Poet Interviews, and Gallery


Helen Mort, 8th June 2017


(Photo: Andrew Marshall)

 Can you give a brief description of your "poetry background", ie how you became interested in poetry as a reader and a writer? 



When I was a kid at primary school, I wanted to be a caretaker. There was something about the privacy of it, the slightly strange hours (I remember our school caretaker having his own office and walking the corridors of the school alone when everyone else had gone) that appealed to the part of me that likes to be on the outside looking in. That's the writer in me, I think: I’m always somehow more comfortable as an observer in my own life. Anyway, after I realised I wasn’t good enough at repairs or cleaning to be a school caretaker, I had a brief spell of aspiring to be a ballerina (which my mum cured by telling me I wouldn’t be able to eat cake) and then moved on to theatre: I decided I should be a playwright. Somewhere along the way, I began to become obsessed with the sound of language. I was an only child and spent a lot of time listening to the radio. This evolved into an interest in sound-patterning and poetry. When I was still at primary school, I began to dictate poems to my mum out loud and she would write them down. Then, at secondary school, my dad introduced me to poets like Wilfred Owen and Seamus Heaney and I began to read more widely. Again, these poems would often be shared aloud. Even now, I like to read my work as I’m writing.



Which poets are important to you and why?



Heaney will always be important to my work and I think he was probably the first poet I grew to love. I can’t read ‘Postscript;’ without feeling that it captures everything I want to say about our relationship with landscape, the ways we try to frame fleeting experiences. As a teenager, Don Paterson had a big influence on me and I began to think that working in form was something I wanted to do. Meanwhile, reading poets like Ian McMillan and Simon Armitage encouraged me to write about what I knew, about things I saw and heard in North East Derbyshire and Sheffield. I realised that my work didn’t need to be abstract: it was ok to write about place and locality. Nowadays, my influences are much more varied, of course. The poetry I’ve fallen in love with most recently is the work of Kim Addonizzio. She’s so bold, funny and moving at the same time. I wish I could write with some of her eloquent frankness.



How important is the history, landscape and general environment of the area you live in, to the poetry you write?



North East Derbyshire and South Yorkshire are my imaginative landscapes and they permeate almost everything I write. Though, strangely, I always find it easier to write about places when I’m away from them: I wrote many of the poems that made up ‘Division Street’ when I was living in Cambridge and then Cumbria. 





How did you begin to get published as a poet, and how did your debut publication come about?



I started sending work out to competitions and magazines when I was pretty young and gradually began to have some success there, winning the Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition. That was a real boost to me. The profile that Foyle gave to my work helped me to get a longer series of poems published for the first time as well. While I was at University, I met the editor of tall-lighthouse press, Les Robinson at an event in London. He’d read some of my poems, we went for a pint and he said he was interested in seeing a manuscript for a pamphlet. Tall-lighthouse have been vital to my work over the years (I went on to publish a second pamphlet with them) and I think they were crucial in shaping a whole generation of British poets. Emily Berry, Liz Berry, Adam O’Riordan, Sarah Howe….. the list of writers first published by tall-lighthouse is endless. I dedicated my first book ‘Division Street’ to Les and his partner Jan because I wouldn’t have had a full collection without them.





Have there been any landmark events or experiences in your life, or the lives of others, that have either motivated you to write, or have affected the general nature of what you have written?



I went on a climbing trip to East Greenland last summer and came back questioning how I write about ‘sublime’ aspects of landscape. It struck me that finding an appropriate language of awe for the places you visit can be very difficult and I think a lot of my responses have been (necessarily) simplistic. Other than that, I’m motivated and shaped by the usual things: regret, anger, loss, falling in and out of love, a sense of belonging-and-not-belonging.



What kinds of poetry do you like - and which, if any, do you dislike?


To return to Heaney’s poem ‘Postscript’ (and to paraphrase it rather badly), I like work that catches my heart off-guard and blows it open. I like to be haunted by a poem, to be compelled to think of it in the way I might think of someone lost or just out of reach. I like to long for poems, to feel as if they’re letting me in but preserving a sense of mystery at the same time. I remember reading Andrew Greig’s poem ‘Freefall’ for the first time at Edinburgh Book Festival when I was 18 and knowing I’d spend the next few years (if not the rest of my writing life) trying to write a poem as bittersweet as that. The poetry that I admire comes in a variety of forms and I often like poets who can do things that I can’t do well - poets who experiment with gaps and loose form in their writing, for example, work that dances around the page. I’m not sure I’d say that I ‘dislike’ anything in poetry, but I definitely have personal preferences. I’m not keen on work that I feel excludes me, work that seems to actively resist meaning-making of any kind, though I can recognise the validity of the project. I don’t tend to like poems that make me feel stupid.



Is there any over-riding "theme" or raison-d'etra behind your writing as a whole, or has it tended to go in different directions and areas of inspiration?



I seem to be obsessed with disappearing acts, things that can’t quite be caught, the ‘road not taken’. I noticed that the image of a ‘trapdoor’ recurs quite often in my first collection. I’ve always loved Eavan Boland’s poem ‘That the science of cartography is limited’ and its preoccupation with roads that aren’t shown on the map. My second collection ‘No Map Could Show Them’ deals partially with neglected stories. 






What do you make of the small magazines and competitions, and what are your experiences of the readings circuit?



I love magazines, competitions and readings - every experience is different. I occasionally do events where the organiser is very apologetic if there’s a small audience but it genuinely doesn’t matter to me at all. I don’t care if I have an audience of three or an audience of three hundred. If some aspects of the work manage to connect with some people in the room, I’m happy. My favourite poetry magazine is Tim Wells’ ‘Rising’ (‘tough on poetry, tough on the causes of poetry’) which he gives out for free.



Do you feel poetry (in whatever context you like - international, British, European, etc) is currently in a good or poor state?



I think poetry is getting a lot of mainstream media coverage at the moment. No doubt that will ebb and flow. Equally, the press sometimes seems more interested in the lives and deaths of poets (from Ted Hughes’ private affairs to stories about mental illness and poetry) than in poetry itself. But whatever state poetry is in, people will continue to turn to it when they’re in need, when they want to celebrate or mourn. Since I became a published writer, I’ve been amazed by how many old friends have wanted a poem at their wedding. Equally, I noticed a lot of people looked for solace in poetry in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Manchester this March. I was asked to read a poem on Radio 3, which felt like both an honour and a responsibility. 



A few words on how you write, any routines, superstitions and such?



I do my best work when I’m away from the desk, running or walking (or even climbing) on Stanage Edge, repeating lines to myself over and over, trying to listen well and stay open to ideas. But mostly, when I have an idea for a poem, I put off writing it down for as long as possible. The best poem is always the one you haven’t written yet, the butterflies it gives you, the sense of possibility. When I actually sit down with paper and pen, I can feel overwhelmed by all the directions the poem could take. Working with rhyme often helps me shape and limit my ideas. In general, I don’t think I write or redraft nearly enough.






'Freefall' - blogging about poetry, pop psychology and more: https://helenmort.wordpress.com


 Steve Nash 6th June 2017

 

Steve Nash was born in Ripon and grew up on a variety of military bases around Europe.  His first collection, Taking the Long Way Home (Stairwell Books) was published in 2013, the year he moved to the Calder Valley, and the following year Steve won the Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Performer. I first met Steve in 2014, and have had the honour of appearing with him at various poetry events such as the Todmorden Alternatiba 2015, Halifax's Spoken Weird, The Quiet Compere, and Sowerby Bridge's Puzzle Poets. It was a privilege to publish Steve's collection The Calder Valley Codex, with illustrations by York artist Nicole Sky, on Halloween 2016, which we launched with ghoulish festivity at The Blue Teapot along with Genevieve Walsh and Victoria Gatehouse.  


 


Steve lives in Sowerby Bridge.  He works as a University Lecturer and has co-ordinated successful performance and discussion based events, such as the philosophy-themed The Thinkery.  We often bump into each other in the supermarket, or the somewhat more poetic setting of a train, and I generally come away knowing more about poetry than I did before.

Can you give a brief description of your "poetry background", ie how you became interested in poetry as a reader and a writer?


I remember in one of the many schools I attended (sadly not because I was a ruffian or got thrown out repeatedly), there was one teacher who gave us all a pristine A4 notebook that had half-lined, half-blank pages, and once a month we would write a poem to be included in these books. We couldn’t write directly onto the pages, and even once we’d drafted something and redrafted, and got it into shape, we were still only then allowed to write the poems in the book in pencil so that any errors could be erased. We were then encouraged to illustrate our little masterpieces. Despite the insistence on all the ceremony, I remember everyone loving the monthly poem and poetry day. I’m sure it was around this time (maybe aged 9 or 10) that I discovered the Please Mrs Butler/ I heard it in the Playground books, and of course Roald Dahl’s revolting rhymes.
Since then it has always just been a part of my reading and writing life, and was always the first thing I would turn to. The wonderful thing about poetry (well, one of many) is that, despite so many other childhood passions being overcome by other things as I grew up, poetry has always managed to deliver new surprises, new things to delight in (even if those things aren’t new, but just new to me) that it always feels like I’m barely scratching the surface. Even now, after so many years of reading, listening, and studying, it’s rare that a conversation with another poetry reader won’t result in the familiar question: ‘Oh, have you read…?’ and of course the answer is still quite often: ‘No, tell me more!’

Which poets are important to you and why?

Wow, how long have you got? I would still say that those formative experiences with the Ahlbergs or Dahl, keep them as important touchstones for me. I think because my tastes are so varied, it is a very broad array of names that I would say count as ‘important’ to me. My prize possession (not that it’s worth a great deal monetarily speaking) is a 200-year-old copy of Milton’s Paradise Regained (his difficult sequel to Paradise Lost), and there is something about the cadence and character voice in that (often regarded as stuffy) book that I still marvel at. In terms of the old classics, I have a very deep love for Christopher Marlowe as both a writer and an individual. The Romantics hit me in my late teens (the ideal age) and I had a suitably lovelorn, emo response to them, supplemented with Neruda and Plath.
I think that there’s an incredible wealth of interesting and engaging poetry being written now too, and too many names to list here pop into my mind, but Helen Mort, Claire Trevian, Sarah Howe, Kei Miller, Gen Walsh, I find quite awe-inspiring in the manner that they’re able to deliver such clear images in surprising ways. Don Paterson is a poet whose work I keep returning to, and often have a copy of one of his collections in my bag alongside whichever new book I’m reading. I should probably stop there or I will end up listing my entire bookshelf.

How important is the history, landscape and general environment of the area you live in, to the poetry you write?

Immensely – and it’s something I occasionally feel a bit mournful about: that I don’t feel like I have a definite sense of place, of belonging. Having moved around so much as an army brat, and then shifted steadily westward across Yorkshire since University. I was born in Yorkshire though and definitely feel that Yorkshire is and will always be home, but whether that’s York, Leeds, or the Calder Valley, it all feels like home in a sense. With the exception of the latest collection (The Calder Valley Codex) which clearly has a very definite place in mind throughout, and most of the poems were written about the Valley, I would have said that history and landscape weren’t so significant to my writing, but looking back at the work in my books, I think it’s obvious that I’m a little obsessed with it.

 

How did you begin to get published as a poet, and how did your debut publication come about?

I was encouraged by a couple of tutors (not of poetry and who had never seen my work) to send some of my scribblings out and see what happened, and to my great surprise, I was fortunate enough that most of the poems got picked up. The debut collection came about due to being dragged to open mic nights by some writer friends who wouldn’t take no for an answer. York publisher Stairwell Books’ Rose Drew and Alan Gillott asked if I would produce a debut collection with them, I said yes, and then made them wait for a pretty long time as I didn’t feel I was ready for a collection. In the end, it was a module I was teaching at York St John University that forced me to pull the trigger. It was a work-based module in which students were given projects regarding the written word to work on, and someone helpfully pointed out that if I stopped being such a coward, then one group of students could get the opportunity to actually work with a publisher, and produce (and launch) a book. I’m still immensely grateful to those students who did a brilliant job.  Without them I’m not sure the book (Taking the Long Way Home) would exist.

Have there been any landmark events or experiences in your life, or the lives of others, that have either motivated you to write, or have affected the general nature of what you have written?

I do write a lot in response to significant events in a broader context and in my personal life. Often I find that the words don’t do justice to the event when it is in a broader context, and so they hide away in darkened corners of notebooks, but the more personal events and experiences have found their way into my published work. Sometimes this is really obvious, but one of the things I most enjoy about writing poetry is that ability to write about something very close to oneself, but to produce something that is less obvious than that, something that others may read and find a connection to. This works both ways of course, and one could probably write a sonnet about a particularly good sneeze and someone would read great depth into it *pauses to jot down idea for new sneeze anthology*. The loss of friends is a major theme in the first collection, but I am assured that it’s not a morbid book, and the latest one is dedicated to my fellow victims in a horrific car accident that nearly claimed all of our lives on Skull and Crossbones bridge (which, let’s face it, is the place to crash if you’re going to).

What kinds of poetry do you like - and which, if any, do you dislike?

I don’t think there’s any ‘kind’ of poetry I dislike genre wise. As long as the writer is using their imagination in some way, and not just writing the most banal or obvious things, then I’ll be likely to respond in some way. That being said, some of the most direct poetry often speaks to me as well. It’s often a sense, or a feeling of connection, and I still haven’t worked out what that is. I think my favourite poetry, is usually poetry that has some element of humour in there. Stephen Dunn, and George Bilgere are particularly skilfull at this. It’s not that the poem is a joke or that there is a lead up to a punchline, but there is a sense that the poets have smiles on their faces and are really enjoying themselves while they write. That playfulness is really important to me. But thematically I don’t think there’s anything I’m cold toward. I like fairly dense and obscure poetry, but then I enjoy direct poetry too. It’s less about the style or genre of the poetry, and more about the hitting it off with the way the words fall on the page, or the way they hit your ear. It’s like meeting someone new. Some people you instantly connect with, and others you might clash with or find abrasive. The important thing for me is that it’s okay to feel that way. People will often say: ‘Oh, I don’t like poetry’, but they’ve been exposed to very little. Nobody does that with any other artform. You look at a Picasso, and maybe it doesn’t quite do it for you. Your response is not going to be: ‘Oh, I don’t like art’, the same with music and novels, but for some reason poetry seems to be fighting against that very reductive early conclusion. There’s so much out there. If you don’t like Larkin, guess what… that’s fine! Here, try Alice Notley, or Patience Agbabi, Zaffar Kunial, or Simon Zonenblick.

Is there any over-riding "theme" or raison-d'etra behind your writing as a whole, or has it tended to go in different directions and areas of inspiration?

If there is one it’s my surroundings, including people, but that’s never a deliberate starting point. My mind seems keen to return there over and over (maybe that’s a lack of imagination on my part). And trains, I’m always scribbling about trains, on trains, or the view from a train.

 

What do you make of the small magazines and competitions, and what are your experiences of the readings circuit?

Having helped to edit and run a couple, I can say they’re a tough but rewarding experience, especially if you get a good team together, but it is a big commitment, and I found the desire to respond as fully as possible to everyone who takes the time to submit can make for an exhausting process. The reading circuit has been an incredible experience for me personally. I love the opportunity doing readings gives to hear how these different collections of writers share their works and what kinds of things get responded to strongest in different venues. It’s probably the first piece of advice I would give (as someone who was reluctant to read poetry in front of people for a long time) to anyone wanting to experience poetry and meet other writers: go to your local open mic night or reading. 

 

 I’ve had some very unsuccessful performances, where my absolutely sparkling personality was not received as positively as I would have hoped, but I’m still yet to find an event that was anything but welcoming (even if I suspect they think very little of me).

 


Do you feel poetry (in whatever context you like - international, British, European, etc) is currently in a good or poor state?

People seem to keep insisting that poetry is dying or dead, but it seems to me there has never been more opportunity to hear, read, see, poetry and to get involved. There are events, symposiums, slams, readings, pretty much everywhere spanning huge age ranges, and other cultural differences. It may always be a niche artform (except for its seemingly necessary inclusion at weddings and funerals), but I find it hard to see how anyone who is actually paying attention to the voices emerging here and overseas can possibly say that it’s in a poor state. Poetry is the human urge to sing and in times that seem determined to attack the vulnerable, poetry is one of the areas that responds most strongly.


A few words on how you write, any routines, superstitions and such?

No superstitions, but I’m afraid I will make a confession and let you in on a secret I’m not proud of. I am someone who does take part in that most unpleasant and crass of writer habits – notebook fetishism. I love notebooks, but before I feel like I can ruin one with my ideas, I always have the urge to find some new quote (usually derisive not inspirational) to throw on the opening page. And then I spend a good week or so too terrified to actually write in it for fear of ruining it. Very quickly though, it descends into a patchwork of messy scrawl, doodles, and scribbled out ideas. Maybe it comes from that teacher in my first answer making me fall in love with the idea of a new notebook. I really should get a routine.

 
 
Source Material, by Steve Nash

The weavers threaded us bare,
when weavers were all flesh and finger, unburdened
by the shuttle's whirr and fizz.

They ruffled and stuffed our fabric
into muscle, flexing upward to fibre clouds;
ringed our digits with twine tourniquets.

They tugged our knolls into heads,
gazing over borders, crowned them with chimneys,
noosed our necks with waterways.

They drew blood from our iron veins,
like millers drawn through thoroughfares in subtle shifts,
until all was atrophy.

From The Calder Valley Codex
 

 http://starlighttocasualmoths.blogspot.co.uk/

 Simon Zonenblick, 1st June 2017


Can you give a brief description of your "poetry background", ie how you became interested in poetry as a reader and a writer? 


I always enjoyed stringing words together in vaguely rhythmic patterns, and loved the children's poetry and songs I encountered from the earliest age.  I didn't focus on aspiring to "be a poet", until later in my teens - as with so much in life, it seemed a grand aspiration I would one day like to aim for, but without the confidence to even secretly embark on it.  In the last few years of school we were introduced to Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night's Dream, and later MacBeth), and I found myself transfixed by the power and majesty of its language.  I was completely alone in this appreciation - all of my contemporaries deplored it.  No-one could understand much of the vocabulary, but this seemed to me then and seems to me now a bizarre reason to shun it.  How many of us, when listening to a great symphony or observing a great feat of science really comprehend what is happening?  I was content to immerse myself in the Universality and beauty of the poetry and was conscious of having stumbled upon greatness.  Unfortunately, owing to the general intimidation such things inspired in most other pupils, poetry and Shakespeare were typically shoved under the carpet, in a way that would never have happened with  subjects such as Mathematics - which is of virtually no value to teenagers or anybody else, but has the advantage of being utterly dull, and as such perfectly suited to the National Curriculum.  

 
You might think that with such lofty examples, a young aspiring poet would pack up and go home - but if anything I am happy that my starting gun consisted of such unobtainable heights, which took the pressure off!  Fortunately, in my closing year of school, we had a rather visionary English teacher, a poet herself, who introduced to the class (by then quickly dwindling due to expulsions and the rising tide of drug casualties) to the War Poets, Hughes, Heaney, a little poetry of bygone centuries, and certain more modern poets such as Stephen Spender and even John Hegley.  The first poem I remember really having to work at in forensic detail was The Horses by Edwin Muir - I was stunned by its multifaceted complexity, its symbolism and allusions, and the unexpected emotions that the poem evoked. Perhaps the two poems which had the strongest effects on me as a teenage reader were hugely different to each other in terms of their historical context, and style: Philomel, by Richard Barnfield (1574-1620), and the 1970's poem For Heidi with Blue Hair, by Fleur Adcock. Both explore the themes of the outsider, but while the former is philosophical and beautiful, the latter spoke to me on an everyday level, in a setting that was almost familiar.  Fleur Adcock's poem features a father having to ring his daughter's school, after she is sent home from school for having dyed her hair blue ("or at least ultramarine / for the clipped sides, with a crest / of jet-black spikes on top) owing to the fact that

...as the headmistress put it,
although dyed hair was not
specifically forbidden, yours
was, apart from anything else,
not done in the school colours
  
The poem targeted something of the very inflexibility of convention which I have always felt tends, rather than to foster harmony, to hold back individual and societal progress, and hits at the heart of much of what I have always found to be perhaps the worst aspect of misplaced authority: the tendency to obsess over things of no consequence, while matters of enormous importance are sidelined - in this case someone's education.


Which poets are important to you and why?

All of the aforementioned, obviously, but also a great plethora of poets far too numerous to list.   But to attempt a sort of chronology of poetry that has maybe set me on my personal course of reading and trying to write, I would say the Romantics played a big part - I came to them late, but the poetry had a similar effect to the Shakespeare described above. I have always had a great love of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and perhaps the poet whose work had the biggest single effect on me as an A-Level student (and continues to have an effect on me) was Philip Larkin.  In more recent times I have been delighted to discover the poetry of Kathleen Raine, Frances Horovitz, Ann Michaels, David Caddy, and many more contemporary poets.  The Australian poet Ross Kightly, whose collection Out of Bounds was recently published by Calder Valley Poets (by another fine contemporary poet, Bob Horne) has widened my approach to the world, indeed the Universe, through his surrealist poetry, while one poet I think of constantly, and read almost as often, is the great French poet Charles Baudelaire.  Not only was his poetry vivid, fabulously contrary, deliciously sinful, and very entertaining, but Baudelaire's own life was also the stuff of drama, and adds a certain element of excitement to the poetry (having bounced back and forth between the different viewpoints on this, I am of the opinion now that the poet's identity and own life is almost inevitably, in the case of personal or confessional poetry, present in the poem, and I find that to to approach a poem with ultra-objectivity once facts about its author are known, is to sort of dilute some of its authenticity - to me, at least.

 

How important is the history, landscape and general environment of the area you live in, to the poetry you write?

I live in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, so the environment and landscape are incredibly important: everywhere I go I am conscious that the Brontes, Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and so many others have all written such great poems inspired by and about it that I can never hope to equal them - reinforcing that lack of pressure I mentioned earlier! Many of us have learned part of our craft at the excellent Igniting the Spark writing workshops delivered in Halifax by Gaia Holmes, another hugely talented Calder Valley poet, so my time in the valley has been of direct relevance to my writing in that sense also. But I think as well, the fact water is so prevalent in the valley, and that our environment is so composed of both natural and historical sights, has had an undoubted effect on the subject matter of my poetry.  In the towns, the sense of familiar, reliable working class history, juxtaposed by those dark Satanic mills, can still be found to linger, while out into the countryside, there is an almost Pagan essence of history, and something on the margins of human history.  Something frankly quite primeval.

 


 How did you begin to get published as a poet, and how did your debut publication come about?

Simply through the painstaking process of finding magazines to submit to - I used to enjoy the ritual of doing this by envelope, it is less romantic now by email, but much more efficient!  I published my first collection, Little Creatures - Poems of Insects, Small Mammals and Micro-organisms, as the debut pamphlet of my small press, Caterpillar Poetry.
Have there been any landmark events or experiences in your life, or the lives of others, that have either motivated you to write, or have affected the general nature of what you have written?

I would tend to write more about my own experiences in prose, sometimes fiction, and it is often a lot of years before I have sufficiently made sense of an event, or begun to form my responses, unless the poetry is to be of the automatic writing kind which simply conveys instinctive images and reactions. I am likelier to write about big events in someone else's life - real or imagined.

 

 What kinds of poetry do you like - and which, if any, do you dislike?


I like almost all poetry in that I will happily grapple with the most difficult of texts, but I am not keen on poetry which tries too hard to be obviously clever, and likewise I get easily bored by "Moon and June" poetry, of the "Clinton's Cards" variety.
I know it is a cliche, but I am not terribly fond of contemporary political poetry, but not because of any thoughts I may have regarding its subjects: a good poem is a good poem, regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with the message it is intended to convey.  The problem for me is rather that today's political poetry is so predictable, and the point-scoring or ranting often comes at the expense of genuinely well crafted poetry - with the result that a lot of anthologies or open mic events, for instance, fail to actually stimulate or surprise, to spark new thoughts or tug at heart strings, or to challenge.  The journalist Nick Cohen has observed that, here in Britain, many of today's polemical writers regard themselves as brave crusaders for justice who "speak truth to power" because they level their criticisms at safe targets, such as elected Western governments, knowing no reprisals will result.  The same is true for much modern poetry I feel - as soon as I read that someone is regarded as a "subversive" poet who "challenges" social norms, I know I am about to re-tread the same territory I have visited innumerable times before.  I also fear that a great deal of poetry which explores social, political, ideological and ethical matters does so in ways which do not justice to the complexities of the issues, or the manifold perspectives they sometimes evoke.  One of the few exceptions to this rule is the Sheffield born poet Helen Mort, whose collection Division Street (Chatto, 2013) is a painfully realistic reflection on the legacy and scars of the 1984/5 Miners' Strike - a collection whose visceral, physical and image-riddled poems hit me as hard as the stone lobbed in '84, which hangs like a star over Orgreave - poetry which brings tears to my eyes.

Is there any over-riding "theme" or raison-d'etra behind your writing as a whole, or has it tended to go in different directions and areas of inspiration?

I have three main answers here - firstly I just want to record the fast-fading splendors of a world being rapidly destroyed by greed and destruction, but also I want to use poetry as a tool for striking back against these destructive forces.  At the same time, I like the thought of bringing some joy and humour into the world, and enjoy nothing more than penning slightly surreal, often daft poems purely for the sake of entertainment.  I feel there is a lot of darkness and anger in the world at present, and trying to lighten some of that load with a gentle joke or a silly song is surely no bad thing.  I concern myself with the little ways in which I might help to shine the odd light on otherwise unnoticed things - hence my poetry of insects.  Let's not forget I have been described as "the poet of slugs and snails."












 

 


 What do you make of the small magazines and competitions, and what are your experiences of the readings circuit?

The many different venues and events for readings make for a diverse scene, though I have little experience of competitions.   For a long time I was terrified of readings, even open mics, even though I have a background of youth acting and such, but in the summer of 2014 I just seemed to leap into it - thanks to Anthony Costello's Kultura Poetry night in Todmorden and a lot of wine - and since then I have generally enjoyed readings.

Do you feel poetry (in whatever context you like - international, British, European, etc) is currently in a good or poor state?

I think there is an abundance of absolutely brilliant poetry, but much of it goes unpublished and unheard because poets by their very nature are often reticent, and because the current trends in poetry seem to be veering more in the academic direction, whereby the poetry is so often of the intellectual rather than instinctive or aesthetic kind.

 A few words on how you write, any routines, superstitions and such?

Sadly I have none, as yet. Life is too busy.  I scribble things on paper when I ought to be doing sensible things like doing the hoovering or paying bills.  And I write on trains - but then, what poet doesn't?



GALLERY


Nuala Fagan, reading at the launch of her Caterpillar Poetry collection Not All Birdsong, at The Blind Pig, Sowerby Bridge, November 2015:

 


 From our evening at The Blue Teapot commemorating Leonard Cohen, March 2017 - Allan Green

   Atar Hadari

                                         



Poetry workshop at Morley Library, with pupils of Queenswood School, Morley, March 2017



 

 

Nicole Sky's cover illustration for Ayelet McKenzie's pamphlet Small Bear, published April 2017 by Caterpillar Poetry




CATERPILLAR POETRY:

 





LITTLE CREATURES:







 











Sowerby Bridge, home of Caterpillar Poetry:













With photographers Ian Parker and Helka Czhura, Mytholmroyd, early 2016



A HUMBLE STATION? BRANWELL BRONTE'S CALDER VALLEY YEARS:

Halifax Courier, June 2017:



Caroline Lamb reads her poem Rest and Regret, inspired by Branwell:



Genevieve Walsh among the ruins of St Thomas Church, Heptonstall:



Interviewing locals at Branwell's old haunt, The Lord Nelson, Luddenden:



Halifax Central Library: The audience at the premiere of A Humble Station? Branwell Bronte's Calder Valley Years, 15th June 2017:









































































  
































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