Thursday, June 20, 2013

Julie Maclean Tells Us Where She Is

One of the wonderful things about going on writing courses (and teaching them) is meeting new writerly people, and Julie Maclean - an ex-Bristolian so long ago relocated somewhere in Australia near the sea (no, geography was never my strong point) that she sounds fully Aussie - and I hit it off on our first evening as we became giggling teenagers in the face of demands to write serious poetry. Serious? Poetry?

Julie's debut poetry collection
I'm delighted to welcome Julie to the blog to answer my infamous Writing&Place questionnaire in honour of the publication of her first book, a poetry collection, When I Saw Jimi, freshly published by Indigo Dreams. These poems, says Julie, are about growing up in Bristol, and seeing Jimi Hendrix live. Here is a sample of her wonderful work.

Lost Days and Barbie Dolls

Filaments on a stamen, autumn comes soft
to my garden  Pumpkin flowers flare like
nostrils on the velvet pony I always wanted
I think of a tilting crinoline, sails of a sinking
pirate ship, the woman jumping
off  Brunel’s Bridge in a past century
Dad brought home pink silk, a parachute
from the war.  I dressed a Barbie doll
in a Fifties skirt cut roughly round a saucer.
To fit the hourglass it split stretching over
silicone breasts.  Tottering in micro stilettos,
ankles snapped in rehearsal   Cinderella lipstick bled.
Dog rose grew in the hedgerow then.  We plucked
the petals one by one.  The stigma left a stain.
Blood, the finger pricked, the blood.
Grassy breath of horse and boy; the mane I held.

And here are Julie's answers to my questions:

Tania: Where are you? 
Julie: Good question. In front of an open fire with a glass of wine pondering the last five weeks. It's winter here in Australia and about the same temperature as England midsummer. I know this having returned from there in the last two days. I go back to England every year to visit my mother in Bath and this time I launched my debut collection of poetry. When I saw Jimi, a retrospective of growing up in England in the Swinging Sixties,hence the title, which refers to the time I went to the Colston Hall in Bristol to see the great man.
Julie sits in front of this fireplace
and watches Mad Men,
 drinking a glass of Aussie wine.
   The publication of the book came about as the prize for winning the inaugural Geoff Stevens Poetry Prize. He was an irreverent Black Country poet and the launch was held in a fabulous little theatre in the outskirts of Birmingham where their next production is Calendar Girls and yes, the local gals will be baring all behind plastic sunflowers for the locals.
   In 2012 I'd been shortlisted for the Crashaw Prize (Salt) which really seemed to kick things off. Friends have been so excited for me and I have received congratulations all over the place, but I have to say that getting to the stage of having a book published has been a rough ride. Thrills, anticipation, satisfaction, fear, rejection, angst and hard work are the costs. Having just written that makes me realise that the experience of writing and being published has made me feel acutely alive and akin to having given birth. And what now?

T: How long have you been there? 
J: I've been in front of the open fire for two hours and in Australia for 35 years.
Julie grows veggies in the back garden.
Getting this book out was for me a coming home. Born in Bristol after the war I found myself writing about my past more and more. I felt the need to get this down as a journal, a way of diarising my life. Initially, I thought it was to be a legacy for my only son, but now realise it is about leaving a mark, leaving something behind like a garden or a scent on a lamp post. I really wish I could be a proper Buddhist and not feel this base need to tell the world, maybe later.

T: What do you write?
J: Lists, notes, poems, fiction (anything from 50-35,000 words), creative non fiction. I try to avoid the academic essay. The demand for quotes, references and bibliographies sucks the life out of me. There are several projects on the go. A full collection of poetry on the dark side of the Aussie outback. Not an original response but a new voice, I hope. I have a chapbook ready to go with a snowy, Scandi feel. There is also a collection of short fiction and a novella that needs tweaking. I find I write sad, quirk, irony, sex and death. No different to every other writer.
Julie can see this pond from her writing room.

T: How do you think where you are affects what you write about and how you write?
J:Travel is a great stimulus and trigger for my writing. I love to feel the spirit of a place. Last year I was on a study tour in Scandinavia. It seemed so clean and well behaved it bordered on the boring so I wrote about the Neo Nazis, the neutral tones of the well behaved and the confusion and anger that the influx of refugees is creating. I loved looking for the Noir in this snow and strawberry landscape. And I found it in spades. Heartbreak is always brilliant for writing and I love nothing more than writing from a melancholy place with that little dig of irony if I can squeeze it in.

Thank you, Julie, for such enlightening and inspiring answers - having spent a week with you, I don't find it surprising that you chose to write about Neo Nazis! You can find out more about Julie and her writings on her website and buy When I Saw Jimi at Indigo Dreams or the Book Depository.



I really enjoyed this interview - delighted for Julie that things are taking off for her. It is a magical feeling though not without its angst ;)

And what a house in what a location!

chillcat said...

Good luck Julie! I'm already hooked on the first hand Jimi Hendrix experience. Cool interview and you are making me homesick (Sydney girl stuck in Italy!) ciao cat