Robert Ford–Interview — The Magnolia Review

As well as publishing my poem “Little Grey Cloud” earlier this year, The Magnolia Review was also kind enough to ask me a few questions as part of their series of contributor interviews.

Suzanna Anderson, editor of TMR, has now posted the interview, which you can read by following the link from the original post below. I’m really grateful to Suzanna for giving me the opportunity to share a little of my experience as a writer.

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.? Although it sounds fun to have an office, shack or cave set up deliberately to facilitate writing, I don’t have one. So I write wherever I am, whenever I can. Which can be inconvenient. What kind of materials do you use? Do […]

via Robert Ford–Interview — The Magnolia Review

Advertisements

Evolving God Now Available — Writer M. Stone

M. Stone is one of the most talented poets I’ve had the good fortune to discover since I started using WordPress, and she currently has a new micro-chapbook out – “Evolving God” – which is a truly remarkable read. Highly recommended. Follow the links from the original post below to get hold of a copy.

My micro-chapbook Evolving God is now available at Ghost City Press! Many thanks to Editor Kevin Bertolero and the Ghost City Press team for believing in this little book and including it in the 2018 summer series.

via Evolving God Now Available — Writer M. Stone

 

Saltmarsh thoughts #3

IMG_1489If horses – as per the title of Alice Walker’s poetry collection – make a landscape look more beautiful, then perhaps islands do the same for seascapes. Or mountains do. Or islands with mountains. You get the idea, I hope.

Sifting and resifting through the photographs I took back in May when visiting RSPB Campfield Marsh and the Solway Estuary, I’m struck by two things.

The first is how many of the images are looking outwards from the land towards the estuary, with its rivers emptying out into the Irish Sea. And so – inevitably – across to the coast of Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland. And how few were taken facing back towards the land. Because the tide is out, the sea itself, its water, is largely absent, invisible, but nonetheless I find myself looking for it.

This is reflected in my memories of the day. I remember spending far more of it gazing out at and thinking about the sea. I’d travelled for almost two hours across land to get to the coast, so maybe it’s inevitable to focus on what you’ve been heading towards, rather than what you’ve passed through. It makes me wonder whether the experience of arriving somewhere over water leads the traveller to turn their back instinctively on that which has been crossed, and instead focus landwards? (I will make a mental note next time I arrive at the sea to check back and look behind me more carefully).

The second thing to strike me is the effect that the horizon can have on the watcher looking out to sea. Looming faintly on the skyline in most of the images is Criffel; neither the tallest by any means, nor the shapeliest of Scotland’s mountains, it still draws the eye.

IMG_1510

This is not to suggest at all that without the mountain there, there’s be no point looking out to sea. But it does make me realise how easy it can be to observe something without adequately considering the frame, the context, the accompaniment that completes the image. And how sometimes we can – even when we think we’re paying attention – need a second look to fully appreciate what is going on.

Drawing trees

Drawing Trees


Drawing trees

 

I thought I was doing them properly, the way

you’re supposed to, crayoning out raw shapes

that were, if not quite exactly lollipops, then

certainly something lickable, perhaps clouds

of candy floss wound onto sticks, or ice cream.

I filled them in with a pistachio green to avoid

any ambiguity, ticking in a circle of birds above,

a butterfly the size of a moose. A sun, smiling.

 

Those, she told me would lose their leaves

in the autumn, spend fingerbone winters naked

and heartless. She didn’t say why. I didn’t ask.

Hers were drilled brigades of triangles, isosceles,

getting smaller towards the top of the page

to suggest distance, within which you could

see each and every Starbucks needle, every

chocolate-coloured cone a dangling reproach.

 

first published in Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine Anthology, 2017

Up at Nancy’s

Nancy's

 

Up at Nancy’s

 

You ruminate – as the wheels spin on a mossier stretch

of the cobbles – on how they’d never build a road like this

these days, all the way up the hill to where field and moor

merge indifferently into one another, where the improved

becomes the unimproved. They wouldn’t even build a house.

 

She’ll be long dead by now, of course, so there’ll be no more

of those illicit cans of sweet stout skulking in the refrigerator,

rubbing shoulders with the UHT milk cartons; no more

coal-black surprises coiled in the plastic commode for you

to deal with. No more memories of George, ‘God rest his soul’.

 

She’ll have stopped wondering what might lurk about the upstairs,

where she last went over a decade ago, when her knees

were still behaving; stopped smiling in that borrowed way

of hers, with those flawless dentures, that surely belonged in

someone else’s mouth. They never mirrored the eyes.

 

This property would benefit from substantial modernisation

bleats the brochure from the auctioneers. The images show only

the views across the dale on a high pressure, July afternoon,

and the centuries-old defiance of the stonework. Not the interior.

No mention of the ghosts you know you’d be sharing it with.

 

 

first published in The Interpreter’s House, issue 66, 2017

Saltmarsh thoughts #2

IMG_1493Niggling away amongst the thoughts and notes I collected recently up at the Solway estuary – in addition to those about careful observation, and where poetry comes from – have been some insights into what I choose to write about. And what I’ve realised is that no matter where I am, whatever I’m looking at, the thing I’m interested in is people.

This might seem like an obvious conclusion to reach, but wouldn’t always have been. I can recall a time – back when I first began writing “seriously” – when I was more interested in reflecting on what I would’ve considered “nature”, meaning land- and seascape where human beings were either absent, ignored or unwanted. I was always trying to look beyond people and lose myself in these places, or feel inspired by them with my ego at arm’s length, if possible (reliably not).

I find people and what we do far too fascinating now. I’m one of those irritating creatures you see in art galleries who – after about twenty minutes of wandering around – occupies the most advantageous seat in the biggest room and spends their time looking at what everyone else is doing. It’s not that I don’t like art. It’s just that I find our interactions with art and public spaces more intriguing. Admittedly, art is a human business anyway, but the ways people interact with and imprint themselves into landscape is of equal interest to me.

IMG_1524

I live in a relatively crowded country, where it’s pretty much impossible to find yourself in a landscape that hasn’t been engineered to some degree by humans. The Solway estuary is a beautiful place, but people have been living here for thousands of years – farming, fishing, mining, extracting whatever we need – and helping to shape it, for better or for worse. These days I’m far more likely to be drawn by traces and consequences of these activities, and find inspiration for writing there.

Three poems up at Stickman Review

Anthony Brown, editor of Stickman Review, has been kind enough to include three of my poems – “Driving around town, 2 a.m.”, “Eddie’s” and “In which you are still leaving” – in Volume 17, Number 1, which has just been released online.

Big thanks to Anthony for finding space for these three amongst some very fine poems indeed. I’d particularly recommend checking out David Lohrey’s “Saturday, the 19th or the 20th”.

 

Last view of the island

Islands

Last view of the island

 

The ferry banks, only five minutes out

beyond the stone corral of harbour wall

and into the channel, the broad crescent

of its wake painting plumes across the

glass of the ocean, engines humming a

rhythmless vibrato. Smoke funnels skywards.

Cars hunch like crated eggs on the lower deck.

Over the tannoy, our cheery captain announces

a bottlenose pod, surfing in the bow-waves.

My eyes lock over the stern, watching as

those grey mountains begin to melt on

the horizon, taking a lifetime to disappear.

 

 

first published in Red River Review, 2018

 

Saltmarsh thoughts

IMG_1487It’s been a week or so since I journeyed up to the Solway coast to take part in a creative writing day organised by Cumbria Wildlife Trust at RSPB Campfield Marsh. As you might be able to tell from these images (easier with the colour one, admittedly), it was a glorious late-spring/early-summer day of high pressure weather, sunshine and stillness. A real blessing. With the tide wholly out, exposing the saltmarsh and mudflats to their fullest extent, the sense of openness and space was remarkable, and the beginnings of the Galloway hills across the border loomed almost reachable on the horizon.

Writer and blogger Ann Lingard, who was running the event, encouraged us to spend plenty of time out in the estuary amongst the mud and the marsh, exploring, observing and making notes, before gathering us again to compare findings and take part in a couple of writing exercises. She also took the time to share her extensive knowledge of both the microfauna that calls the place home, and the history of the immediate area. I doubt I could identify again (or even find) any of the critters we were introduced to, but at least I have no excuses anymore.

I’ve found myself regularly revisiting and reprocessing the experience in my head ever since. It would be untrue to say that I’ve used the notes I made to create anything of substance – poetry, fiction, whatever. It’s still just a jumble of notes. Had I expected it to be otherwise? I can’t honestly say. But I do know that something far more valuable has occurred to me in the meantime.

IMG_1504

I’m fascinated by the creative process – by what it is about us that makes us creative and makes us create (or else allows us to think we aren’t and stop ourselves). And how the germination of ideas takes place. What I’ve realised is how rarely I grant myself the gift of spending time simply looking at things, at what’s really there. Not only looking, but also using every other sense in a deliberate, conscious way. It’s an incredibly precious gift, but for me, it has to come without any hint of agenda. There must be no pressure, no compulsion to write about the observations – the sensations – as a result.

I either write or think about writing every single day (the latter occurs much more often!), but I almost never see or experience something and then sit down to try and write coherently about it straight away. Instead, whatever seeds have been sown usually have to sit there and fester first – for years, even – before a thing I might think of as ‘poetry’ happens.

But I have to gather those seeds, raw materials. I’ve never known precisely where poems and their ideas originate (I have a clue…) but I know that in order for the whole process to keep rolling, I need to continue to be as open and receptive to the world as I can. So I’ve made a promise that I’m going to give myself the gift of taking a look around much more often.

 

 

Hinterland

Hinterland

Hinterland

 

They say it doesn’t rain here much, often, but

when it does, canopies of merciless cloud snuff out

 

every last square of the sky, hanging about the fields

like a quarrel, forgotten without ever being resolved,

 

and empty themselves in angled swipes that paste

both barley and nettles to the red earth, bleeding into

 

the leather boots and loafers of commuters on trains,

who steam coolly in their seats all the way into Waverley.

 

 

first published in Southlight Magazine, 2017