Lockdown Interviews No2 Sarah James interviews Jane Aldous

Second in a series of author-to-author interviews to distract them, and you, from lockdown torpor.

Sarah James

Sarah James

Sarah James (Vindication, Shortest Day Longest Night) aka S.A.Leavesey interviews fellow poet, Jane Aldous (Let Out the Djinn, Noon, An Outbreak of Peace, Time and Tide, Dusk)

Jane aldous

Jane Aldous

Sarah:   What are the main motivations and influences for your writing?

Jane:     Like you, I started writing very early in life, having been influenced and inspired by diverse writers such as Shakespeare, Brecht, Patten, Keats. I write because it feels like the best form of play I can think of. No-one tells me to do it, it’s just down to me. But writing is also the hardest thing I choose to do, and it gives me huge pleasure and pain!
My influences these days are many and varied and include many poets and writers whose books are crammed onto my bookshelves including Kathleen Jamie, Jacob Polley, Elizabeth Bishop, Robin Robertson, Tomas Transtromer and Tove Jansson. But I’m also influenced by nature, artists, musicians, architecture and archaeology in very eclectic and spontaneous ways.

Sarah:   What is your own favourite poem in your collection Let Out the Djinn and why?

Jane:     I think it has to be Doggerland.  Doggerland fascinates me hugely, and when I first read about this ancient land beneath the North Sea, my imagination became fired up and I knew I wanted to attempt a poem from the perspective of a hunter-gatherer, that tried to do justice to the immensity of the place and its eventual fate. There’s still more I’d like to write about Doggerland, its story is not just ancient history, there are many modern resonances too, such as climate change and mass extinctions.

Sarah:   You also have work in Time and Tide. Are water and time big themes in your poetry generally? If so, how and why do they fascinate you? If not, how did you find a way into the theme?

Jane:     I messed about in boats as a kid and when I moved up to Scotland over 30 years ago, I said I wanted to live beside the sea. Well in a way I do. Although we live in the suburbs of Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth is never far away and under normal circumstances, we go to the East Lothian coast and the NW Highlands very regularly. Water does feature in some of my poems such as Dave off in Five, With Meme on Mellon Udrigle Beach and Eel Ghazal, and whether it’s a river or loch, waterfall or incoming tide, I’m always drawn to watch. But I’m also aware of the theme of time in my poetry. Many of my poems are set in the past and are concerned with loss, love, death and memory. However, I think I made heavy weather about writing my Time and Tide poem. In fact I wrote two poems. The first based on a Clearance clachan or hamlet beside the sea in West Ardnamurchan was rejected. The second was based on a fictional character, a female ghost, who had once lived in 18th Century Leith, Edinburgh’s main port. I wrote it to accompany an embarrassingly bad film poem (quite rightly rejected). Thankfully the poem In the Shadows, on the Shore, Leith made it into the anthology.

 Sarah:  If you could change something, or learn one new thing in terms of how you work, or what you write about, what would it be and why?

Jane:     I’d love to be able to write and present a film poem. I think my best poems are the ones that began as a strong visual experience and I’d love to be able to learn about the process of making a poem come alive in a visual sense as well as on the page and in the mind.

Sarah:   What are your favourite reading, writing and performance spots?

Jane:  I love writing on our kitchen table. Although our kitchen is quite a busy space, with cooking and washing happening plus our cat bouncing around, I love it. I can look out onto the garden, listen to the radio and I’m happy!
I love reading in the kitchen too, but I also have a very comfortable chair in the lounge which is perfect for settling down with a good book.
In the summer the garden bench is a brilliant place to muse or read or write surrounded by birdsong and bumblebees.
In my very limited experience of performance, I’d say that The Lighthouse Bookshop, Edinburgh where I launched my debut collection Let out the Djinn and read at an open mic is a lovely welcoming space.

You can buy all the books mentioned 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: no1 – Jane Aldous interviews Sarah James

First in a series of author-to-author interviews to distract them, and you, from lockdown torpor.

Jane aldous

Jane Aldous (Let Out the Djinn, Noon, An Outbreak of Peace, Time and Tide, Dusk)

Sarah James

interviews Sarah James (Vindication, Shortest Day Longest Night, Five by Five) aka S.A.Leavesey

Jane:      I’d love to know about your first piece of published writing.

Sarah:   Ooh, that’s a tough one because I don’t actually know what or when it was! Primary school age, I used to make my own newspapers – handwriting out actual existing articles. So, no proper copyright training in place, lol, but also only ever one copy! My mum was a great encourager and, age 6 or 7, I had a poem commended, or something like that, in a children’s poetry competition. I don’t remember much about the poem except that it was about a flea in a dressing gown, with rhymes on hopping and shopping! Of course, I realise now that all entries would have been commended… My first published pieces were probably in the school magazine, and I also had work in the national Early Times (I think that’s what it was called) children’s newspaper and a local newspaper that had a section for young writers. My mum did hand me a pile of clippings a few years ago, but I’ve not been brave enough to look at them, the likely cringe factor is too high!

Jane:      How do you write? Do you always write in the same place and the same time of day, or does it happen more spontaneously?

 Sarah:   I write wherever I am when I want to or have to write. If I can, I prefer to write poetry on paper first, and only type this up after a few redrafts. With fiction or articles, I tend to jot notes on paper but then go straight to my laptop to put them together. I’ve no set routines. I like some structure, particularly commissions and themed or dead-lined opportunities. When I don’t have an externally imposed/suggested framework, then I create my own by looking for prompts, themed submissions etc. In terms of totally spontaneous inspiration, I tend to need to be in a head-space that allows procrastination, a certain level of relaxation in which something will arise either to beat boredom or meet the inner impulse to create that is a very strong motivator for me.

Jane:      Is the coronavirus crisis having an impact on your writing or other creative work?

Sarah:   Like most writers, I’ve been hit financially by lost work. I’m busier with communication with other writers at the moment, and also sorting photo-poem combinations for some stunning Arachne poets’ work for the journal LitWorld2 that I run. I’ve been working too on poetryfilms to promote already published work, like Model Child for Arachne Press, and in collaboration with a film student. I had to write a new poetry narrative script for the latter, and I’ve really enjoyed doing this, but that’s about my only new work. I live with low level anxiety most of the time, but my anxiety levels, like many writers’ right now, are much higher than usual, which makes it harder to concentrate or find the right headspace to create. The worry, sorrow and grief aren’t things I’ve ever experienced on this scale before. Keeping busy is a healthy distraction though, which is why I’ve been busy working on/with things already written. The community spirit, help and hope being expressed worldwide are also incredibly uplifting, so I have a lot of gratitude too. I think this is increased even more by working in collaboration, as shared projects are always great fun and energy-giving!

Jane:      What writing or other creative project would you like to fulfil long term?

Sarah:   Gosh, another hard one. I have various manuscripts – several poetry collections, a flash novella and a memoir – that I’d like to see published eventually. But I’d prefer to let each have full time, attention and space individually to breathe, so I’ve no firm goals of what when, so to speak. Although I do find structure and focus extremely useful in writing, I also believe in leaving room for spontaneity and serendipity. The poetry-play version of my Forward Prize highly commended collection The Magnetic Diaries, wasn’t something that I’d set out to do in advance. It was an opportunity that came up, I went for it and it was really amazing! I’d have missed out on that completely if I’d had too rigid a framework of other goals set, because I wouldn’t have had room to be open to new possibilities.

Jane:      What person or object would you like to collaborate with?

 Sarah:    This isn’t something I’ve ever thought of! What a wonderful question, thank you. The possibilities are endless… I’m not really a ‘big celebrities’ kind of person. I guess I’d really love to meet the Dalai Lama, but can’t imagine that in terms of an artistic collaboration. I think one of the beautiful things about collaboration is the unexpected, the spontaneity, the resulting combination that none of those involved could ever have conceived of beforehand. So, for me, dream collaborations would probably be about working with people who are very open to what happens along the process, where I get to learn about and experience new art-forms, and where we share similar ideas and expectations in terms of commitment to the project and what to do with resulting collaboration once it is finished.

You can buy all the (Arachne) books mentioned 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.


Film Poem – Sarah James – Model Child

We are experimenting with ways to keep YOU entertained and US in business.

Here is a contribution from the brilliant Sarah James, who seems to be able to turn her hand to just about anything! Model Child is from Vindication which has several other poems from Sarah in it, plus handsful of poems from Sarah Lawson, Jill Sharp, Elinor Brooks and Adrienne Silcock. You can buy Vindication direct from our webshop, and we’ll stick it straight in the post!

Happy National Poetry Day 2018!

To celebrate National Poetry Day, here are some more poems from the Vindication Launch on September 26th.

(you can buy the book direct from us, or from your favourite bookshop

Carrie Cohen reading Sarah Lawson‘s Driving up to Renfrew


Anne Macaulay reading the title poem, Vindication


Carrie Cohen reading Sarah JamesWaking Woman


Elinor Brooks reads Consulto et Audacter


Adrienne Silcock reads Bees

Happy Publication Day, Vindication

It’s publication day, and here are some of the readings from  last night’s launch at the Poetry Cafe



Adrienne Silcock reading Drought, Winter 1929


Carrie Cohen reading Sarah Lawson’s Leda


Anne Macaulay reading two flamenco inspired poems, Traje de Lunares and Palmas Return


Carrie Cohen reading Sarah James’ Ye Olde Tavern


Elinor Brooks What Country, Friends…

Additional reader for Vindication Launch

I am pleased to announce that we have actor Carrie Cohen coming along to the launch (Next Wednesday, Poetry Cafe) to read a couple of poems apiece for Sarah Lawson and Sarah James, so that the audience gets a feel for the breadth of style in the book.

Carrie Cohen

Launch Info for Vindication

We are launching Vindication on Wednesday 26th September 19:00-21:00

at the Poetry Café 22 Betterton Street London WC2H 9BX

with readings from Jill Sharp, Elinor Brooks, Adrienne Silcock, and Anne Macaulay

The Sarah’s (James and Lawson) can’t join us, but we hope their friends will come anyway!

Everyone Welcome, but please RSVP!

Vindication is part of Arachne Press’ celebration of #WomenVote100, Poems from Sarah James, Sarah Lawson, Jill Sharp, Elinor Brooks, Adrienne Silcock and Anne Macaulay.

A showcase for poets published previously by Arachne Press in our anthologies The Other Side of Sleep, Shortest Day Longest Night and Liberty Tales, given an opportunity to explore a wider perspective with up to 10 poems each, wild, audacious, silly, and deeply serious.

On the subject of poetry – we will be at FREE VERSE Poetry Book Fair

Saturday 22 September 2018, 11:00 am5:00 pm Senate House. London


Five by five launches tonight

If you aren’t coming to Out of the Brew tonight for cocktails and stories in the garden, you’ll be needing this link, to buy the book.

If you are coming, see you at 7.30. Grab a drink and head into the garden where we will be setting up to read to you.

Year of the woman

Today is International Women’s Day, in the centenary year of partial suffrage for women.

So an important day for women, but, you know, women are women every day, and there’s still plenty of work to be done, on all sorts of fronts, so celebrate and then roll up your sleeves…

Our small contribution is to do what we do anyway, but do more of it. We are publishing a number of books over the next nine months and most (not all) will be by women.

Kate Foley Poetry Collection: A Gift of Rivers

Kate is reading from the collection at Gay’s the Word on 5th April and we are investigating a launch in Amsterdam.

Cathy Bryant Poetry Collection: Erratics.

Cathy and Kate are taking part in a seminar on diversity and inclusivity in the poetry world at London Book Fair on 10th April at 17:30 at the ‘Poet’s Corner’

The final installment of The Naming of Brook Storyteller: Wolftalker arrives from Ghillian Potts.

Also in June we have the official launch of Dusk which will also kick off thinking about 2018’s Solstice Shorts festival, Dawn!

July Five by Five: 5 short stories each by Katy Darby, Joan Taylor-Rowan, Cassandra Passarelli, Sarah James, Helen Morris

We are teaming up with Liars’ League for our official #womensvote100 anthology, We/She featuring stories about women by women. Final line up yet to be finalised but expect stories from:
Carolyn Eden, Katy Darby, Elizabeth Hopkinson, Elisabeth Simon, Elizabeth Stott, Fiona Salter, Ilora Choudhury, J. A. Hopper, Arike Oke, Jennifer Rickard, Jenny Ramsay, Lucy Ribchester, Peng Shepherd, Rosalind Stopps, Joanne L. M. Williams, Swati Khurana, Uschi Gatward.

Vindication: an anthology of up to 10 poems each from
Sarah James, Sarah Lawson, Jill Sharp, Elinor Brooks, Adrienne Silcock and Anne Macaulay

We are commemorating the end of WWI with poetry and short story anthology An Outbreak of Peace.


Poetry Book Fair readings – video and audio

We were at the Poetry Book Fair a couple of weeks ago, but it’s been so busy since I’ve not had a chance to get the recordings of the readings up.

Here they are!

Jeremy Dixon Flax, San Francisco, Pearls over Shanghai, and Tabernacle Lane from Liberty Tales

Math Jones (the end of Grithspell) from The Other Side of Sleep

Sarah James At The Hotel de la Lune

Lisa Kelly Daylight Saving Time