Featured Poet Simon Freedman Interviewed.
Tell us about your poems.
I think if there’s one thing my poems have in common it’s that they’re rather varied. I used to worry about this meaning that I hadn’t found my ‘voice’, but have since discovered it’s one of the things people like most about what I write! If I find any poems I write in succession too similar, either in form or content, I feel that I am committing the cardinal sin of repeating myself, and boring myself, which I try to avoid at all costs. So it could be love, sex, loss, loneliness, putting myself in the shoes of someone who has nothing to do with me, whatever.
How long have you been writing?
Since February 2008.
Do you have any publications to your name? What’s the next stage for your work?
There’s a fair few now, including Read This, The Delinquent (forthcoming), The Recusant and Gloom Cupboard.
Moving forward, I’d like to continue to get published in as wide a variety of publications as I can. Maybe one day publish a collection, but I’m in less of a hurry about this than I used to be.
What do you think is your biggest poetic achievement to date?
Hmm… some very kind words from Alison Brackenbury were a buzz… popping my poetry reading cherry made me a lot more confident… actually I probably got the biggest kick from a fair few friends of mine who have no interest in poetry whatsoever telling me how much they liked one my poems, although ironically I wrote it as a bunch of smutty double entendres for my own amusement and they read it as a love poem!
What’s the best thing about writing poetry? And the worst?
The best thing is it gives me an outlet for my more negative broodings and emotions. Writing music does a similar thing, although oddly enough I am never in a phase where I can write both music and poetry, it’s only ever one at a time. I guess it keeps me on a level. Sometimes.
It’s hard to think of a worst thing… encountering snobbery, finding that other people’s favourite poems of mine are never the ones I rate highest myself, that cold sinking feeling when you review your last five poems and they’re all rubbish… They’re all annoying for sure, but hardly all that bad.
Got any suggestions for young, upcoming poets?
The first thing I’d say is, don’t get hung up on the fact that you’re young. ‘Young’ in the poetry world applies to ages which in other art forms such as music or film or painting wouldn’t be considered particularly young at all. Some of the best poets I’ve come across are really young. Really, REALLY young. I mean still in school. Makes me wonder what the hell I’ve been doing all these years…
Second, use your age as an acid test. If any editor or promoter dismisses you purely because of your age, they’re not worth your time anyway. Your work should speak for itself, and youth can breed such intense emotions and conflicts which make perfect poetic material that it can sometimes be a plus.
On the other hand, please don’t make a specific effort to write about ‘young’ topics just for the sake of it. I personally can’t stand poetry specifically targeted at a particular audience, whether that be based on age (old or young), colour, sex etc. Many poems cover these subjects because they’re important to the poet but are still accessible to all, which is a very different thing.
Who/what influences your poetry?
The more I read, the more I find that I tend to like poems rather than poets. Of course there are a few who tend to be more consistent (Leonard Cohen or Carol Ann Duffy are good examples) but even there I will fall in love with individual poems rather than a body of work.
Some of the verses that have affected me most have been song lyrics. Even though they’re not poems as such some times one or two lines will grab me as tightly as any ‘proper’ poem.
In terms of what, that’s a little more complicated. I tend to spend a lot of time living in my head, and I find a lot of inspiration in what could happen, what might have happened, what I would do in a certain situation, what someone else might think in different circumstances, etc.
Then again, sometimes I’ll think of a short phrase that is so satisfying and pregnant with possibilities that I’ll use that as a starting point to explore what ideas could come out of it.
But mostly it’s all about people (very much including myself), what they are, what they used to be that they are no longer, and what they could end up becoming if they’re not careful…
and the sky fills with sand.
The roaring stampede of coarse shins
beneath white teeth, white fingernails.
Suddenly blind in one eye
the first one must have hit home.
Surprised by the sound of a moan
presumably coming from your throat.
When the second one hits
the desert sun blanks
and the lights behind your eyes
take over, pummelling bone from within,
then over with you to the sharp, parched earth;
after that you lose count.
In the lazy quiet that follows
finding you trickling
exhaling in the dizzy heat
you half dream him smiling illicitly
like he did the night they found you together
only this time, he too
clutches a stone.