SCARLETT ELLSON she/her
Scarlett Ellson is a short person with a lot to say. Taking up her pen during maternity leave and the pandemic to record her feelings in the written words that have been a home to her since childhood, her work has gone from strength to strength, drawing on her experiences as a queer person, mother and someone who struggles with bi-erasure.
Scarlett is not even thirty, but manages to write with a level of maturity and understanding of the human condition that evades many of us well into old age. Her writing is complicated but relatable, charming but offensive, witty but sensible - she has a talent for weaving together images that speak to the soul.
Her upcoming collection, Beams of Light, is coming this Summer as part of our Queer Poets Collective.
Want to know more? Read on...
Can you describe your work in five words?
You’re releasing your first chapbook as part of our Queer Poets collection. What does your queer identity mean to you and how has that fed into your writing?
This is complicated — I feel like my poetry is such an unfiltered form of self expression for me and it really helps me to express and explore my identity in general. I love my queer identity; I love who I am, but a lot of the time I feel like an imposter in the community (which is on me, nobody else) especially because as I am in a heterosexual relationship, it’s very easy for everyone to just assume that I am straight. And that’s okay, but in my poetry I feel like there is no box to fit inside or put myself in, which helps a lot. I can be whatever and whoever I wish and people accept it, no questions asked. I think that freedom of the uncensored self definitely comes through in my writing. Or at least I hope it does.
How long have you been writing and performing your own poetry?
I’m very new to performing poetry. I did my first performance at Rebecca Kenny’s book launch for Crash & Learn; it was so nerve-wracking to perform but also an honour and it felt so exhilarating that I’m definitely excited to perform more.
As for writing poetry, well, I’ve been writing poetry for as long as I can remember, to be honest. I think I was about seven or eight when I started writing anything (I write stories too), and it was my way of being creative, expressing myself and seeing what I had to say, if anything at all. Honestly, the ability to express yourself without ever having to really talk to or actually open up to anyone got kind of addictive and I’ve never looked back. Writing poetry has been the thing I’ve done instead of the stupid things I have wanted to do a lot of times – if that makes sense. I got bad writer’s block for years when I was writing stories; I couldn’t think of where to start, a good idea or how to write it and make it interesting, but I’ve never, ever stopped writing poetry. It just lives in me, like it is its own being just harbouring inside me. It sleeps now and then but it never goes away.
What’s your usual writing process?
Usually, I'm just going about my day and then BAM! Something will just hit me. I struggle to really sit down and tell myself I am going to write; I complicate the process too much then, getting too tangled in different feelings and pulled in all kinds of directions. I feel like my writing is a very emotional process; a line, or word, or something else will just appear in my head and I have to stop what I’m doing to write it down. If I’m lucky enough to have the time to continue to write it I have to really tap into the feeling that the “magically appeared line” gave me, or whatever I was feeling, just before.
Sometimes I can write a poem in about five minutes this way; other times, it takes a lot longer. I have to keep coming back to it and coax it out, and sometimes it’s too complex and I have to come away and the poem goes unfinished. But that’s the process! It’s always there to continue whenever the time is right.
Which poets do you like to read/listen to and how have they influenced you?
I love all kinds of poetry. I love Plath, Charles Bukowski, Hollie McNish, and loads of poets sharing their work on Instagram that are incredibly talented. The most important thing to me is what you can make me feel, see and experience with your words. If you can take me on a journey, make me feel like I'm the one experiencing all of these things, shatter me entirely or make me daydream - then you have my heart.
Listening wise: Shane Koyczan for sure! When I stumbled across To This Day on YouTube years ago, I didn't know who he was or that it was even poetry… but I know it made me feel something and years later, I still listen to his poetry. I also became a huge fan of the Button Poetry YouTube channel when I was a teen, so I also admire Olivia Gatwood, Blythe Baird and Neil Hilborn. I think they are really what made me want to write spoken word pieces, even though previously they were never performed or spoken aloud at all. It has taken a while to really get better at it and feel like I’m starting to nail it; poets like that created the spark. Which is what it’s all about, right?
Which poem of yours would you say is your magnum opus?
Ooof, this is such a hard one! How does anybody answer this question? I think maybe one of the poems on my Instagram titled after song lyrics: CHOKER ON HER NECK, KISS ME, HOLY FUCK I'M BLEEDING ON YOUR BLINK TEE. I'm very proud of that one.
Where would you like to see your poetry take you?
I’d definitely love to perform more and build up my confidence doing that. A lot of things that I write, I write to be read aloud and not silently, but I have never read them aloud or performed them, so sometimes they can read a little funny. I’m also super awkward and nervous when performing, so it’d be nice for it to feel natural so I can focus more on the words I’m saying and less on not bursting into tears or having a panic attack!
After that? THE MOON. I'm a big dreamer.
What is the usual feeling you’d like a Scarlett show to create?
I want to say inexplicable fun and joy, but it goes so much deeper than that.
You know that feeling you get when you’re sitting with someone, whoever is close to you - your best friend, your mum, whoever? And maybe you’re going through something and it’s important to you and you’re trying to express it, but are struggling with the words and you really just want them to understand what you’re trying to say even though you’re making no sense? AND THEN THEY DO? Yeah, that, basically.
If anything, I want people to just feel seen and understood, like maybe that thing they think nobody else could possibly ever comprehend, I don’t know, maybe they leave feeling lighter because they do feel understood. Or somewhere along the spectrum of understood, at least. I write a lot about loneliness so it’d be really cool if it could leave people feeling a lot less alone —even in their own loneliness.
Which poem do you wish you’d written and why?
Definitely The Old Astronomer to His Pupil by Sarah Williams, simply because it has my favourite line ever in it: though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light. I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night. I love that, it’s stayed with me since the first time I read it. It’s gorgeous.
Also Move Pen Move by Shane Koyczan; that one hurts every time I hear it.
Beams of Light drops in August 2022 as part of the Queer Poets Collective