Leyla Josephine is a screenwriter, scriptwriter and poet, with a background in working with communities including as 2020’s Schools writer-in-residence for Edinburgh International Book Festival. The artist has been developing her first collection of poetry, published by Burning Eye books this autumn. In Public/In Private will focus partly on the outer and inner life, how you dress, how you are perceived, relationships, sex, and connecting with other people.
Leyla chats to SNACK about her approach to writing and compiling the collection, the heft of avoiding imposter syndrome, and the themes prevalent in In Public/In Private.
Your first collection of poetry is being published by Burning Eye; you must be elated about this achievement.
Only recently have I felt that sense of pride, because I think it’s been such a slog, and it’s been a real challenge. I’ve had to face a lot of inner demons around capability, demons telling me ‘That’s shit.’ So that’s been quite tricky. But yeah, I’m getting to the point now where I can see it. Other people have read it, which is great. And I’m getting some feedback and starting to feel a little bit more confident about it. But at times it has felt almost too hard to go on, if that makes sense. I was wanting to throw the towel in at points.
Well, thankfully, you didn’t. And the title stands out: In Public/In Private. What inspired this, and what’s the concept behind the collection?
I came from a performance background where I was encouraged to discuss a lot of autobiographical stuff on stage. So my practice has really been about taking things that are considered shameful or taboo and bringing them forward with the hope of diluting them. By making it less intense people can connect over it, but this can come with a cost. I’ve been very vulnerable and exploited my own situations, my own experience.
Within this collection, at all points, I was really thinking about what I am seeing and why I am seeing it. I think a lot of the poems are about loneliness, and how I’ve always really put myself out there, or the way that we put ourselves out there to connect with other people.
And how did you filter which poems would make the collection and which wouldn’t? I’m sure that was no easy task.
For me, it’s instinct. I know some writers will have other things that they go for. But for me, I always just listen to that inner voice and what it’s telling me, and just trust it. I’ve been a poet for ten years, and I’ve only really been writing page poetry for the last four or five of those years. So there’s been a lot of work that is never going to be documented in that way; it just exists in the ether now. I did a live album, Archive:Live! a few years ago, which means some of the poems have a life in that way. I’m always thinking about the form and what the best way to tell the story is. With the book I needed to think about how my reader, my audience, the people I’m connecting with are going to be digesting this work.
You’re back at Push the Boat Out for its second year. What can we expect from your event and what gave you the inspiration to get involved with the fest?
I think it’s so exciting that we have a festival like this in Scotland. It will be my first time reading from the collection in this country.
In Public/In Private is out November 2022, published by Burning Eye. Leyla will be touring the book with a whole host of Scottish dates in November, including Mull, Ayr, Glasgow, and Edinburgh’s Push the Boat Out festival
Picture credit: Marilena Vlachopoulou