I’m really pleased to have Paul Brookes here. He’s a lovely poet – his poem Our Spired Unicorn was one of my favourite advent calendar poems. He’s also immensely generous to other poets – he regularly opens his blog for ekphrastic challenge months and for themed days, and supports other poets on Twitter.
Paul is a shop assistant, who lives in a cat house full of teddy bears. His first play was performed at The Gulbenkian Theatre, Hull. His chapbooks include The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley, (Dearne Community Arts, 1993). The Headpoke and Firewedding (Alien Buddha Press, 2017), A World Where and She Needs That Edge (Nixes Mate Press, 2017, 2018) The Spermbot Blues (OpPRESS, 2017), Port Of Souls (Alien Buddha Press, 2018), Please Take Change (Cyberwit.net, 2018), Stubborn Sod, with Marcel Herms (artist) (Alien Buddha Press, 2019), As Folk Over Yonder ( Afterworld Books, 2019). Forthcoming Khoshhali with Hiva Moazed (artist), Our Ghost’s Holiday (Final book of threesome “A Pagan’s Year”) . He is a contributing writer of Literati Magazine and Editor of Wombwell Rainbow Interviews. Had work broadcast on BBC Radio 3 The Verb and videos of his Self Isolation sonnet sequence featured by Barnsley Museums and Hear My Voice Barnsley. He also does photography commissions and his family history articles have appeared in The Liverpool Family History magazine.
Here he is, talking about his craft:
I was really excited to see your Alice poems – I love the way you approached them. How did they come about?
I am not a Martian. Their poetry is too much like Anglo-Saxon riddles. In my collection ‘A World Where” the reader knows from the title what is being turned upside down. They are not riddles. I wanted the same for my Alice poems. When choosing classic texts I am always surprised what I find when I alter the titles: “The Wonderland In Alice” immediately had the narrative shape of young woman finding herself. I have no problems with accepting absurdity in my writing, or in life, increasingly so as I get older. Absurdity is a different way of looking at the world, but it must have some relation to everyday life. Too often, when absurdity shifts into riddles and puzzles it becomes too clever for its own good. That stuff puts me off, Big time
And what are you working on at the moment?
A pamphlet of sonnets
Have my pamphlet of serious whimsy, to be called “A Wonderland In Alice”, or “A Bag Of Mashings” published
Finishing my detective novella whose styles vary from gritty realism to wildly surrealistic.
Completing my life and laughter confirming companion pamphlet to “Port Of Souls”
Assembling poems and artworks for a pamphlet about my late mam and dad and family history.
Completing the story of my ancestor Captain Charles Teft Laurence, each chapter deals with a ship in which he was a nineteenth century Merchant Mariner.
Assembling an exhibition of my photos.
And a few things in preparation I can’t talk about now.
You are very active and generous to other poets on social media. How did your “theme days” come about? What has been your favourite so far?
It is an idea that arrived in my head as a carrying on of the campaigning work of the late Jamie Dedes and Reuben Woolley. I have no favourites. I am lit up by theIr imagination and creativity of others that I love to enflame. All writers should be encouraged and supported in as many ways as possible.
You’ve been writing for a long time. What does poetry mean to you? If you had to define a poem, how would you define it?
I have a Youtube site called “Poetry Is My Bag For Life”. While other sensible school children played football, I sat on the side with a big green book of empty pages and filled them with pale imitations of William Blake and Dylan Thomas. My dad made sure I imbibed the Burton version of Under Milk Wood from an early age.
Kate Clanchy describes writing poetry as being part of a conversation with other poets. Are there particular poets you feel you respond to?
All poets I correspond with are part of my conversation with poetry. Each provides something new and refreshing.
If you could only read 3 poets for the rest of your life, who would you choose?
William Blake, Dylan Thomas and the sadly missed Peter Reading
Do you have a writing routine?
No. I wake up and go to sleep with a constant stream of voices in my head asking to be heard.
What about editing? How do you go about it?
I call it “mulling”. It happens subconsciously, most of the time. After writing for so many years your brain kicks into editing abd proof reading mode. Mistakes glare out at you like mirror stains.
What sort of response do you hope for from your readers?
I hope to engage their imaginations so they have confidence to write themselves.
How do you find your inspiration?
In all and everything. Walking helps me mull over stuff. Working in a supermarket introduces me to the stories folk tell. Engages me in confrontations and makes me a witness to the life of the High Street.
Do you think you have particular themes that recur?
My adoration for the rude and ribald. My delight in Yorkshire dialect. My love of fantasy, science fiction and thrillerish gritty realism. My abhorrence for inhumanity.
Do you ever feel blocked? How do you deal with it?
To coin a phrase I have a poem about that:
Nothing to write down,
I wake up, pay attention
to life around me.
How is she dressed?
Why is she here?
How does she move?
Where is she going?
This fly, this ant, this cat,
this woman with a child.
Who should I interview next? And why?
Tough question. Ankh Spice, Tim Fellows, Laura Potts, or choose any of those I have interviewed over the years.
Here’s a poem from Paul:
without corners the curve becomes an edge.
Go so far over the roundness and you
will fall. Nothing is sharp, just rough, aged.
There are no thorns, nothing to catch, cut through.
No scissors or other ways to open.
The world seems padded, coddled. Comfortable.
If something breaks, examine the broken
bit to find roundness like a fresh bubble.
All windows are spherical. No pins,
needles. Bowls, cups and plates have rounded
rims. You can’t impale anyone, anything.
There are no nails, no staples. This grounded
world is to us a well kept taxi, all
soft sounds, clunks and clicks, bouncy, a soft ball.
If you want more of Paul, you can find him here:
He’s a lovely reader of poems. And he’s doing an ekphrastic challenge for NaPoWriMo – starting tomorrow, on his wordpress site. There’s still time to sign up.