Rebecca Kenny is the founder of Bent Key. A qualified English teacher, she developed the idea of her own micropublisher whilst in recovery from a major road traffic accident in which she broke her back, neck, pelvis and sternum.
Rebecca's work in five words:
Following her accident, she collaborated with poets from across the world to put together a pamphlet, The Poet Who Broke Her Back, to raise money for the Major Trauma Centre who cared for her. Following on from this, she composed her first collection, Crash & Learn, which she decided to publish under the Bent Key name.
The rest, as they say, is history.
You describe your poetry as "focusing on the mundane parts of existence that make you feel something." What does that mean?
I love the little bits of life that we don't talk about much, simply because we take them for granted - little things like a cuddle from my son, eye contact with a friend from across a crowded room, the seconds before a first kiss - stuff that isn't setting the world on fire, but has a sense of mundane beauty about it when it's isolated and examined. I love pulling apart those moments, exploring why they mean so much to me, and people seem to really identify with that.
When did you begin writing poetry and getting your work out there?
I wrote a lot of poetry in my early twenties, but looking back, it was obscure, over-emotive and very, very angsty. I had a little WordPress page that I abandoned at 25, and then I didn't really write anything until 2020, when I hit 36. I started my Instagram page in October 2020, after seeing the success of the Liverpool poet Laura Ferries, who I worked with briefly and who produces some brilliant stuff. Inspired by her, I started posting online again - and it grew from there!
In August 2021, Jyothi from What's The Sketch asked me to perform at a poetry event in Altrincham and after that, I caught the bug. I met Rebecca Phythian, Lisa O'Hare and The Bee Bar Barman - all legends who have pushed me to become a better artist and performer.
Does being a qualified English teacher affect how you see poetry?
I don't think so. I'm not a grammar snob - in my opinion, language is fluid. It's a constructed set of rules and rules are made to be broken, right?
I guess what it does affect is my ability to craft an extended metaphor or appreciate the beauty in well-crafted writing - I've spent years reading what I fondly call 'clam chowder rhymes' (after a student who couldn't find a rhyme for "the snow is as white as powder", so she went with "so I sat and ate clam chowder" - she did later fix it!) and I have a very high appreciation for anyone with a grasp of figurative language that transcends those basic images.
In my own writing, I've actually had to work hard to break away from those strict grammar rules imposed on students at GCSE - playing around with structure and grammar has been quite freeing.
Who are some of your key influences as a writer?
I still love all of the poems I read at school - Armitage and Duffy really opened my eyes to that style of poetry that focuses on the mundanity of life that I try to evoke in my own stuff. My favourite poem is I Am Very Bothered by Simon Armitage, and I love sitting and reading his stuff over and over. The World's Wife by Carol-Ann Duffy is one of my favourite collections.
Aside from those two, I love the Mersey poets - McGough, Patten and Henri - and I have a massive soft spot for Tony Walsh and Hollie McNish. I also love lyrics, and Alex Turner's words for The Arctic Monkeys are just pure poetry to me.
Chuck in Charly Cox, Amanda Lovelace and Taylor Swift and I think you're close to a full collection of my inspirations!
What is a topic you'd love to write about, but haven't yet?
I'm a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, but I don't often write about queer issues. I would love to explore my queerness more and write a bit about my lifestyle in that respect. I think it's sometimes easy to fall into straight poetry as a bisexual woman, but I would like to focus on my romantic relationships outside of that.
I also keep saying I want to write about travel - I've seen a lot of the world thanks to my itchy feet, but think I need to start travelling again before I can write about it.
Which poem do you wish you had written?
Sweetness by Stephen Dunn. I hold on to that poem in times of crisis, and it has saved me more times than I can count.
What can we expect from a Rebecca Kenny show?
A few politically-charged rants, a bit of singing (if you're lucky), a couple of extended metaphors, some positive affirmations and a whole lot of smiling. I hope!
Rebecca Kenny's debut collection