List of Achievements
- London, UK, European and World Poetry Slam Champion.
- TED Talk ‘A love poem for lonely prime numbers’ has been viewed 4+ Million times.
- I have taken four solo and four joint shows as comedy-rap-jazz duo Harry and Chris up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, followed by UK tours. The last one ‘I am 10,000’ explored the link between maths and poetry.
- My new book Unashamed is out with Burning Eye October 2022.
Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry, Biology – A Levels
Maths with a year study in Continental Europe (Germany) – Degree
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do for a living?
I am a full time poet – part of my work involves school visits, as well as performances in theatres and festivals, and anywhere that will have me! I also write commissions for people, as well as music, comedy and theatre. I love the variety of what I do, and I never thought it would be possible full time.
What did you become interested in first – maths or poetry?
I’ve loved both for as long as I can remember! I used to tell myself they were very separate things – I liked the satisfaction of slotting things together and figuring out answers in maths, and I liked the freedom of writing poems, but I have come to appreciate that there is both in both.
What influenced your career choice?
I was going to study medicine at university, and took a gap year before doing so. In that year I discovered that writing and sharing my poems on stage made me feel more alive than anything I had written in my UCAS personal statement, so wanted to switch courses to give myself more time to write and perform. As I’d done all maths and science A Levels I switched to a maths degree and loved having a chance to live and study in Germany as part of this. I would be performing at gigs in evenings and weekends around lectures, and by the time I finished uni I knew poetry was something I wanted to try and do full time, and if it didn’t work out it could go back to it being a hobby. Seven years later and I’m still going!
How do you use your creativity in both maths and poetry?
For me it’s all about patterns and connection. You are trying to make sense of things, and part of that process is playfulness. You don’t necessarily know where you are going, but you have to trust the process and the journey, as that’s when the magic happens.
Explain what you do on an average day at work.
On a school visit I will give performances and workshops for students to write their own poetry, and then at night I will be performing in some kind of evening venue. In between that there’s lots of train journeys, and a fair bit of admin in between organising things. I make sure that in amongst this there’s always space to play and be creative, and part of what I love is that my days are often very different so I don’t feel like I have an average day!
What do you like most about being a poet?
I get to put my whole self into what I write, and I get to share that with other people.
Do you have a favourite bit of mathematics?
I’ve always loved algebra and the satisfaction of solving equations. Once I got to uni I also enjoyed a bit of set theory and number theory because I realised there is so much we take for granted about how these systems we use work.
What has been your most memorable gig or performance?
There is a festival called Greenbelt that I have attended since I was a child, and after a long run at the Edinburgh Fringe I had the opportunity to perform a show there, but it had been raining lots, so I had to be carried across the mud in an elaborate outfit including yellow leggings before performing to about 1000 people, including lots of friends and family. It felt like coming home.
Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?
Communication! Both in writing and sharing the poems themselves, but also when in schools or dealing with people in between. I also quite enjoy the nerdy admin bits like booking cheap trains or seeing if I can visit a school nearby to a venue that I am playing on tour. The last few years of trying to be a performer through lockdown and covid has meant you have to be resilient too! I think you have to believe in what you do to pick a niche job like this, and having a sense of humour/being able to hold things lightly helps!
Do you have any advice for all the students out there who are currently studying GCSE or A-Level maths?
Enjoy it! There may be some problems that can be solved by plugging stuff into the right formula, but if you can be playful in your approach and think about why things are the way they are, it will stick with you a lot longer, and I found it’s a more fun way of doing it too.
Website: www.harrybaker.co for live gigs and links to book