THE MINDS BEHIND THE MADNESS- THE HEDGEHOG POETRY PRESS- GAYNOR KANE

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.

Today we have with us the author of Memory Forest and Venus in Pink Marble, Gaynor Kane.

Thank you Gaynor for joining us here, putting your buns and shimmy on hold for a moment and giving us a brief insight to your story…

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?

Thanks for the opportunity to have a chat about writing, Damien!

My latest book Venus in Pink Marble is a large body of work covering 5 years of writing and it is a reflection on my personal history and heritage. The collection is divided into three parts, to give it order. The first section is a selection of poems about historic events, my ancestors and the heritage of my hometown, Belfast. The middle portion takes the reader on a narrative journey from a more autobiographical point of view, poems about childhood, my family and life experiences. The final section is a collection of poems about artwork or inspired by news stories. There is a range of styles, subject matter and forms and I hope that every reader will find something that resonates with them.

I think the pretty pink cover alone, is enough for it to earn a place on any bookshelf, credit for which goes to Dave Goring at 2789 Graphic Design based in Newcastle, County Down. I just love how this book looks and feels. Mark Davidson at Hedgehog Poetry Press did a great job of typesetting and the printers have excelled themselves with nice off-white paper and petal pink end papers.

2 What is your chillout routine, your escape from the pen and all the pondering?

I enjoy doing lots of things, like baking (buns and cakes), painting (watercolour and acrylics), photography while walking the dog and Zumba (my favourite move is the shimmy). As I have a full-time office job, I must also fit writing into my leisure time and that can be difficult.

3 Do you follow a specific recipe for writing or do you throw all the ingredients into the bowl and see what happens?

Would you have a recipe for self-belief that you could send me, Damien?

I would love to be able to rustle up a daily loaf of that. I find it hard to just sit down and write, because for me, that is always a recipe for self-sabotage. I like the pressure of a workshop and find I always take something away from them. I know people say you shouldn’t wait for inspiration to strike but if I don’t have the motivation of a challenge or a deadline, I often find I can’t write unless I’m inspired. In my defence, I don’t always have a lot of spare time, what with having my day job, looking after the family and all the other commitments I have.

4 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?

My poem ‘Trussed’ is very personal and sums up some of the things I’ve been through. It’s a very honest piece of writing which begins with the story of my traumatic birth, having what used to be called a ‘club’ foot and moves into an unhappy childhood. Have a read:

Trussed

I read a poem about battle scars, thought how lucky
I am, to have parchment skin, an unmarked body.

A baby, reluctant, sucked out, bald head blistered
like toad skin; leaving the womb half-hearted.

Misshapen, club-footed, forced to wear a splint
moulding pliable bones from bent to straight.

Being restrained was my toddler bedtime
routine, bound in boots, hide straps, brass buckles;

my mother transformed to woodworker,
as if steam-bending a strip of tear-soaked birch.

Sun-bleached walls protected me in daylight,
sitting on drab slabs behind steel spindles;

I was an x-ray, grey, looking out at a rainbow,
watching others play, imagining a friend.


I grew into my own skin, cast off confinement
shackled no longer I became less wooden;

My scars weren’t physical,
they were invisible;

a lover couldn’t tell the difference, but I know
that it was my right that was remoulded

and although almost straight, it is dumpier,
branded at the ankle with a paradoxical beauty spot.

5 Writing poetry, more so than any other writing form, is often the art of pealing back, removing the unnecessary, eliminating lines to uncover the hidden truth- how bare does it get for you?

I’m finding that it gets slightly easier but it’s still uncomfortable sharing very personal thoughts, feelings and experiences. I find too, that even if a poem is fictional many readers assume that it is autobiographical. But I can’t be the sort of poet that never writes from a personal point of view.

6 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?

Well, for a long time Venus in Pink Marble had the working title Titles are Hard so I don’t feel qualified to answer this! Other working title were: Paradoxical Beauty, Six to One (and half a dozen of the other) and One Part Sunlight.

One practical piece I will offer is when deciding on a title for a collection do a search on Amazon and Goodreads to see how many other books have the same title. If people are searching for your book, you want it to be at the top of search results. The title for my pamphlet Memory Forest wasn’t decided on until after I had the cover art and I reread the manuscript with the artwork in mind.

9 How did you find your way to writing and what was it about the process that kept you hooked?

I found my way into writing by accident, at the end of a degree in Humanities with the Open University. I completed my studies with a creative writing module and discovered that other people thought I was good at it.  I’ve carried on because I’ve enjoyed the process. I’ve also made so many friends who encourage, support and motivate me to continue.

8 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?

At school, I thought I’d like to go into advertising but I don’t think I knew what that entailed and no one at my high school tried to help me achieve that dream. The closest they got was to send me to Bradbury Graphics, a large stationery and arts & crafts shop in Belfast’s Shaftsbury Square. I applied for all types of jobs; from assistant curator in the Ulster Museum to a lab technician for Neill’s Flour and ended up as a receptionist in a small Structural Engineers, at 17 as part of the Youth Training Programme. I went on to be an accounts clerk and relief telephonist at the head office of Stewarts and Crazy Prices Supermarkets before becoming a Civil Servant. I met my husband in my first job and by the time I was 25 we were building our own house in a little village on the Ards Peninsula. We did a lot of the unskilled work ourselves, from pouring foundations to insulating the attic. My daughter was born when I was 30 and when she went to nursery school, I fancied myself as a Sarah Beaney type. I took a career break and bought a house to renovate. At that time, as if I didn’t have enough to do, I also took on a part-time job in B&Q along with a part-time job as a survey interviewer with the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. I did those at the weekend and renovated the house while Tara was at Nursery.

I’ve always had hobbies which I start and then stop. I’ve done calligraphy and written my cousins wedding invitations. I’ve also done glass painting and continue to paint with watercolours and acrylics.

As mentioned above, at forty I decided to do a degree with the Open University. I finished my BA (Hons) with a creative Writing module and really enjoyed writing. I had had post-natal depression after my daughter was born and I began by writing some pieces about that and found it a really cathartic process.

Of course, being a writer brings other jobs with it as you learn how to promote yourself and sell books. Now I find myself being a combination of website designer, salesperson, personal assistant, PR manager, graphic designer and social media manager.

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?

I think Oscar Wilde is the king of one-liners and so I give you this:

“Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.”

Links

Find Gaynor Kane here…

THE MINDS BEHIND THE MADNESS- THE HEDGEHOG POETRY PRESS- SUE BURGE

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.

Today we have with us poet and creative writing and film studies tutor Sue Burge, based in North Norfolk, whose 2nd collection with The Hedgehog Poetry Press collection is entitled The Saltwater Diaries.

Thank you Sue for joining us here and sharing your work and its process with us…

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 Saltwater Diaries explores my relationship with the sea.  I’ve always been quite obsessed with the sea but hadn’t written about it that much.  My first two collections, In the Kingdom of Shadows, and Lumière were influenced by my love of film and are more urban overall.  Three years ago we moved to a village just outside Cromer in Norfolk and our house is a seven-minute walk from the sea.  It’s fair to say that the poems in The Saltwater Diaries came out in one massive tsunami!  As well as poems about seascapes and sea-swimming there are poems about local legends such as Black Shuck, the devil dog who inspired Conan Doyle’s famous Hound, as well as a couple of central poems about a misdiagnosis for a medical condition which I explore via watery images.  There are poems inspired by Shakespeare (Ophelia, The Tempest) and others which celebrate the diversity of the local landscape with its fords, saltmarshes and haunting sounds.  I would like those who read this collection to feel that they have been taken to a world that is both familiar and alien and to see the sea with new eyes.

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?

Wow, this is a ridiculously hard question because I love writing and teaching creative writing so much that my chillout time seems to be woven in to my non-chillout time!  So, I love cooking, reading (poetry, novels and memoir), the cinema (I’m also a film studies tutor as well as a creative writing tutor and sometimes combine the two by teaching “Inspired by Film” poetry courses).  I love art galleries, ballet, opera, theatre (really missing that at the moment!)   I also love cycling, swimming and long walks.  But.  While I am doing all this I am usually writing poems in my head!  I find I create when I’m having a break from creating.  So if I’m swimming or walking then I’ll start to get lines coming into my head.  Last week I lay down to do a body scan – a kind of extended yoga relaxation.  Forty minutes later I stood up with a poem fully written in my head.  One winter I’d been given a commission to write a First World War poem – in the middle of a path alongside the saltmarshes I could be seen with a tiny notebook and pen, held in frozen fingers, and using my tall and long-suffering husband’s back as a table as I shouted “Eureka!” and wrote down the first lines of a poem to fit the commission.  I quite like noise when I write and often go to local cafes to scribble away at first drafts.

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?

I guess the latter – I throw down my ideas and then see what form the poem wants to take.

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?

I have an extensive mailing list of people who are interested in writing and who have attended my courses, so I’m very lucky in that respect.  They are a loyal and open-minded bunch and are always interested in what I’m doing.  I think it’s hard to get poetry books into bookshops and it’s also hard to get a reasonable audience for signings and readings, even via open mic evenings.  Generally, I haven’t been phased by the fact that I’ve got a pamphlet coming out in these strange times.  I’m doing a Zoom launch and I’ve already got a lot of people on my list to send books to as well as nearly 80 coming to the launch.  I do a lot of networking, it’s essential as a freelancer, so I’ve got a lot of poetry contacts.  I do a lot of courses as a student as I find it essential to put myself in that situation and keep in touch with how my own students might be feeling.  I love being taught and have met so many wonderful people through doing poetry courses and going on residentials.  I remember my knees literally knocking together the first time I did an open mic slot, but I really enjoy them now and love doing readings and putting together the story I want to tell the audience.  Perhaps I’m comfortable in the spotlight because I’ve been teaching for so long.  I still get a bit nervous, but that’s a good thing as it keeps you on your toes, keeps that adrenaline pumping and means that you care.

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?

I’m quite tough-skinned and resilient so I’ve never really minded rejection.  Practically the first poem I sent out was accepted by Mslexia so I thought it was going to be easy to get published.  Many rejections later I realised I’d had beginner’s luck, but that luck had given me the confidence to persist.  A magazine that rejects you one month may take your poem the next.  It’s not easy to be an editor, you have to think of the overall feel of a magazine as well as the quality of the individual poems and there are a lot of brilliant poets out there, all sending to the same magazines.  I don’t envy competition judges, it’s so hard to choose and when I’ve done this myself I always end up with loads of commended/honourable mentions as I can’t bear to not let people know how highly I thought of their poems.  For anyone starting out I would corrupt the words of the Borg (yes, I’m a Trekkie too!) and say “Persistence is most definitely not futile” – keep going and one day you will find your place – it’s a diverse, warm and welcoming world.

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?

Most difficult question so far!  I think my poetry shows different aspects of myself and my interests so it’s really hard to pin down just one aspect which most represents me.  There’s a poem I wrote which is in Lumière called “Blue” in response to Krysztof Kieslowski’s film of the same name.  In the film, Juliette Binoche is consumed by guilt and grief having survived the car crash that killed her daughter and husband.  After a swim in the Pontoise public pool in Paris she goes for a coffee and this poem describes that moment, which is a haunting one in the film.  The poem really seems to chime with people whether they know the context or not and I guess that’s what represents me the most – the need to transmit my passion of the moment in an accessible way to others via the written word:

Blue

Your head is full of blue, like cotton wool, as you
draw your body through the pool at Pontoise.

After, in the café, the shadow on your face
takes the shape of a cupped hand,

music bleeds into the stillness around you
as you tilt a sugarcube to the brim

of your coffee, watch the soft seep rise,
a spreading stain, unstoppable, although

the span of your finger and thumb
holds the shape for as long you are able;

now drink, you think, just drink,
this is what normal people do.

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?

I think you have to be pretty brave to be a poet and be as emotionally resilient as you can. Most of the time poets are delving into the subconscious and bringing out quite tricky memories and associations.  You have to be prepared to share these and for people to assume that a lot of what you write about is part of your autobiography, even if is imagined/embellished.  For me, it goes very bare indeed, and I’m happy to share what’s in my poems because I’ve worked through the feelings enough to be able to cope.  I write a lot of prose poetry and find that this often gives me the narrative space to explore something more thoroughly and accessibly than I might be able to do in a line poem.  I think that’s probably why the poem which deals with my misdiagnosis in The Saltwater Diaries is a prose poem – it needed to be said in that way.

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?

I’m very lucky in that I belong to two Stanza groups and also have trusted friends who will look at a poem and sometimes say – great title but it doesn’t fit the poem.  It’s so easy to fall in love with a title.  They are strange things.  For me, the title usually comes part way through the process, or some time afterwards and I change the title more than any other line in the poem – I believe that’s what a title is – it’s your first line – the most important one – the one that hooks the reader.  I did keep a list of great titles for a while, but I don’t think I ever wrote the poems for them – perhaps, because, as you say, they were a bit overwhelming.  A title has to fit the emotion which drives the poem, its motivating force.  I think that’s why they come afterwards as sometimes I don’t know what that driving force is until I look back on the poem after putting it aside for a while.

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 wrote a lot as a child and loved English classes and composition.  I had notebooks full of “novels” and poems.  My best friend’s mum took us to the Poetry Society’s poetry reading exams when we were around nine and I remember reading one of my own compositions alongside Blake’s The Fly (yes, I still passed!).  When I started teaching at the University of East Anglia I didn’t really have time for my own writing so, about twenty years ago I went on some creative writing courses which made me focus and really got me started again.  I was still writing quite a lot of prose and it was at this time that I realised I wanted to focus on poetry – that I could still tell stories, but in a way which suited me much more.  In 2016 I got an Arts Council grant to write Lumière and spent six weeks in Paris which were just dedicated to my own writing.  It was a revelation.  I went from producing a poem a month to writing at least three a week and that gush of creativity hasn’t really let up since then.

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?

I can write anywhere really, in a café, on a train, taking notes while walking.  I think I need constant stimulation, lots of triggers, I’ve got a bit of a monkey mind – so activity is my ideal accompaniment.  I don’t need a dead quiet place or a blast of Bach, but I probably need some kind of white noise.

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?

Well, boringly, I wanted to be a writer, or a journalist.  I quite fancied being an archaeologist at one point.  My first proper job was as a secretary/PA at the Royal Academy of Dancing.  I loved this job and the people around me as I adore ballet.  In fact, my time there is the basis of my second full collection, due out next year with Live Canon.  If you are a writer, no job is wasted.  I fell into teaching really – I qualified as an English language teacher to international students and then ended up teaching cultural studies, creative writing, film studies, linguistics etc  I had a spell of marketing for the University of East Anglia and got to travel all over the world.  When I moved to King’s Lynn after having lived twenty years in Norwich, I went freelance and did lots of interesting jobs.  I became a director for the King’s Lynn Festival and reviewed many of the events for the regional newspaper, fulfilling my dream of being a journalist.  I also volunteered for a few summers at the excavation site at Vindolanda in Northumberland so fulfilled my archaeologist dream too!  I can’t imagine doing anything other than writing to express myself – I’m pretty rubbish at art and admire many of my students who are really good artists as well as writers!

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?

It has to be Samuel Beckett’s brilliant:
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

Followed by The Ramones:
Hey Ho Let’s Go!

which is my mantra when I need to sit down and redraft that poem!

Sue in her Parisian Study

Links

Find Sue Burge here…

http://www.sueburge.uk/books/

THE MINDS BEHIND THE MADNESS- THE HEDGEHOG POETRY PRESS- NIGEL KENT

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.

Today we have with us Pushcart Prize nominee Nigel Kent, from Worcestershire, whose latest collection is Psychopathogen; an examination of these extraordinary times through the eyes, ears, actions and answering machines of ordinary people.

Thank you so much Nigel for taking the time to join us. Let’s dive right in…

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?

Psychopathogen’ was the product of a poetry conversation with a fellow Open University Poetry Society poet, Jane Avery. At the beginning of the pandemic we regularly sent each other poems exploring the impact of Lockdown on ourselves and those around us. I suppose in better times the pamphlet will show the reader the impact of this extraordinary period on ordinary lives.

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?

Since I was a child I have been an avid reader of poetry and fiction. I always have a pile of books waiting to be read. In fact I love all the arts: dance, sculpture, paintings, and music. My taste is eclectic and I hope I’m open to all forms that push the boundaries and confound expectations. Just the act of reading, listening to a piece of music or looking at a painting triggers ideas for my own work. So I’m not sure there’s a really disconnect between these activities and my writing.

When I am writing, however, I must be clear about what it is I want to say. That might change as I say it, but if I don’t have that clarity initially I can’t get started. The other thing I need is time. I’m an extremely slow writer, agonising over the choice of words, the sequence of ideas, the sounds of lines, the shape of the poem etc.

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?

As implied above, writing is a conscious process for me. It starts with an idea, a feeling or an image and is the product of constant drafting and redrafting, sometimes months after the initial burst of activity. In fact I’m not sure a poem is ever really finished!

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?

Yes, the launch of ‘Psychopathogen’ was very different to that of my collection, ‘Saudade’ last year. I decided to advertise on social media free copies of the pamphlet for a month to anyone who made a donation to a foodbank. This raised over 45 donations worth in excess of £350. This had the benefits of getting the poetry out there and of giving back something to those suffering from the pandemic, the subject of those poems. Since then I have participated in a number of Zoom events. Whilst I like the fact that this is a medium through which one can reach a wider, even international, audience, it doesn’t for me have the buzz of a face-to-face encounters.

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?

I’ve been doing this long enough to know that there are many, many fine poets out there and editors must be faced with impossible decisions when selecting poems for publication. There will always be an element of subjectivity in the selection process: editors are just like writers, they will have their preferences in terms of theme and style. I believe it’s a mistake to judge the success of your poetry solely by the number of poems you manage to have published, exciting and rewarding though that is. Ideally you need to become part of a community of writers to get honest feedback on your writing and/or perform to live audience to acquire a real feel for whether your poems are working or not. It is that wider audience reaction that really counts for me.

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?

‘You’re settling
for second-hand’, father said
between sips of scalding tea,
when I confessed
I thought that my new girl
still carried the sadness
of a failed relationship.
‘Listen, son,’ he lectured,
‘the tears and fears
which move you now,
are proof of damaged goods.
Don’t believe
that all it needs
is love and care
to make a good repair.
That’s like painting
over flakes of rust;
the past continues
to corrode beneath.
My mother listened
and said nothing,
then turned to the mirror
above the mantelpiece
to fix the lipstick smile,
slipping down her chin.

I guess ‘Lipstick smile’ is typical of my poetry and audiences seem to react well to it. I want to write narrative poetry that speaks directly and economically to the reader, making explicit the significance to be found in the ordinary and sounding out the emotional resonance that vibrates beneath the surface of unexceptional lives.

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?

You raise a couple of issues here. First I think one of the challenges of poetry is how much space does one leave in poems for the reader. I think as my writing matures I’m leaving more and more of that space. However, I’m always conscious that I don’t want to make my writing so personal or arcane that it doesn’t speak to or impact upon the reader. The second part of the question raises the issue of personal exposure. Though my poems tell stories, sometimes in the first person, I would not call them autobiographical. Whilst informed by personal experience, they are inhabited by different characters. I hope they are true to life but they are not real events.

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?

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of the title. I have certainly changed the title of the poem and suddenly had it accepted for publication! Sometimes I spend as much time on the title as I do on the poem but always when I have finished writing.  I want titles to inform the response to the poem. It might establish some contextual information; it might enable the reader to tune in to the story of the poem; it might provide an insight into its effect or meaning. Whatever its function is I believe there must be a dynamic relationship between title and poem.

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?

Like you I began writing in childhood, though in the case of poetry I lost confidence in my work at university when I began to study the greats. It is only comparatively recently I began again. I guess it was something I received a lot of positive feedback for from teachers, tutors, family and friends. It was a way of making sense of the world around me but it was also a way of impacting on that world.

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?

As I have suggested above, all of the arts have the potential to inspire me with an idea or initiate a poem. I’m currently putting together a collection of ekphrastic poetry entitled ‘Whispers in the Gallery’, exploring relationships captured in well-known paintings. Before I write I’ll spend hours studying those paintings and reflecting on what they mean to me. I’ll also research their historical context.

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’m retired now. When I was at school, I wanted a job that required reading and writing and the sharing of those pleasures. As a consequence I studied English Literature at university, then became a teacher of English, working in primary and secondary schools and in Higher Education. I don’t know how many children or adults I succeeded in sharing those pleasures with, but I hope some.

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?

I think I would choose something written by Stanley Kunitz, one of my poetry heroes.

It is out of the dailiness of life that one is
driven into the deepest recesses of the self.

This pretty much captures what I feel about writing poetry.

Links

Find Nigel, buy his books and read his blog here…

THE MINDS BEHIND THE MADNESS- THE HEDGEHOG POETRY PRESS- MARGARET ROYALL

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.

Today Margaret Royall, winner of the Full Fat Poetry Collection Competition from The Hedgehog Poetry Press (collection coming in 2021) joins us to share glimpses inside her memoir The Road to Cleethorpes Pier and why she simply has to write.

Thank you Margaret for joining us today and sharing your writing journey with us. 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?

I began to write my memoir ‘The Road To Cleethorpes Pier’ as a true story of my childhood friendships and experiences growing up in an east coast seaside resort. A chance encounter at a book festival in 2019 brought me together with a childhood acquaintance, now a poet, who was launching his collection containing poems about our birthplace, Cleethorpes. It struck me that while I had written poems about people who lived there, I had not written about the place itself. I therefore set to it and wrote poems featuring memories of the place. My publisher suggested I combine these with the prose already written, changed to 1st person to make a memoir and include some of the many black and white photographs I had from the mid 1940s through to the early 1960s. The result was a loose form of Haibun after the Japanese style, a fusion of prose, poetry, photos and newspaper cuttings. It was published May 2020 and has achieved 5-star ratings on Amazon and beyond.
My hope is that older readers are able to identify with that period in time, taking a walk with me down memory lane, reliving their youth, or that younger readers learn about post-war social history, presented both in the narrative and in historical notes at the end of relevant chapters. Each chapter is short and together they form what used to be termed a ‘bedside book’, meaning that readers can easily consume a chapter per night, since each one stands alone.

I should add here that as well as this memoir I have a 1st collection of poetry ‘ Fording The Stream’, published Sept 2017 under the pen name Jessica De Guyat, published by an American contact on my behalf and available from Amazon (link below). I have also had a micro pamphlet published Oct 2019 with Hedgehog Press ‘Singing The Earth Awake’ (one of Hedgehog’s Stickleback series). The poems here have all been shortlisted or long-listed for poetry prizes.

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?

I guess my main chill out is meeting up with friends, going to the theatre, cinema, reading, singing with my village choir, visiting old churches – all of which have been severely curtailed by the pandemic. I also enjoy visiting beautiful stately homes and gardens and holidaying in the Hebrides and France when time and money allow.

I live in a small, peaceful, friendly village near the river Trent, in a quaint grade 11 listed cottage with beams. I like to write in the mornings sitting on the couch in the living room with my iPad. Sometimes my cat, Iona sleeps next to me.

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?

I usually write in quite an organic way, writing spontaneously and seeing what comes out. I then do lots of editing, paring down the content, removing the original ‘scaffolding’ to leave the finished piece. If I get stuck I will put the poem aside and return to it later. It’s amazing how a fresh day brings fresh eyes and often the elusive phrase just pops straight into my head second time around.

Below is a photo of my cottage frontage with clematis in full bloom. I have used this for my website:

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?

I am very active on social media, particularly on Twitter @royallmargaret and on Facebook, where I have an author blog page Writing From The Soul, which I update almost daily –

I am gaining new followers daily, which has surprised and delighted me.

Twitter is a brilliant place to discover new writers, competitions, opportunities etc. I have to say that self-promotion does not come easily to me but I know it’s a necessity. I sometimes worry that people will get sick of seeing my PR but I realise too that it brings rewards and if I don’t shout my news from the rooftops then who else will?

I am also on Instagram as @meggiepoet and post photos and news there too.

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?

It is important for me to see my work published in reputable journals and webzines. It is exhilarating to get acceptances and a little disconcerting to get rejections. However, you have to remember that those judging are reading the poems subjectively and not everyone will like them. ‘Horses for courses’, as they say. The important thing is to keep trying, forget about the failures and rejoice with the successes. I use websites which list competitions, submission windows and opportunities and try to ensure I read the work previously published by a journal to get a feel for the kind of poetry they publish.

Don’t let rejections put you off, that’s my advice. Just keep trying. The only time you fail completely is if you stop trying altogether.

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?

There are several poems of mine published in The Blue Nib, Impspired and Hedgehog Poetry Press that I feel particularly proud of: ‘Ghost in an Empty Chair’, ‘Flashback and Prolepsis’, ‘Skylark Resurrection’ ‘A Season of Swallows’ and my poem shortlisted in the Bangor Literary Festival Poetry Competition 2018 ‘Love on a Hebridean Beach’. The latter had to be decorated, framed, hung in a gallery and the public voted for the winner.

 I am particularly fond of this poem as it epitomises my time spent on the inner Hebridean Isle of Iona on annual writing retreats. I fell in love with Iona on my first visit in 2012. The scenery is mystical, magical, unique. I invented a love story set there to fit the competition call out for poems on the theme of Love.

Here is my framed poem. It hangs on my landing and I see it daily, a lovely reminder of special times spent there, especially now during this pandemic.

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?

For me the challenge is keeping poems short and to the point. I am a details person, so I tend to want to include everything. Over the years I have learnt that less is more and I do try to adhere to that principle. Personal poetry does leave the poet very exposed and at first I had a problem with that. Grief and loss are overriding themes in much of what I write and if people read those poems they can see right into my soul. But I have learned to live with that. For me it has been a way of coming to terms with life’s challenges, of which there have been many over the decades. Losing the 3 people closest to me in life within 3 months of each other in 1998 and then being diagnosed with a chronic illness was a hard hit, which I am still processing. Writing definitely helped me come to terms with my situation and find a way through. I am very much a survivor!

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?

Titles are so important. Readers often look at them to decide whether to bother reading on. Good ones are difficult to choose. Nowadays I try to choose something intriguing, a reason for the reader to want to read on and find out more. Collection titles are especially difficult and there are so many differing schools of thought on this. It needs to fascinate, to inspire. My forthcoming collection title ‘Where Flora Sings’ has taken me months to settle on! In general I guess my titles are a summation of content (but not always!)

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 started composing poems in early childhood. I was born a Browning and the family assertion was that we were connected to the poet Robert Browning (although I have not yet been able to verify that fact). So from an early age poetry was written and talked about in the wider family. My parents would write out the poems for me, even in the night when I awoke with words in my head! They were extremely long suffering! At school I loved writing too and visiting school inspectors praised my poetry and took it away (for what I’m not sure.)
A big influence on my life was the Methodist chapel my family attended. The frequent singing of hymns and reading of psalms meant that I wrote a lot of hymns and psalms as a young child. As I relate in my memoir, my ‘Psalm to Jesus’ was sent by my headmaster to the Bishop of Lincoln when he was very ill. He wrote back to me and presented me with a signed Book of Common Prayer, which I still have today.
Once I started attending the Iona writing retreats every year I became convinced that poetry was something I had to pursue and full retirement finally gave me the time to do this. I simply have to write. That is when I am at my happiest and feel most fulfilled.

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 too inspiration can come from photographs, images in a gallery or a piece of classical music (as with ‘Skylark Resurrection’, which was written in response to Vaughan Williams’ ‘The Lark Ascending’). I frequently combine a haiku with an image to form a haijin (example below)

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?

When asked as a child what I would grow up to be I always said an author. I have enjoyed many different careers during my working life, variously teacher of modern languages, college lecturer, reflexologist, sales manager for a cosmetics company, freelance Image Consultant, Aura-Soma Practitioner, Holistic Stress Manager, and the final years before retirement after my husband died, a freelance tutor of German and French for business people, within major East Midlands companies.

Other than writing I like photography and used to paint watercolours (but no longer find time for that now.) If I didn’t write poetry I guess I would adopt another creative medium!

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?

  1. ‘Life is not a dress rehearsal’ – Rose Tremain in her ‘Better Life Coaching’ blog of the same name
  2. ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ said by French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (the more things change the more they stay the same) from the Journal Les Guêpes.

Links

Links to buying The Road to Cleethorpes Pier 

Paperback £8.99 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Road-Cleethorpes-Pier-memoir-prose/dp/1999870573

Kindle 99p currently: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Road-Cleethorpes-Pier-touching-childhood-ebook/dp/B08776HTMB

Signed Author copies at £10.50 ( including p&p) available from myself via

Please contact me for alternative payment methods at Margaretroyall@icloud.com

Customer Review of The Road to Cleethropes Pier

5.0 out of 5 stars The past returns and is unputdownable

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 31 May 2020 on Amazon.co.uk

There is so much to admire in this little gem of a book. Margaret’s gaze looks back fondly – describing lost family and friends with warmth – but doesn’t flinch, recalling the “Siberian breeze” on a sea front where a riding party was once lost. The anecdotes about the Lincolnshire Methodist community are by turns funny (a friendship started over a leg stuck in a chair at Sunday school) and tinged with tragedy (the preacher with dementia getting bible verses muddled up). It’s a refreshing approach to interweave prose with poetry, which is done skilfully, and there is so much rich, human detail not only about Cleethorpes, but, memorably, 1960s Kaiserslautern. In fact the book almost becomes a study in how the two cultures emerged from the war. But the real reason to recommend it is harder to capture. The book just somehow wakes up times and places that the world would never thought to revisit, but ought to have done – and you’ll want to extend your stay until the last page.

THE MINDS BEHIND THE MADNESS- THE HEDGEHOG POETRY PRESS- PATRICIA M. OSBORNE

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 timeI 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.

Magnificent Majesty

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.

Sunrise Concertante

Burnt golden rays break
the night-time sky,
beating on the Ouse’s slow crawl.

Air-warmed sweet-grasses
fan fragrance into the wind:
marsh marigolds shine.

A blackbird’s
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.

Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Linked-In

Instagram

Links to Books 

Signed Paperbacks (UK postage shown – out of UK contact for prices)

Kindle and Paperback

House of Grace

The Coal Miner’s Son

THE MINDS BEHIND THE MADNESS- THE HEDGEHOG POETRY PRESS- KATIE PROCTOR

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 so we begin with Katie Proctor, from Yorkshire England, whose debut collection is entitled Seasons

Thank you Katie so much for taking the time to speak to us today about yourself and your writing process. So let’s get started…

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?

At its heart, Seasons is a book about love and everything that comes with it. I wanted to create something that resonated with anyone who has loved someone, lost someone and changed as a person because of that. The whole collection is inspired by the people around me and what they have brought to my life or taken from me, and I see it as a celebration of vulnerability. The poems in the collection are so personal not just because of what they were inspired by and written about but also because I wanted to convey a message that has been hugely important to me: going through heartbreak and trauma can create a version of you that you are really proud of. I never expected the poems in this collection to be some of my favourites, but now I see them as evidence of the way I have developed and grown as a person after loving and losing people, and I think it’s really important to remember that it is possible to appreciate the bad things for how they changed you positively. Simply, though, the greatest compliment I could receive as a poet is being told that my work has resonated with the reader in some way. I want my poems to take on different lives of their own in my readers’ minds and linger in their minds as something that has impacted them in some way.

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?

I have always had a long list of hobbies which I turn to for an escape from anything that is stressing me out (and that can definitely sometimes be writing!). As a person I’m definitely a creative – I’ve never been interested in maths or science, so whenever I need to I will always turn to the arts in some form. Most of the time that means I will write, but there is no doubt that I get immensely frustrated when a piece just isn’t working out the way I want it to, and that’s when I’ll pick up my guitar or ukulele and learn a new song, or simply shut myself in the bathroom and belt out a musical theatre tune. I also love to dance, and I find that it can be extremely therapeutic, but it’s not as easy to launch into choreographing an extravagant contemporary dance when you don’t have a dance studio at hand!

Whilst there are times that I will sit down in front of a notebook or laptop with the sole intention of getting a new piece finished, that kind of writing routine is typically reserved for when I’m on a deadline – if I need something new to read at a scheduled performance, for example. From the day I started writing poetry, it has always been a release for me first and foremost, and anything else that comes with it is a bonus. As such, I find that I write best when I need to write, rather than just when I want to, if that makes any sense. The best pieces usually creep up on me without me realising. Leading with this philosophy (at least for the most part) tends to mean I get the most authentic work possible, which is undoubtedly the most important thing to me when it comes to my poetry. On a simpler level, some quiet music and a snack help too. I’m a big fan of the lo-fi hip hop radios you can find on YouTube, and my recent writing snack obsession is mini quiches.  

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?

I think this comes back to whether I’m sitting down with the sole purpose of writing or whether it’s more spontaneous. If I’m planning on getting a piece done I’ll be paying more attention to and actively making stylistic choices – thinking a lot more about line breaks, punctuation and any metaphors or themes I’m using. If not, I’ll likely just free-write, usually in prose, until I feel like I’ve got something I can rework. Occasionally those pieces will stay in their original form (ie. I won’t edit them into verse but will probably make changes to the actual body of text), but most of the time they’ll end up as poems. Even more rarely I’ll free-write straight into verse and the piece will come out almost perfectly the first time around. A lot of the time it just depends on how I’m feeling and what comes out.

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. Dickenson?

Since this is my first collection, I was completely clueless about how this all works before Seasons was accepted for publication, so in that sense the changes that the virus have brought haven’t really been all that bizarre to me. I think being completely new to it all has helped somewhat. I’m also very used to using social media to promote myself – aside from writing I am an actor, and therefore involved in an industry in which the use of social media is very important. I think that’s transferred over into promoting my writing really nicely and has helped book sales without a doubt. I know lots of other writers from my writing group, which is affiliated with my local literature festival, and that has definitely made spreading the word about my book easier. In terms of the spotlight, as I’ve been acting for nine years now, it isn’t something that bothers me at all, although I do consider myself to be quite a shy person in real life.

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?

Before I was even considering putting together my first proper manuscript, I submitted to so many writing journals and magazines and was rejected by the vast majority of them. For a while it put me off, but I think you have to remember that a rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your work was bad. One of the reasons there are so many journals, magazines and presses out there is because each has its own individual style, and therefore each is looking for different types of work that represents them. It can take some time to find the right homes for your work, and that’s fine – your poems are your babies and it’s important that you find the perfect place to publish the beautiful, personal pieces that you put so much time and effort into. But when it comes down to it, all of that is easier said than done, and I think to a point you have to find your own way around it. For some people, pausing on the submissions for a while to remind yourself that you’re still a writer with huge talent is the best way to deal with rejection. Others find it easier to carry on and not overthink it. There is no magical one size fits all answer, and I think even the most seasoned of poets still get down about their rejections. Just remember that being rejected is by no means a reflection on your talent. With so many opportunities out there, you are bound to find the right place that your work is absolutely perfect for.

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?

Although that feels almost like an impossible question to answer, a couple of pieces of mine spring to mind for different reasons. I think if I had to choose I would say a very special poem of mine entitled Seasons which, if it’s not obvious, is where the title of my recent poetry collection came from. I feel as though it encapsulates a message I want to give out in my book which is so important to me, told simply through the last lines of the poem:

Their untruths might have left

a heart so empty you fear

it will never love again

but when the spring comes again

you will heal

and you will bloom

and it will be brighter

than they ever were

The reason it is so important to me is because I wrote it during a phase of my life which produced some of the most raw and vulnerable poetry due to a particularly difficult heartbreak I experienced, and in this poem I was writing a letter to myself in the past, present, and future, as a reminder of the lesson I learnt from this. Whenever I need a reminder of my self-worth and how far I have come, I always come back to this poem.

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?

Getting my message across in a way that felt fully complete was always something I struggled with when I started writing poetry about four years ago, I think without even realising. I’ve been writing my whole life but venturing into the world of poetry as someone who was well-adjusted to prose and longform was definitely a challenge. Having written somewhere close to a hundred poems now I think I’m pretty much used to it, but it’s always a little bit scary being so vulnerable in your writing. Shifting into writing pieces that benefit from the creator being as open as possible, especially in so few words, is a really strange thing. That’s one of the things that intimidated me the most when I was in the process of getting my book published – I’ve never had my work read on such a wide scale before, and as someone who writes about experiences that are so personal it’s certainly strange to think about a lot of people reading poems that have such a clear emotional meaning to me. As much as it is undoubtedly difficult at times, I think the payoff from creating such genuine pieces and receiving beautiful responses from people regarding the way they resonate with the words themselves is honestly worth the fear that comes with being vulnerable. Personally I see it as a part of the process that is so integral that I barely notice now. With every poem I write the discomfort lessens.

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?

For me, titling is something that ranges from the easiest part of writing and by far the most difficult. Sometimes I will start with a title and run with it, but more frequently I will finish a piece and then spend a while puzzling over finding the perfect name. Either way, it is rare that a poem will find its name midway through writing for me. Often I will write around a theme or an idea – for example, one poem in Seasons entitled Lemon and Ginger Tears came from the motif of tea, and from there the title came naturally. On the flipside I might be completely clueless and really struggle with a name. I (probably along with the majority of poets) consider titles to be hugely important. It really is like naming a child, and sometimes when it doesn’t come easily I can get very frustrated. I think finding the balance between a great poem and a great title is also something that can be a bit of a nightmare. There have definitely been times where I have felt forced to settle for a title that doesn’t quite match up to the poem, and vice versa. I don’t think feeling slightly dissatisfied with a piece is abnormal, though – I have had pieces or titles that have grown on me given time. Sometimes you just need to come back to it with fresh eyes and something will click.

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?

At a very young age I discovered my aptitude for reading, writing and all things literature in my English lessons, and my love for that subject is something that has continued to the present day as I am studying it at A-Level and pursuing a degree in English Literature. Writing always came naturally to me, I think as a combination of my ability with everything to do with words and my imagination, which has always been very overactive. I started out writing stories inspired by the books I read and abandoned various novels half-finished. Strangely enough, I spent a long time not understanding poetry, and felt no draw to it until I was about 14, which I think was mainly due to a lack of exposure to it. All I knew was that poetry rhymed, something that has never been my strong point, and that almost put me off altogether. I’d already been writing short prose pieces for a while as a way of getting my emotions out, so the move into the kind of poetry I’ve been writing since wasn’t a huge challenge. I’m not entirely sure what it was that eventually gave me the push to give it a try, but the second I finished writing my first ever poem on the school bus one morning, I knew I was hooked. It was the perfect medium for me – I could write a fully formed piece in a short amount of time, rather than giving up on long stories because I didn’t have the patience to plan the plot properly. Poetry gave me the chance to create something that I was proud of using my talents and express the emotions I didn’t feel like I could properly deal with at the same time. The fact is, ever since that day I have barely stopped for breath when it comes to writing poetry. As soon as I found it I knew that it was for me, and in just a few years I have reached a point where I am receiving the kind of appreciation for my writing that I have always dreamed of. That’s something I’ll always be proud of.

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?

Despite my creative brain, I’m not much of an artist or photographer myself, but one thing I have loved experimenting with during the time I’ve been writing poetry is creating a piece inspired by someone else’s artwork. The relationship between the two artists, the thought process behind each piece and the connection between them is something that I find really interesting. Just as every person will take something different away from a piece of writing, my interpretation of a photo or drawing and what it inspires in my poetry can be drastically different from what was originally intended by the other artist. I’ve also found it really fascinating to see if a poem I’ve written prompts a visual image in my mind, and seeing how the two work together. I had a very distinct image of the idea I wanted for the cover of Seasons, but what the incredible artist designed that I absolutely loved ended up being completely different. I think the relationship between visual and written art is really interesting and I would definitely like to spend more time in future experimenting with visual additions to my pieces, whether that be photography or art.

One of the pieces in my book entitled What she called love was originally written prompted by this piece of art.

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 was the kind of child who went through lots of different hobbies before I settled on something that I really enjoyed (besides writing which was always a constant presence, but I never really thought I would be able to make something of it in the future), and for me that was acting. It had never really been something I’d considered a major passion of mine, aside from having some small parts in school plays, but looking back I’m absolutely not surprised that I fell in love with it from the word go and immediately knew I wanted it to be my future job. Similar to writing, it’s something that has given me the chance to become someone else and tell a story from their point of view, and it’s another hugely effective way that I express myself. Since I first signed up to stage school at the age of 8, I have taken it from just a hobby that I used to fill the evenings after school to committing to my dream of an acting career, and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon. Although as a career path I’ve found it to be really challenging (preparing yourself for the constant rejection is almost impossible), the opportunities I’ve had have been worth the tears, without a doubt. Embodying someone’s creation and lifting it off the page is gratifying and so fulfilling and I hope to continue doing it for the rest of my life.

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 a distant armchair. 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?

I think I would have to use this opportunity to share something I’ve learned over the last few years that I think everyone needs to hear at some point – nothing lasts forever and that is not only perfectly fine, but also can be a great comfort at times. Pain is temporary, and one day you will look back on the worst situations and create art out of them like so many people before you have done. It’s the one fact that I always try and remember, through good times and bad, because it really is true.

Bio & book info:

Katie Proctor is a poet from Yorkshire, England. Since she can remember she has loved to write, whether it be prose, poetry or stories, and writing will always be her first love. Nowadays, she writes freeform poetry and prose often regarding her experience with love, relationships and mental health. Her debut collection of poetry, Seasons, was published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in August 2020. Outside writing, she is a student with a passion for literature, history and classics, and is a big fan of Shakespeare. She loves to act and plans to study English Literature at university. You can find her on Twitter @katiiewrites and Instagram @katiiewrites.

I am currently selling copies of my book through PayPal:

Signed copies: £6.99

Annotated copies: £9.99