Featured Poet David Tait interviewed.
Tell us about your poems.
I think my poems are “love poems” and “city poems”. Most of my writing is densely populated and I find writing about people far more interesting than writing about trees or mountains. Huge things scare the living daylights out of my pen. I wouldn’t know where to start with writing a mountain or the sea — people walking on a mountain or sailing on the sea I could just about handle.
I also like to write in a way that is accessible for its readers. Sometimes saying the simplest things is much more effective than language steeped in hyperbole and classical/mythological allusions.
How long have you been writing?
It feels like I’ve been writing forever. I wrote little songs during primary school and wrote teenage angsty poems when I was a teenager. In terms of “taking myself more seriously” I’ve been writing properly for about 2 years. In recent times I’ve begun to get more involved with the running of workshops and I always enjoy watching people who are relatively new to poetry come out with strong first drafts.
Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
I’ve got a pamphlet out through Erbacce Press called Suitcase/Earthquake which I enjoyed writing. I’ve also had poems accepted for numerous publications such as Pomegranate, The Cadaverine, Read This, Like Starlings and the Guardian Online poetry workshops. The next natural step I suppose is my first collection. I had a mental breakthrough the other day and finally figured out what was holding the existing poems together. I guess I’ll be using my MA time to write the rest of my first collection. I’m also hoping move over to Thailand for a couple of years to do some translation from contemporary Thai poets. That should be around June or so.
What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Well, it’s a difficult question to answer really because “achievement” in poetry is always marked by “published in this” or “won such-and-such prize” and I really think the thing I am happiest with is something called The Firework Factory, which I am going to take a moment to plug. Basically every week/fortnight an email is sent to a group of writers giving them a writing exercise to respond to. The responses are often very strong and I include 2 or 3 of the best in the next weeks email along with the subsequent writing task.
I think this is my strongest “achievement” because it is free, fun to run and is accessible to everyone. If you would like to join the list please email email@example.com and we’ll get you added on. If nothing else it will give you something to mull over!
What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
The best thing about writing poetry is that brilliant moment you write something that you instantly fall in love with or think “shit, where did that come from?”
The worst thing about poetry is when you write 2 or 3 poems in a row that aren’t up to scratch and you start to have hideous and horrendous doubts. Those moments always pass of course but it is always hellish!
Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
Well, read Rowena Knight’s interview from a few featured-poets-ago. She’s bob on with so much of what she has said in that space and if you’ve read it already go back and re-read it!
The only thing I can really add to it is practical things. Exercise, try writing in different styles, watch world cinema, go to art galleries, hike, bike, subscribe to zines, if you can afford to then go on an Arvon course with a poet you admire… listen to what people have to say. Read Claire’s posts on criticism - join a writer’s circle, ignore anyone who claims that contemporary poetry is dead. Read everything worth reading. Follow One Night Stanzas. (Thanks David!!)
Who/what influences your poetry?
I think the world you connect with influences your writing and it certainly does so for me. In terms of what to read and what has influenced me the list could go on forever but lets make a start with the following:
Carol Ann Duffy, Billy Collins, Sujata Bhatt, Moniza Alvi, Alison McVety, Sinead Morrisey, Moniza Alvi, Dorothea Smartt, Pat Borthwick, Geoff Hattersley, Jean Sprackland, Mark Doty, Michael Symmons Roberts, Jackie Kay, Gillian Clarke, Emma Jones, Michael Laskey, Kathryn Simmonds, Jen Hadfield, Jo Shapcott, Maura Dooley, Helen Farish, Daljit Nagra, River Wolton, Catherine Smith, Imtiaz Dharker and Kapka Kassabova.
In terms of younger writers keep an eye out for Helen Mort, Suzannah Evans & Mark Burns Cassell who all write brilliant stuff.
I’d also really recommend watching lots of world cinema, in particularly directors like Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Kim Ki Duk.
You always were a few hours beyond me,
and it didn’t come as too much of a shock
when I read the note that you dropped in our gutted
bedroom, that said you’d left me for a new life in the east.
You didn’t apologize or give me much to go on
so I bought a clock that included all of the time-zones,
and watched my days as breakfast chimed lunch in Dubai –
or dinner, on your own, in downtown Shanghai.
Three years on and your clothes don’t smell like you.
I’m eating lunch hours early with wide-awake friends
in my kitchen, my dull clicking clock, and your face
pressed to the window, staring through the time-zones.
Want to be a Featured Poet? Drop me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org!