You have several published poetry collections including, This is not a Spectacle, The Trees Whispered (Origami Poetry Press) and Digging Holes To Another Continent (Clare Songbirds Publishing House). Would you share with us a couple of your poems and walk us through the ideas behind them?
Yes of course! This is not a Spectacle (second edition) was published in February of this year and is very much the story of why I started sharing my writing- the book opens with a car crash, an event which took place the day before I left for university in 2017, and which lost me my grandma:
fear tastes like rust. blood and metal.
waiting for you, university bags.
smells like animal saliva, like curdled sweat.
After the phone call I started running,
blindly seeking hospital bed,
weeping on the nurse I had just met.
underwater pressure bubble
apologetic words caressed my head
broke like a wave
swept me out to sea:
No specialist unit.
fear is inflating
Tried to forget the sound
fluid rising and choking lungs,
Tried to forget tears and last words:
I have tried to be strong.
The book explores where private grief meets public spectacle, but also stands as a tribute to everything about my character which I can tribute to my grandma, such as my strength and my feminist values.
With Digging Holes To Another Continent, (published by Clare Songbirds New York) I was exploring a Christmas spent in New Zealand, a completely new experience for me but at the time when the whole family needed to heal – it was a very Shakespearean celebration because we had travelled for the wedding of my uncle ( the first love of his life so a massive deal to all of us), but after the death of Grandma Maureen, who had suffered with Alzheimer’s and dementia for 12 years -although I don’t touch on that experience in the collection overtly, it very much underpins the collection, a feeling of grief but also relief. I was able to explore the landscape and the wild nature of New Zealand was healing in itself:
A few years from now
a huge wind will claim back the carefully sculpted scoops of road
and the branches that wilt lazily like dog’s tongues will
fall into the sea
one by one
on a suicide mission
and take up new roots in the sea bed
(a feast for fish)
and nature will claw back the cities
piece by piece
demolition to terracotta rubble
and the only sound left will be frantic insect feet
on crisping leaves.
Congratulations on your forthcoming poetry collection, published by Knives, Forks and Spoons. What themes have you explored in this new collection? When will it be available?
Thank you! This is the collection I am most proud of to date. It explores the with state of becoming an adult but feeling ill-equipped to deal with the loneliness that comes with that, and also my experience of the aftermath of sexual assault, while being very far away from friends and family. It very much looks at the value of a woman’s body in today’s society. It is due to be released in August 2020.
You are editor of the wonderful Fly On The Wall Press. Can you give us a glimpse into your working day? What are the best and worst parts of being an editor?
I think all publishers will tell you that they both love their job and that they find it exhausting! I love that I create a season, finding gaps in the market I believe need to be addressed. I believe that words have the power to change opinion and that’s what I am aiming to do especially with my anthologies, but also with my chapbooks, representing voices which I believe are not currently at the forefront of society. The worst part as of course when writers cannot separate themselves from their own writing-rejection is never personal, it’s simply about what you have written and the style of it.
As well as offering author services, you also give talks and run workshops in schools. How do you structure your workshops? What subjects have you engaged in with the pupils?
I’m enjoying giving talks in schools currently, but as a publisher it is fairly new to me- I used to be a drama practitioner, however, so I am used to giving workshops creatively! I like to challenge young people by setting the standard of my workshop high, and I am often surprised by the result. I like to give examples of poets whom I admire, but I also like to give an example of where I myself have done the exercise as with students, I wouldn’t like them to do anything which I would not be able to do myself. Primarily, I am engaging the pupils in creative writing about global warming, themed around the Planet in Peril anthology, although I really enjoy answering questions on getting into publishing as an industry.
Please Hear What I’m Not Saying is a fundraising, mental health themed anthology which was runner up in the Saboteur Awards 2018. Tell us more.
Yes! Very much how I started getting the publishing bug and continuing on. The book features 116 writers globally writing on a wide range of mental health experiences-it was really important that I featured as many poems as I fell in love with because there really is no universal experience, and readers will connect with different poems. The book’s profits go to UK mental health charity, Mind, and so far we have raised just under £600. The anthology is available from Fly On The Wall Poetry
Tell us about your experience in taking part in the ‘Sex Tapes’ at the Leeds International Festival.
I think we can all agree that there is little to no money in the arts and that it needs to be funded more, so I was very excited to find a callout for the festival, which paid! The festival opened with ‘Sex Tapes’ and I was scheduled to go on first – very much before the audience and had enough alcohol to process poems on the female orgasm… but that was what I had been paid to write about, so there you go! It was a lot of fun, and there was absolutely no shame in the event- it was very much a positive experience, with the profits going to a charity in Leeds which helps sexual violence survivors. So although the evening was light-hearted and comedic, the message was heartfelt and performers like the lovely Roz Weaver were not afraid to touch on the darker side of their experiences. Thank you to Eleanor Snare for organising such an important evening.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading Songs for the Unsung by Grey Hen Press. I met the editor, Joy, recently, and we agreed that the anthology was a sister book to Fly on the Wall Press’ Persona Non Grata, so I’m enjoying reading her choices and the exploration of social exclusion.
Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I used to compete for Ballroom and Latin with my university- but before university I barely even danced! I thought I had two left feet and now I love it.
What’s next for you? What plans have you got?
I have an exciting performance scheduled in July, for which I will be performing poetry on the subject of women in space. I am hoping to put a book together about these amazing women working for NASA. For Fly On The Wall, 2020 will see a ‘shorts’ season – a short story published in A6 bound form, every 2 months, on subscription to your door!