Thanks to the lovely Jenny Wong for inviting me to answer these questions
What am I writing on?
I’m completing a pamphlet of more recent material which collides different ideas of the foreign and ways we make it manageable, such as by reference to films. There’s a poem in there called ‘Thinking of Blade Runner in the Turkish quarter of
Berlin’ for example. I’m
also completing a more experimental pamphlet based on the work of three
artists: Martin Creed, Michael Frank and Anselm Kiefer. On a separate level,
I’m trying to find someone with an understanding of code to help me with a
Poetry Map – 78 poems located at different places across the globe. The poems
are written, I just need help realizing the project more dynamically. The
prototype is here.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
A long time ago I read that you can recognize any great poet from one line taken at random, and that has stayed as a kind of definition of poetry for me. It’s important to be singular. I think I write by omission in some ways, hence my introductions at poetry readings tend to fill in all the necessary information. The downside of such a spare approach is that the reader might be left high and dry. Then again, there’s a pleasure in interpreting things your own way. One thing about Sylvia Plath is that because she left such a manageable body of work, with her poems written almost on a daily basis, after reading her chronologically there comes a point when you can ‘get’ exactly what she means – intuit her intention – no matter how obliquely she writes; or at least feel you can.
How does my writing process work?
I write very quickly and amass a huge amount of drafts, which I then edit and re-edit. I never throw anything away, because I don’t trust myself. Once I have a stack of new work I think it’s time to sort it out and I read through all the different drafts of a poem and see where it is heading, which approach of all the different edits works best, and shape it, often collaging it from different versions, and re-write the thing. I had a poem accepted recently that was begun about two years ago, which is not an uncommon time frame. It isn’t much changed: a few stanzas cut, a few words edited, a few lines in a different order, and it is now in quatrains.
I tend to write a lot when I am away from home, and end up with sequences about Portugal, Wales etc that aren’t particularly shaped (lots of *s) but contain interesting details. I often worry about whether I am a poet or a writer.
I find it a great help to write for competitions and journals – reading my drafts with an eye on a theme helps me see my work freshly. For example, that poem about the painting of the prematurely aged children might be seen to be about war. The deadlines get me digging stuff out and working on it. When I get a rejection I read the work again and can see it in a different light, more uncharitably. This too is useful. Didn’t Ted Hughes say that when a poem of his was completed he felt excluded, shut out from it? When a poem is finished I put it (and all its drafts) away and my pile is that much thinner so I can begin work on the next poem.