Interview: Sally Jenkinson, ‘It’s a creative response to my experiences of giving birth’

Sally Jenkinson is a writer, creative producer, facilitator, and Mum. Her latest collection of poems, Pantomime Horse, Russian Doll, Egg, is a creative response to her experiences of labour and birth. It’s a rollercoaster ride of viscera and vulnerability, exploring the agony and the ecstasy of an everyday accouchement.

This year she’ll be performing selections from the collection on the Poetry&Words stage at Glastonbury, as well as hosting the festival’s famous poetry slam that closes the stage on the Sunday of the festival.

We caught up with Jenkinson to find out more about the collection and what it’s like to be heading back to the famous Worthy Farm.

Q&A with Sally Jenkinson

How does it feel to be performing at this year’s Glastonbury Festival?

I’m really honoured. It’s so wonderful to be invited back. Because I’ve had my hands full raising a young family over the last 5 years, this is the first year I’ve been back out and about doing live readings again for a while! So to have Glastonbury 2023 on my dance card has been so exciting!

You released your latest collection of poems Pantomime Horse, Russian Doll, Egg last year – what can you tell us about the pamphlet?

PHRDE is a creative response to my experiences of giving birth. After I became a mum, I looked everywhere for poems exploring labour and childbirth – and although I found some incredible poetry, there wasn’t a LOT. Not as much as there should be considering it’s a pretty fundamental part of all our journeys! So I started work on these poems. 

I tried to be as honest and open as possible in my poetic exploration of the whole thing, so some of the work is quite visceral. Birth is a messy business! But also I also tried to capture to surrealism of birth, and the magic and the joy too. 

What plans do you have for your performance?

I think I will mostly read poems from Pantomime Horse, Russian Doll, Egg. The poems are still so new and I’m so excited to share them out loud. 

I’m also hosting the open poetry slam on Sunday afternoon with Deanna Rodger which I’m so looking forward to – the winner gets a performance spot at next year’s festival! 

Are there any other acts you’re looking forward to seeing across the weekend?

Well, I live with a chronic pain condition so my days of dancing all night, every night (like I used to at Glastonbury!) are over… but I’m saving my spoons for Lizzo. To me she is the pop music icon of our generation so I’m very excited to get to see her live. 

Also, The Unthanks (who are opening the other stage on Saturday) are very dear to my heart so I can’t wait to see them live again too. 

Sally Jenkinson performs on the Poetry&Words stage on the Saturday of Glastonbury Festival.