Several poets are currently taking part in this fun and informative blog tour. Four questions are making their way across minds and lands, via these blogs, and it was therefore very pleasing to me to be asked to take part in it!
Anyway, here are the As to the Qs, the A to Z of what I am up to at the moment… Enjoy….
What am I working on?
Currently I am busy sorting things out for the two books of verse I have coming out this year. One has gone to the publisher, Burning Eye Books, and I’m just sorting the cover art, launch events, that sort of thing. The second is still being put together. And there will be a third, too, of nature poetry, from my residency in the National Botanic Garden of Wales, next year, so I’m starting to think about that as well.
I’m writing a novel, a fantasy which grew from some of the short pieces I wrote for the Lent Project recently. This is an annual group blog, and was a great opportunity for me to try out some prose which I’d been meaning to for some time. It’s actually my second novel, the first one I wrote received a Literature Wales new writers’ bursary in 2007, it’s how I began writing, really… But, I never sent it to any publishers, as I didn’t like how it turned out, in the end.
I’m also practicing a show, which I co-wrote with poet Anthony Fairweather, and which premiered at the Exeter Fringe Festival a few years ago. I got ill after that, and only better last year, so we’ve re-jigged and tweaked the thing, which we now want to ‘take about’. We’ll be performing some shows in London over the summer, and plan on holding a few script-held performances in Wales soon. It’s called That’s Easy for You to Say! and is inspired by the fact I suffered from Selective Mutism as a child, and that Anthony has a stutter. Except when he is onstage, of course. We have both found writing/performing very therapeutic for these conditions. The show’s a little bit about that, but mostly it is us just being funny.
I’ve worked with electro-pop pixie Little Eris before, but we are collaborating again on some further work at the moment, inspired by Pussy Riot, fracking, and more! This is the year of various anniversaries, including some related to the women’s suffrage movement, so that’s had a bit of a hand in a few of the projects I am doing. Bronwen Davies, aka Little Eris, is very fun to work with, that’s a major factor in this as well!
Finally! I’m helping find volunteers who want to write a letter as part of Letter to an Unknown Soldier, a UK-wide project inspired by the famous war memorial at Paddington Station. It already includes a plethora of well-known writers, e.g. Benjamin Zephaniah and Owen Sheers, and looks to be a spectacular, wide-ranging, and pretty unique sort of war memorial, really… I’d love it if everyone reading this took part! You can find out more about that HERE.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don’t think it does differ, except that I do write different things, in different genres. Because ‘Mab’ is so well-known, I am thinking of having my book of nature poems come out in my real name, which is Michelle Anastasia Oliver.
My comic stuff has been compared to Joolz Denby and Pam Ayres, but it’s probably more Attila the Stockbroker-like in terms of its anger, satire, and dark humour. My nature poems are more inspired by George Herbert, Wordsworth, Mary Oliver, and William Blake! Maybe. I would like that to be the case, anyway.
Why do I write what I do?
I dunno. It just pops out. Feeling for me is definitely the primary impetus. I feel sad, I write. I feel happy, I write. I feel, er, anything – I write. It’s a therapy, a way of ‘getting stuff out’, a way of processing what I feel inside and engaging with the world ‘out there’… I like making people laugh and think and feel in equal measure. Writing is my speaking, really, as I find social interaction a bit trick-some at times. I often sense people saying one thing when they feel/seem to project another. This used to disturb me, although I am trying to come to a place where it doesn’t really matter.
I write about the world as I see and sense it. The fantasy novel, definitely, is more the sort of world I inhabit, in some ways – magic is real, there, for a start. Words have power. Animals are equal to humans. These are all true, for me. The novel I’m writing now is the sort of book I’d have loved as a child, so that’s one reason for writing it, though I don’t seem to have a lot of choice in the matter, again it is just ‘coming out’. All I have to do is find the time to let it do that!
How does my writing process work?
It’s case by case. If I am writing to a deadline, e.g. for an event or broadcast, I usually write on paper first, then as I am transferring over to my computer re-write at the same time. I nearly always start on paper, these days. It feels a bit ‘free-er’, somehow.
In the past year or so, ‘writing in my sleep’ has become more of a tendency. I just think about what I’m writing the night before, go to sleep, dream about it, and wake with more writing done in my head. It started about a year ago, without any effort on my part, I just went to sleep and woke with a poem fully-formed in my mind. I wrote it down. You can read it HERE.
Since then, writing in my sleep has happened more and more. The above described process resulted in this poem, although the fact of a deadline seemed to help. Deadlines do seem to help, in my case. Without them, I have a tendency to drift along… Part of my work is always making deadlines for myself. Otherwise I can be quite lazy and just get absorbed into Facebook, lying about and drinking tea. I have been trying to get more organisation into my life recently, though, and this is helping as well.
For the novel, I’m going on a little retreat next month, and I plan on having a very tight schedule – a daily deadline of however-many-words, plus mulling before I sleep, as well as a daily walk. Walking is great, and the rhythmic action and fresh air also seem to make words flow better in my mind. Wordsworth was onto something with that! Walking (cycling, swimming) are all very helpful!
I generally sit writing with my legs crossed, too. I might go to a cafe or to Chapter sometimes to write, and then I’m at a table, but I do prefer sitting cross-legged. Perhaps it was because I spent a few years living in Japan, I don’t know, but this is my preferred posture, up on the sofa, with tea and snacks to hand. Can’t be doing without tea and snacks! These are part of the process, as well, and very important they are.
Next up: Mark Blayney!
Mark won the Somerset Maugham Prize for Two Kinds of Silence. He’s published poems and stories in Agenda, Poetry Wales, The Interpreter’s House, The London Magazine and the delinquent. His third book The Murder of Dylan Thomas will be published next year and the title story was recently a Seren Short Story of the Month. He’s a National Slam finalist, a John Tripp finalist and has been longlisted for the National Poetry Competition. Mark MCs regularly and also writes and performs comedy: his one-man show Be your own life-coach… with ABBA tours this year. More info (and his blog post) at: www.markblayney.weebly.com