringe festival. Her biggest performance was at Latitude music festival last year in front of 3,000 people. Performance, however, didn’t come naturally.
“I had to place my hands behind my back and press them together to stop them shaking,” said Mab. “After a while it went away. Now I enjoy interacting with the audience. The best gigs are on a large stage to a large audience. When you have a small gig, you can see people and you know them that’s really hard.”
Today Mab is not just a performer, she is an organiser and runs regular events of her own, including the Pechakucha nights at Chapter Arts Centre. Performers have 20 images and 20 seconds to talk about them. Mab also hopes to set up a listings site with fellow artist David Lee and is looking for volunteers. “I’ve come to the conclusion there are two types of people, competitive people and collaborative people,” said Mab. “I think I’m in the latter type. I do believe when you find the thing you love the fates let it happen.”
Mab has her own website which you can see by clicking here.
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