Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Next Best Thing


The Next Best Thing is an internet based networking idea whereby writers can share their own and each other’s work. The poet, novelist and creative writing tutor, Roselle Angwin, has asked me to take part in this.

These are the questions and my attempt at answers:

What is the title of your book?

My new poetry collection is called ‘All the Invisibles’.

Do you have a publisher yet for your book, or will it be represented by an agency, or self-published?

It was published in November 2012 by SPM Publications.

Nnorom Azuonye, the editor, is organising a launch for it in London, probably in March, along with new collections by Afam Akeh and Roger Elkin.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I have always been fascinated by the idea of hidden things, other dimensions, hence the title poem. The setting of the shingle beach is actually Climping in West Sussex, an evocative, atmospheric place that I love going to. I had been leading a writing workshop at a friend’s house nearby, on the theme of ‘Outlines and Overlaps’, and the mood and imagery of Climping found its way into my poem. While I was writing it I was also thinking about the watercolours of Eric Ravilious who was so inspired by the South Downs and in a way he became the one who ‘fell in love/ with the whiteness of chalk, the long slow/curves of a pale-green land, a languorous/stretching of hills.’

What genre does your book fall under?

A lot of my poems are rooted in myth, legend or historical events with, hopefully, modern relevance. I like to think they are in the visionary tradition. Many of them are in free verse but there are also ‘form’ poems, particularly the extended terza rima which I enjoy writing.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m not sure who I would choose if I was lucky enough to have a video recording made of my poems. I love the voices of the actor Robert Hardy and the singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. Also the poet Paul Matthews who inspires my poetry so much. If such a wonderful opportunity ever presented itself I’d have to think carefully!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?

Poems that explore dimensions and depths.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your masterpiece?

I have probably been working on this collection for about 3 years.

What other books would you compare this story/poems to?

I wouldn’t dream of comparing myself to them but I have many favourite poets whose work I love and who inspire me. Donne, Hopkins and Eliot were probably the first and most important in my life but I am also influenced by Anglo Saxon poetry and the writings of Wyatt, Keats, Shelley and Edward Thomas. Modern poets whom I admire are Vyelwa Carlin, John Burnside, Mark Strand, Christopher Middleton, Robert Hass and G.C Waldrep. I enjoy finding new ‘discoveries’ such as Rita Dove whose poetry I have recently been introduced to.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I have always loved words and was inspired, initially, to develop my skills by writing song lyrics when I was living in South East London and involved in the folk club scene. With my friend, Charles Gaan, who composed the music, I wrote lyrics for over 40 songs, a full length musical for children which was performed with a cast of 100 and several pieces for television. Later, when I found myself absorbed in writing poetry, the lessons I’d learned from lyrics remained with me – the need for the sounds and subtleties of the perfect word for example.

Poetry became my serious, main love towards the end of the 90s. I was encouraged by poets David Morley and Gillian Clarke at writing workshops  and later by David Caddy, editor of ‘Tears in the Fence’. The late Anne Born – a wonderful poet and translator – was the then editor of ‘Oversteps Books’ and offered me publication of my first collection ‘Bee Purple’, and later of ‘Frost Hollow’. In recent years I have been given tremendous support and encouragement by poets Pansy Maurer-Alvarez, Roselle Angwin, Paul Matthews, Jim Bennett, Jane Duran, Jackie Wills and Mimi Khalvati, as well as many friends in writing groups and the online forum ‘The Write Idea’.

The following writers have agreed to take part in The Next Best Thing and answer the questions:

Rachel Green (who has also been tagged by Catherine Edmunds)

Julie Corbett

Susan Skinner