Lockdown interviews: no18 Claire Booker interviewed by Laura Potts

Claire BookerClaire Booker interviewed by fellow Time and Tide Poet, Laura Potts

Laura potts

Laura:  Hello Claire! It’s lovely to virtually meet you. Let’s start with an easy one. Why do you write?

Claire: Ah, that’s a good one, Laura. I rarely stop and ask myself why? Too busy trying to actually do it. I think it’s because writing offers me quiet, introspection, where I can explore the things that feel deepest, and yet are hardest to reach. It can be frustrating, coming close (but not quite close enough) to something meaningful. But when words do come together in unexpected and revealing ways, then there’s real satisfaction. I also enjoy being part of the wider family of writers. It feels like a journey we share together, as readers and writers of each other’s work.

Laura:  As a poet, who haunts you? Are there any writers you return to time after time?

Claire: I was madly in love with Wilfred Owen when I was at school. I even carried a little framed photo of him around with me! I love Edward Thomas too – even more so now I’m older. His niece was my father’s first girlfriend, and his great niece was my Aunt’s god-daughter, so there’s that additional connection. Other poets who inspire me include Dylan Thomas, W B Yeats and Seamus Heaney. I may have a bit of a Celtic thing going on here. But Gerald Manley Hopkins is also awe-inspiring, and Plath is vital reading too. I enjoy contemporary poets too, including Alison Brackenbury, Pascal Petit and Mona Arshi.

Laura:  Tell us your favourite line of poetry.

Claire: Help, that’s quite a Sophie’s choice you’re offering me there. Perhaps Dylan Thomas

And alone in the night’s curving act/ They yearn with tongues of curlews for the unconceived/And immemorial sons of the cudgelling, hacked/Hill.

Or Sappho

Moon and the Pleiades go down. / Midnight and tryst pass by. I, though, lie/ Alone.

Am I allowed a third one? Plath

 Love set you going like a fat, gold watch.

Positively the last! Sam Beckett

Birth. It was the death of him.

 

Laura:  As a Brighton-based writer, do you feel that place and time are important to your work? Can you separate your personal writing from your personal geography?

Claire: I moved to a village just outside Brighton three years ago, after decades in south London. The sea and Downs are definitely beginning to loom large in my work. My poems are often about people, relationships, conflicts, memories and dreams. But I’m finding nature increasingly represented, either symbolically, or as the primary character of the poem.  Fisherman’s Daughter (In Time and Tide) came about through a visit to the excellent Fishing Museum on Brighton beach. We can forget how livelihood was once a very physical and dangerous reality, involving whole families.  I’m a dreadful sailor (three sea legs required for any kind of sea journey) but I love living vicariously through the vocabulary and mythology of the sea.

Laura:  Here’s a fun one. If you were throwing a fantasy dinner party for poets and playwrights, who would you invite?

Claire: Great idea. I wonder how they’d all get along? I’d have to invite Shakespeare, so I could pump him about the Dark Lady (might s/he come too?). Emily Dickenson, but would she turn up? Probably not.  Maria Tsvetaeva (I’d have to brush up my Russian), Lorca and Neruda (help, no Spanish), Oscar Wilde (for his wit), Maya Angelou, Sharon Olds and Jackie Kay to keep the men in check. Plus of course everyone from my Stanza Group.

Laura:  You had the chance to travel to Bangladesh last year as a guest poet for the Dhaka Book Fair. What was that like?

Claire: Totally amazing. It all came about through Loose Muse Writer’s Night, which has met in London for 15 years and is run by the wonderful Agnes Meadows. A key Bangladeshi poet Aminur Rahman came to perform (unusually, because Loose Muse is a platform for female writers) and we exchanged books. A year later he invited me as one of seven guest poets from around the world. We performed at three universities, the Dhaka Book Festival, on countless TV programmes, Poetry clubs and even in a prison. It was my first time in Asia and the warmth of the welcome and the sheer enthusiasm everyone showed for poetry was inspiring, and very humbling.

Laura:  Do you have any advice for young readers who feel called to write?

Claire: I’d say play with ideas and words, experiment, and don’t feel you have to write in a certain way. Perhaps consider one of the many creative degree courses, but equally, remember to respect and enjoy your own voice (and the finding of it). There isn’t a right way to write poetry. Meet up with other writers, support each other and give and receive feedback. You have something unique to share.

Laura:  Finally, tell us a little bit about your future projects. Where can we find you?

Claire: I’m working on a full collection based on my experiences of living here on the South Downs. My first pamphlet Later There Will be Postcards is out with Green Bottle Press, and my second pamphlet The Bone That Sang is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams later this year. I blog at www.bookerplays.co.uk  where you can read excerpts of my stage plays and a selection of poetry.

You can buy all  Arachne books, including Time and Tide  from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

Lockdown Interviews: no 17 Michelle Penn interviewed by Claire Booker

Photograph by Andrew Tobin/Tobinators Ltd

Photograph by Andrew Tobin/Tobinators Ltd

Michelle Penn (Noon, Time and Tide, Dusk) interviewed by fellow Solstice Shorts poet, Claire Booker, (Time and Tide)

Claire Booker

Claire:     I was very taken by your poem ‘The Sinking of Mrs Margaret Brown’ in Arachne Press’s ‘Time & Tide’ anthology. Can you tell me what inspired you to write about the Titanic? Is history something that particularly interests you? And how did you decide on the tone of the poem?

Michelle:    I spent most of my childhood in Denver (Colorado), where Margaret Brown had been a 19th century socialite, philanthropist and early feminist – although she was most famous for surviving the Titanic disaster. ’The Unsinkable Molly Brown’ character appeared in one particular advert and somehow embodied the image of the tough pioneer woman. (By the way, the Denver I knew – and even Margaret Brown knew – was a proper city. Not exactly the untamed frontier!) From a young age, I was interested in her character and how her ‘unsinkability’ had eclipsed the rest of her life – right down to her name. Although history in general is always a draw for me, it was was the creation of the mythical ‘Unsinkable Molly Brown’ that wouldn’t let me go. By the time I put myself in the mindset of ‘Margaret Brown,’ the tone of the poem seemed to follow naturally: the voice and thoughts of a woman who is aware of the trappings of wealth – yet refuses to simply be taken to safety and leave the less fortunate to their fates.

Claire:     As a veteran of three Solstice Shorts festivals, have you been able to attend any of the performances of your work, and what, if anything, do simultaneous performances bring to an audience or writer?

Michelle:   I’ve attended each of the past three festivals and have both read my own work and seen it performed by actors. I find it fascinating to be part of an audience (live or video) when different actors interpret my poems: it’s a glimpse into how someone who doesn’t know you ‘hears’ your lines and ‘sees’ your images. I suppose it’s akin to hearing a piece of music played by several bands or orchestras – each version has its own flavour and becomes its own unique experience.

Claire:     What function do you consider poetry to have in society today, and how do you see it developing (or not) in the future? 

Michelle:   For me, poetry seems more than ever to ask Why. It doesn’t necessarily offer answers but provides different lenses for examining the question. Whether it’s printed on the page or performed in front of an audience, poetry makes us think about language, meaning, irony, ambiguity. It opens our minds to others’ experiences, emotions and ideas – how they might consider the Why.
I think more hybrid/collaborative/cross-genre projects will keep poetry developing in new ways. I’m looking forward to seeing how poets continue to use emerging technologies to add new dimensions to poetry.

Claire:     E-book or hard copy – which do you prefer, and why?

Michelle:   Definitely hard copy. I love reading paper books, love the physical act of turning pages, folding them, holding a book in my hands. I also love seeing my books on shelves. I can’t imagine the emptiness I’d feel if my entire library were on a single device. Convenient, yes, but not the same, at all.

Claire:     In this current lock-down, what have you been reading?

Michelle:   The Divine Comedy. I’ve dipped in and out over the years but haven’t journeyed all the way from Hell to Heaven. I’m currently still in Purgatory but hope to enter Paradiso soon.

Claire:     What qualities do you look for in a poem?

Michelle:   I’m attracted to poems that show a real love of language, that try to push it further without getting too flowery or overwrought. I like experimentation and risk-taking, both with words and with the appearance of a poem on the page. I appreciate a bit of mystery at the heart of a poem, as well as ambiguity. For me, a successful poem is one that draws me in (especially on a visceral level) on the first reading but only reveals its secrets slowly. I like a poem that sticks with me and keeps me coming back for more.

Claire:     How have you developed as a creative writer since you first started? Did you find your voice early, or are you still exploring?

Michelle:   While I’ve been writing for many years, I wasn’t one of those people who found a single voice early on. I’m not sure I have a single voice now. I tend to experiment with lots of voices and an ‘I’ that may or may not be related to me in an autobiographical sense. I’m also interested in stretching those different voices in terms of tone, register, language, syntax… you name it. I hope I never stop creating new voices and developing.

Claire:     Any collections or pamphlets out, or forthcoming?

Michelle:   My debut pamphlet – Self-portrait as a diviner, failing – was published in 2018 by Paper Swans Press. I have a few projects in the works, so I hope to add to the ‘forthcoming’ soon.

Claire:     Paper? Rock? Scissors?

Michelle:   Paper. I’m a writer, after all!

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August for our eighth anniversary!

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

Claire Booker reads at virtual launch of Time and Tide

Here is Claire Booker’s launch video tidied up a bit.

IWD video Claire Booker

On 8th March we held an International Women’s Day of readings from female authors and poets, surrounded by the  Tatty Divine exhibition at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery. Many thanks to Greenwich University Gallleries for hosting.

Here is Claire Booker reading her two poems from Time and Tide; Fisherman’s Daughter and How Women Came to Tristan da Cuhna.

We have had to delay our launch for Time and Tide, but instead are holding an ONLINE VIRTUAL launch, via our facebook page, on 21st March, at 2pm (probably, exact details to follow!)

You can buy two different editions of the book, the standard one (available in bookshops from 21st March), and the special illustrated limited edition, (only from us!)

 

#IWD2020- Photos

Until I get round to editing the video files, here are some photos from Sunday’s event, where we launched Emma Lee‘s new collection, The Significance of a Dress, and thoroughly celebrated International Women’s Day with poems and flash from Laila Sumpton, Claire Booker, Sarah Lawson, Jenny Mitchell, Julie Easley, Cherry Potts, Michelle Penn, Shamini Sriskandarajah, and Emma Lee!

Time and Tide Videos: How Women Came to Tristan da Cunha Greenwich and Oeiras

 

Uploading the videos from Solstice Shorts 2019, Time & Tide continues.

Here is How Women Came to Tristan da Cunha by Claire Booker read at Greenwich by Grace Cookey-Gam; and (audio only) at Oeiras read by Margot Walker-Dias

Many of the stories and poems were read at more than one of the venues, so there will be further opportunities to compare and contrast!

Limited edition illustrated book of the material available now only from our webshop or from our events .

We are aiming to get BSL translations of some of the material, and this will also be on the website in about March, to coincide with the launch of the bookshop version of the book.

 

Time and Tide Videos: Fisherman’s Daughter, Greenwich & Oeiras

Uploading the videos from Solstice Shorts 2019, Time & Tide continues. Here is Fisherman’s Daughter by Claire Booker read by Katy Darby; and audio from the Portuguese event in Oeiras.

Limited edition illustrated book of the material available now from our webshop or events only.

We are aiming to get BSL translations of some of the material, and this will also be on the website in about March, to coincide with the launch of the bookshop version of the book.

 

Women on the Move: Poetry and Flash for International Women’s Day

To celebrate the launch of Emma Lee‘s new poetry collection The Significance of a Dress, we are holding an event at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich, 10 Stockwell Street, Greenwich SE10 9BD on the actual day SUNDAY 8TH MARCH 2pm.

Emma will be joined by Jenny Mitchell (Time and Tide, whose idea it was). Michelle Penn (Dusk, Noon, Time and Tide), Shamini Sriskandarajah (Story Cities), Claire Booker (Time and Tide), Laila Sumpton (Dusk, Noon) and Sarah Lawson (The Other Side of Sleep, Vindication, Departures), and there will be an open mic session, and very possibly cake.

The notional theme is women on the move, but this is being widely interpreted.

If you would like to take part in the open mic with on-theme poetry or flash fiction, please contact us, or sign up on arrival, there are a maximum of 6 500-word-limit slots.

Tickets by donation to cover travel expenses for the readers.

Time and Tide: Hastings audio recordings, Poems

Unfortunately part of the video for the Hastings leg of the Solstice Shorts Festival went a bit wonky. We’ve managed to salvage the audio for this section.

Here are a some of the poems read at Hastings Fishermen’s Museum  on the Winter Solstice:

Verticals by Kate Foley read by Umi Sinha

wigtown estuary

Arrival by Valerie Bence read by Umi Sinha

ship for T&T book

Fisherman’s Daughter by Claire Booker, read by Kate Dyson

buried chain

images © Cherry Potts