Ten Minutes with Ron Carey

Ron Carey is a gifted poet born in Limerick and living in Dublin. His current collection Distance has been nominated for the Forward Prize, Best First Collection UK and Ireland.

roncareypic

 

When did you first realise that words were important to you?

My Mum brought a mixture of silence and awe to every wedding or birthday party when she sang. It wasn’t that she was a great singer, though she had a sweet voice, but she sang with such conviction that everybody felt it. As a small boy, I began to realise what words could do. I and my brother Greg, who is also a poet, had a facility for learning songs and poems very quickly. I couldn’t wait to get my new English books for school. I spent many a summer’s day devouring poetry and learning poems by heart. The first time I got a real reaction to something I wrote – real in the sense of unexpected and outside the circle of family and friends – was an essay on fishing for a secondary school’s competition that I had to read to the class. When I finished, there was a spontaneous round of applause that took me and our English teacher by surprise. Naturally, this spurred me on in my writing.

You seem to have very quickly chosen poetry over prose although I imagine, like most poets, you appreciate the music in both. How do you think about sound when you are writing?

As a poet, I hold the strong suspicion that the universe is in tune. We know the stars have their own notes but I think that everything must have a God-given note, if only we could play it. I’ve always been interested in our response to rhythm and sound. Music seems to bypass the logical filters in the brain and go straight to the emotional centre – how else can one explain being moved by an aria in a language one does not understand. Some poetry has so much musicality the it floods the poem. In good poetry, as in good music, we wait for the provoked expectation to be satisfied. I think Robert Frost’s poem ‘Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening’ does this brilliantly, filling up the poem with falling words until we are also full –

‘The woods are lovely dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.’

At the moment I am reading ‘All the Pretty Horses’ by Cormac McCarthy, which is a love story on so many levels. Though it’s called a novella, it’s really a prose poem. McCarthy is able to carry it off but when I write prose it is the language of explanation and not of love.

Do you write prose?

It’s a question that hasn’t come up in any other interviews but the answer is yes, but less and less as my poetry has had more recognition. I even tried to write a novel a few years back but please don’t tell anyone. I like to write short stories with quirky endings. I wrote a lot of flash fiction when I was on the Open University Creative Writing Course, which, by the way, I highly recommend.

Take me back to when you were putting together your new collection, Distance. What were your thoughts about what you wanted to include?

If someone had told me, Distance, was going to be on the Forward Prize shortlist, I might still be trying to decide which ones to put in. But because I was only picking what I thought were the best poems, irrespective of how they would come together, it actually worked out. As I reread the poems, I began to see some themes emerging – themes like the passing of time and how we are all connected to those who have gone before and to those who come after us. And the distance we are from each other, both physically and psychologically. I put the poems together under these different sections and hoped people would see the same connections.

It’s often easier to see themes in retrospect, we look back over a shoulder and see the rivers of thought and not the flood. Which poets grew you? When exploring words we find those kindred spirits who drive us on. Can you name yours?

My first love was the language and imagination of the Romantic Poets, especially Keats. They seemed to have such high ideals and to be enthralled with life. But when it came to recitation, which involves one to the greatest extent, with musicality and story-telling to the fore, Tennyson and Longfellow had the best lines. As I got a little older, the Irish poets spoke to me directly – Padric Colum and Francis Ledwidge and the poets of the 1916 revolution – with Yeats striding over all. Later, I began to recognise Patrick Kavanagh’s influence in Irish poetry and on my own and to find some poetic kinship there.

What are you working on at the moment?

The standard answer is that I am working on my second collection. And I am – just not all the time and by no means with a central theme in mind. Though nomination for the Best First Collection has put some pressure on me, at the moment I am writing poetry just for the sake it, free from expectations, including my own. I am near to having enough poems to form the basis of a collection but I don’t want to think about finishing because I enjoy discovering new poems within myself.

Ron Carey can be found:

http://roncareypoetry.com

or on Twitter @RonCarey49

Fell – The Making Of

By Jenn Ashworth

 

Fell arrived out of the blue. Just one scene. It happens like that sometimes. The scene was this: Jack, Netty and their daughter Annette are sitting on the concrete terraces over Grange-over-Sands old lido on a hot afternoon in August. I saw it all before I wrote it: the murky dark blue of salt water pool, the glare of the sun giving Jack the worst headache he’s ever had, and Netty watching a good looking young man swim lengths of the pool like a sleek white dolphin.

As soon as I started to write these details down (they demanded to be written – it’s a cliché, I know, but it was also true for me) the character spoke and moved and acted: Netty was sick and Jack was worried about her overdoing it. Annette went down to the lido to swim and Netty was worried about her, in the pool with the big boys who were messing about. Netty sent Jack to ask the boys to calm down an the strangest thing of all happened: this beautiful strange boy who introduced himself as Timothy Richardson (where did the names come from? I don’t know) laid a hand on Jack’s face and not only wiped away his headache – as if by magic – but cured in one fell stroke his life-long short sightedness.

What happened next? I typed in order to find out. Jack was nearly struck dumb with the shock of the strange healing – but not dumb enough to fail to seize the opportunity and to ask Timothy to come home with him and take a look at Netty. The doctors can’t help her, he says, but perhaps there’s something you can do for her…? The scene ended there.

I didn’t write anything else for six months. But these characters waited at the lido and I was tormented with questions about them. What was wrong with Netty? Did Annette know her mother was sick? How seriously was she sick? Who was Timothy Richardson and had he really cure Jack, or was it just a trick? Would he be able to help Netty, and if he could, what would he ask in return? Would the price, whatever it was (and there is always a price – I knew enough about angels-in-disguise to know that) be worth paying?

I spent days and days at Grange-over-Sands, looking at the boarded up and now derelict lido and inhaling the salt-and-mud smell of the unbiddable, dangerous Morecambe Bay. I travelled to London and spent a day on Savile Row speaking to cutters and tailors and watching them chalk outlines of suit jackets and trousers on rolls of grey cloth. I visited a retired nurse who told me what caring for someone dying at home was like in the early 1960s, before chemotherapy, before palliative care, before the hospice movement.

A few months later I went back to the scene, and started to write. I didn’t have much of a plan, which meant tonnes and tonnes of drafts, following my nose, and letting characters and the landscape they lived in shape the structure and tone and plot of the novel. In an early draft, Timothy Richardson, the butchers boy and aspiring tailor from Edinburgh, had an entire backstory: much of that was cut because in the end I wanted him to be as mysterious to the reader as he had been to me. After a few drafts, the ‘frame’ of the novel developed – a present day strand where grown-up Annette returns to her parents’ empty house in Grange and attempts to come to terms with her past, with the stories her parents never told her, with the magic she was never allowed to see. She isn’t quite haunted, but the house certainly is, as I would be, until three years had passed and I was able to close the computer and say goodbye to the novel.

 

Jenn Ashworth’s first novel, A Kind of Intimacy, was published in 2009 and won a Betty Trask Award. On the publication of her second, Cold Light(Sceptre, 20011) she was featured on the BBC’s The Culture Show as one of the UK’s twelve best new writers. Her third novel The Friday Gospels (2013) is also published by Sceptre, as is her fourth and new release, Fell. She lives in Lancashire and teaches Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

You can find her at jennashworth.co.uk, or on Twitter @jennashworth

 

 

 

 

Curated Crowd Funding – Alice Jolly

Crowdfunding is the talk of the publishing industry right now. But what exactly is involved in crowd funding a book – and would it work for you? Numerous companies now offer crowd funding for authors and each has its own approach. I can only tell you about my publishers, Unbound, who are the most high profile and successful of these companies.

Unbound is a ‘curated’ crowdfunding publisher. That means that it carefully selects the books that go on its site. The reality is that Unbound are as selective as any mainstream publisher. However, it is also the case that, because they take less financial risk, they are frequently more adventurous than other publishers.

So, if Unbound agree to publish your book, what happens after that? First Unbound help you to make a video and write a pitch about your book. This then goes up on the Unbound website and then you, as author, need to bring in the pledges – which are effectively advanced sales of the book.

In general, for a hard copy book you need to raise around £ 10,000 in pledges which equates to around 500 people pledging £20 each. If your book is going to be produced only as an e-book then the figures are much lower – £3,000 to £4,000.

Two years ago I published a memoir with unbound called Dead Babies and Seaside Towns.

It took me six months to raise £12,000 and it was hard going. But once the money was raised, Unbound operated in the same way as any other publisher. They worked on editing, proof reading, cover design, printing, publicity, marketing and distribution.

Now that the book is out, I don’t receive the normal 10% royalty. Instead, I receive a 50% profit share. In my case, I am not taking this money. I’m giving it to Sands ( The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity). But that only makes the this highly favourable financial arrangement more important to me.

I am now publishing a novel with Unbound. That decision wasn’t easy. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to raise the subscriptions a second time. But so far I’m doing well. It helps that I know exactly who signed up for the memoir and I’ve got their emails. That is part of what Unbound are about – building direct links between writers and readers.

It is also exciting to be part of a publishing experiment. And finally, I didn’t want to go back to a mainstream publisher. Perhaps I’m not the only writer who has got questions about the mainstream publishing industry and what it produces. I’ve reached a time when I want to publish my own work in my own way and unbound are helping me to do that. Who knows what the future may be.

 

You can subscribe to Alice’s new novel which is called ‘Between The Regions Of Kindness‘ here:

https://unbound.co.uk/books/between-the-regions-of-kindness

Alice’s website is here:  http://www.alicejolly.com

You can find Unbound here:  https://unbound.co.uk/books

Rewrites

Novelist Derek Farrell (Death of a Diva, Death of a Nobody – Farenheit Press) gives us his quirky take on the sometimes tortuous business of rewriting.

 

So you finished a first draft?

Congratulations. Seriously, in a world where most people never finish a sentence let alone a book, you did it.

Be PROUD of yourself.

Now, lock the manuscript in a drawer in a desk in a very high tower surrounded by thickets and forests and leave it there. Or save it to a drive where you won’t easily be able to open it. In other words, start your rewrite by not looking at the manuscript.

Instead, ask yourself what, if you were asked in an interview to describe your book, you would say. What’s it about? How’s it written? Does it have a message, and if so what is it?

Let go of what you’ve written. Go back to what you wanted to write.

Jot this down if you like. Fast. Don’t think too much about it.This is the truth and too much thinking turns truth into bullsh*t. Years of therapy at eighty quid a pop and you’re getting this nugget for free. You’re welcome.

Now you know what you wanted to write about, how you wanted it to sound, and what it’s meant to look like, you can cut through the thickets (careful: Thorns) climb the ladder to that high tower, unlock the drawer, drag out the MS, and take a look at it.

Or open the file on your computer; whichever works for you.

Rewriting:

It is not ‘Killing your babies.’ You’re an author not King Herod. It might be taking your babies and putting them into an orphanage until you find a proper home for them. Nothing you write is ever worthless, so don’t delete. Just cut ‘n’ paste to a document called ‘Offcuts.’

It is not ‘Throwing everything away and starting again.’ I promise you the book you’ve written is good, this will just make it better. Silence the voices. Keep as much as you like of the draft.

It is not ‘Adding whole chapters.’ Or rather it shouldn’t be. The process is about reshaping to your original vision, and inserting new material only where it’s needed.

It is not a one shot activity. My first book ‘Death of a Diva’ was rewritten nine times. The first draft is massively different to the second. The ninth barely different from the eighth. Each rewrite was necessary to get it to the vision I had in my head when I started the book.

That said it is not an open ended activity. The voices in your head cannot risk your book ever being seen by someone who might contradict their negativity. Thus they will continually tell you that it ‘needs another reworking,’ ‘will never be right,’ or ‘isn’t done yet.’

Further, there will be real life actual people – agents, other authors, your uncle Tom with the funny eye and the unfulfilled dreams of becoming an actor – who will happily tell you everything that is wrong with the work, and advise what you should do to put it right.

Remember that vision you had – the one you scribbled before the rewrites began? If the book you end up with looks like that vision, you’re done. If it doesn’t, rewrite it again.

Ignore the other voices. They are not necessarily wrong; but what they want is their own book, not yours.

Keep on until yours is in front of you.

 

Derek Farrell’s new novel Death of a Nobody is available from Farenheit Press from May 2016. You can find him at http://www.derekfarrell.co.uk or alternatively @DerekIFarrell on Twitter

 

Tom Vowler – Dazzling the Gods

Tom Vowler champions the short story and introduces his upcoming collection:

Short stories, good ones at any rate, are rarely fashioned with ease, their alchemy, for me at least, a complex and protracted procedure. They require a poet’s precision, an artist’s artifice. They must have a subtext, a second story, veiled within the first. Their language must function, not only on a literal, expository level, but an affective, abstract one too, so that their impact is more than the sum of their parts. Significant space must be left for the reader to occupy, lacunae that must still be implied.

The best stories are deeply immersive, yet holding something back, reluctant as they are to yield all their meaning, at least on early readings. They must evoke more than explain, be felt more than understood. They must get under our skin a little. The modern short story is patterned by internal emotion, mood and atmosphere rather than by external action. Rarely comfortable with providing facile entertainment, stories instead provoke, delight, instruct or enchant. They fit large truths into small spaces.

The best short stories can stay with us as long, if not longer, than even our most cherished novels, their ripple enduring thanks, perhaps, to their more visceral impact, the additional demands they make of the reader. They can unsettle and change us.

But of course short story collections, we’re told, don’t sell; they are written, primarily, for those who write them. They are tricksy, full of ambiguity; they shun satisfying narrative arcs, are more art than entertainment. They can be difficult, impenetrable at times, delivering more questions than answers. Publishers, because of the story’s diminutive commercial impact, tend to avoid them. Which is a shame because they can also be things of great beauty and elegance and profundity. They tell us so much about ourselves; they reflect in complex and wonderful ways on what it means to be alive, to be human. They can exult and dazzle. To borrow from Stephen King, they are a kiss in the dark from a stranger, or from Kafka, an axe to break up the frozen sea within us.

And so after three years of writing little else other than stories, I have curated them into Dazzling the Gods, which is currently being crowdfunded via the wonderful folk at Unbound. To whet your appetite, here’s a little about the book.

A brother returns from exile to stir up the past. A macabre performance in the bowels of a Parisian museum must be seen to be believed. Lovers torn apart by heroin confront their loss in wildly divergent ways. A severely disabled husband struggles with the permission he has bestowed. A credulous lover finally faces the crimes of her partner. A father hopes a son never tires of their pilgrimage. And a widower observers his daughter blossoming amid the carnage of war.

By turns tender, brutal and darkly humorous, the stories in Dazzling the Gods are furnished with fraternal affection, climate change, artificial intelligence and the contrails of lost love. Sensual and shocking, lyrical and haunting, these tails are a curation of all things human, from the exultant to the diabolical.

You can support Dazzling the Gods and follow its journey into existence here

( https://unbound.co.uk/books/dazzling-the-gods ).

Tom Vowler is an award-winning novelist and short story writer living in south west England. His debut short story collection, The Method, won the Scott Prize in 2010 and the Edge Hill Readers’ Prize in 2011, while his novel What Lies Within received critical acclaim. He is editor of the literary journal Short Fiction and an associate lecturer in creative writing at Plymouth University, where he’s just completed his phD. His second novel, That Dark Remembered Day, was published in 2014. Tom’s second collection of stories, Dazzling the Gods, is forthcoming in 2016.

More at http://www.tomvowler.co.uk

 

Review – Man On Fire – Stephen Kelman

This book is a vibrant and visceral song of India. Part biography and part embellishment, it weaves through the lives of both its narrators, charting a path from pain to acceptance, reflecting on the nature of purpose and calling and what it means to be truly present; truly human; alive.

In the dust and glory of this story there is great peace and hope. The narrative prowls the line between life and death with the sure-footedness of the tiger and all the colours of Maharashtra flood the pages. It is a beautiful exploration of need and man, examining the ties that bind us and the desires which drive us, laying them as bare as the earth before the rains.

In choosing to enter into the life story of Bibhuti Nayak, the writer has found a cause which resonates deeply in the heart of Navi Mumbai. A multiple record holder and tireless worker for the health and welfare of others, Nayak seeks to demonstrate what can be accomplished with perseverance and determination, and he does so for those whose lives  demand determination on a daily basis if they are to continue. Nayak takes his place as hope-bringer, perhaps the highest title to which any of us can aspire.

There is foolishness and thoughtlessness, there is great love and great sacrifice, and there is wonderful flawed humanity; it boils from the page in the summer heat.

It is worth reading this book simply for the craftsmanship with which the writer drip-feeds information, gently leading us in the search for purpose, or for the poetry of symmetry with which he balances the plot, making each new revelation startling yet inevitable. It is to his credit that his guidance is always gentle, taking a backseat to the development of character. You should read this story for its richness, its beauty and its stunning sense of resolution. This is a powerful work beautifully written.

Stephen Kelman is the Man Booker-shortlisted author of Pigeon English. His new book Man on Fire will be published by Bloomsbury on 13th August 2015.

He can be found on Twitter @stephen_kelman

The Poet and the Poetry Reviewer

Author, historian and poet, Mathew Lyons in conversation with writer, artist and reviewer, Rachel Stirling.

RACHEL:  When did you know that you wanted to write?

MATHEW:  Quite early on I think. I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t really entranced by books of one kind or another – or when I didn’t want to write in some way. Who inspired you to write?

RACHEL: The author of every book I have ever read and those I haven’t reached yet. Reading is joyful. I was, am, and always will be, such a bookworm. What led you away from the short story form, towards poetry?

MATHEW: Good question. Fear. Self-doubt. Those are the negative reasons. And they definitely have some purchase. But I also like the concision of poetry. The fluidity of form. The reduction of an idea or an emotion or a narrative -however you want to define narrative – into its barest possible expression. That’s very appealing. I am beginning to write more fiction now – short and long form. We’ll see what happens. The things that prompt creation are different for all of us, I think. My imagination tends to be both quite visual and – paradoxically maybe – concerned with interior spaces. How about you? Are the catalysts that motivate you to create the same for writing as they are for sculpting or painting?

RACHEL:  I’ve given that one some thought before, and it comes down to one word – reply. I’m a reserved person, a listener rather than a talker. When the world happens to me, as it does to all of us, creation is my response, my reply. It’s that simple and that complex. The writing seems to be reserved for those responses I can begin to articulate. It’s usually my way of finding my own thoughts among the noise.

MATHEW:  Who do you think of as your audience for each?

RACHEL:  I don’t. I never give a thought to the audience when I’m working. Does that sound awful? I simply work. The only exception to that rule would be in the case of a commission, which I take on rare occasions. The audience my work finds, if it finds one, is always a pleasant surprise.

I’ve been wondering which poets you like to read.

MATHEW:  The poets I go back to mostly are probably Auden, MacNeice and Tennyson. Especially MacNeice. But I go through phases of reading a lot by different poets at different times. Marianne Moore, Sylvia Plath, Amy Clampitt, Derek Walcott, Billy Collins, Yeats, Byron, Rilke, Neruda…I could go on. I used to read the imagists a lot and I think you can see their influence clearly in my work. HD in particular. Which contemporary poets do you read most?

RACHEL:  I have a great deal of time for Robert Peake, George Szirtes and Mark Fiddes, but I am blessed with being able to read a vast amount of poetry. Sometimes I actually spend the most time with poets I understand the least. In that sense the question works differently for me. I spend my time working with the difficult to follow. My favourite poets? Rilke, Keats, Mary Oliver, Byron, Frost, Auden, Heaney – so many.

MATHEW: Szirtes is wonderful. His Twitter feed is a joy too! What do you look for in a poet?

RACHEL: They are all so different! [laughing] Poets and poems are a glorious puzzle. Here you have a person who has, often with great skill, distilled the experience of a lifetime into a few lines, and they are asking you to see them. I see the job of a reviewer as being willing to take the time to do that. I take every poet as they come, a new life, a new experience, a new approach, I don’t like to comment on anyone’s work until I have read quite a lot of their poetry. I do enjoy elegance of language. I also appreciate the usual courtesies and promptness goes a long way to helping anyone with a deadline, obviously.

How do you define a poem?

MATHEW: That’s difficult. A frame of words and phrases that allows the reader to respond imaginatively, emotionally and intellectually? Form is important. I don’t write too much in formal metres or structures but one of the things I list out for- or feel for – is the shape a poem is going to have, how long the arc of it is. I sometimes have to wait for that, even if I know I have the outline of what is going to be in the poem and what its core images and phrases are going to be. Rhythm is very important to me – not just the rhythm of the lines but the way that the ideas and images are interspersed. I think of my poems in spatial terms. I don’t know how usual that is. Phrase-making matters a lot to me too, the ability to put words together in a way that is both new and memorable and startlingly true. That’s what I look for in other writers and it’s something I strive for in my own work.

What do you look for in a poem?

RACHEL:  Effortlessness. There is a kind of beauty, as gentle as breathing, when a poet finds the right words to express their thoughts. The thoughts don’t have to be beautiful, and the poet may have wrestled the words to the page as if bringing down a wildebeest, but when they are the right words, everyone can breathe. Then the near misses interest me. Of course, to work these out you first have to work out what the poet is trying to achieve and how. Sometimes in the pursuit of this you also stumble on the why, but not always. It’s necessary to understand the what, the how is where it gets technical and the why is a gift of comprehension beyond the page. Sometimes a poet gives away more of the why than they intend and other times next to nothing, they are a barely open book and we get a sideways glimpse at the pages. Sometimes what a person doesn’t tell you is the most interesting thing of all.

What do you look for in a poem? How do you start? Do you begin with very structured intentions or do you write and see what arrives?

Mathew:  It varies to be honest. But what usually comes first is a line, or a phrase, or an image. i collect them – and at some point one will come along that seems to pull the others into its orbit and I will piece a poem together from those basic elements. I don’t know if that makes sense. What I start with doesn’t necessarily end up in the finished poem though. There are lines and images that have been in and out of various drafts of different poems before I find what feels like its home. The process can take years. Sometimes a poem will come more or less whole, of course. And other times I will have a sense of precisely what I want or need to say. But usually it is more worked at – and more allusive. How do you critique a poem? Where do you start? How important are formal considerations? – or do you prefer to focus on thematic and verbal issues?

RACHEL:  I begin by putting aside all thoughts of critique and reading the poetry. I usually make three passes through the whole body of work. The first pass is for pure enjoyment. It usually leaves me with an impression of theme, rhythm and ideas. I make a brief note of these and any obvious poetry forms, such as sonnet or villanelle, then I go back through the work again to check that I haven’t caught the wrong end of the stick, or indeed the wrong stick. On this pass I pay more attention to the language and technical considerations all the while asking myself what the poet is doing or attempting to do. Again, I make short notes. On the third pass I choose one or two of the poems that I consider to be typical of the collection, or particularly interesting, and I take them apart, very gently, looking at the rhythms and sounds and the technical aspects of construction. Often at this stage that it will occur to me which poetry a poet likes to read, a bizarre side-effect of having read a lot of poetry. At the end of the process I usually have enough information to write my review. I don’t consider any structure or classical form to be better or worse than any other and I don’t prefer classical forms over modern interpretations. I do like to recognise each poem for what it is and think about whether it is a good example of its type, and how it differs. The interest often lies in the difference. Sometimes a structural hiccup is a poet’s exclamation point Your writing interests me because you have such a broad range. You have fiction and non-fiction work running side by side with your verse. How do you divide your time between journalistic or historical writing and the intricacies of poetry?

MATHEW: Ha! Well, copywriting, journalism, editing, etc are all there in order to pay the rent. The noise of it kills the ability I have to write creatively, well certainly as far as poetry goes. Poetry requires a kind of intellectual space – I need to withdraw a little inside my head so I can hear the words clearly, get a sense of rhythm and weight, and also hear or feel the way they resonate for me intellectually and emotionally. It’s a separate thing for me. It’s also a space to reflect on myself – my thoughts and feelings, my responses to the world. I hesitate to call it a form of therapy because it isn’t, but the two things occupy similar states of mind I think.

RACHEL:  You’ve published several books written largely from a historical non-fiction perspective, most recently The Favourite. How did, or did, the research for that book feed back into your poetry work?

MATHEW:  I’m not sure that it did, necessarily. At least, not yet. I can see that the theme of my previous book Impossible Journeys resonates subtly here and there in my poetry. The idea of impossibility, hope against hopelessness, is something I can see I’ve returned to, not always intentionally. And my first book on Tolkien and the ancient history of the English landscape I think helped clarify for me something about how we experience the physical world intellectually and emotionally. But I consciously used poetry to help me with the writing of The Favourite. I worked very hard on the prose of that book at a time when my private life was beginning to go through a fair amount of turmoil. I lost my way quite often – but I found that reading contemporary poets like Medbh McGuckian, Jen Hadfield,  and Jane Griffiths helped me to focus on the clarity of expression. Why do you write fiction as opposed to poetry (as far as I know) while thinking deeply and writing about the poetry of others?

RACHEL:  I did pass through a phase of writing song lyrics but that is as close as I have come to writing poetry. I’m not a poet, as far as I am aware. The things that I need to say simply seem to come out in story form. Poetry is an intricate dance and I don’t consider that I know all the steps. Maybe that will change in the future. I look forward to finding out. I also review novels, short story anthologies and other written work. Poetry is the most beauty in the shortest amount of time. It takes me time to think through work to my satisfaction and so, in order to paint, sculpt and write, I am drawn to the work of poets. Poetry is a great deal of literary feeding in a very small space. It helps to ground me in a creative place. What are you trying to achieve when you write?

MATHEW:  To get the idea out whole, to find its ideal form and expression. I don’t think I ever have or will – but it’s important to try!

RACHEL:  And where do you go from here in terms of creative writing?

MATHEW:  I have more non-fiction projects to pursue and, as I said earlier, I’m working on some fiction. I don’t necessarily think of them as very different as writing projects. I try to make my non-fiction writing a pleasure to read and as a historian the human elements in  any story are very important to me. I’d like to start publishing my poetry properly and working towards a collection. How about you? You do so many different things. What is on your horizon creatively and critically?

RACHEL:  This year I will be making headway with my Tower-of-Babel-sized review pile. I have a great deal of reading to do. I will be reviewing poetry every month for Sabotage Reviews, and I will be working on my own novel ‘Indigo’. My spare time, should I find any, will be spent completing a sculpture that I started about a year ago. She is currently wrestling her way out of the stone, which looks uncomfortable, bless. The lovely thing about sculpture is that you can simply down tools and walk away, safe in the knowledge that the piece will keep. It isn’t quite that easy to shelve a painting in progress…

Mathew Lyons can be found here:

MathewLyons@wordpress.com

MathewLyons.tumblr.com

and @MathewJLyons on Twitter where you can also find me @Stirlingwriter