Tuesday, 8 April 2014


There is no pretention about Gram, he is poetry. There is passion balanced by a deep knowledge and a way with words that I envy. I also have to confess I am in awe of the long complex lines of his work. I am pleased if I can manage to string ten lines together, Gram works on a larger scale and pulls it off. There is never a wasted word, nor a superfluous sentence.

And hearing him read! He has a presence and the voice to bring it all together.

Gram was the fine mind behind the editing of Juncture 25's first anthology (we have a couple of copies left, you can get yours here). I can honestly say without his attention to detail it would not be the book it is.

By now you have gathered that Gram is a member of Juncture 25. He can fully formed-as I think I wrote in the introduction. I find his work to be rich, resonant and thought provoking. He has an excellent blog, well worth reading.

Let's here what he has to say.

Why poetry?

When you remove all that is unnecessary, poetry is left.

I have been read stories. I have puzzled over riddles or puns. Experienced drama. Listened to hip hop music. Seen the news. A list of what makes poetry possible would be long.

Why though? Life fills up, it gets empty. I shake off what feels dead and poetry remains. As if it were what everything else is for.

Tell us how you work

Have you ever heard about Peter Redgrove’s method, the way he would keep several books and gradually copy “germs” of ideas from one to the next, expanding on them every time? He believed the unconscious mind worked on each, and eventually formed poems. Well, I do not work like that.

It is a sound principle, I think. Sometimes, a theme can occupy me for a while, and it seems to get magnetised so that other things around me begin to make sense in terms of that idea, and cling to it. This happens inexplicitly, but when sitting down to write, I find a number of observations from recent days have clotted together, formed their own little nexus in my imagination. Some of these may have been quietly snowballing for a very long time, years or decades, and become very powerful. Others happen overnight, or an afternoon. It can happen in a second, actually.

Association is both the essence of metaphor and of meaning. You need a vantage point to experience anything meaningfully. Poetry has the advantage of being able to talk about one thing directly in terms of another. This is what gives it emotional energy. In the overlap between things not obviously connected, our hearts are forced to stretch to comprehend and then we really feel something.

What is particularly interesting is that if you give yourself a receptacle, for example, decide to write according to one form or other, or to draw words only from a particular source, or to speak as one kind of voice, you instantly create a space for associations to fall into. Rather than waiting around for something you might call inspiration, you can prepare the ground. Which is why often I will write by taking two or three starting points (e.g. a news story, a memory, an intention for short lines) and let these things reach out toward one another in the mind. Where they cross, there’s material for a poem.

Which poets make you green with envy?

Anne Michaels, in her collection Miners’ Pond & The Weight of Oranges, stuns me. She wrote a beautiful novel, too. If I could write like her, I could stop.

Tea or coffee?

Ha. A piece of advice I was given: when a writer begins to write about coffee, they’re really in trouble.

I start the day with espresso. Drink green tea. Pick mint from the garden. Buy chamomile by the sack. Then there is licorice. Lemon. Vanilla rooibos. There’s occasionally nothing so nice as breakfast tea made too strong in a pot then served with a little too much milk.

What question would you not like me to ask?

Why do you not use your time instead to administer triage in disaster zones?

How would you answer it?

In my dreams, I do.

What's in the pipeline?

Personal goals include writing one poem every week for a while, interacting with more writers and remembering to submit work for publication occasionally.

If you were a book, poem, song, colour what etc would you be?

I am a ringbinder full of notes.

To end with a poem. 

Gram As Lifeform, Phosphorescing

Awake in my pushchair after sunset
I am proto-hominid; a hunter who searches
the hedgerow. The road surface quakes my teeth, 
there are voices, the presence of figures. 
This verge is a planetarium of glowworms; illuminated
ichor totems taking shape. It is not my moment. I wait. 

Strapped in the car, I sing to radio pylons. But wait
until dark – when each isosceles dims into sunset, 
then scaffold becomes illuminated
by a pack of wolves. Every red eye searches
an umbra of moths. It is my totem pole of figures
stacked amid shivering cables and metal teeth. 

It goes past. I have dreams of losing teeth
then wake. A deathwatch beetle ticks the wait
from its cavity. Over me, glow stickers draw figures
of a star-chart without rotation, sunrise or sunset. 
In such patterns are embryonic myth; I make searches
whose purpose is not illuminated. 

Watching jellyfish breeze an aquarium tank, illuminated
blackly by ultraviolet bulbs, my reflected teeth
are pre-human, skeletal; a face unlike mine searches
itself among the bulks of hydrozoa. They wait
like negative plates of sunset. 
Faintly, my teacher’s voice relates figures. 

I have imagined a moment the self figures
out who it is, when the familiar becomes illuminated. 
We are near hedgerow, using our throats to test sunset
with shrieks high enough to shiver teeth, 
hoping bats will acknowledge us. I see one wait, 
hovering mid-beat between pips as it searches.

In these days, when troglodytes perform web searches,
I am camped. My dog runs figures 
of eight in his LED collar while I wait
on a flame. Half-visible in its illuminated
circle, we listen to screech owls give saw-teeth
calls. A myth takes shape in these hours after sunset.

I am someone who figures a beast in the umbra of sunset,
that creature who searches lightning for its teeth, 

who waits beneath park lamps to see moths illuminated. 

Thanks Gram.

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