Tag Archives: interviews

Pascale Petit’s The Treekeeper’s Tale

Pascale Petit has an interesting interview on her new blog.  Romanian MA student, Oana-Teodora Ionesco, interviews the French/Welsh poet about her latest collection, The Treekeeper’s Tale (Seren, 2008).
    
On her blog, Pascale has also posted photographs and accounts of her trips to Venezuela’s Lost World as well as an article about translating Yang Lian’s ‘The Valley and the End: A Story’.
    
For fans of Frida Kahlo, Pascale’s fifth collection, What the Water Gave Me – Poems after Frida Kahlo, is to be published in June 2010.
    
Read the interview by Oana-Teodora Ionescu here.
    
Visit Pascale’s blog and website.

Rob A. Mackenzie’s De-Cabbage Yourself! Tour

On 3 August 2009, Peony Moon is thrilled to be hosting Rob Mackenzie’s De-Cabbage Yourself! Tour. Rob’s collection, The Opposite of Cabbage, was published this year by Salt Publishing. 
 
Here’s what Bernadine Evaristo has to say about the volume:
  
“Rob A. Mackenzie’s vibrant, kaleidoscopic poetry displays a playful, witty and fertile imagination. But sometimes, just sometimes, it dips into a deep reflection on the frailty of our mortality such as in the exquisite poem, ‘In the Last Few Seconds’, which took my breath away.”
 
Read Barbara Smith’s review of The Opposite of Cabbage here.
   
The tour has already stopped at three destinations, so to catch up with Rob’s interviews take a look at the following blogs:
  
Nic Sebastian: Very Like A Whale
Marion McCready: Poetry in Progress
Ivy Alvarez: Dumbfoundry
  
The next stop on 22 June 2009 will be Nicolette Bethel’s Scavella’s Blogsphere.
  
For full tour details take a look at the De-Cabbage Yourself! Cyclone page and to read more about Rob and The Opposite of Cabbage visit his Salt author page. Do visit Rob’s blog, Surroundings, too.
 
See you on 3 August!

An interview with Annie Clarkson

Annie Clarkson is a poet, fiction writer and social worker who was born in Kendal in 1973, grew up in an East Lancashire mill town, and now lives in Manchester with her cat.  Her first chapbook of poems, Winter Hands, was published in 2007 by Shadowtrain Books.  She has short stories and prose poems published in Brace (Comma Press), Unsaid Undone (Flax Books) and in various magazines and online journals:  Dreamcatcher, Pygmy Giant, Mslexia, Succour, Transmission and Tears in the Fence.  She is currently working on a collection of ‘short shorts’.  Annie blogs at forgetting the time.
   
 
Annie, tell me something of your family origins and what you were like as a child.  will you describe growing up in an East Lancashire mill town?
  
My family is from North West England.  I lived in Cumbria until the early 80s.  It was a strange mix of experiences:  beautiful mountains in the Lake District, an affluent town, spending time with mum’s hippy friends, hanging out in my grandparents’ guest house, digging vegetables in the garden, and then all the lodgers that were taken in by the family:  old blokes who were alcoholics, on probation or homeless, and one young lodger who was a drug addict.
   
When we moved to Lancashire, it was a big change.  More working class:  rows of red brick terraces, cotton mills in the valley (one of them still working, the others abandoned), a CND camp of travellers on the hillside, working men’s clubs, cobbled streets.  There were more social problems, and even at age eleven I noticed the vast difference in the way people lived their lives.  I spent most of my time either out of the house, walking in the river, hanging around the mill yards, playgrounds, wasteland, fields on the edge of town, or in my room hiding away with books and writing stories.
   
Would you talk about your career as a social worker?  Does your work inform your writing?
  
I’m drawn to certain issues in my work and in my writing:  difficult relationships, dysfunction, violence, mental ill-health, loss, abuse.  I never write directly about my work.  My characters are imagined.  Their situations are imagined.  But, I’ve been exposed in my work to a lot of situations that hopefully help me to write in a more emotionally authentic way.
  
Have you considered creative writing tutoring and running writing workshops?

  
I hope to branch out into running workshops and classes later this year.  I have hundreds of ideas of how to prompt and inspire good writing, for beginners and more experienced writers.
 
I’m working on an idea with an artist friend of mine to run a regular workshop in Manchester incorporating art and poetry, so creative-minded people can work on developing handmade books, posters, and other things that combine image and text.  It’s in the early stages of development.  I hope it might lead to work as a tutor or perhaps more workshops.
 
Will you describe your creative space?
  
I write anywhere.  I often write in bed in one of many notebooks.  I write on the settee in my pyjamas.  I write at the table while I eat dinner.  Sometimes I write straight onto my laptop.  Other times I scrawl on a random piece of paper, an envelope, the back of a cinema ticket, a napkin.
  
I often write in cafes, or in a gallery, or on a bench in the park, in my car in a lay-by, or at writing workshops.  Writing is a creative place where I can disappear and enter into another life or lives for a short time.
  
In 2007, Shadowtrain Books published Winter Hands.  Tell me about the book’s themes and how you settled on the title.
 
Winter Hands is a short little book.  It’s a glimpse; a starting point for me as a poet.  The poems in the chapbook are trying to make sense of certain things:  relationships, dysfunctions, breakdowns, illness, the small nuances of life that are not easy to understand.  These are my first explorations into the spaces between prose and poetry, the boundaries, the grey areas.
  
I played with a number of titles.  Winter Hands seemed the most apt to me at the time.  There is something that connects in these poems between the sensuality of touch and the cruelty and barrenness of winter.
  
What feeling would you like readers to experience after reading your collection?
 
Hmm, that’s a difficult question.  If a reader experiences any kind of feeling after reading these poems, then wow.  It is difficult for me as a writer to imagine how a reader might respond.  I hope readers might find at least one poem that they can relate to on a personal level.
 
To be honest, I’ve been overawed by the few comments people have made.  One reviewer wrote:  “Her writing makes you ache long after you have closed the book”.  I had to pinch myself that someone had written that about my writing.
  
Would you talk about the ‘short shorts’ or micro-fiction collection on which you are working?
 
Ooh, yes.  I’m working on a collection of short shorts (short fiction of less than 1,500 words, but mostly less than 300 words).

When I say working on a collection, I mean I’m busy writing short shorts hoping that at some point later this year they might be gathered into a collection that is loosely concerned with loneliness.  It is a theme that has started emerging in my writing.  Actually, perhaps it has been in my writing for a long time.  It’s definitely present in Winter Hands.
  
My short shorts tend to be glimpses into the lives of different characters.  Many of these characters could be described as lonely, or disconnected, or experiencing moments in which they are utterly alone (in an existential sense) – and I don’t mean this is a dark, painful, isolated way.  I think being lonely can also be humorous or comforting for instance.
  
What do you enjoy and find challenging about working within different genres?
 
That’s an interesting question.  I write short fiction (in the widely understood meaning of the term), and I write free verse that most people would agree is poetry.  But mainly I inhabit the space in between these two genres by writing what has been described as prose poetry, flash fiction, micro-fiction, sudden fiction, versets, vignettes, short shorts.
  
I think people mistakenly use of these terms interchangeably.  I see flash fiction as being quite different to prose poetry.  (I use the term short shorts for both.)
  
I write some pieces that are condensed narrative fictions that follow (or subvert) generally accepted rules about storytelling (flash fiction, micro-fiction).  I also write prose poems, which seem to confuse people even though there is a long tradition of poets writing prose poems.
  
There are some wonderful definitions of prose poetry, which I have started collecting on my blog.  Have I answered your question?  Hmm, not really.  I guess my answer is that I love working between genres rather than within them.
  
Which writers have inspired you?
 
Many writers have inspired me.  Ones that immediately spring to mind are:  Raymond Carver, Charles Simic, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatjie, Pascale Petit, Anne Donovan, Joyce Carol Oates, Lorrie Moore, Anais Nin, Angela Carter and Tove Jansson.
  
Would you name a few of your favourite books?  Why are they important to you?
  

I have a dog-eared copy of Wuthering Heights, which is falling to pieces.  I first read it as a teenager.  It’s important to me because it was one of the first books I read that explores the taboos of human passion and emotion, and it is set in a very familiar landscape.
  
I have Pablo Neruda’s The Collected Odes.  I visit these poems often as I love the sense of wonder and awe he creates around ordinary objects such as socks, a tomato, or a bicycle.
  
I have a copy of L’Etranger by Albert Camus with all my A-Level notes in it.  It was the first book I read in French, and it captures an existential loneliness similar to that which I’m now exploring in my own writing.
  
What are you reading at the moment?
 
I’m reading a gorgeous collection of very short fiction called East of Here, Close to Water by an Australian writer called Josephine Rowe.  I mostly read short fiction.  It is one of my loves.

Roddy Lumsden interview: Poetry, Kate and me

 
“Of all the things one might expect to discuss over coffee with a Scottish (male) poet, couture dresses are not among them.  But then not many Scottish (male) poets have spent time on a fashion shoot with Kate Moss.
  
Roddy Lumsden, however, was asked by top photographer Nick Knight to be a kind of poet-in-residence while he shot Moss in statement couture dresses for New York’s V Magazine.  London-based Lumsden was to write several poems for Knight’s website, picking up on the theme of the shoot – wild flowers.  One of them, “Bloom”, would be read by Moss herself.”
 
Read Susan Mansfield’s interview with Roddy Lumsden in The Scotsman here.

Ouroboros Review, Issue Two: An interview and poems

The second issue of poetry and art journal, ouroboros review, is now online and includes an interview with me and a few poems. 
 
 
Here’s a brief extract from the interview:
   
It’s hard to say how living in South Africa has influenced my writing.  I find it difficult to think of “influences”; so many things combine to create voice and writing style.  If anything, I’d say direct influences have been contemporary Northern hemisphere poets:  American, Canadian and English.  In my early twenties, I fell in love with Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton’s work, and I adored Erica Jong’s chutzpah.
  
I admire the poetry of Louise Glück, Margaret Atwood, Marge Piercy, Pascale Petit, Vicki Feaver, Mary Oliver, Ted Hughes, T S Eliot, Mark Doty, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Derek Walcott, Pablo Neruda, Sharon Olds, Adrienne Rich, William Carlos Williams, Billy Collins and many more.  There are some wonderful South African poets:  Isobel Dixon, Rustum Kozain, Kelwyn Sole, Karen Press, Finuala Dowling, Joan Metelerkamp, Fiona Zerbst and Gabeba Baderoon, among others.

  
 
Issue two also contains Collin Kelley’s interview with Vanessa Daou, poetry by Iain Britton, Allan Peterson, Rebecca Gethin, Robin Reagler, Julie Buffaloe-Yoder, Paul Stevens, Dustin Brookshire, Carolee Sherwood, Deb Scott, Jill Crammond Wickham – and that’s just the beginning.  The eye-catching cover art of the full moon over Atlanta is the work of talented photographer, Meg Pearlstein.
 
Indefatigable editors, Jo Hemmant and Christine Swint, have once again done a sterling job.  The journal is beautifully laid out and produced. 
 
Read it here.

Shaindel Beers: “On the hood of a Cutlass Supreme” Tour

Shaindel Beers’ poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.  She is currently a professor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in Eastern Oregon’s high desert and also serves as Poetry Editor of ContraryA Brief History of Time (Salt Publishing, 2009) is her first poetry collection.  She is working on her second collection, The Children’s War.
   
 
Shaindel, tell me something of your family origins and what you were like as a child.
  
I’m not sure what a “normal” upbringing is in America, given our melting pot reputation, but I always felt I had it a bit odd.  My father’s background is Russian-Jewish, and he’s from Brooklyn, and my mother’s heritage is from nearly all of the countries of the British Isles, and she’s from a farming family.  So, I grew up in a very rural, farm town of fewer than two thousand people with a father who wasn’t like any of the other fathers I knew (not a farmer or a factory worker), and my siblings and I (with the exception of my sister Adria) all had traditional Jewish names – Shaindel, Aaron, and Avram.
 
I’m pretty sure like a lot of writers, I was a “weird kid”.  I was always making up stories and either writing them down or acting them out.  I had an imaginary world I would go to in the backyard, and the way to get there was to swing in the chair swing on my swing set and sing a magical song.  I won’t give the lyrics away, but I will tell you that the plant-life was blue and the sky was magenta.  I was also addicted to reading because it was another easy way to escape real life.  When the local library had the summer book club, I would check out a stack of books I couldn’t see over each time we went to the library, and the library was a popular summer destination because it was a free public place with air conditioning.
 
Will you describe the Argos of your childhood?  What were the main social, political and cultural influences of your youth?
 
The Argos of my childhood was probably much stranger than I realised at the time.  From the outside, and for a time, it was quite idyllic.  I would play at the park across the street from my house, where my mom could see me from the kitchen window, or my father and I would practice batting, catching, and throwing in the backyard.  If I was at my grandparents’ farm, I would ride my bike all day or I would go horseback riding with my friends who lived near my grandparents.
 
In 1984 and 1986, there were two murders that have still gone unsolved to this day, and they had a great influence on my childhood.  My mother became very protective, especially because the 1986 murder was of an eleven year old girl who was staying home from school with the flu.  I write about this in an essay which will be published in the spring issue of Contrary.  It’s an essay on what it was like to read a “true crime” novel, when I had known the victim.  Basically, my childhood went from being very idyllic to extremely repressive.
 
I think most of the influences of my youth were things that helped me rebel against the narrow scope of a rural town that was overwhelmingly Republican and oppressively religious, at least back then.  I listened to whatever music my friends listened to (and whatever was in at the time).  Some of these bands will date me and be really embarrassing, but a lot of time was spent listening to The Smiths, The Cure, and then a lot of Guns ‘N Roses and those sorts of “hair bands”.  I vividly remember reading Joseph Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla one day in in-school suspension, and that seemed pivotal.  I mean, what’s more rebellious than a lesbian vampire novella from 1872 (or reading it in in-school suspension)?
 
But regardless of how I tried to rebel, there was always something oddly Indiana about everything.  For instance, one of my high school boyfriend’s grandparents were Amish, and when he and I were together in our world, we were high schoolers getting into trouble (I think we actually met in detention) and listening to angst-ridden teenage music, and then when we visited his grandparents, we unloaded hay at an auction yard and visited their gigantic Belgian plow horse and looked at quilt patterns with his grandma.
    
When did your passion for words develop?
  
I’m sure very early, but I don’t know how early.  I know that before I could write by myself I would tell my mom stories and make her write them down.  When I was sorting some things years ago, I came across a slip of paper with something about a cat and a rat written in crayon on it, and I asked my mom what it was, and she told me I would make her write stories like that all the time.
 
We also didn’t have a lot of money – so little, in fact, that how my family lived is still a little bit of a mystery to me, but I’ve never asked my parents about it – but when we got those Scholastic Book Club order forms at school, my mom let me buy whatever books I wanted.  Other students would always laugh at how many books I got.
 
My mother wrote a local history book (one of those sold in county historical museums) when I was about seven, and I used to research with her by going to graveyards and copying down names and birthdates and death dates and “proofreading” pages of the book.  I doubt I was actually proofreading, but she let me pretend I was.  She also completed her Master’s degree sometime around this point, so I remember her always researching and typing (on an electric typewriter) and showing me how things worked – like changing the ribbon or using correction tape.  Thank G-d for computers!
 
My father always had some massive book from the library with him wherever he went, so I guess this was what I grew up thinking adults did.  My parents, despite whatever other flaws they had, were probably the best intellectual role models I could have had in the time and place I grew up.
 
Which writers have inspired and influenced you?

Wow.  This is a hard question.  I had the great fortune of studying with Richard (Rick) Jackson at Vermont College, and his views on associative poetry changed the way I write immensely.  He told me to read everything I was interested in, especially nonfiction, and to include all of that in my poetry – landscape, philosophy, physics etc.  I’m afraid I’m sort of a fickle reader; nearly any book I like that I’ve just read is my “favourite”.  But some books and writers that stand out are If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, which changed the way I think about writing.  One of my friends told me it would, and I thought he was exaggerating, but it really did.  It made me not take linearity so seriously.  Why tell things in order?  I was so blown away when things wrapped up in the end, that I actually hugged the book.  I didn’t want to let it get away.  Cosmicomics, also by Calvino, taught me to think outside of the boundaries, too.  In that story collection, there are characters that are molecules, nebular dust, all types of possibilities.

Anne Carson’s poetry does something that I want to accomplish, but I can’t even put into words what that is.  “The Glass Essay” in Glass, Irony and God, in which she interweaves Emily Bronte’s life with the speaker’s (I’m assuming her own) is amazing.  There is something about the economy of emotion which is almost like an out of body experience.  I think that Louise Gluck does something similar in a lot of her work.  There is some sort of elegance in talking about such emotionally-charged events in a detached way that it almost becomes more emotional for the reader because of the absence of emotion in the writer.  It is almost as if the reader’s emotion does the work because the writer leaves out a piece of the puzzle.
 
Anne Sexton has always seemed brave to me.  Just writing a poem entitled, “For My Lover, Returning to His Wife”, is brave, let alone what it says in the poem.  And she’s always surprising with images, especially in that poem, “I have been momentary. / A luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor” and that heartbreaking ending, “As for me, I am a watercolor. / I wash off.”  I think any woman, regardless of her romantic history, feels that ending.
 
Would you name a few of your favourite books?  Why are they important to you?

I’ve already named several, but let’s see …  When someone asks about favourite books, I generally think of prose.  For some reason, it’s hard to come up with favourite poetry collections, but I have favourite poems and poets.  As far as favourite books, it’s been a long time since I read it, but Carson McCullers’ The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter sticks with me.  I think it’s because each character is so beautifully tragic because they are so fully human.  Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America is a gorgeous short story collection.  The one time I can remember simultaneously laughing and crying while reading was the story “People Like That Are the Only People Here”.  And I love what Lorrie Moore does with alternate stories and characterisation in Anagrams.
 
Another thing I like that writers do is when they rework previous works – like retellings of myth, fairy tale, or Shakespeare’s plays.  I recently read David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle which is a retelling of Hamlet in mid-twentieth century rural Wisconsin and found that really interesting.  I really enjoyed Louise Gluck’s Meadowlands, in which she uses the figures of Odysseus and Penelope to explore the breakdown of (presumably) her own marriage.  I guess in the same vein, we could add Kate Daniels’ The Niobe Poems, where she takes the grieving mythological mother and transforms her into a farm wife whose son drowned in a river; Anne Carson’s The Autobiography of Red, where she takes the myth of Herakles and Geryon and turns it into a teenage same-sex love story, and, of course, Anne Sexton’s Transformations.  I think these stand out to me because there is a plot that holds the collection together, and the story holds up rather than individual poems or images staying in my memory.

I guess that was a roundabout way of answering, but I got to it.
  
*
  
Shaindel’s next virtual tour stop is Brandon Wallace’s blog, Julius Speaks, on 11 March.  Don’t miss it.
  
All “On the hood of a Cutlass Supreme” tour dates are here.
  
Order A Brief History of Time here.

“On the hood of a Cutlass Supreme” Tour

I am very happy to be hosting Salt author, Shaindel Beers, on the first leg of her virtual book tour, “On the hood of a Cutlass Supreme”.
 
On Wednesday, 4 March, I’ll be chatting to Shaindel about her family origins, growing up in a farming town in rural America, writing influences and favourite books.  We would love you to join us on the road for a scenic drive under the Midwestern sky.
 
Shaindel’s tour stops include a wonderfully eclectic range of blogs:
 
Julius Speaks (Brandon Wallace)
 
me~tronome (Larry Sawyer)
 
Michael Kimball
 
Blogalicious (Diane Lockward)
 
gravity and light (Chella Courington)
 
The Man with the Blue Guitar (Vince Gotera)
 
What to Wear During an Orange Alert? (Jason Behrends)
 
Blue Moon Northeast (Meg Harris)
 
The Tao, Ow and Wow of Jesus Crisis (John Burroughs)
 
Holy Land (Rauan Klassnik)
 
Zinta Aistars Prose and Poetry
 
Being and Writing (Kate Evans)
 
 
For tour dates, please revert to Shaindel’s Cyclone tour page here.
 
We look forward to seeing you on 4 March to kick off the Cutlass Supreme Queen’s road trip!

An interview with Padrika Tarrant in The New Review

My interview with the inimitable Padrika Tarrant is in The New Review, Issue 20 (Winter/Spring 2009) on Scottish author Laura Hird’s website here.

Padrika’s novel, The Knife Drawer, is to be published later this year by Salt.

It’s not what you write about but how you write about it

 
Last night, I read Philip Larkin’s interview in The Paris Review Interviews, Volume 2 (Picador, 2007).  Larkin wasn’t the most amenable interviewee (he was downright cranky at times), but his answers make for interesting reading.
 
The interviewer, Robert Phillips, said:  “Davison also sees your favourite subjects as failure and weakness”, referring to Peter Davison, an American “poet-critic”.
 
Larkin replied:
 
“I think a poet should be judged by what he does with his subjects, not by what his subjects are.  Otherwise you’re getting near the totalitarian attitude of wanting poems about steel production figures rather than “Mais où  sont les neiges d’antan?”  Poetry isn’t a kind of paint spray you use to cover selected objects with.  A good poem about failure is a success.”

Similarly, I’ve read reviews in which poets are berated for being “too personal”, for writing about menstruation, menopause, infertility or masturbation.  These topics make some people uncomfortable, but surely nothing should be taboo.  What is poetry, if not personal?  Who are the final arbiters of what is and isn’t acceptable?  It’s subjective, a matter of personal taste.  A poem should be judged on merit, on whether it is well written, not on its subject matter.   How boring it would be if all poetry toed the line.  Vive la différence.

Alison Brackenbury’s ‘After’

Alison Brackenbury’s seventh poetry collection, Singing in the Dark (Carcanet), has one of the loveliest covers I’ve seen.

A few days ago, Alison sent me a short poem from Singing in the Dark.  In her words, heartsease is “a tiny pansy which grows at the edge of cornfields … delicately streaked with palest yellow and violet.  But it combines beauty with the toughness of a weed.”

After
Alison Brackenbury
 
You know we are not lost. Nothing is lost.
The smallest crinkled petal of heartsease
Crumbles to ground. The wind that sweeps each face
Brings, wild with sun, your mother as a girl,
His vanished brothers, holds an endless place
For dogs, cats, ponies, robins that she fed.
Speak, as you must, of every fault and flight.
But never say of me that I am dead.
 
from Singing in the Dark (Carcanet)
 
Alison Brackenbury talks to Paul Stevens in The Chimaera (Issue 3) here.
 
Read nine poems in The Chimaera here.

Four of Alison’s poems in Horizon Review here.

Read more of Alison’s poetry on her website.

Alison’s author page on the Carcanet website.

Charles Bainbridge’s review of Singing in the Dark in The Guardian here.

Order your copy of Singing in the Dark here.