One on One with Max Wallis, Model and Poet

One on One with Max Wallis, Model and Poet

Using Instagram as his main platform to share his verse, VMAN talks to the young poet about his inspirations, how poetry intertwines with fashion, and his latest project to fill a London Underground with poetry.

Using Instagram as his main platform to share his verse, VMAN talks to the young poet about his inspirations, how poetry intertwines with fashion, and his latest project to fill a London Underground with poetry.

Text: Christina Cacouris

For people who are perhaps intimidated by or largely uneducated about poetry, where should they begin?

The first thing to realize is that poetry isn’t some mystical art practiced behind firmly closed doors of an ancient university or in some garret somewhere. Poetry is about life, about moments, about distilling the frenzy of life and explaining it. Where should you start? Anywhere you like. But I have a soft spot for Auden at the moment. His poetry distills that sense of worldwide anxiety in such a skilled way. I’d love to cook dinner for Auden, Warsan Shire and Ocean Vuong.

A post shared by Max Wallis Poetry (@maxwallis) on

Your poem was projected on the catwalk at Topman's show; how does poetry and fashion intertwine, in your eyes?

It was, it was on the floor, reflected in the ceiling, and then we made a film before with Dazed. Poetry and fashion are both artistic and they are also both a bit ephemeral. Great clothes and great poems sustain for as long as people like them. But they are both momentary in a way – both are trying to say something about the way we live, the way we feel, now. Both attempt to capture lightning in a jar.  As Auden wrote in his poem In Memory of W. B. Yeats: "For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives.”

Tell me more about your latest project, putting poetry in the underground.

To pick up on that Auden quote, I think poetry should make things happen. It speaks when we are mute. Why shouldn’t it be everywhere? I want poetry to be seen by hundreds of thousands of people, rather than holed up in a book on a shelf. Though of course, that’s integral. What I mean is that our world is about surfaces nowadays. We speak in magazine covers and digital screens. So why not adapt poetry to that experience?

I started a GoFundMe page to raise money to get my poetry on the London Underground at Regent’s Park tube station during Frieze, to put poetry front and center. For the entirety of October, the three illustrations will be seen by 10,000 commuters every day. They form a triptych called “You Left the WhatsApp Group” and are about a relationship I had. It’s about how we root through the digital carcasses of love. My favorite of the three is The first time: “we did the things/our old lovers loved”. Each poster is a limited edition of five and available to buy.

New poem! X

A post shared by Max Wallis Poetry (@maxwallis) on

How would you define yourself:Are you a model-slash-poet, or a poet that occasionally models on the side? And do you intend to continue modeling or are you more interested in moving into writing full time?

I naturally do less modeling now because I am older, the bones grow weak! I write full time, do journalism, poetry, and novels and I’m working on a TV program with a producer so I suppose you’d say: writer. But if Mr. Bailey is reading – I’m ready when you are.

What inspires your poems? Is there a continual thread running through each, or is each based on separate and unique inspirations?

I’m interested in what’s unspoken. Between people. Between objects. This idea of intimacy is paramount: that sometimes someone brushing your skin with their finger can be more electric and intense than a full-on kiss. I like to write about sex. About men. About wanting. I guess I’m interested in the lies we tell ourselves and the secrets we keep, too. But most of all, what it comes back to is love. An alcoholic love in all its forms and failures.

For more of Max's poetry, books, and films, visit his website.

Credits: ALL PHOTOS Ian Luka

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