I am an Edinburgh-based poet and educator from Skipton, in North Yorkshire. I write about the relationship between the earth and the mind, the effects of the natural world on mental health, as well as anchoring a lot of my work in the histories of the Hen Ogledd (the Celtic Old North, which I see a lot of when I go home). I am currently working on getting my debut collection published, and busying myself converting my poetry reading events into online capers.
Was your creativity affected in anyway during the lockdown? Did being lockdown make you feel inspired or deflated?
Lockdown has, for myself, as I am certain for many other millions of people, been a tough time to try and undertake or continue any creative projects. The sheer physicality of the slab of time we are all getting through at the moment has been as a sheet of iron, completely unyielding and the limits of which are unknown. I have tried my utmost throughout lockdown to bolster current works and to take on new lines of writing, but it has been much more of an uphill struggle than I was hoping for it to be. However, there are so many amazing, revelatory and provoking events underway in the world at present that I feel some semblance of activity is beginning to come more easily, with so much which ostensibly should be written about and should be voiced in poetry.
Was it therapeutic doing creative work during lockdown?
Creative pursuits have been both the problem and the solution for me! I have struggled to find the inspiration oftentimes during the lockdown, but when I have touched upon some new angle, or begun to germinate an older thought, it has been one of the few aspects of this lifestyle which has kept me sane. Writing is very much a therapeutic pursuit much of the time, but it also throws up all manner of discomforts and wounds which we are not always in the best frame of mind to deal with. Such is the risk of accessing the deepest parts of yourself for art.
How did you occupy your time?
I am a teacher, so I have been very busy planning the blended learning approach, working in school hubs and trying to maintain some semblance of normality for my pupils, which has taken up the greatest portion of my time. When I do find myself with a solitary moment, however, I have been trying my best to safely and responsibly get out into the open, which much of my work can trace its roots to. The loss of the freedom to be outside in nature has been strongly felt, and the ability to leave my own home for more than an hour at a time now has been extremely welcome.
What was the main thinking behind your poem submitted to Together Behind Four Walls ?
A lot of my poetry deals with the effects of mental health on people, and how this combines with the experience of nature that a lot of people find to be somewhat restorative when dealing with mental health issues. It was the very same thought which provoked 'Leviathan Stirs' within me, as I was considering the rise in depression and anxiety emerging at present as a result of our confined conditions. Suffering from depression myself, I have spent enormous amounts of energy in my life combatting this problem, which has a tendency to overwhelm even the stoutest of individuals, which is where the description of Leviathan comes in for me.
What inspires most of your poems,
Much of my poetry is centred in nature, and focuses on the relationship that humanity ekes out with nature in our post-industrialised world. I write the core of my poetry with a founding in nature, as a point of relation with which to spring off into other territories of thought, as a work fleshes itself out.
Do you have any favourite poems, from all the poems you have written?
One of my favourite poems is called 'Cold Eel'. Those who have read it have had an exciting multitude of different ideas about its meaning, message, call it what you will, and I find myself learning something fascinating and new about writing every time someone speaks to me about it. It is one of my earlier poems, and it is undeniably vague as a piece, but I feel it also has a clear, hardened focus running through its subtext
Do you ever think of poems before going to sleep or just after waking up?
I commonly come up with the anchoring line of a poem in a half-sleep haze; I need to train myself to actually get these words down more often though! The conscious melding of words and lines together into larger works often start with individual lines of couplets drifting into my mind, almost like a memory.
Do you hand write poems or go directly on to your computer?
I write with whatever is at hand in the moment; I like to use my typewriter if I am looking for a particular vibe from a poem, but I often just use what is to hand. Normally I am not fussy!
Do you ever give up on poems you have started?
Constantly. It feels a shame, but sometimes you have to know when a poem has had its day, and I tend to shelve these tricky poems to be re-read at a later date. Some of them find new life in other works, and some, after re-consideration, can be cannibalised, but there is an awful lot of work which finds itself out of use entirely.
Do you do any other creative activities?
I am a musician, so I like to try and keep my hand in the music world by writing musical pieces, but by far my main creative outlet is poetry.
Do you only focus on poetry or do you also write prose?
I do occasionally dabble in prose; I am working on it more as time goes on, but poetry is my main commitment.
Do your poems ever have strong messages?
All poetry has a strong message or two smattered in the rhythms!
How would you describe the tone of your poems?
I am not usually light by choice in my poetry, but to be honest, I think they tend to be a wee bit sarky. This is not a truly conscious intention, but I feel this is an aspect of my delivery style which I had better not tamper with. I enjoy contrasts; they reflect our world faithfully, and they find their way into my work in almost every poem. It may be an addiction, I'll have to pay close attention to it.
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