Romina Ramos is a revelation. Producing poetry that grabs you by the throat, they have a canny ability to craft images that make you feel both warm and grateful whilst also appreciating the challenges of existing in society as a queer individual. 

Romina co-runs the bi-monthly spoken word night Natter in Bolton's Th3 Guys Cafe, a suitable step for someone who has smashed their way into the poetry scene and established themselves as an essential artist in just a few months. Their reputation is that of someone who has a firm grasp of their identity, wants and needs, and the ability to put those deep-set desires into fluid words.

Romina's work in five words:

  • Identity

  • Belonging

  • Sensory

  • Dislocation 

  • Queer 

We sat down with Romina for a short chat about their upcoming collection, Sardines:

 Your upcoming collection is called Sardines. Why?

Growing up in the south of Portugal, sardines were a big part of the diet in our house. My grandad would go down to the riverside and buy buckets of them directly from the fishermen’s boats. I’d go with him sometimes and then I’d help my grandma gut and grill them for lunch. I never did like sardines; I still don’t -- but since losing both of my grandparents, they have been creeping up in my writing more and more, so it felt fitting.

You are a proud honorary Northerner but tell us a little more about your background and childhood. How does it influence your writing?

Well, fun fact: I have lived at twenty-three different addresses in my thirty years of life. The last twenty of those years I have mainly lived in sunny Bolton but as we know, I am Portuguese. I was born in Lisbon but for most of my childhood lived in a very Catholic house with my grandparents in the Algarve, Southern Portugal.

My grandparents were bakers; my grandad sold cakes and pastries at the beach, so I spent a lot of time there helping and playing. I have really fond memories of that time. Then, a week before my eleventh birthday, my mum made the tough choice to migrate to England in search of a better life for us and four months later, my brothers and I followed her.

Coming of age in Bolton was tough. The hardest part was the feeling of not belonging and I spent a lot of time in my adolescence trying to mould myself into different types of people, searching for approval. All this oversharing is to say that writing has allowed me to interrogate all the different fragments of my childhood/adolescence and background in a really therapeutic way. I guess they all influence each other. 


What’s your process when writing a poem?

This is a tricky question. On one hand, I want to seem clever and have a clear outline as an answer, but the truth is that ideas, lines, sometimes titles usually come to me just as I’m falling asleep or when I’m really busy at work and its inconvenient to jot them down! I wrote a lot of my earlier poems on trains, commuting from a barista job to university; others I wrote at home, on my desk, listening to Glass Animals, Easy Life and Ren. Nowadays, my writing is a little more erratic; I write a lot on my Notes App on my phone at work during my break.



You are fully trained as a chef. What made you jack it in to pursue writing?

The honest answer is that the hospitality industry is extremely toxic, and a person needs to have really thick skin to be able to survive and excel in it. I was barely surviving. I used to love it -- the rush of a busy service, the sense of belonging to a team no matter what, but after a decade in it I was becoming unwell. The 18-hour days and high pressure-cooker working conditions were catching up with me. I was living in Ireland, working in a pub, and using alcohol and cocaine to nurse another failed relationship, sinking into a deep depression.

I flew back home to attend my mother’s graduation from her BA in Creative Writing, and I had this moment watching her up there, getting her diploma: if my 52-year-old mother can do it, what is my excuse?

Who are the biggest influences on your work?

I have to say my family, first -- my mother and grandmother, but also my grandad and brothers, even my absent father. I write mainly to make sense of my identity, so that means investigating those I came from, but also where I came from. So, Portugal, in a really broad sense, also influences my work, be it as a place, a language, its customs and culture. I write about some of these things mainly from memories, and the best way I can conjure memory is by relating to the sense of smell, sound and touch, which often influences my poetry too. 


What’s your favourite piece in the collection?

At the moment, it's To My Future Sardines. As a gay woman, I always struggled with the idea of motherhood; like a spoiled daisy, do I want children, do I not? But I think that experimenting with this idea of writing possible future children an open letter allowed me to investigate those questions and reach a conclusion and accept that, whatever the answer may be. It is hard to pick just one, like picking a favourite child -- which, again, seems fitting.



What can we expect if we come to see Romina perform?

I haven’t been performing very long, so some nerves..! I have terrible short-term memory, so I usually read from my phone, although I’m really trying to memorise some of my older pieces. What I can promise you is some laughs, maybe a cheeky tear, and the odd sardine making a guest appearance. 

Catch Sardines when it arrives this Winter