Sunday, July 24, 2016

Closely read

It as an honour and a gift to be so closely read, by anyone, and then to have these readers (often writers themselves) share their thoughts. I'm fortunate to have had this experience twice in the past few weeks, first by Neil Elder, author of the poetry pamphlet Codes of Conduct and my fellow Sabotage Awards shortlistee (congratulations, Neil!) on his blog, Neil Elder Poetry, where he responds to my poem, Life Just Swallows You Up: "I’m laughing, then thinking and feeling, and then admiring. I’ve read ‘Life Just Swallows You Up’ and I immediately want to re-read".

The second, also around a poem from my chapbook, is the excellent Proletarian Poetry: Poetry of Working Class Lives. Peter Raynard asked if he could reprint my Conversations With A Taxi Driver, Falmouth, and he talks about what the poem raised for him: "This is a fascinating short poem because it leaves a lot to the imagination, allowing us to drift with our thoughts the same way a taxi driver must do when waiting on their next fare." 

Thank you, Neil and Peter, I hope I can pass on the favour of such close reading!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Kissing, Climbing and An Aubergine

So, it's been a record week for me in terms of publications, with two poems and a flash story published in different places online, which, between them, cover kissing, climbing and aubergines. (see below). It's a wonderful, miraculous thing, being chosen by an editor and put between (virtual or actual) covers. And being able to share the links online is also joyous, especially when friends and strangers choose to get in touch with kind words.

But it's also surreal - all the more so in this turbulent year, and in particular in these few weeks of turmoil and uncertainty here in the UK, which haven't ended yet and may not for a long long time. I often find the disconnect between tragedies around the world and good news in my writing life hard to navigate. (As I thought about this blog post I was going to say "tragedies in the real world", but then again, I am a writer, and my writing is real, it is my real world too.) I feel guilty for celebrating these personal things.

As I was thinking about this, I realised that when I'm in despair, I turn to books, to poems, to short stories, novels, science writing. They help me. And when I read some of the comments people have made about my writing, I think, I am perhaps adding to that well, and they might be useful for one other person. I don't think my writing is some kind of panacea for the world's ills (apart from to me when I write it), but it's what I have to offer. I'm not particularly good at anything else, so this is what I've got. And I love celebrating other people's publications, so am trying to persuade myself that it's okay to every now and then be the one that other people are celebrating!

So, with delight, a little ambivalence, enormous gratitude to the editors of The Pickled Body, the Wales Arts Review, and Anthony Wilson (whose Lifesaving Poems blog is such an inspiration to me, I can't quite believe I am now one of them) -  and with encouragement to go and read everything else they publish, here are the links to my 3 new works:

Kiss The First in The Pickled Body (final poem)
Fire and Granite in Wales Arts Review
By Any Other Name, one of Anthony Wilson's Lifesaving Poems

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Nature Poem: How To Be Here

So, I recently received my first poetry commission - to write a nature poem inspired by a particular location on the Bristol-Bath Nature Trail for the Festival of Nature! I've never written a site-specific poem before, and my first attempt was a little cynical and not so much about nature. Luckily, my second attempt seemed more suitable - and here I am reading it!

Click here to find out more about the Poetry Trail and the other poems

Monday, May 02, 2016

I'm absolutely delighted that my poetry pamphlet has been shortlisted for the fantastic Saboteur Awards, an annual celebration of all things indie - from books and publishers, literary magazines and live events to authors and performers - in the UK! It operates by public vote and the voting is now open until May 24th so please do pop over there and show some support to your favourite performers, lit mags, publishers etc... The link is here. My second collection, My Mother Was An Upright Piano, won 2nd prize in the short story collection category in 2013, which meant an enormous amount to me.

And on the subject of pamphlets/chapbooks, I've just been interviewed about mine over at Speaking of Marvels, a wonderful website which describes itself as "interviews about chapbooks, novellas, and other shorter forms". I am so happy that Will title the interview "Give yourself permission to write what you want to read" because permission is such an important word for me - in writing and in life, if the two can be separated - and something I try and pass on when I can. I had to answer some quite marvellous questions, here's one:
Without stopping to think, who are ten poets whose work you would tattoo on your body, or at least your clothing, to take with you at all times?
Adrienne Rich (I already have), Sharon Olds, Grace Paley, Richard Brautigan (poetic license there), Rumi, Jo Bell, Michael Donaghy, the author of the Song of Songs (in Hebrew), Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson
You can read the whole interview here, and find out more about my chapbook, Nothing Here Is Wild, Everything Is Open, here.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Interview in Eclectica Magazine

I was interviewed rather wonderfully, I think, by Paul Holler, for the excellent Eclectica magazine - he sent me one question at a time and then the next, based on my response! It's mostly me chatting about writing - short stories, poetry, using science etc... Here's a taster:

PH One of the things I find interesting about your work is how you use and approach science. It seems to me that you are at least as interested in the culture of science as you are in pure science. Examples of this include "The White Road" and "Heart." In the former story, you focus on the everyday lives of researchers in Antarctica. In the latter, your character, a heart surgeon, reflects on the experience of seeing a patient's heart stop beating in her hand.
To what degree do you see science a way into the characters you create? Do your stories begin with a scientific inquiry or with a character making a scientific inquiry?

TH: You are right that I am just as interested in the culture of science—in fact, I am interested in every aspect of science, from the methodology and the mindset to daily life in a lab, the creativity of experiment design, and the wondrous and often bizarre vocabularies, which I love to plunder! As to what comes first, it's really hard to say. I immerse myself in science all the time, I read New Scientist every week, actively opening my mind to ideas which I could use as springboards into stories or poems. Stories begin with a character or, more specifically, a voice, which may be the main character or a narrator. It's that voice talking to me that generally gets me going. Poetry begins differently, with a phrase, with certain words.

What I actively do now is collide two ideas together, very often a scientific one with something else I have been thinking about, and see what results. I have been known to read two things at the same time—say, a New Scientist article and an article on something entirely different in another magazine—just to mess with my head and produce something new. Messing with my own head is an intrinsic part of my process!

You can read the rest of the interview here -  and do check out Simon Perchik's wonderful poem, Untitled, among the other delights in that same issue:

With her name in your mouth
more than a word, a morning
and everywhere on Earth
 You can read the full poem here.