Tell us about the new book.
It’s a pamphlet called The Deal, my second publication with the excellent HappenStance, press, run by Helena (Nell) Nelson. Nell is the most supportive and special of editors as anyone who has worked with her will agree. She absolutely knows her stuff and has incredible energy and dedication; I feel really lucky to have been published by her.
My first pamphlet was published in 2016 and was called Infinite In All Perfections. That pamphlet had no core theme, although it drew quite a bit on my Catholic childhood and my experiences as a teacher. Some of the poems were funny and some were lightly serious.
The new pamphlet is a bit more serious, and the central theme is fear. I have our mutual friend, Chrissie Banks, to thank for spotting this theme in a number of my poems and for suggesting they could form a collection that might resonate because of the anxiety that many people are feeling at the moment.
The working title for the pamphlet was Scaredy Pants, which Nell and I liked because it’s different. However, we decided it was maybe too humorous, and might sound more like a collection for children. (I also write poems for children.) So Nell suggested The Deal which is the title of one of the poems— it’s about doing a deal with God at a time of personal crisis.
The cover illustration shows a Picasso-style owl with a mouse dangling from its beak. This relates to a poem called Picasso’s Owl, about a pet owl Picasso kept for several years. Picasso had, since childhood, a great fear of death, and owls are sometimes seen as symbols of death. He painted it many times, perhaps as a way of confronting his fear.
But there are funny poems in The Deal as well, including one about an encounter, on a train, with a hen party and a lobster that turns into Donald Trump!
What was the first poem you wrote?
I remember it vividly! I was nine and I wrote it at home, just for the fun of it. It was called ‘Sunset’:
The sun is sinking in the west
In all its golden splendour.
The little flowers have gone to rest
To hide their parts so tender.
My dad seemed to find the poem funny, for reasons I couldn’t understand, but my mum didn’t laugh. I’m quite proud of it as a first poem. And I still think ‘splendour’ is a splendid word!
A book-length collection one day. The working title is Missing the Man Next Door, but I won’t say more at this stage.
If you were interviewing yourself what question would you ask?
I’d probably ask about how I go about writing my poems because I’m intrigued by the whole process. I wouldn’t be able to answer the question of course!
Music, poetry or film? Which speaks the most to you?
Music. Someone said that all art aspires to the condition of music, and it does seem to me to be the purest art form. Poetry comes close though.
RS Thomas said that religion and poetry are the same thing. I think that’s right— it’s all metaphor. I was very religious as a child, and still have an essentially religious temperament. Buddhism attracts me, but I’m not a card-carrying member of any group. I think poetry is my religion these days.
What do you want your poetry to do? What do you want to evoke in the reader/listener?
It depends on the poem, I guess— a smile, a chuckle, a nod, a tear…. a connection.
Tell us a joke
What do you call a baby fountain pen?
…..it’s a good joke for poets I think. We spend our lives chasing inklings!
Name something you love and why?
My two grandchildren—love them more than life itself. Just do.
Does creativity involve putting your heart and soul into your work or do you let your mind run free and see where it leads you?
Yes, all of that! It’s a great adventure.
Have you ever doubted your talent?
Annie is published by HappenStance Press.
Until next time.