Sonny Hall: The Peddler of Poetry
VMAN caught up with the young London-based artist on co-founding an independent publishing house, poetry, modeling and more exciting project in the works
Sonny Hall is a jack of all trades that moves through today’s creative landscape with the cheek and charm of a Dickensian character.
“I’m shameless, maybe not so much now, but in the past, I had to go out my way to get what I want..and I think that kind of ownership of oneself, and all of that is vital. I don’t expect things to come to me,” says Hall with a cigarette nonchalantly hanging from his mouth, as he shuffles around his apartment trying to swerve the sounds of builders on his roof.
The multi-hyphenate 22-year-old is a refreshing departure from the overdone self-obsessed artist shtick. Having grown up in the English capital, London’s bustling and alluring streets have long been Hall’s playground for mischief, self-discovery, and growth. An inimitable environment that has molded the emerging artist into an other-worldly sort, set apart from his peers with the gift of the gab and extremely welcoming composure.
Poet. Writer. Model. Actor. You name it, Hall has most definitely dabbled in it. You can now also add to the mix, co-founder of the independent publishing house Blue Beggar Books.
All done from his living room with his longtime friend and now business partner, Ryan Doyle— the publishing house came about in a whirlwind, a familiar pace to the inspired creative, and “was kind of a stab in the dark,” according to Hall.
“I realized that I’m becoming more interested in what it means for the other poet or writer, to help themselves and hear about their process and support them within that,” he reflects with unassuming sincerity. “I wanted to step away from the self-serving nature…I think, just kind of researching more about writers that I like, and being interested in the framework of their community or collectives that challenge them or, how they learned from each other. I realized that I was missing that kind of communication and the foundation of what it means to share artist to artist.”
Just a few months in the making, this newborn endeavor was conceived with hopes of championing both the established and lesser-known artists. A poke at transcending the gatekeeping tendencies within the conventional professional landscape. “The beggar is just a stance against elitist frameworks and things that are controlling, and things that don’t honor the artist,” says Hall, who’s clearly the conformist-kind.
Their first published feat “Introducing The Beggar,” unveils an impressive collection of over 15 budding poets, including a few golden eggs by Hall himself, and an eloquent foreword by both him and industry luminary Nick Knight.
The revered photographer has become somewhat of an artist mentor to the young Londoner, “I really admire how he’s got a gentleness to him and a real curiosity, even though he’s at the top of his game and he’s obviously a prolific guy…he still remains curious and open, which is something that I kind of desire to have as well, throughout my life because people can think they sussed it out. And I think that’s when you’re f–ked, you know?”
For over a year, the duo have been plotting and planning a marriage between their respective passions, poetry and photography. This meeting of minds, entitled “Every Clown Has Secret Utensils” will ultimately take form as a narrative-driven, mixed media hardbound book. Hall spoke of hopes for a multi-city display of the project, when and if the pandemic allows it.
Although the last 13 months have been particularly trying for all, like many others, by way of isolation, the budding wordsmith was forced into introspection. “I just wanted to live my life and find that intensity. And this year, obviously, we’ve all been zapped of that. So, it was definitely a big struggle at first, because I was reliant on the thrills of life to feel excited by things, because I wasn’t very good sitting on myself,” says Hall, seemingly unable to sit still. “But I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve had a few mishaps with my recovery this year. I’m all good now and have been for a while, but it’s been a bit mad…now it’s good, because I don’t feel reckless.”
A few trials and tribulations, from boyhood to manhood, saw Hall stumble, and work through some years of addiction. Zoom screen up close and personal, he speaks of his journey through recovery with genuine openness and willingness to bare all, a vulnerability that shines through his writing.
“Recovery is everything for me in a way, because it’s really given me a chance to understand things. And I guess, with that, I’m able to write… I have to put it all in order in some way and make sense of it,” he says. “All I can say, before I went into recovery it was a narrow, narrow, narrow [path] my perspective was completely skewed. I didn’t really know what the world meant to me, or what I meant to myself, or even what my family meant to me. I didn’t really know any of those things, because I didn’t really give myself the chance to know, maybe I was too scared to find out.”
While his relationship with poetry started off as an act of desperation—streams of the beautifully unfiltered, a confessional outlet born out of necessity— he now speaks of growth in the personal and creative. “The poetry has changed a lot since ‘The Blues Come With Good News’..I’ve started to read other people’s work and be a bit more open to learning and I’ve realized what I want to say and what I want to do as a poet.”
Currently, he finds himself knee-deep, immersed in the works of female poets Emily Dickinson and Anne Sexton, and often returning to the writings of Henry Miller, one of his favorites.
Also, with a collective of his multi-talented cohorts to lean on, it seems Hall is surrounded by an infinite and inspiring source of creativity. When asked, which creatives inspire him, he was quick to name school friend, and artist, Jack Laver. Who has been along for this ride since the get-go, having illustrated Hall’s first book with his whimsical drawings, and designed the Blue Beggar’s distinctive logo.
With more than one trick up his sleeve hardly halfway through 2021, Hall has an ever-expanding roster of projects on the roll-out. To add to the impressively never-ending portfolio, this summer we’ll hopefully lay eyes on Hall’s acting debut in To Erase A Cloud. A short 2o minute film, made in collaboration with burgeoning director Jim Longden, another one of his best mates. “There was something in just embodying a feeling and a character that really stimulated me. But it was definitely intense, it was demanding because there are similarities in the character to my actual self…But Jim, as a director and as a friend kind of helped me through that,” he laughs, gazes shifting to Jim who is sitting just across from him in his living room.
Chuffed to join the call, Jim shares his admiration for his best friend and peer, “his energy was the thing that kind of carried everything. Sonny was very open. And, experimented and helped me in many ways. And even during the writing process, he was very honest with me, and things that I thought were amazing he would sometimes tell me let’s think about this again….But he was unbelievable. He impressed a lot of people that day.”
Care and curiosity for all have clearly characterized his latest creative love child with Blue Beggar Books. Their first venture, “Introducing the Beggar,” is just a few weeks fresh off the printing press, and is somewhat of a cathartic refuge for both residents and visitors of the form.
Humility and talent make for equal parts unique and beguiling for the young artist. Although Hall lays no claims to have found his footing, one can most definitely observe the remarkable ebbs and flows of his burgeoning career.
Order your own copy at bluebeggarbooks.co.uk.