Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Andrew Oldham Visits

I am delighted to welcome award-winning writer and poet Andrew Oldham to the blog today to talk about his debut poetry collection, the beautifully-titled Ghosts of A Low Moon, published by Belfast press Lapwing.

I decided first, as is sometimes my wont, to ask Andrew the questions I have asked writers as part of my writing&place series, mainly because I am very nosy! Welcome, Andrew!

Tania: Where are you?
Andrew: I cannot be exact. I am always shifting. Where I was is now somewhere new. I have gone from concrete to earth. From grey to green. From valley to moor living. I am in the wilds. I face the north wind and laugh. I am on the moors on top of the Pennines. I am the ancient mariner.

T: How long have you been there?
A: The moors and the hills have always been in me. Flat landscapes and valley living makes me sick. Makes me sad. I dream of hills. I have always been here. I always will be here. It is not a question of time or life. I am part of the landscape.

T: What do you write?
A: I write fiction, I write poetry, I write journalism, I write about the things I see, the things I hear, the things that have been or could be.

T: How do you think where you are affects what you write about and how you write?
A: It affects me. It is in my blood. The Spanish call it duende, we call The North. If you place your ear to the ground you can hear it.

Very lovely answers, thank you. Moving on to Ghosts of a Low Moon,  I asked Andrew a bit about his process:

T: How did you go about putting this collection together? Did you consciously work on it as a complete entity?
A: No, I don't think as a poet putting together a first collection that you can afford to see your first collection as being written as a complete entity. It would mean that I would write the entire collection and then seek to get the individual poems printed in magazines to get a track record of publications behind me. I didn't start writing poetry thinking that I would have a collection, I was just happy to be published in magazines. It would mean I would have to stay true to the contents of that original collection, and I move on as a poet, I would just end up with a manuscript that I would constantly tinker with. During the editing though I did pull threads together in a manner that would pull the collection into a single entity. This meant writing new poems along the more established track record poems. I am now writing a second collection and I am conscious this time of writing within specific themes and forms, with an eye not just for magazines but for poetry publishers as well. Publishers do want you to have a track record in magazines regardless of which collection you're on, it shows a necessary and vital interaction with poetry industry and readers.

T: How do you write? A particular place/time?
A: I used to write in the mornings and late evenings but since becoming a father I've had to negotiate time between nappies, feeding and toddling. However, rather than killing any creativity as Cyril Connolly said it has sparked it. It has meant that I spend more time with my notebook rather than my laptop because it is faster, easier to carry around and doesn't end up with a small child grabbing it and licking it. Sometimes the old ways are the best and easiest. This means now I build up several early drafts in my notebook before going to a final edit on the laptop. It means that in one afternoon I can go from notebook to laptop in a final edit. Then print out poems, read them, leave them to cool for a month and then edit again. This means I can produce a large quantity of poems in my laptop sessions. The rewarding this is that I can discover poems I forgot I wrote in my notebook. At the moment, I don't write in a specific place. At my old house I wrote on a step near the top of the stairs due to the light and quiet space around it. We moved, again down to fatherhood and a desire to go back to my rural roots. I have selected a space in the orchard behind our house which will be the home of my office and has wonderful views over the orchard and the hills beyond. I like the quiet there.

T: What inspires you as a poet?
A: Poets I read do have an impact on my writing, a few poets I enjoy reading are, Ruthven Todd, Wallace Stevens, Carlos Williams, Tom Raworth and T.S. Eliot to name a few. Though Eliot is seen as deeply unfashionable by some of my contemporaries, such was his dominance of the twentieth century, many poets I know have turned their backs on him. I think it is a shame to turn away from any poetry, fiction or non-fiction. There is so much to read and so little time! There are poets I know who I talk with on a regular basis and the conversations we have do have an influence on my reading if not necessarily on my writing. I know in Ghosts of a Low Moon that the major influences were the road trips I went on around the UK and USA, that the people I met and the stories they told me came through on the page time after time. I can't pin it down more than that as it would become a fruitless journey, inspiration is so fleeting, a sense rather than an act of logic. Logic tends to boil things down to mechanics rather than senses. That would be a dangerous journey to take.

Thank you so much, Andrew. To leave you with a little more inspiration, Andrew has kindly allowed me to reprint one of the poems from his collection, Geometry, a title sure to appeal to me!

 by Andrew Oldham
Some grey, wet afternoon in the lower set,
The blackboard is full of size, shape and lengths.
Two girls sit behind me; one smiles, smirks
and asks to see the length of my middle finger,
the circumference of my forefinger and thumb.
She looks under the table at my shoes, turns red.
Eyes widen at they look at the space my fingers conjure,
the empty round circle hangs in the air between us.
They’re adding me up and subtracting my volume,
I go red; stare at the board, stare at their legs,
polished and matt, one set bare, one set in tights.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Andrew. You can buy Ghosts of a Low Moon from Lapwing and find out more about Andrew on his website.


Marisa Birns said...

Ah, spirit of evocation, that duende...

Enjoyed reading this. Thank you both.

Sue Guiney said...

Fascinating interview. I found his discussion of putting together a first collection especially interesting, not to mention the importance of continuing to publish in magazines. Thanks.