At Home with the Hoglets
Beginning with A Restricted View from Under the Hedge to Sticklebacks and on to The Cult of the Spiny Hog, along with a classic collection of inspirational writers, Mark Davidson and his poets are turning hoglets into must-have bookshelf desirables. Over a series of interviews I will ask the same 11 questions to a group of Hedgehog poets and Mark himself, and hopefully we’ll uncover what it takes to put pen to page, poem into print and pamphlet onto that prized position on every reader’s bookshelf.
And today in the hot-seat we have Patricia M. Osborne, joining us from West Sussex, England, who gets to watch ‘geese chevron across the blue’ and whose current collection is entitled Taxus Baccata…
Thank you Patricia for joining us today and giving us an insight into your world of writing and beyond. Let us begin…
1 Why did you write this collection, what is it about and what would you like the reader to take away after they turn the last page and find that perfectly prized place for it on their bookshelf?
The bulk of my collection was written as part of my MA dissertation project. I chose How can the myth, folklore and legend of trees be expressed through poetry? Experience the Myth, and I had a wonderful time exploring. Other poems such as ‘Seagull Sequence, Stratford Mums, and Sky Ballet,’ were also written as part of my MA journey in Creative Writing. I chose to write about these subjects because I love nature, particularly birds and trees, and the added dimension of mythical stories opened up a new world.
‘Stratford Mums’ was born when I stayed in a lodge on the River Avon and watched parent swans and their cygnets each day for a week. ‘Sky Ballet’ came after I was lucky enough to witness a huge murmuration in 2015 over the M40. The downside is when you’re on a motorway you can’t stop. And ‘Seagull Sequence’ was witnessed over a three-week period on my local lake. The line ‘white wings fall like tissue paper’ was exactly what it looked like. I could go on. Each poem has its own story to tell.
I’d like my readers to see what I see when they read my work. I am an imagist, inspired by Hilda Doolittle H.D Imagist. I would hope that my readers learn something from my poetry and are left wanting to read more as I am working on a full collection of mythical poems around trees, birds, and flowers.
2 My chillout time comes from cooking, endless hours lost in the kitchen along with a blaring radio of eclectic tunes and golden oldies, but I can only chill when the cupboards are well stocked with the basic ingredients. Firstly, what is your chillout routine, your escape from the pen and all the pondering and, secondly, what are the basic ingredients you need when it comes to settling down to write- what factors or futons make the best mix for your creations?
Chill out time – I like to walk around my local lake and watch Egyptian and Canada geese play, especially when the goslings are around. I love walking around woodlands checking out the trees and listening to the leaves rustling in the wind.
Photo of Worth Park Lake
At home, I like to play my piano, unfortunately my beautiful instrument has been neglected over the last couple of years so I have been trying hard to make time to practise at least a few hours a week. I play classical music. Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Faure to name a few. I wrote my first villanelle about the piano which can be read below. I also like to listen to Classical, Country, Tamla Motown and Reggae music. Art, photography and swimming are other hobbies of mine but sometimes it becomes difficult to fit everything in.
The black beast stands proud on the floor,
his exquisite profile radiates light.
A magnificent majesty we all adore.
The lip of his mouth is open to explore
inside; ivory white teeth, gleaming and bright
in the black beast that stands proud on the floor.
Black tails sits down and strikes a chord
or two, then soft raindrops descend and glide
along the magnificent majesty we all adore.
He extends his arm to turn over the score
as he practises his repertoire for tonight,
on the black beast that stands proud on the floor.
The shower’s wrath deepens to storm
whilst the pianist continues to recite
on the magnificent majesty we all adore.
The virtuoso in his glory performs and ignores
what’s around as he plays with pride,
on the black beast that stands proud on the floor,
His Magnificent Majesty we all adore.
My ingredients for writing a poem. Well first of all I need inspiration which luckily I don’t suffer a lack of. The park, lake and my music all offer this. I always begin a poem in a notebook and this first draft I see as the framework. From there I start looking at what imagery to include, alliteration, and assonance. Once I’m happy it’s nearly there, or so I think, I get feedback from other writers, and that is when my poem starts to come alive. I normally do at least five drafts but it can be anything up to twenty before my poem is finally finished. But then is any poem ever finished?
3 Sticking with the cooking analogy for a moment, do you follow a specific recipe for writing or do you throw all the ingredients into the bowl and see what happens?
Oops I think I’ve just answered that question above. I would add that when working from a photo prompt I tend to list the first things that come to mind and then explore rhyme and near rhyme, alliteration, metaphor etc. I’ve been known before to cut up individual lines and piece the poem together like a jigsaw.
4 In these days of social media, you’re nothing if you’re not seen and in these unsettling, uncertain days of Covid, seeing, listening and buying has moved online and readings and live launches in libraries and lounges are a rare happening or else there is a limit to the amount of people in attendance. How are you dealing with having new collections coming out right now? What is your way of being seen? How are you coping with the fact that being a writer today also requires a certain amount of spotlight, certainly more than the days of Ms. Dickinson?
It is the case of getting to my fans through social media and my website, whitewingsbooks.com. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are all brilliant medias to build up rapports. I have made many friends this way who have invited me over to their blogs for interviews or guest features and I’ve invited many over to mine. The Hedgehog Poetry Press has been a fabulous place to make new poet friends and in fact I have already featured a couple of hoglets on ‘Patricia’s Pen’ such as Raine Geoghegan, Gaynor Kane, and Margaret Royall has a slot booked for the second week in September.
Strange that you should mention Emily Dickinson as I consider her my mentor. She was my subject for my MA research module and it was eye-opening to find out more about her. For instance, while she was alive she barely had any work published because she didn’t want the editors changing her poems. In fact I recently wrote a poem about her which was published in Reach Magazine (Indigo Dreams Publishing) in Issue 263. The poem uses lines such as ‘broke the rules’ ‘a rebel’ ‘dashes’ ‘irregular metres’ ‘capital letters mid-sentence and slant rhyme. Emily Dickinson was certainly born ahead of her time.
5 Speaking of being seen and getting noticed, how important are acceptances from writing journals and how do you deal with the rejection which comes, no matter how much acclaim you have received? The reality we must learn is that not everyone is going to love our work, which can be heart breaking as we’re basically offering up our poetic babies to be loved, though no one loves a baby as much as the parent. So what keeps you going? Head up and move on or hide out and wait till the hurt passes? What encouragement do you have for others starting out?
As writers of course we want acceptance. We wouldn’t be normal otherwise. However, part of being a writer is becoming tough and learning to accept rejection. In the early days I’d have been very upset but now I just think okay, that’s one editor’s opinion. Another editor may love it, therefore send it somewhere else. It’s quite a buzz when you do get an acceptance and it was fireworks when my poetry pamphlet ‘Taxus Baccata’ was chosen as a winner with Hedgehog Poetry Press. I kept thinking there’d been a mistake. I think that’s another thing about being a writer, it doesn’t matter how many pieces of work we get published, there’s always that self-doubt that you’re not good enough. I’d like to add that the editor of Hedgehog Poetry Press, Mark Davidson, is a lovely man to work with, and I am thrilled with the way he presented ‘Taxus Baccata’.
6 If you had to pick one piece of your own writing that most represents you what would it be and why and would you like to share it or part of it here with us?
I am going to choose my poem ‘Sunrise Concertante’ another poem from my poetry pamphlet, ‘Taxus Baccata’. Why? It’s everything I love, birds, birdsong, water, trees and music with the musical terms. I am very lucky to witness ‘geese chevron across the blue’ most days when they go over my house.
Burnt golden rays break
the night-time sky,
beating on the Ouse’s slow crawl.
fan fragrance into the wind:
marsh marigolds shine.
chromatic glissando sweeps
towards the riverbank.
Swanking his red tuxedo, a robin
trills to join the recital
as elm silhouettes dance,
watching their mirror image.
The mistle thrush flaunts
his speckled belly. He takes his turn
to chant – introduces
hedge sparrows who chatter,
boast brown suits.
A cadenza call governs the concerto—
plump skylark makes his solo in the skies.
Shades of light peep,
geese chevron across the blue,
noses down, necks stretched, wings
spread wide. Honking their signal sound,
they climb the horizon and sky-fall
on to daylight’s iridescent waves.
7 Writing poetry, more so than any other writing form, is often the art of peeling back, removing the unnecessary, eliminating lines to uncover the hidden truth- how bare does it get for you? How difficult is it, at times, to tell your story within the lines and framework of a poem? How comfortable is it to be naked with so few words to cover over the possible discomfort or is it just a part of the process you get used to?
Strangely enough I don’t have a problem with this at all. Perhaps it is because I write fiction. In my early years my poetry was always life writing but after losing my mum in 2014 and starting my MA to help me fill that void, I turned to fiction. For my first assignment I wrote a sequence of poems on ‘Lost Identity’, because that’s how I felt. I didn’t know who I was. I found by writing these poems and giving the characters my pain, in some small way they took it away from me. Great therapy. I’ve written the occasional bit of life writing since but mostly I write fiction. As for getting rid of lines, I’m not precious at all, if it isn’t working then it has to go. After all, every word has to count. Of course I wasn’t always like this. I can remember an instance when I had just started my first creative writing course and a fellow student critiqued my work. I was so upset and refused to change my poem. I should have listened to her because she was absolutely right. Now my fellow writers know to give it to me straight. I think as writers we are so lucky to have this extra tool where we can get feedback on our work, yet the poem still remains ours.
8 When it comes to titles, our pieces as I said, are like children- each needing special consideration and attention- how do you name your poems, short stories, collections or novels- is the name a starting point, a midway consideration or a summation of the theme afterwards? Sometimes I worry when I come up with a really great title it might overpower the poem itself- is there a balance between the two?
My poems often start off with a working title because until I’ve written the poem I don’t know exactly where it is going to take me. More often than not, stanzas may be lost as that’s my warm up into the story. I mainly write narrative poetry and these stories are prone to be long so become sequences. Titles for collections can sometimes be difficult. When I completed my collection for my MA Dissertation the collection was titled ‘Spirit Mother’ but this didn’t work for my pamphlet. I therefore chose Taxus Baccata (Yew Tree) as the pamphlet contains more than one poem about the yew.
9 For myself, writing started in childhood as a purely cathartic process, even if I was too young to fully understand this, it was a way of self-analysing and coming to an understanding of the world and my place within it. How did you find your way to writing and what was it about the process that kept you hooked?
I’m like you. I’ve written for as long as I can remember. Although my writing then was quite different to how it is now. For me then, a poem was a piece of writing that rhymed. It was only when I began studying creative writing as part of my BA degree with the Open University in 2011 that I started to learn all the technical tools. To be honest, when studying the first module my writing became stifled. My creativity disappeared because I was too worried about getting everything right. I solved that by doing an online visual/concrete poetry course and it was wonderful to let my words loose on the page. Following this course, I returned to my advanced creative writing module for the degree and was equipped with new tools and my muse returned.
In my writing these days, I barely use end rhyme because most of the time it ends up sounding forced, but instead, I think of internal/slant/near rhyme. I remember a conversation with my late mum when I gave her the first anthology I was published in to read. She said, ‘But Trish it doesn’t rhyme.’ I explained it did, and told her to read it out loud and listen for sound echoes. My mum loved learning and this was no exception.
Going back to your question about writing, keeping hooked, for me it is quite simply that I need to write just as much as I need to breathe. If I don’t write I become lethargic and grumpy. I need my writing.
10 For the most things that fulfil me in life, the surrounding visuals are very important, and over the past few years the relationship between the photograph I take and poem I write becomes integral to the success of both- sometimes I never know which inspired the other more. What is your favourite accompaniment while creating a piece of writing?
For me it would have to be background classical music. I can’t work without it.
11 The more I write, the more it becomes my oxygen, the more my hand shapes itself to the shape of my favourite pen or now my iPhone which has replaced the laptop as the most at-hand instrument to record my thoughts, and these days I have to catch them quick or they are lost forever. As a kid I wanted to be a famous fashion designer and lived in 4 different countries working for various fashion brands, though the writing was always there. Since then, cooking and photography have come more into the forefront. What were your childhood dreams, what were the jobs that followed to fulfil them or just fill time and what, other than writing, would you consider doing in order to express yourself?
I would say writing for me is a requirement as is oxygen. Childhood dreams, I wanted to be a ballerina, I wanted to be an actress, I wanted to be a teacher, a librarian. What I did instead was marry young and become a mum by the time I was nineteen. Over the years I had office jobs, hotel receptionist, catering assistant, and a job in a building society which I loved. I started as a cashier and moved on to become an interviewer selling mortgages and other financial products, and on the other side of the coin, arrears counselling which could at times be quite depressive. I suppose now I am halfway there as a teacher with my role as an online poetry tutor for Writers’ Bureau.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts, insights and mental workings with us. It’s been a pleasure to dive inside your head from the comfort of our own armchairs. Before we depart, if you were to leave us with one line, one phrase, one lyric, a one-liner or a once-in-a-life-time admission, either yours or someone else’s, what would it be?
Hmm, one liner. I think that has to be Rupert Brooke’s opening to his poem ‘Heaven’ –
‘Fish fly replete in depth of June’ – that line has pulled me in to read the rest of the poem since I was around eleven-years-old. ‘Heaven’ is still one of my favourite poems.
Thank you for inviting me over to your blog, Damien. I’ve enjoyed our chat.
My pleasure Patricia, thank you. Drop back anytime. In the meantime, Patricia will soon be appearing in Nigel Kent’s Drop In series over at https://nigelkentpoet.wordpress.com/blog-2/
About Patricia M Osborne
Patricia M Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool but now lives in West Sussex. In 2019 she graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (University of Brighton).
Patricia writes novels, poetry and short fiction, and has been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. She has two published novels, House of Grace and The Coal Miner’s Son and her debut poetry pamphlet ‘Taxus Baccata’ was published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press in July 2020.
She has a successful blog at Whitewings.com where she features other writers and poets. When Patricia isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers and as an online poetry tutor with Writers’ Bureau.
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