One of my favourite Bristol based poets, Deborah Harvey, asked me to take part in this ‘blogging tour’. It’s a chain of blog posts by poets on a series of shared questions about their writing. It’s an indoor tour that takes place without muddy boots, teashops or historic sites, unless you’re in the habit of walking with tablet accoutrements. Here’s a link to Deborah’s blog: The red Dress of Poetry http://deborahharvey.blogspot.co.uk/ where she answers these same questions.
1) What am I working on?
I am currently polishing a final draft for Singing at the Bone Tree: a poetry collection that won the 2013 Indigo Dreams pamphlet competition. I am overjoyed, but it does bring on those pressures for perfection and the sense of being a new girl on the block. It’s due in at the end of this month and will be published on June 4th. The work sprang from a residential women’s ‘writing the wild’ course held at Moniack Mhor, in Scotland last April. It has taken the year to sift and rework with invaluable feedback from sister poets. It is about the journey through alienation, frustration and joy in our search for the wild within and without.
I am also finding pleasure and inspiration from 52: an online poetry writing group run by Jo Bell that provides a weekly prompt for this year and the option of feedback from the several hundred members. I find it is pushing me into new directions and forms.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
A hard question that’s perhaps more for others to judge. However poetry colleagues recently commented on a certain grittiness and humour I seem to bring, as well as a lack of sentimentality. I have my favourite topics of course: nature being top of the list. The view from my home of a small coombe and the Levels, with the Mendips on the horizon is a daily blessing; not least because of the changing light and the wildlife living on my doorstep. I am also a visual artist so I tend to paint pictures that seem to ring true for others. Death and aging are also easy sources of inspiration for me.
I also write non-fiction and have published self-help books. I have a regular monthly column in the weird and wonderful free journal here in Glastonbury. My other hat as a psychotherapist is perhaps what gives me depth and understanding of the human journey and an ability to deal with darker issues.
Much as I try, I am resistant to writing in traditional poetic forms and verse. Whilst I suspect it would provide a firm platform for me to fly from, I continue to fall back on free verse with subtler half rhymes and rhythms. I do however strive for cohesion of form. I prefer short and succinct rather than lengthy and epic.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write to communicate, as an expression of passion and creativity. My non-fiction is to help others understand and accept themselves and I always strive to show a balanced view. This work comes easily to me; I always seem to have something to say. With poetry, I used to wait for inspiration, and respond to life events. Now I find that prompts and workshops oil the wheels and prevent me from sticking to old familiar grooves. Listening to other poets read and the small writing group I am in, I find very supportive. In recent years networking and mixing with increasing numbers of poets has given me a joyful sense of community.
4) How does your writing process work?
I work best first thing in the morning in bed with the cats, after breakfast. I can spend a whole morning this way.
These days I write straight onto the laptop, my handwriting being awful. I need to see words clean on the page, unmarred by endless crossing out. The laptop is then returned to the desk for frequent forays of reworking. I can spend whole days sifting through old poems. I can never write a finished piece straight off, they have to go through weeks and months, before making the journey from description to evocation. I do not naturally communicate slantwise and tend to be direct and descriptive. I then have to keep chipping away to arrive at a more evocative final form. Prose is much quicker and deadlines help.
Walking in the landscape is a great gestator, when thoughts and words drift in and out at their own pace. I have noticed an annual pattern of activity and rest. I will write like crazy often in the winter and by end of spring need a break so turn to sifting what I’ve produced.
I now have to find three other writers to answer the same questions. I’ll post the link to their blogs as they agree to do it – although if anyone reading this wants to join in, just post a link to your blog in the comments below.