1) What am I working on?
My most important project at present is finalising the manuscript of my next collection, Map Reading For Beginners. It’s due at my publishers, Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling of Indigo Dreams, by June, and will hopefully be launched around the time of the Bristol Poetry Festival in the autumn. I put together a draft some months ago and now I’m waiting for it to settle before I turn a final, highly critical eye on it. I expect maybe half a dozen to a dozen poems to fall at the final hurdle in favour of other, newer ones. This is no time for sentiment!
In the meantime, I’m finishing a trio of poems about Somerset, one set in the present, one during the tidal surge/tsunami of 1607, and one c500AD. I’m also about to start writing a poem about the slave Pero, who arrived in Bristol from Nevis in 1784 and lived here for the last 14 years of his life.
As for the longer term, I can feel my mind turning towards another possible collection, this time of marriage poems. Writing in a sustained and clear-eyed way about that would require much girding of lions and other big cats, however.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Every poet has their preferred subjects and idiosyncratic approaches to writing. I tend to be inspired by place – hence the above-mentioned propensity to jaunt – and a particular landscape is often the starting point for a poem, even though the finished piece might not reflect this. It’s very hard to be subjective about what you write, however. I like to think I have my own distinct voice, but ultimately that's for others to decide. All I'm doing is responding to an impulse.
3) Why do I write what I do?
On the whole I prefer to write what comes, which is why I find workshops with set exercises and a limited time to respond very challenging. Even though it can be tortuous, I'd rather sit around in the rain, waiting to see what takes the bait - although during times of drought, a prompt can be a life-saver.
4) How does your writing process work?
It depends on whether I’m writing poetry or prose. With my novel, Dart, the story came from my research, then, as the characters established themselves in my head, they took over and dictated the action.
Poems are different – more like threads blowing on the breeze. When I see one, I try to catch hold of it and follow it to the other end. Sometimes this takes a week or two; sometimes the process lasts months or years. Once or twice I’ve pulled a poem out of the air, fully-formed, but this is very rare for me.
I now have to find three other writers to answer the same questions. I'll post the links 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.
Link to Rachael Clyne's blog here.
Link to Alison Lock's blog here.