Meet the author - Brian Bilston - Poetry is NOT Dead

Meet the author - Brian Bilston - Poetry is NOT Dead

Brian Bilston holding his book

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down in Magherafelt Library for a chat with Brian Bilston, the unofficial poet laureate of Twitter as he was dubbed during Lockdown. Listen to the interview by clicking the play button below.

An ex-academic publisher, Brian (not his real name) found surprising fame when he began to post short humorous poems on Social Media. No one was more astounded than him when his poems went viral and he found himself elevated to the dizzy heights of Twitter fame. He adopted the pen name of Brian Bilston and decided to try to retain some privacy by maintaining an element of mystery around his real identity – most notably by ensuring his face does not appear in any photos resulting in references to him as the Banksy of poetry!

Days Like These by Brian BilstonHe confirms that he was an avid fan of Adrian Mole in his younger days and there is a marked similarity to the humour which he uses in his own work, an ironic humour, based often on everyday banalities and occasionally drifting to the more complex, perplexing side of life as well as making loose social commentary on the general state of the world. Working in the immediate world of social media and being aware of the image based appeal of the medium he often uses form to attract attention – from shaping his poems to look like a Christmas Tree to using Venn Diagrams and Spread Sheets his creative approach has broadened his work’s appeal and his career has continued to grow.

He now has an agent and been talked into touring the country to read his poetry to packed, and very appreciative, audiences. He does not hide his face on stage but you would still be hard pushed to find a genuine photo of him online. He is surprised at how thoughtful his audiences are to not take photos to post online, considering that it is not something that is communicated during the shows.

He admits he is really quite shy, not the heart and soul of any gathering and he quite likes his quiet homelife but is enjoying this newfound fame and attention – to a point – playing the part of his alter ego. He finds inspiration from the world around, from everyday things like washing dishes or putting out the bins and, he admits, occasionally from Google search, stringing together non sequiturs to make humorous and often ironic observations. He says, ‘Wrestling with words on paper is often a way for me to work through things on my head and hopefully in the process make sense of (or come to terms with) what’s going on around me’.  He uses word play and puns to great effect.

Whatever it is he does with words – he has found an audience and is taking advantage. It seems poetry is not dead, it has been given a new lease of life, and we’ve found that it can be relevant to current affairs and be far removed from the staid and difficult verses we all struggled with from our own school days – or as Brian calls them the ‘semolina days of our youth’.

Diary of a Somebody by Brian BilstonNow, a few years on from his humble beginnings on Twitter, Brian is author to a number of poetry books as well as his first novel Diary of a Somebody. He admits this was a difficult book to write, involving more planning and time than he thought it would when he agreed to take on the project. The resulting novel is predictably dotted through with many poems and was nominated for Costa First Novel Award meeting with positive acclaim by readers.

His book Days Like These has a poem for every day of the year (and one extra for a leap year) with a short explanation of what is special about that day – from William Tell to World Kindness Day - and includes a raft of obscure and little known observations accompanying each poem.

 Alexa, What is There to Know about Love brings together a collection of poems loosely based on affairs of the heart and includes titles like ‘Love in the Age of Google’ and ‘My Heart is a Lump of Rock’.  This eclectic mix of sentiment, humour and harsh reality is an engaging read, and like all of Brian’s work to be savoured relaxing with a cup of tea and ‘a cat on the lap’

Magherafelt Library

Brian Bilston holding his book, Days Like These

Brian Bilston titles on the Libraries NI catalogue



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