Tell everybody a little about yourself
I’ve worked as a poet for many years, performing and running workshops for all ages I have 3 collections published and have contributed to 150+ anthologies. I’ve written for Cbeebies TV and Cbeebies Radio. My daughter, Charlotte Cooke, is an illustrator, and we worked together on our picture book, ‘The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat’, which was longlisted for the ‘Oscars First Book Prize’ award.
I was very excited to win the Caterpillar Poetry Prize, 2018, with the poem ‘Mustafa’s Jumper’, which was published as a story in 2019. My new collection of poems, ‘Riding a Lion’, is to be published in the summer of 2020, and my debut verse novel is on course for publication in 2021.
I have a husband, 2 grown up children, 2 grandchildren and a daft dog called Gus.
Was your creativity affected in any way during the lockdown? Did being lockdown make you feel inspired or deflated?
Actually, lockdown has been helpful to me, as I usually spend much of my time travelling around to lead workshops, which cuts down writing time. I’ve been able to concentrate on writing my debut verse novel, which is now finished and will, hopefully, be published next year.
Was it therapeutic doing creative work during lockdown?
It was. It’s always good to have a purpose to keep you occupied, and that has been especially important during lockdown, for many people. The bonus of writing fiction is that it expands your world, and writing my novel allowed me to escape to another place and time, which was definitely therapeutic!
What was the main thinking behind your poem submitted to Together Behind Four Walls ?
The poem came out of a regular Zoom meet-up I have, with a number of other poets. We try not to let covid-related issues dominate our discussions, as it’s easy for that to happen. On top of that, I do get a bit bored if there’s no variety in the conversations I have!
Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote or one of the first?
The first poem I remember writing was for the school magazine. I was 11 years old, and was dead chuffed to see my poem in black and white. It should have been in black and white and red, as the poem was about a guinea pig in the garden, when someone was mowing the grass! Yes, sorry, I’m amazed they published it!
Do you only focus on poetry or do you also write prose?
I’ve mainly written poetry until more recently, when I was asked to write the story ‘Mustafa’s Jumper’, and I do have some other stories up my sleeve. Of course, my verse novel is a halfway house – a story told in poetic prose and poems.
Do you poems ever have strong messages?
I personally don’t believe poems should be didactic. They should simply tell the truth, reflect the good and bad in the world, and leave the reader to think and imagine their way to conclusions. Sometimes there are no satisfying conclusions. It is not a writer’s job to tell someone else what they should think; that’s called propaganda.
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