What poetry form(s) or style(s) best describes your work?
I like my poems to feel like little text adventure games, almost like you could click on any word with your eyes and get to a new place. Sometimes I accidentally write in a specific form and everyone thinks I’m doing something clever but I’m not.
Statement about your practice. Describe your practice, your interests and some key projects you have been working on in the past six months.
I have been putting together a collection for Broken Sleep Books called ‘Valour’. It is a book about journeys, but a little tongue in cheek. It swaps between the domestic and the epic, different types of bravery and different types of expeditions. I am interested in how we recount our own stories and how we tend to put a spin on them, like the bits in X-factor where everyone has experienced a tragedy. I think I have taken those things very seriously in the past but as you get older you turn into a laughing Buddha and see that you are not your past or even really your present. You are nothing much at all, so narratives are generally useless.
I think that is the same thing that stops me being ambitious and applying for things. I like writing poems but once I’ve finished the work seems done. I have been reading about Zen Buddhism for many years and once you realise the ego is the thing that makes you unhappy you can’t unknow it. It’s a blessing and a curse, but Zen would say neither of those things exist so you can see my problem.
The biggest project I am working on is that I am six months pregnant. This is basically like writing a new poem every day. I feel like a 3D printer. Pregnancy is making me creative in unexpected ways. The world feels sharper and I am having incredible dreams. I know I have quite a few poems in me and would like to have the time to write them.
How would you use a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship to develop your practice? There is no expectation of publication or performance as a result of the Fellowships. Here we would like to know how you want to grow creatively and professionally with the freedom the bursary offers and the expert support of mentors.
I am a little shy and would like to learn how to endorse my own work with a bit more conviction. I am not very grown up about it and I feel like it has held me back. I really like the word amateur as it stems from the word ‘love’ so have strange hang-ups about being a professional anything- perhaps this is something I need to work on. There are so many things I am interested in. I love films and photography and also computer games, although I don’t play them. I would love to take the words off the page and explore new kinds of poetic expression. I spend lots of time in the forest with my dog and would love to make a small film about it. The forest is my number one place to be.
I’m really interested in teaching others. Not poetry workshops per se, but experimental sessions using words, visual art and music in new ways. I have long wanted to put on a night of poetry and drawing. I have devised courses that use Google maps and reviews as spaces to write, and people seem to love this. Over the last few years I have also run workshops using subjects such as the monomyth and world building as starting points for writing. Sometimes poems come from strange places and I like the idea that you can start in one weird place and end up in a completely different one.
I am a trained coach and would like to explore how to reveal the untapped creative energy that so many people have using exercises and open, honest conversation. I have run a few things like this, but it is hard when funds are limited. Most of all I want people to see poetry as an exciting fun thing that everyone can join in with. I am not comfortable with the more academic side of poetry. I understand that exclusion can be a bit of a passion killer.
What three things do you hope to achieve as a result of your Fellowship? Think about what you would like to accomplish during the supported-year that would significantly help your career and craft.
I would like to finish ‘Valour’ and learn how to promote it properly. It is 20 poems long so far and needs about the same again. It started off being about infertility but then I got pregnant by surprise so I have had to rejig it a bit which has changed its course. Although I am a social media manager and enjoy technology immensely I am also quite bad at talking about myself and ‘selling’ my books. I always forget to tell people where they can get a copy or just give them away, which is pretty silly. I need time to write the rest of the poems and I am well aware that I will soon be on maternity leave. This is going to reduce my income even further and also eat into my time. I can feel my next book coming to life already and I haven’t even done this one yet. I hope people like poems about babies because they are in for the ride of their lives.
If I had a little freedom from thinking about marketing strategies I am pretty sure I could create something unfettered and brilliant.
I need to learn time management skills and ground myself in reality a little more. I am writing this application with about an hour to go until the deadline which is absolutely ridiculous. I am so happy to have this opportunity yet dream and dream until there’s about one minute left. When I went to read at Ledbury Poetry Festival the same thing happened. I was the bad poet who hadn’t sent them the right things. I also forgot to order books for them so there were none at my reading. I don’t understand it because poetry is the thing I care most about, even though I pretend it isn’t. I would like to learn how to become a little more focused and to not feel like it’s bad to be a little ambitious.
I am hoping that I don’t sound too flippant about all this, I am honestly so keen to make a change. I know my work is really excellent and I feel as if I do it a disservice by not being serious about it.
I would like to take some courses in different subjects, painting, film-making and ornithology amongst others. I work from home and spend long periods of time on my own so it would be really good to meet new people and learn new things. I would also love to start attending more poetry events- something I used to do all the time. It would probably be a good idea to enter some competitions or submit poems to magazines, I have only done this periodically and with very little conviction, generally when I need some fast cash.
I’m sure people might say that I’m afraid to succeed and they may be right. The idea of competition in general brings me out in a cold sweat, even writing this application is making me a little nervous if I’m honest. How amazing though that I could make a proper career out of writing poems. It has taken me a long time but now I am in my forties and have just bought a house and feel as if I have the security to pursue my dreams for real.
At the risk of writing one of those X-factor narratives I was talking about earlier, my life was quite difficult for quite a long time. I am in a new phase of completeness and happiness and feel as if this is exactly the right time to explore how far I can take my writing and teaching.