21 December 2016

Meet the voice and face of our TV ad – Erin Bolens

You might have seen Erin reciting her poetry in our recent TV ad. We caught up with her to find out how she got into writing and where she gets her inspiration.

Erin is 25 and as well as being a poet she’s also a teaching assistant, was born and bred in Leeds and currently living in London.

How did you get into writing poetry?

As dramatic as it sounds, loneliness and isolation played a big part in my stumbling into the poetry world. I have always written in one form or another but it wasn’t until I moved to London three years ago that I started writing observational poems that were often a form of exasperation. I then became aware of this amazing community of people who were making poetry as much about the performance as the page. 

Discovering that world at that time really helped me to see through the smog that London (and life) can present you with when your inner compass is a bit wonky. I also work with young kids a lot and combining the two makes a lot of sense. I discover a lot about my own thoughts and feelings through writing – I don’t think it’s ever too early to do that. Working creatively with other people, especially children, definitely helps my writing to keep evolving.

What’s your favourite poem?

I’ve always loved tongue twisters so I’m really drawn to pieces that are a bit of a mouthful. I love seeing how someone has stretched or twisted words in a way I hadn’t thought of. A.S.J. Tessimond’s books were the first collections I devoured and I still have a massive soft spot for poems of his such as ‘The British’ and ‘Day Dream’. They look really simple but they make me feel an awful lot.

But a bit more recently Richard Marsh’s show ‘Skittles’ was the first full poetry show I saw. I’ve rhymed everything from essays to recipes since I was a kid and had assumed that people generally found that annoying, but here were people totally hooked on rhyming storytelling. For an hour! It was a brilliant show and definitely kicked a new brain cell into action.

Where do you get your ideas from?

I think I generally have the urge to write about something when I feel something very strongly about it - for better or worse! It can really help me figure out how I genuinely feel about something and I love that. Being surprised by your own thoughts is brilliant.

I also often use something I've overheard someone say as inspiration for a poem. I have a lot of bus conversations written down; buses are gold mines.

How do you get your poems seen?

I don’t write pieces down formally until I have to, I need to get better at that before I lose my memory. I perform a lot, share poems with other writers and via my website and social media. I’ll often give a poem a bit of a tweak after its first outing, so I like to do that as soon as possible.

Why did you recently decide to work with Nationwide?

I was asked to write poems on interesting themes rather than pieces about a brand or product. I was given a lot of free reign and this meant the process was similar to any other writing project which was great. I think it’s quite rare to see anyone saying their own words in adverts, so that also felt like a positive.

This project was also brilliant because it allowed me to work closely with the Poetry Takeaway, who I have admired for some time. They bring poets and people together to create uniquely tailored poems and stories. In a way this wasn’t different from someone at a festival asking for a poem about their mum. It’s the same principle – I really enjoyed it.

What do your friends and family think about you being on TV?

The responses from the kids I work with have been all or nothing. Some have apparently screamed at the TV whilst others have played it cooler: “I saw you on the TV. It was alright.” So my feet are firmly on the ground over here.

Are you working on any other poems at the moment?

I’ve always got some on the go. Every poem that gets finished is a pleasant surprise. I never assume there’ll be any more! Apart from that I am writing a spoken word show ‘What We Leave Behind’ at the moment, that will be performed next year. It’s about legacy and our often bizarre relationship with belongings of those who have died.

I’ve been to a lot of funerals and they have ranged from beautiful to downright bonkers; it seemed a shame to waste all that material. I am really enjoying writing a longer piece. It’s testing my sticking power, which has to be a good thing.

Watch Erin’s Poem in our TV ad

Play video - Erin on owning her own place Erin on owning her own place

If like Erin you can’t wait to have a home of your own, you may find our first time buyers guide an interesting read.

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