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 you’d 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.
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, who’s 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.
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.
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..