This post is part of Blog Tour, a series of posts by poets and fiction writers, in which they respond to four questions about their writing process. Roy Marshall kindly invited me to participate and here is a link to Roy’s blog, where you can read all about how his fine poems are written. At the end of this post I’ll introduce you to three more writers who are going to do the same and who knows it could go on forever!
1) What am I working on?
I’m working on poems, putting a collection together, and doing various other small projects: a poem about a constellation, a lecture on sound for The Poetry School and a PhD.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well it’s certainly less well-known than others of its genre. It’s probably best if I don’t self-evaluate (except in private), and instead wait for others to tell me what, if anything, I do differently.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Poems are cool and I don’t really even know why, so that’s why I write them. Plus, even though I think writing fiction is a good idea, poetry is the number one Art form; poems are significant. Poems have the potential to be powerful, to make us feel something and I like that about them. It’s exciting to create a small thing that does a lot, can do more than you can even hope sometimes. Of course, most of them do nothing much, but there’s optimism every time you are writing a new one. The investment in time is less, so if something isn’t successful, you can just shrug it off; if you screw up a novel, well for me, there would be no coming back from that. If your creative confidence is easily hurt then poems are the way to go I think; although the poet has to deal with so many more failures in a lifetime than a novel writer does. I need to think some more about this…
4) How does your writing process work?
To write I have to feel inspired and enthusiastic about the world, if I’m feeling bad I shut down and can’t write anything. So I’m usually on the look out for something to get excited about. The main source is music, which I listen to all the time: at home, walking, or in the car, and nothing makes me want to write more than songs (half of my poems were composed in supermarket car parks or at the side of the road). It’s often a transient feeling but if I listen to a song that produces an effect upon me, then I get it into my head that I can write something brilliant and I feel a creative energy, not much else ever makes me feel like that. I get obsessed with words in songs, changes in pace, sound patterns or pauses and try to recreate them in poems, I’m not trying to recreate the song but recreate the feeling that the song produces in me. It’s impossible, and I’ve never succeeded, but it’s an aspiration. I don’t think poems and songs are the same or that song lyrics are poetic or anything like that, although some isolated lines are important to me. As much as I love poems, I’ve never read a poem that excites me as much as live White Stripes, or some of the other music I love. Music gets into your heart or your head or wherever it is that it hits you, and maybe it’s the same place that poems come from, I don’t know, but for me it seems to help.
Music, poems, words, photographs are all things I use to trigger my imagination and the writing process. I think the imagination is the driving force for a poet, I don’t believe there is one thing that a poet can focus on that is more important. Ideas are everywhere but always in disguise, if they aren’t in disguise I think you have to be suspicious of them. If I have no ideas I just find four or five random words and write a poem around them, some of my favourite poems have been written using this method. I believe in the power of the unconscious mind, it’s a clever little critter, and it knows miles more than we do. I don’t have a process or routine in terms of how or when I write or with what, I do different things on different days and on a lot of days I do nothing at all.
Finally, I’ve asked three fellow writers, two great poets and a fantastic short-story writer, to share their thoughts about writing, click on their names and you will be transported:
MARTIN KRATZ lives and writes in Manchester. His poems have appeared in The Rialto, Magma, The Bow-Wow Shop, The Interpreter’s House and The Moth. He is currently co-editing Mount London, an anthology of essays for Penned in the Margins.
VALERIE O’RIORDAN is an Irish short-story writer based in Manchester, England. Her fiction has been published widely; in 2010 she won the Bristol Short Story Prize, and she has twice (2010, 2013) been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. In 2013 she was awarded a grant from the Irish Arts Council to work on a collection of interlinked stories. She is currently a second year PhD student at the University of Manchester, where, amongst other things, she edits The Manchester Review.
REBECCA AUDRA SMITH has recently graduated with a Masters in poetry from Manchester Metropolitan University. Her poetry is published in Loose Muse Anthology 2013 and she is a third of Stirred Feminist Poetry collective.