Afric McGlinchey – This is not a love song

002

This is not a love song

It’s hard to give you affection,

indifferent as you are

to the encompassing embrace or passing caress,

and as for giving presents, well,

I did not particularly bring you those daffodils,

heart blasting at their gesture,

curtainless feelings –

the cat looks at her image in the pond before drowning,

and don’t forget, death lasts

and lasts 

*

Describe your style (this could be limited to your writing style, or style, in whatever sense of the word you’d like to conceive it in, and how that relates to you as a writer).

Hard to pin down! I asked my partner, also a poet, what he would consider my writing style to be, and he said, ‘sensual. And surreal.’

What do you feel makes a poem ready for consumption by others?

I feel a poem is ready when it’s been scrutinized for at least a month, and there’s not a superfluous word or comma left. It must contain something of life’s blood, have a certain cadence and mystery.

004

A good cup of coffee has the power to seduce.  What role does seduction play in your writing (i.e. – is it a theme in your work? Do you seduce yourself into the act of writing?  Or does the seduction come when someone is drawn to your work – are you out to seduce poetry readers?  Does seduction have some other role entirely vis-à-vis your work, or, does it have no role at all?)

I find I am seduced by poetry all the time. In my own work, I suppose there are two or more strands – the ‘heart’ poems (which may be seductive or poignant), confessional or narrative poems, and the ‘outlaw’ poems, where I basically ‘trip’, and go on  image adventures. Those poems often tap into my unconscious and I enjoy the unexpectedness of them. But I find the ones people want to hear when I’m reading aloud, are the heart ones. I can’t say I consciously set out to write seductive poems, but as love and sex play a big part in my life, they do turn up in my work.

At this moment in poems and writing, who’s writing the poems you like to read?

I’m reading an anthology of European poets at the moment, and they excite         me. Every poem has something deliciously unpredictable –    Dadaist, carnivalesque,  noirish, confessionalist with a twist. I’ve just      randomly opened a             page and read this line:  ‘I’ve already walked from        breakfast to madness.’

Where do you do your writing?  How important is ‘place’ and a sense of ‘space’ for a writer? 

My partner has just built me a writing room, with a large desk, my special things all around me, window into the garden, shelves and shelves of poetry books. I’m very lucky. Before that, it was the kitchen table. But I do think you need space, silence and  privacy to write with any degree of focus.

Stevie Smith once said that “poetry never has any kindness at all”.  How true do you think this is?

I think I know what she meant – poetry can be a selfish act, and many poets will give in to the intensity, the ‘blood jet’, the ‘loaded gun’ of poetry, disregarding the feelings of loved ones. Because that kind of poetry is a magnet to readers, daring to say what people often feel but would never utter, because they fear it’s not a ‘kind’ thing to say. I’ve read many tender poems, poems full of compassion and empathy. But possibly they are a bit too ‘vanilla’ to make a lasting impact.

006

When it comes to writing poems, and how events are captured on the page, do you think it is better for the poet to suffer from excruciatingly good memory, or excruciatingly bad?  (i.e. what role does the truth have in writing a ‘good’ poem?)

I have a terrible memory and never let the truth get in the way of a good poem! For me, writing a poem is about capturing a feeling or making a discovery. Many ‘confessional’ poems aren’t confessional at all (for example, my poem isn’t!) or they’re written in the persona of another person. You can’t assume that what the poem says is true of the writer’s experiences.

Describe the last time you had a really stunning cup of coffee (or tea).

I was in the Bombay Bicycle Club restaurant in Kloof Street, Cape Town, a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fantastically arty, bohemian place, with young and sexy waiters. The meal was amazing, and then the coffee…I hadn’t had coffee for two months because I’ve been on hot water and lemon to detox…but had to treat myself because the aroma was so intoxicating…it was presented with a flourish and it was perfect. No bitterness at all. An Americano with HOT milk (often I find coffee disappointingly cool, and I like it hot) in a jug to add myself. He came along and sprinkled chocolate on it once I’d poured the milk in. With a wink. That’s a coffee I won’t forget in a hurry…

Black, Strong, or Sweet?

Ahh…strong, and not too sweet.

008

*

 Afric McGlinchey grew up in Ireland and Africa. A Hennessy Poetry Award winner, her work has been published in numerous journals and online, in Ireland and abroad. She was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize (USA), and highly commended in the Magma, Joy of Sex, North West Words and Dromineer poetry competitions in 2012. She won the Northern Liberties Poetry Prize (USA) in 2013. Her début collection, The lucky star of hidden things,  was published in 2012 by Salmon.  Afric lives in West Cork. More details on her website: www.africmcglinchey.com

Advertisements

Phil Lynch – In the Moment

002

In the moment

Sometimes we miss the beauty
of the bareness or the roots
because we want to smell the
flowers or taste the first fruits.
Sometimes we miss the silence
that says more than any words
because we want to hear the
noise that leaves our senses blurred.
So catch and kiss this moment,
it will never come again.

 

*

Describe your style (this could be limited to your writing style, or style, in whatever sense of the word you’d like to conceive it in, and how that relates to you as a writer).

I don’t think of myself as having a particular writing style so I don’t know if I have one. In my own mind I feel I write in different styles which can vary depending on what I am writing about and I write on a variety of subjects. Others are probably better placed to judge my work and to comment on this question. I write to express my inner self. Writing enables me to articulate my thoughts, feelings and experiences from my perspective and in the process share them with a wider audience. Writing poetry was my way around an earlier kind of shyness (social anxiety they call it now I think!) to express myself by other means (though I did try to do so through painting at one stage as well). It wasn’t that I was reluctant to put my thoughts out there, quite the contrary, but writing became my preferred medium. As a person I tend to be fairly organised (I think!) but I don’t know if that has any bearing on how I organise words into a poem!

What do you feel makes a poem ready for consumption by others?

When I have worked the piece to the point that I am reasonably happy with it myself to the extent that it conveys what I wish to say at that particular time. I think of myself in that sense as a sort of royal taster that has to consume the poem before I can deem it fit for their majesties (the readers/recipients of the words) to consume. This is not to say that it’s the finished product and won’t need further work. (Is a poem ever really finished? Does it sometimes even change to mean different things with the passage of time?). One of the benefits of reading/performing a poem in public is that it helps tease out what works and what doesn’t in a particular piece. Having work critiqued in a workshop/writing group (or sharing with friends and fellow writers) can also greatly assist the process of road-testing and completion of a poem.

004

A good cup of coffee has the power to seduce.  What role does seduction play in your writing (i.e. – is it a theme in your work? Do you seduce yourself into the act of writing?  Or does the seduction come when someone is drawn to your work – are you out to seduce poetry readers?  Does seduction have some other role entirely vis-à-vis your work, or, does it have no role at all?)

Seduction, like many things in life (including the making of coffee!), is a complex matter. It can be difficult to get right but very rewarding when it is successful! I don’t consciously set out to seduce readers through my writing but if it happens as a result then that’s a happy consequence. Subconsciously though I think there may often be an internal/emotive seduction going on that drives me to write words in the hope that others will be attracted towards them. What I mean by this is that I hope what I have to say will resonate in some way with readers or at least give them an insight into my line of thinking. Maybe that’s self-seduction as much as anything else. But for sure, if someone is drawn to my work then the seduction fireworks can begin to shoot off in all directions.

At this moment in poems and writing, who’s writing the poems you like to read? 

This is tricky because there are so many. Some of those I like haven’t been published yet, including some who specialise more in performance poetry. I’ve always had an eclectic taste and an unstructured, sort of a-la-carte, approach to reading poetry. I like poetry like I like wine – if I Iike it, I like it (regardless of the snobbery some people attach to their choice of both commodities). I can like individual poems by a particular poet without necessarily liking the bulk of that poet’s work. The opposite also holds true of course. It can depend on the emotion a poem evokes, where or in which circumstances I first encounter it. I love to dip into a collection or anthology without having any preconceived notions and see where it leads me. I have a stack of books and chapbooks by contemporary poets, including many peers and friends, some of which I haven’t even fully read yet. There are far too many to start listing them here. At a quick count I number over 30 such volumes ranging alphabetically from Carol Boland to a chapbook by one Dimitra Xidous! I can honestly say though that I haven’t yet cast aside a volume or collection for the reason that there was nothing I liked in it. I like what I call a certain quirkiness in poetry too and think of the likes of Paul Durkan, Roger McGough and others in this regard. Then there’s Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan who are both still writing! So is Yevgeny Yevtushenko whose work made a big impact when I first discovered it. I’ve been reading more of Seamus Heaney’s work lately to which I confess to have been a bit of a latecomer (drawn in by the late Denis O’Driscoll whose work I also liked very much).  In recent weeks I’ve been dipping into poems by Leanne O’Sullivan, George Szirtes and Louise Gluck. Deceased poets are good too! It is fascinating to read something that is centuries (or more) old but could have been written last week because it is still so meaningful.

Where do you do your writing?  How important is ‘place’ and a sense of ‘space’ for a writer? 

Everywhere! I always try to keep a notebook and pen to hand. I feel vulnerable without them. Even when I go to bed I make sure there’s a pad and pen within arm’s reach. This is born of having lost several poems, lines or ideas because I didn’t have the necessary recording utensils with me at the time the inspiration arrived. I have my ‘fixed’ writing places at home, a desk and computer in one room and a table in another but they are more the places I do a lot of the ‘finishing’ work. The original writing is more often than not done on the move or in some external location – in bars (what I call my ‘beermat poems’) and cafes, on buses (and on travels generally), while walking or running (helps me run faster when I need to get back to base in a hurry to write down some sudden flash of inspiration!), in parks, on beaches, in waiting rooms…….I think you get the idea. Public places are full of characters and happenings that can inspire a poem. Poetry readings and performances can be a great source of inspiration as well through hearing diverse work on equally diverse topics and themes. I often make notes, like an artist might sketch an outline or make notes for a painting. The poem generally only emerges later when I add colour and shape to the initial words. ‘Place’ can be important and some places are more conducive to writing but I think it is sometimes more to do with the emotion engendered by the circumstances of being in a particular place at a particular time rather the place itself. The same goes for ‘space’. The space to write needs to come in my view from inside oneself rather than necessarily be an issue of the physical space (though sometimes a bit of decluttering can help to create a more commodious space in which to spread out one’s thoughts).

006

Stevie Smith once said that “poetry never has any kindness at all”.  How true do you think this is?

I don’t know what exactly she meant by this comment or in what context it was made. While she wrote some great poetry, she seems to have had a very troubled personal life so perhaps there’s a clue there. At face value I couldn’t agree with the statement. There are times of course when poetry can be very unkind, or at least frustrating, especially for the tortured writer but I think the rewards far outweigh any unkindness. There are probably as many views on what poetry is and what its effect or function is, or should be, as there are writers or even readers of poetry.

When it comes to writing poems, and how events are captured on the page, do you think it is better for the poet to suffer from excruciatingly good memory, or excruciatingly bad?  (i.e. what role does the truth have in writing a ‘good’ poem?)

I’m not sure if, or where, the concept of truth fits into poetry. What is truth anyway? Whose truth? Plato (circa 400 BC) said that “poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history”. He also said that “poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand”. Dylan Thomas contended that “a good poem is a contribution to reality”. Sharon Olds on the other hand said that “poems come from ordinary experiences and things”. Poems are often a reaction to someone else’s “truth” or to a pertaining state of affairs. I see poems as an inspired insight from the poet on whatever the subject may be to be shared with the world. What the world will do with these insights is anyone’s guess and outside the control of the poet. Poetry does not come in fictional and non-fictional volumes. All the elements in a poem may not come from one emotion or experience but can be drawn together from a set of acquired emotions and experiences. If a poem is intended to reflect a factual account of something then a good memory would be important (though the facts will most likely be recorded or accessible in some other way, including the poet’s own contemporaneous notes). Otherwise I don’t think it matters much. While poems are very often based on real experiences, poetry by its nature allows the poet to be inventive and creative even with their own “truth”. Poems should usually also leave at least some margin for the reader to interpret the poet’s truth/mind (to read between the lines if you like).

Describe the last time you had a really stunning cup of coffee (or tea).

I’m taking the tea option as I drink it much more frequently than coffee. It’s not that I don’t like coffee but there’s a back story which I won’t go into here. The most amazing tea experience I’ve had was, surprisingly perhaps, on a visit to Ennistymon in County Clare last year where I discovered The Guru Tea House which has over 100 types of loose tea from around the world. I had (from memory) a pot of camomile flowers tea. It was a real experience!

008

Black, Strong, or Sweet?

I don’t see them as mutually exclusive so my answer is: yes, yes, yes!

 

*

Phil Lynch lives in Dublin. Recent publications in which his work has appeared include: Revival Literary Journal, Bare Hands Anthology, The Poetry Bus, Circle Time, Census 3,     Outburst, Boyne Berries, Wordlegs (Post Tiger Stories), and the 10 Days in Dublin    Anthology. His work has also been featured on national and local radio, most  recently on RTE’s Arena programme.  He is a regular reader/performer at spoken word  events in Ireland and has also read his work at a number of events abroad.

Erin Fornoff – Untitled

003

 

Untitled

We reached our arms wide like kids

as we stood before the sea

and wondered what we did

to deserve a thing like this.

You know it never made any kind of sense.

We can make a list in the sand of all our sins

the tide will always roll on in again

*

Describe your style (this could be limited to your writing style, or style, in whatever sense of the word you’d like to conceive it in, and how that relates to you as a writer).

My friend once looked me up and down and asked, “Why do you always walk around looking like you’ve just finished painting houses?” So there’s my style. My poetry is less rumpled but has a strong storytelling aspect and is fairly visual. It tends to be more serious than comedic or aggressive and occasionally veers a little too far into Oprah “cathartic moment” territory. I also talk like a Yank, and write a lot about the South, so there’s that. I think my work has certainly been informed by a bit of homesickness. My stuff tends to come from a personal place and a wish to connect with others on a personal level. This featured poem began as song lyrics for my friend’s band, so the style is a bit different than usual!

What do you feel makes a poem ready for consumption by others?

I’m constantly revising through performance. Memorizing and offering poems to an audience is the best way to find holes in language, rhythm, or see confusing or unsaid things that need proper saying. I always get shocked looking at a poem as it was written originally on the page, because so much has changed after I memorized it. If it feels whole (ish), if I’m excited about it, if it’s rounded, if I feel like it has something to say—then it’s ready. Ready-ish.

005

A good cup of coffee has the power to seduce.  What role does seduction play in your writing (i.e. – is it a theme in your work? Do you seduce yourself into the act of writing?  Or does the seduction come when someone is drawn to your work – are you out to seduce poetry readers?  Does seduction have some other role entirely vis-à-vis your work, or, does it have no role at all?)

I get seduced by certain lines or phrases, and find myself repeating them over and over in my head, much the way you might do with someone’s name if you were besotted. I certainly find myself strongly compelled to write after witnessing someone else’s amazing art. Nothing is more inspiring than amazing poets doing their thing. Makes me want to go home and write my ass off, all night long. That is some powerful “talent sexy.”

At this moment in poems and writing, who’s writing the poems you like to read?

I’ve gotten entranced by the UK poetry scene recently—Hollie McNish, Adam Kammerling, Kate Tempest, Dizraeli., among many others. In Ireland I love Sarah Clancy’s stuff, Colm Keegan, and John Cummins, to name a few of many, many more. In the States, its Robert Lowell, Mary Oliver, Richard Wilbur, my pal Kate Harris, and Philip Levine’s poem “The Simple Truth” I could read 1000 times…

007

Where do you do your writing?  How important is ‘place’ and a sense of ‘space’ for a writer? 

My most productive time writing came when I had a daily 2 hour round-trip bus commute. I was living in a one-room cabin overlooking the Irish sea that was a long way out of the city. Funnily enough I got waaaay more done on the bus than I ever did in the cabin, which seemed like it was art-directed as the world’s most perfect writing venue. Being trapped in a tiny, monotonous space with no room to move, no internet connection, and literally nothing else to do is apparently what it takes for me to finish things. Otherwise I carry a notebook and stop regularly while walking place to place to jot snippets down. So, either solitary confinement or a long walk with a working pen and no place to be….

Stevie Smith once said that “poetry never has any kindness at all”.  How true do you think this is?

I’m guessing Stevie Smith had a messy breakup with one poem and is now taking it out on all of them….

When it comes to writing poems, and how events are captured on the page, do you think it is better for the poet to suffer from excruciatingly good memory, or excruciatingly bad?  (i.e. what role does the truth have in writing a ‘good’ poem?)

The truth is the most vital thing in a poem. People relate to truth, they relate to moments that parallel with their own experience, they relate to an expression of feelings that ring familiar to them. As a poet, particularly in performance, it is incredibly important to me that an audience know where I’m coming from and understand what the hell I’m talking about. You want to take them with you. Otherwise it feels self-indulgent and an utter waste of a lot of lovely people’s time.

Describe the last time you had a really stunning cup of coffee (or tea).

Ferg Brown, owner of Roasted Brown on Curve Street, made me a flat white while telling me, in calm, soothing tones, the history of coffee, the theory of roasting, the reason for certain styles of milk pouring, the necessity of certain temperatures. I wanted to rest my chin on the counter and listen to it all day. It was like a Japanese tea ceremony and the result was a work of art…

Black, Strong, or Sweet?

Brew strong, add milk, and repeat. Repeat several more times.

011

*

A native of the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, Erin Fornoff is an American poet living and working in Dublin, Ireland. Called a “story-telling poet,” “deliciously exotic,” and “as close to music as poetry gets” she has performed her poems at major music festivals such as Glastonbury, Electric Picnic, Flatlakes, and many others. She has been featured at many spoken word nights around Dublin, including Brownbread Mixtape, Nighthawks, The Monday Echo, and others around Ireland. She has been featured live on RTE Arena Stage, the national radio arts showcase, and was a finalist at Literary Death Match Dublin with Peter Sheridan. Her essays have been published in The Irish Times, and her poetry in Wordlegs, The Cellar Door, and Bare Hands Literary Journal, and her poetry featured in the Penduline Press Irish Poetry Showcase. She won First Prize for Poetry in The Cellar Door, and Third Prize in the Strokestown International Poetry Award out of 1300 entries in 2013. She was shortlisted for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year for 2012.

 

 

 

 

Niamh MacAlister – That Night

002

 

That night

I felt your breathing stomach in my back.

Balloons of breath rose up to the ceiling,

with only strings of street light shining in

to pull them back down to me.

*

Describe your style (this could be limited to your writing style, or style, in whatever sense of the word you’d like to conceive it in, and how that relates to you as a writer).

Less is more. My preference is for using words without subterfuge. The simplest things are always the best; the favourite pair of jeans that fit perfectly, delicious food, a great glass of wine, words that are said when they are truly meant. I always endeavour to remove what isn’t essential. Why make life difficult?

What do you feel makes a poem ready for consumption by others?

I’m not sure that a poem is every really finished in the more traditional sense of the word. Although I know I’ve reached the end of the road with it when there is nothing left to change. In that way it tells me when it’s ready. It’s in the shape it will always be in, for better or worse.

A good cup of coffee has the power to seduce.  What role does seduction play in your writing (i.e. – is it a theme in your work? Do you seduce yourself into the act of writing?  Or does the seduction come when someone is drawn to your work – are you out to seduce poetry readers?  Does seduction have some other role entirely vis-à-vis your work, or, does it have no role at all?)

Tough question. I will admit that I sometimes have to seduce myself into writing by using the old fashioned charm offensive of a glass of red vino. Chocolate can work just as well. Because sometimes it’s scary to go to the place you are meant to be; on the edge of things in the quietness. Small comforts help. But always trying to step up to the mark with honesty is seductive.

004

At this moment in poems and writing, who’s writing the poems you like to read? 

A good poem, like a good poet, is a rare and subjective thing.  No point in listing all the writers that rock my creative world so instead I’ll just name Denise Levertov. One of the poets that started me off on this mad journey.

Where do you do your writing?  How important is ‘place’ and a sense of ‘space’ for a writer

Writing, for me, is a private affair.  When I was doing my post-grad I had a room in halls. My entire life, my bed and my desk were in the same room. It set a precedent. Where I live now is the same. So I guess I tend to feel more comfortable writing in a ‘cell’ like situation.

006

Stevie Smith once said that “poetry never has any kindness at all”.  How true do you think this is?

Never thought about it before. Sometimes truth is less kind than fiction that’s for sure. But isn’t the act of sharing a poem a generous one? Likewise the act of submitting to its vision?

When it comes to writing poems, and how events are captured on the page, do you think it is better for the poet to suffer from excruciatingly good memory, or excruciatingly bad?  (i.e. what role does the truth have in writing a ‘good’ poem?)

In true poet form shouldn’t I say that the key word here is suffer not memory?! A poem is only a version of events and more often than not an embellished one.  And really, does it even matter? Because whose version of the truth is the truth?

Describe the last time you had a really stunning cup of coffee (or tea).

The best is yet to come.

Black, Strong, or Sweet?

Black and Strong. Always.

010

*

Niamh MacAlister completed a Masters Degree in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews, Scotland with the assistance of The Arts Council of Ireland.  She has been selected as a ‘New and Emerging Poet’ for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and also for the Lonely Voice Short Story Introductions.  She was recently shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award in the First Fiction category.  She has published poetry in The Stinging Fly, Raft, The Moth and Washington Square Review. She completed a residency at the Cill Rialaig Project in 2012.

Hayden Westfield-Bell – 3 AM

016

 

3 AM
I wake to the wind
clawing at the gaps
between the window
and its frame. I roll over,
nuzzle into your shoulder
and try to sleep but
I can hear it whipping
the trees into a frenzy
of leaves and I’m jealous.
I want to roar.

*

Describe your style (this could be limited to your writing style, or style, in whatever sense of the word you’d like to conceive it in, and how that relates to you as a writer).

I don’t really like talking about my own style, but here goes!

I think my style is a bit like a small tin of maple syrup. I realise that’s an odd observation to make, but to say something like ‘my poetry is intense, yet minimal’ seems a little oxymoronic. I tend towards domestic scenes; a couple arguing, small children playing whilst a parent watches, or flatmates cooking and try to realise the normalcy of the situation, but also recognise the significance of their actions.

If people are puzzles, then my poetry is an attempt to reveal how those puzzles work. People are complex, irrational, emotional beings though, and this often permeates the poetry itself, lending it a kind of absurdist quality. I’m a big fan of coincidence, paradox and the idea that things can ‘just happen’ in the world – people can suddenly become angry or upset, irritated or happy for reasons that escape our attention. I love that. I love people.

What do you feel makes a poem ready for consumption by others?

Lots and lots and lots of re-reading! Other poets and writers suggest things like putting the poem to one side and leaving it for a few days – to cool, I guess? Then going back to it at a later date. This certainly works, but I think a lot can be done in the minutes following the poems creation, but you have to move carefully. You have to be patient and steady in these movements; keep drafts, and be prepared to fiddle with the words already written. It’s a very delicate process, and I think the hardest part is knowing when you’re done – when the poem is fit for consumption.

There are three stages; the this is the best thing I’ve ever written stage, followed by the did I really write this? stage, and then the last stage is somewhere between the two. When you reach that final stage (the hrumph, I guess it’s okay but I don’t know stage) then it’s probably ready for consumption.

There’s also the I’m sick of this stage, but that tends to occur if you’ve spent too much time fiddling and editing. Sit down, take a break, have some coffee and think about something else. Let it cool, and you’ll find your hrumph stage eventually.

018

A good cup of coffee has the power to seduce.  What role does seduction play in your writing (i.e. – is it a theme in your work? Do you seduce yourself into the act of writing?  Or does the seduction come when someone is drawn to your work – are you out to seduce poetry readers?  Does seduction have some other role entirely vis-à-vis your work, or, does it have no role at all?)

I think seduction always comes up in relation to poetry, though not necessarily always as a theme. For me it’s more about the seduction of rhythms, rhymes sounds and patterns; together, these components seduce not only the reader, but also the writer.

I tend to think of poetry as translation rather than seduction, but it works well that way too; I find myself seduced by the world around me, by images of events, by actions, by sounds and tastes to the extent that I want to sit down and write about them. The act of writing is also seductive; I’m sort of coaxed into it by my imagination and a feeling that I need to write, then the words begin to form and I fall into it as if it’s instinctual – this is where the sounds and rhythms come into play.

I don’t know whether readers feel the same way I do when I’m writing, in fact I’m not sure it’s possible [insert long diatribe about Barthes’ ‘The Death of the Author’ here) but poems are powerful things, they make people feel things they haven’t felt before, they make people think, and I like that. However, I don’t think it’s good to be thinking about that when writing as it might begin to rule the text, by all means think about sounds, rhythm etc but try I’d try to avoid thinking about the audience until a lot later.

Like a good cup of coffee, poetry has the power to seduce, but coffee is also damn tasty, its full of wonderful caffeine and its often something that’s consumed socially. Poetry, like coffee, has the potentially to be seductive and more.

At this moment in poems and writing, who’s writing the poems you like to read?

I love Jo Shapcott, I prey a little on William Letford when I can, Sam Willetts’ work is fantastic – I couldn’t stop reading Digging, in fact, it used to be stuck up on the wall at home. I like the delicate absurdity of Matthew Francis’ work, Roddy Lumsden is a big influence too. Other than that I’ve been crawling through the old stuff; Keats is always on the reading list, and I’ve been trying to get my head around Ginsberg and Cage.

Where do you do your writing?  How important is ‘place’ and a sense of ‘space’ for a writer? 

I write wherever I am, but I do most of my writing in my bedroom. If I could afford it I think I’d spend all my time in cafe’s and pubs though; the social energy of those places really gets me thinking, and you can learn so much from the conversations around you. The fact that other people are doing things is also helpful – in a cafe I always feel on show, so if I’m there on my own I really feel the need to do something which is brilliant. But essentially it’s more of a mental space for me than a physical one. That being said, I usually have to be alone to write. I couldn’t write with someone looking over my shoulder.

I always emphasise space over place when it comes to writing. I’ve never liked pinning things down to a concrete location, or giving vivid descriptions of a characters’ setting. I like how Raymond Carver does place – through descriptions of little objects like cups, fishing rods, vehicles and roads – rather than the more rounded, fuller prose style of contemporary authors. For me, the space between two cups on a table is more poetic than, say, suddenly locating a text in Venice or Paris. What space do the cups share? If they are close together then perhaps their physical intimacy is echoed by those sitting at that table, and what if the cups are moved away by the drinkers? Does that in turn say something about their relationship? The space between cups, the way two people greet each other in public, the haphazard clumsiness of a man in the dark – for me, it’s all about these. These together produce a greater sense of place than trying to hit place straight on, as it were.

020

Stevie Smith once said that “poetry never has any kindness at all”.  How true do you think this is?

Ah, I really don’t know! I kind of want to say that poetry tears me apart. It’s so visceral, vivid and raw that it makes my fingers itch. Yet this unkindness is its brilliance; like walking up a mountain in a storm: it’s beautiful, so awe-inspiring yet deadly, and when you get to the top you feel amazing, like a god. This is as true for the reader as it is for the writer because for the reader, the poem (or even prose) is a journey and you’re there, you’re in it.

I think poetry can be kinder to its readers than its writers, because the reader luxuriates, enjoys and falls into the poem whereas for the writer it’s about trying to find a way of getting that sensation or image across, which can often be very difficult. It often feels like I’m in conflict with my own tongue or with language itself, because I can’t seem to find the right words or the right image.

Yet we are lifted aren’t we? Lifted by the words on the page into emotions and sensations. We think more, we prod the text, and we look to the world outside and maybe appreciate it a little bit more for its depth and complexity. I can’t agree then, though I can see what she was getting at!

When it comes to writing poems, and how events are captured on the page, do you think it is better for the poet to suffer from excruciatingly good memory, or excruciatingly bad?  (i.e. what role does the truth have in writing a ‘good’ poem?)

Good question. A scary question, even. I’d go for excruciatingly bad but just carry a notebook everywhere with you; catch everything as it happens and then look back at it later. It’s not so much about the truth of events as about how you translate them; in the same way that a story doesn’t need to be true to be meaningful or exciting. I do think poetry, as a form of writing, is more entrenched in the ‘real’ than other practices but that doesn’t mean it has to be real. It could just be an imagining of the real, a kind of I wonder what would happen if situation turned into a poem.

Rendering might be a good term here, or even shading. You shade a 3D object to make it appear 3D, not to make it 3D. It has the illusion of true depth but it is not ‘true’. Also, the fact that it’s an illusion doesn’t make it any less valuable or less meaningful; that’s down to the viewer, or the audience. There are these fantastic artists out there that can do photo-realistic images in pencil or paint, and some of them create these amazing surreal images and it’s real, it’s true, but it’s also not true at all. Maybe they do these images from memory, or maybe they just make them up. I don’t know, would love to ask though!

Just a quick bit on if a poet had excruciatingly good memory – I think the problem with good memory would be that you’d want to realise the situation or object or incident as it had occurred, but this would prove impossible. We change things all the time, we all see things in different ways, and the you five minutes from now is different (even if only a little bit) from the you right now. In perceiving the world we distort it then believe those distortions to be real or ‘true’, time further distorts that which we perceive. By the time we’d got home and started writing we’d find ourselves stuck at what exactly had occurred and how to realise that in words. It comes back to translation and rendering; that’s the important bit, and no matter how hard you shade a 2D object you can’t make it 3D. You just end up tearing the page.

 022

Describe the last time you had a really stunning cup of coffee (or tea).

There was a cafe not far from Leith offering chocolate infused tea. When I saw it I had to do a double take, I had no idea something like that existed. It was every bit as amazing as it sounds.

Black, Strong, or Sweet?

Black and sweet? Sweet Fennel is ideal, Earl Grey with lemon is fantastic, and a large cup of coffee with a chunk of lemon or lime is godly.

*

Hayden Westfield-Bell is a recent graduate of the UEA’s Creative Writing MA (Poetry) and an Editorial Advisor of International Authors. His poetry has been published in Emanations, Popshot, and a small number of student anthologies but he also writes short stories and longer prose and is currently working on a larger piece of genre-fiction.

Jessica Traynor – The Bright Doorway

017

 

The Bright Doorway

There are snatched moments

that bloom for us like poppies:

when the door opened on sunshine

 

and the hall flooded with darkness –

you became solid shadow,

your words stolen by birdsong

 

and then all I could see was you,

the bright doorway

and all the world behind you.

*

 

Describe your style (this could be limited to your writing style, or style, in whatever sense of the word you’d like to conceive it in, and how that relates to you as a writer).

I find it quite difficult to describe my own style, but I’ll tell you what I aim for: I like poems that tell a good story, but leave a lot to the reader’s imagination. I suppose I’m trying to achieve that air of mystery that I experienced when reading poems in Primary School. Poems like Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost and The Listeners by Walter de la Mare painted such vivid pictures, while holding something back. I think a poem is an unfinished story that invites a new ending from every reader. When writing more personal poems I try to create bold and lasting images which suggest a framework, but to leave space within the poem for the reader to create their own narrative. I enjoy conceptual poems and those which strike a balance between a certain amount of abstraction and the emotional clarity necessary for a reader to access the poem.

What do you feel makes a poem ready for consumption by others?

Ruthless cutting. I think many young poets (myself included) tend to err on the side of verbosity and repetition.  I try to cut as much as I can while still retaining that spark that keeps the poem alive and allows it to communicate to the reader. Of course, it’s easy to go too far, but also easy to backtrack.

019

A good cup of coffee has the power to seduce.  What role does seduction play in your writing (i.e. – is it a theme in your work? Do you seduce yourself into the act of writing?  Or does the seduction come when someone is drawn to your work – are you out to seduce poetry readers?  Does seduction have some other role entirely vis-à-vis your work, or, does it have no role at all?)

In my own work, I often try to filter my own experience through a number of different voices or personae; the poetic ‘I’ is not always me. I think there’s something intensely seductive in reading a poem that tells a story in a voice that is not the poets own; it forces the reader to look for clues. Which part of the poem pertains to the poet’s own life? What’s their relationship with the speaker in the poem? Again, this comes back to the idea of story in a poem; I want to tell stories that are universal on some level, that appeal to a level of experience that might be broader than my own. The idea that poetry serves as an intimate window onto a wide, unknowable world appeals to me.

At this moment in poems and writing, who’s writing the poems you like to read? 

I’ve just finished reading Michael Symmons Roberts’ new collection, Drysalter. I’m in awe of these poems: he manages to achieve both a sense of scope and real intimacy within a strict formal framework. I’ve also flown through Fiona Sampson’s Coleshill which I’ve really enjoyed – I think it’s her most accessible work yet. I had a list of other poets whose work I enjoy, but cut it because it was getting unwieldy. I read a lot of history books and find myself regularly going back to Patrick Kavanagh and Louis MacNeice.

Where do you do your writing?  How important is ‘place’ and a sense of ‘space’ for a writer?

My poetry notebooks are beside my bed and my laptop is in my living room. Between the two spaces, poems get cobbled together. They also end up on receipts and scraps of paper in my handbag, because, like most writers, I have this superstitious fear that the poem you don’t write down will be the one that would have won you the Nobel Prize. I can write a poem with the TV on in the background; if there are no distractions for me to battle I’ll create them for myself. I’ve been planning to set up a computer desk in my spare room, but it looks out over our back garden and I can see myself mowing the lawn on a daily basis and installing a water feature instead of writing. Having a space can prove as distracting as it is inspiring.

I’m also part of a small writers group (five of us) who meet once monthly to workshop poems. This is a hugely invaluable part of my writing process and I couldn’t do without it.

021

Stevie Smith once said that “poetry never has any kindness at all”.  How true do you think this is?

I have myself in knots over this one. What is kindness? Is it generosity (good) – or sentimentality (bad)? I’d love to be brutal and say that I agree entirely with the quote, but I don’t. I don’t think that poetry is objective. I think it’s entirely subjective, but when it’s functioning properly, it makes room for our various experiences. It’s communal, many-voiced and yes, I think it is generous. It’s accommodating, to some extent – there’s a kindness in that.

When it comes to writing poems, and how events are captured on the page, do you think it is better for the poet to suffer from excruciatingly good memory, or excruciatingly bad?  (i.e. what role does the truth have in writing a ‘good’ poem?)

To return to the last point, I don’t think poetry is objective in any way, although it should aim to achieve a sense of universality. So I think a bad memory is preferable, or at least a memory that has the ability to fill in the gaps in a creative manner. It’s dangerous to assume that we can tell the truth through poetry, or tell any truth other than our own. However, emotional truth and sincerity is paramount in poetry – it gives a poem its beating heart – but of course this is completely subjective and specific only to the person whose experience is being communicated.

023

Describe the last time you had a really stunning cup of coffee (or tea).

Recently after a long night at a music festival in Barcelona, a friend pulled out a bag full of Barry’s tea that she’d brought from home. I’m pretty sure I owe her my life.

Black, Strong, or Sweet?

Strong.

 

*

Jessica Traynor is the Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year 2013. She has work forthcoming in Burning Bush II and in the New Planet Cabaret Anthology edited by Dave Lordan, which will be published by New Island. Poems have appeared in Southword, the SHOp, Wordlegs, New Irish Writing in the Irish Independent (2009, 2010 and 2012), the Stinging Fly, the Moth, the Listowel Writers Week Winners Anthology, A Modest Review and Poetry 24 (2012 and 2013).

She won the 2011 Listowel Single Poem Prize and was shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh Award, the Listowel First Collecton Prize, the UCD Anthology Award and the Strokestown Poetry Prize in 2012. She has twice been longlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize (2010 and 2013) and was highly commended in the 2009 iYeats Competition.

She was the 2010 recipient of a Literature Bursary from Dublin City Council and was featured in the 2009 Poetry Ireland Introduction Series. She is currently working on her first collection.

Kevin Reid – Caravaggio

100

Caravaggio

Self portrait as Bacchus

On the table’s edge lusty black grapes

and bottomed peaches.

Olive and laurel. Wrapped

in the innocent folds of a white toga

you flex your fruitful flesh for the viewer.

The want in your loose plum lips

thirsts for the juice of a full-bodied handful.

Bull black and excited,

your succulent night sky eyes

compel the Bacchus in us all.

*

Describe your style (this could be limited to your writing style, or style, in whatever sense of the word youd like to conceive it in, and how that relates to you as a writer).

I don’t really think in terms of a particular style.  I guess that’s something others may interpret for themselves when it comes my writing. One of my favourite tools in writing poetry is the use of voice. I like how it allows one as a writer to explore different styles. I’m not one for restrictions. In other areas of life I guess I like to think of myself as a bit of a dandy. A casual one of course. I seen Patti Smith at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow a number of years ago, and I recall someone asking her what she thought of being known as the godmother of punk. She took a firm stance and spoke of how she was writing long before punk was ever thought of. Her concluding point was about the restriction of labels and of how she thinks it’s limiting for artists of any kind to be labelled. I think this sums up my thought on the idea of a specific ’style’ . I guess I see label and style as synonymous terms.

What do you feel makes a poem ready for consumption by others?

Despite it having become a bit of a poetic cliché, this brings to mind Paul Valery’s quote “A poem is never finished, only abandoned”. Having said that, I feel a poem is ready for consumption by others when the poet is ready to let it go. Sometimes I find myself looking back on work I’ve put out there and think of things I would do differently if I were to be writing that poem now. I suppose that’s just part of the evolution of a writer.  Like with most things, one grows and develops. Technically speaking, I think a poem   is ready for consumption when it has been crafted.  As many poets have said, some poems land on the page with very little need for editing before they are ready for consumption by others.  However, some have a gestation period, which can last years.

102

A good cup of coffee has the power to seduce.  What role does seduction play in your writing (i.e. is it a theme in your work? Do you seduce yourself into the act of writing?  Or does the seduction come when someone is drawn to your work are you out to seduce poetry readers?  Does seduction have some other role entirely vis-à-vis your work, or, does it have no role at all?)

To be honest it’s not a something I’ve given much thought to. I wouldn’t say it was a theme in my work and nor is it something I do to myself in relation to writing. On one level I think again of Patti Smith. (Patti has been, and continues to be, a inspiration to me.) She once spoke of how she used to masturbate before writing as a way of raising passion . I’ll be honest, after reading this many years ago I tried it. Yes, it got me round to putting lines done on the page, but nothing complete and ready for consumption.

In a wider context I’d say language is innately seductive; particularly when it is used poetically. Whether it be to suspend the reader in a fictional world, or to convey a fresh way of thinking or seeing it could be said that it is an attempt to seduce.

These days it’s a good piece of music, literature, an image or everyday life that seduces me into writing. Oh, and yes, a good cup of coffee too.

At this moment in poems and writing, whos writing the poems you like to read? 

At the moment there’s a few writers I would say that are writing the poems I like to read. Emily Berry’s debut collection, Dear Boy, has been a attractive read. I like her refreshing application of character and narrative. Check out Arlene’s House and The International Year of the Poem. Another young writer I have found myself drawn to is Bobby Parker. Bobby’s work is raw and honest. I recently purchased a small chapbook of his from Red Ceilings Press called, Building Murder with a Smile. This is a series of short six line narrative poems, and it’s the sense of menace that runs throughout them that really appeals to me  I recommend anyone who likes realism in writing to get their hands on any of Bobby’s work. Ghost Town Music, published by Knives Forks and Spoons is a must.  One of the most revered and established poets I’m reading at the moment is George Szirtes. I don’t think I can do  justice to George and his work in just a few lines. However, I can say it’s his continual drive to explore the boundaries of poetry that I admire greatly. His most recent collection, Bad Machine makes for a compelling read and demonstrates his ongoing innovation in the writing of poetry.

Where do you do your writing?  How important is place and a sense of space for a writer? 

I do most of my writing sitting at my Grandfather’s old bureau. I’ve had it since he died in 1986. It carries many memories for me. It’s can be helpful when faced with a blank page. Yes, for me place is important, but not as important as a sense of ‘space‘. Having space, both physically and mentally, plays a significant role in my writing process. I think having a full-time job contributes to my obsession with having space in all senses.. To see space. To touch space. To hear space. To taste space. To smell space.

Stevie Smith once said that “poetry never has any kindness at all.  How true do you think this is?

Poetry can be cruel in its form and in its content. Rules of form can be a painstakingly difficult challenge for a poet.. However, rules can be broken and boundaries can be stretched. This is where poetry can be a kind process and often lead to new and innovative forms of poetry. Content can be unkind to both poet and reader. For example, reliving difficult experiences or raising forgotten memories. However, poems can bring something new into our lives: a fresh perspective, an appreciation of the familiar, infinite experiences . It’s because of this I disagree with Stevie Smith.

104

When it comes to writing poems, and how events are captured on the page, do you think it is better for the poet to suffer from excruciatingly good memory, or excruciatingly bad?  (i.e. what role does the truth have in writing a good poem?)

When capturing events on the page I think it can strengthen  the integrity and impact  of a poem to have an excruciatingly good memory. However, I wouldn’t say it’s a necessity.

Describe the last time you had a really stunning cup of coffee (or tea).

In my kitchen this morning. So that it is always fresh and with fullest flavour I grind  beans every day. At the moment I’m drinking  Cuban Cerrado Superior.

Black, Strong, or Sweet?

Espresso is my preferred way of drinking coffee. Black strong and sweet.

106

*

Kevin Reid lives in Scotland. His poetry can be found at Pushing Out the Boat, Bone Orchard Poetry, Sugar Mule, egg, heavy bear and Counterexample Poetics. His chapbook, Body Voices, was recently published by Crisis Chronicles Press (2013) and was short listed for the Saboteur Awards 2013: Best Poetry Pamphlet. Recent collaborations with George Szirtes can be found at Wordless http://eyeosphere.tumblr.com/) and >erasure. >erasure also features drawings by Bobby Parker..