One of the troubles with keeping an intermittent-at-best blog is that one doesn’t get invited to participate in interwoven social media experiments such as blog tours very often – but when blogger extraordinaire Katy Evans-Bush, whose Baroque in Hackney is always a joy to read, comes calling and insisting, one does not say no, even when it’s a Writing Process blog tour, which is mildly intimidating to say the least.
If you click on the link above, you can follow the tour backwards through all the taggers (and eventually sideways and upwards, and possibly even second on the right and straight on till morning) starting at Katy’s illuminating essay (she has more essays coming in book form next year from the wonderful Penned in the Margins, and a couple of books of poetry you really should investigate – my favourite being Egg Printing Explained from Salt). The tour is also illuminating, and varied and fascinating, especially as everything written comes from four unvarying questions. Speaking of which:
What Am I Working On?
I am currently working on recovering from writing a prose book celebrating Laurie Lee in his centenary year. I don’t mean recovering in the sense that Ted Hughes meant when he suggested, in one of his collected letters, that he believed that writing prose had contributed to his cancer. I broke both my arms last July, ten days after signing the contract on a book that had to be in for printing, proofing etc in January. The leisurely five months I had hoped for was whittled down to two and a half as I re-planned the book in my head whilst recovering. Even so I was late. It is faintly miraculous that the book, A Thousand Laurie Lees, came out at all.
This doesn’t mean I am not working on anything, however. I am in the midst of thinking about, and reading for, two poetry projects. The first is a continuation of and expansion upon my relationship with Judaism and family, begun in a pamphlet I released a decade ago, Next Year in Jerusalem. The second is an as yet much less firmly placed, but equally fascinating for me, potential project looking at farming and landscape.
In the summer I’ll be reading more poems than it would be wise or helpful to shake a stick at, as a judge for the Manchester Poetry Prize alongside Clare Pollard and Adam O’Riordan, as well as for the Bare Fiction magazine poetry prize. It will be a pleasure to wrench my head from the world of prose and dive headfirst into that much verse, even if it is a little daunting to be expected to pass judgment on what I hope will be a vast amount of quality writing.
How Does My Work Differ From Others in its Genre?
I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by poets of all stripes and flavours, in the multilateral and collaborative world of poetry, music, art and theatre that my father has promulgated via New Departures and Poetry Olympics over the last fifty and more years. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by the music of language in all its forms since childhood, be it the Beatitudes of Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, the punk performance nous of John Cooper Clarke and Attila the Stockbroker, the precision poetics of Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, Anne Stevenson. I don’t belong to any one school of poetics and don’t want to. I am happiest when they are all working together. I write for the page and the stage equally; a poem should work on both. I don’t tend to look for differences (which too often lead to divisions) though sometimes they find me anyway. I prefer to seek out mutuality and work from there.
Why Do I Write What I Do?
Because I have to. I started writing as a child, a natural instinct when one has parents and step-parents who write – it was sometimes the only way to keep up. I learned to write after my mother died, as a form of communication with her, and the obsession-driven impetus of the writing life grew out of that.
Poems arrive like an orgasm – the slow foreplay of reading, thinking, walking, note-taking and living that accumulates until the brain and the fingers can no longer control the emotion and the poem comes out, ready for the lingering eye contact and post-coital sweat of editing.
Prose is little different, but for the fact that, instead of going out walking quite so much, one spends a lot of time in darkened rooms holding it by the hand.
How Does My Writing Process Work?
Running. Hiding. Walking into the woods. Pottering. Drinking tea. Reading. Drinking wine. Contemplating watching Breaking Bad. Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer instead. Failing to tidy up the kitchen. Reading. Going for a cycle ride. Reading. Sitting at the day job thinking about running, hiding, walking into the woods, pottering, drinking tea, reading, drinking wine, watching Breaking Bad or Buffy, the state of the kitchen, reading, going for a cycle ride, reading and the necessity of the money the day job brings in.
There is then an intense rush of activity when the deadline looms and suddenly everything that has been buzzing gently along beneath the surface explodes into life.
Much the same, but with fewer deadlines and more excitement when the word-gasm hits.
The three poets I have chosen to tag and continue this tour are:
Bethany W Pope, an American poet based in Swindon, whose poetry can be found in A Radiance and Crown of Thorns.
Helen Moore, an ecologically-minded poet whose debut collection Hedge Fund has been published by Shearsman
Barry Tench, based in Shrewsbury.