I met Keith in summer 2014. We immediately began a rapport that led me to a deep understanding of his poetic urge, right from the outset; we went on to spend and hour talking about the experiences in his life that had prompted a catharsis for pain, humour and his unique ways of wishing ‘to be’. Keith first wrote ‘First Aid for My Soul’ followed by his extended ‘The Debris Inside My Mind’. Here, in an honest and frank interview, he tells of his journey with the Muse.
What inspires you to write poetry?
My inspiration to write poetry is more often than not, the desire to explain and to release what I am thinking, without having to do it face to face. It is invariably to illustrate the darker or more euphoric thoughts and aspects of life and to express my feelings, emotions and observations.
What is a measure of success as a poet?
A measure of success is often measured in book sales. For me, that could not really be further from the truth, though the occasional royalty cheques are a bonus. The printing of my poems was a mere by-product and publication only icing on metaphorical cake. Success is knowing that something I have written has affected someone in a positive way, or at least begun to understand something of what and who I am, and have become. An example of this is an email I received from a reader, after I began to leave copies of my book on trains, with the label “Please read me!” This resulted in the following email: -I recently fell upon your book on a train from Tamworth to Crewe. I had just been in a job interview and was feeling down with a long journey ahead.The poems were inspiring and beautifully written, changing my outlook on that day. Fate will help me find the right job, and your collection made me thankful for what I have. So thank you! I left the book on my next train between Crewe and Bangor in hope that it reaches another willing reader. There is no greater measure than that.
Who are some of your favourite poets?
Rob Stevens (also known as Steven Zarel – stevenzarel.com), writes with such depth and insight. He can be sought out through Word Wizards in Buxton. His style and rhythm is such that his reading of a telephone directory would be enthralling. Greg Lake, (of Emerson Lake and Palmer fame) penned “Daddy”, which is the most profound and moving poem I have ever read.
What about ‘The Debris Inside My Mind? What is special about it? What inspired you to write about it?
The first poem in my book, entitled “My first one”, relates to the investigation and my dealings with the rape and brutal murder of a 14 year old schoolgirl. This violent episode had a traumatic and long lasting effect on my life, culminating in nightmares for over 30 years. The process of putting these feelings into words was so psychotherapeutic, that the nightmares ceased after the poems very first reading out loud. ‘The Debris Inside My Mind’ then became a collection of cathartic meanderings of events throughout my lifetime, and expresses my hopes as well as fears and observations.
What makes a poem good?
The ability to convey thoughts to paper in such a manner that the writer can paint a picture the reader can relate to and find meaningful. Invariably, truthfulness and openness help when writing from the heart.
What have you had published so far?
I have had a few articles published in magazines and many of my documents and video productions are used nationally, however, ‘The Debris Inside My Mind’ is my first published book.
What advice would you give aspiring poets?
Engage a good proof reader! Nothing puts me of moor than simpull speling miss takes and grammatical errors. They can interrupt flow flow and really braking flow off other-wise beautiful thoughts and observations.
Today I welcome John Atkinson as our guest poet of the month. I have known John for six years. I met him first at the 80th birthday party of a mutual poet friend. I was immediately struck by John’s depth of thought and application of the word. I have enjoyed countless roundtable sharing sessions with John and, to me, he ranks with the best of the ‘nature poets’ I have ever had the pleasure to read. John is a quintessential Yorkshire man and his ability with envisioning nature is enticing.
Enjoy ‘Lepus Becoming’ after the interview
What inspires you to write poetry?
No doubt you’ve heard the saying – ten percent inspiration and ninety per cent perspiration. I’m not sure that this is true all the time, and it does not take into account the little bit at the end, when you sit back, satisfied with a piece of work you feel ready to share with the world. However, before this can happen the first bits of the thought process have to make themselves known – the ideas needed to show the direction to take, searching for the poem – so even the perspiration can be enjoyable. Also I have a desire/ambition to write something that comes as close as I can muster to the writing of my favourite poets. And finally, sometimes I just want to have a communication with as many people as possible about how I have seen some aspect of ordinary life in a non-ordinary way.
What is a measure of success as a poet?
Can I widen your question to include the successes of individual poems. Being published by a well-known publisher, getting work out to a bigger audience, being in demand, these are things to be desired. But how do we measure our own success? Hard to say really; speaking as a little fish in a little pond I think it is important to write for oneself. Be true to your own experiences, keep working on the language as the poetic journey leads you from poem to poem, and look on each step forward as a series of small successes. Like so many things in life it is a journey of discoveries.
I have changed several of my early poems, poems I was pleased with when first I wrote them. One reason for this is, as I try to improve my skills as a writer of poetry, I hope to find better ways of saying – describing – finding the best sounds – and interesting, or unusual metaphors. Of course there can be a danger of overworking a poem. Some poems are started full of enthusiasm and then become difficult to resolve. We need to know when to put something down; come back to it later. And then some poems – hopefully not too many – will be destined for the bin. Norman MacCaig had his two fag rule. He would spend his summers walking in the Western Highlands, taking notes on the nature and places he visited. He took these back to Edinburgh to work into poems. If he couldn’t get the poem as he smoked two cigarettes he threw it away. I suppose any non-smokers who like this approach could boil two eggs. It would be no good for me however, Mr MacCaig was much cleverer than I am; I plod along at my own, rather slow, pace.
However, every once in a while, a poem seems to come out of – what, thin air, the recesses of the unconscious – wherever they come from, for me, these kinds of poems usually come as a piece, are written quickly and you just know you’ve captured something. This is the great payoff for me; it gives such a sense of satisfaction it’s hard to describe. When we create a thing that others relate to, and the words present a new view, a different way of understanding; that is when we have succeeded.
Who are some of your favourite poets?
Dylan Thomas was my first inspiration at age seventeen. I like Seamus Heaney and Sylvia Plath very much, also the above mentioned Norman MacCaig. Simon Armitage is a wonderful northern voice and I think Carol Ann Duffy has done great things, a first class poet laureate.
Nature appears in many of your poems. What inspires you to write about it?
I was brought up on a farm in the fifties, so I grew up steeped in a countryside more ancient than that of today. I am also knowledgeable about the ways of things natural. When I first read Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill I too became the boy who, had the trees and leaves trail with daisies and barley down the rivers of the windfall light. Even now I am unable to read that poem without a great lump of emotion welling in my throat and seeing him/me revelling in the light on the magical waters.
What makes a poem good?
A hard question, isn’t it in the eye of the beholder? I envy those writers who come up with ideas I would never have thought of in a million years, but really wish I had.
What was the inspiration behind ‘Lepus Becoming’…could you say a bit about it?
The hare is one of my favourite animals, they have unusual proportions, their massive back legs enable them to gallop at great speed. They also have a sense of mystery: the moon-gazing hare, the March hares, boxing and chasing each other round and round – are they mad, or are they just revelling in the joy of being alive? A creature doesn’t have to be aware of an intellectual concept to be able to live it.
The writing of Lepus Becoming started with a little sonnet I wrote about a leveret (baby hare) that I found in a field many years ago. I never forgot the inky blackness of its eyes, or the softness of its fur as I touched it. I wanted to expand on it, build a few sonnets into a theme; at the time each one had its own title (please note; although the three sections of the poem have the correct number of lines for sonnets, and line breaks in places for the so-called turn, or volta, they do not have the strict rhyme scheme of the traditional sonnet form)
For the next one I delved into history: the Romans bringing rabbits, the hares natural enemy, to Britain(archaeology has now proved this as fact) then I went back to the end of the last ice age, when Britain was joined to the European land mass, then a reference to the mythology of Eostre, a Celtic fertility goddess whose name, and Spring festival, were taken over for the Christian festival of Easter (the same date, which, interestingly, is still fixed by the phases of the moon)
I stayed with the historical slant in the next section but brought it up to a more recent period, touching on the history and mechanisation of agriculture. At this point ,I realised that my little leveret sonnet didn’t fit into where I was going with the poem so I took it out. It is now a separate poem that I am very fond of.
I started on what became the third section, changed the title to Lepus Becoming, one poem in three parts, starting with the Romans. Another thing that happened at this stage, I came across a book called The Leaping Hare by George Ewart Evans. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone interested in hares and the folk-law surrounding them. As the final section took shape I used the names of the hare, from Evans’ book, coupled with my partial knowledge of the constellations and some interesting ideas, slightly modified, from Gnostic Christianity, to form a mythological synthesis about the beginnings, becomings and endings of my trains of thought on the splendid creature that is hare.
What advice would you give aspiring poets?
Read as much good poetry as you can, even poets you find difficult to begin with – I’m not very good at this – must try harder. My friend John takes his favourite poems for walks. When he visits a special place he will have selected a poem to read there – a special poem in a special place – what could possibly go wrong? One thing which we may find hard is criticism. It can be very useful if done well, so don’t be too precious about your “darlings” Poems, like everything in the perceived world, exist in a state of change, until they’re published that is. Just keep on reading and writing. Good luck.
The Glory that was Rome marched north and westward,
boarding boats to reach these shores. In addition to carnage
and death the legions carried a living larder of rabbits
and snails; also an idea there was one God only to rule
over Heaven and Earth, but he had a son made of flesh.
Hare, on the other hand, arrived before the North Sea gave rise
to shores, or a need for boats, so he loped across the lost land
from God knows where. Later, famously moon-struck,
becomes the favourite of Eostre, and who can blame her?
Beneath the face of a paschal moon he tries to forget
his many sorrows: the rabbits, who – like Romans –
permit no competition, kill and eat the brains of his young;
and equally multiplying, the followers of God’s son,
stealing his mistress’s birthday to mourn a singular death.
* * *
The swish of keen scythes could be heard when hand
followed hand, cutting swathes in successive arcs, each
described by the snaith’s wooden curves, bent around
the three dimensions. And gritty against peened edges, a rub
of carbide stones on thousands of blades, ends worn thin
by long summers of the mowers’ measured strokes; once
their grating sounds scraped across the fields of England.
Then the clatter-clat song of a reaper’s cutter-bar, then
the thrum of the combine’s deafening drum. All have sung
and turned about the falling stands of corn, where shapes
of men waited down the ages with sticks and guns.
Deep in a cover of crop concealed ears quiver.
A nose twitches to windward, smells the scent of danger.
Today we welcome Marianne Eloise to the Muse Shack. I found her debut poetry ‘Cactus’ enlightening, current, challenging and entertaining. It awoke in me, a fellow mover of places, some of the emotions and feelings of the author. I recommend this volume to all readers
Bio: Marianne Eloise is a UK-based writer, academic and journalist who works in the media. She loves pop culture, the coast, and 90s/00s trash aesthetics. Cactus is her debut poetry collection.
What inspires you to write poetry?
I don’t really get inspired as such, I’m just very motivated to write and work through my experiences. I also write in an attempt to preserve a place I’ve been or a particular time.
What is a measure of success as a poet?
I would consider myself successful if poetry was the only thing I needed to sustain my lifestyle, but I haven’t achieved that yet! I don’t think there are many poets who have achieved that, so for now I’d be happy just having people know who I am.
Who are some of your favourite poets?
Honestly, I don’t read poetry. I like Plath enough, but I am primarily influenced by music and literature. Traditionally, poetry can be very inaccessible linguistically so I aspire to something more easy-going or lyrical. I probably borrow more from emo music like Bright Eyes or Brand New than I do poetry.
What about Cactus? What was special about it? What inspired you to write it?
I have been publishing poetry online for over three years and I wanted a collection that I and my readers could hold and that I could share. I looked at my work to establish a theme and found that I wrote about place a lot in an effort to understand my relation to certain locations, so I gathered several of them together and wrote new ones.
What makes a poem good?
As someone who doesn’t read much poetry, I’m not sure I’m the best to answer this, but I’ll try! When I was at University and reading other students’ poetry every day, it was so immediately clear which ones were false or trying to practice forms or ideas that didn’t come naturally. I think you need to have a really strong voice and an understanding of language to know how to manipulate it and have words work well together. Trying to sound old fashioned or evoke the same voice as writers 200 years ago is a really easy way to make a poem terrible. I just don’t think that a genuine voice is something that can be taught, only practiced.
How did you publish ‘Cactus’?
After researching and soliciting a great deal of advice on how to publish through a publishing house, I realised that it could take years and I wouldn’t have the control over my work that I want. So I turned to Blurb, a self-publishing site where I could have complete control over editing, design, etc. My partner (Owain Anderson) designed the cover, which I never would have had with a traditionally published collection.
What advice would you give aspiring poets, especially those who want to get into print?
Get a real job because poetry will never pay the bills. But if you’re good work hard at it, get your work out there, do readings, make friends. Read as much of anything as you can. Have other options and expertise, because it gives your work far more depth than if you’re just working in a vacuum of poetry. Google magazines and websites, especially ones in your area, and try to get some traction. Make yourself known in some way, even if it’s through your own website or self-published.
You can reach Marianne at her website, twitter @marianne_eloise, Instagram @mazisthebest, or by email Marianne.firstname.lastname@example.org
Cactus is Marianne’s debut poetry collection and contains three sections of poems about places: Leicester, Brighton, and California.. It has several poems you will never see on February Stationery.
What keeps you back from writing, or even worse, from submitting that manuscript? As writers, many of us experience the fear of rejection. Losing confidence, we assign our manuscript to the file drawer or worse, the rubbish bin.
Believe it or not, many of the great writers whose names and titles roll off our tongues have faced the same fears and ultimate rejection. Here are just a few of them:
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
Dubliners by James Joyce
Chicken Soup for Soul by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen
Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake
Jaws by Peter Benchley
Dune by Frank Herbert
Gone with The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
Recognise the famous names? Imagine if they had given up, suffered a loss of confidence, threw their work in the trash can…literature would have suffered a severe loss and we would be the poorer for it.
Some of the great authors resorted to publishing their own work, at a time when such a move was frowned upon. Later they came to be picked up by the big publishing houses. Now, self-publishing has become totally respectable and has grown at a phenomenal rate. Many authors who have been rejected in recent years have become successful in terms of sales and followers; Some have been picked up by the main publishing houses, netting them substantial incomes.
When you next sit down with pen and paper or the keyboard and you fear rejection and feel your work is unworthy; remember the greats that have gone before you and become aware of those who have carved out their own path by self-publishing.
You may be the next best seller. Self-publish and have the satisfaction of watching a growing readership. Nothing increases confidence and self-esteem like it.
This collection of short stories is designed to facilitate those who love to read in those short spare minutes that present themselves throughout the day. I had a lot of fun writing this book along with my colleague, Frank Emslie. The title is available on both Amazon and Kindle.
Human beings have an insatiable longing to read. Everyone has their own favourite genre of story, usually for the journey, the holiday, the coffee break or even in bed before going to sleep…we want to read. The House in Argyle Square is a collection of short stories designed to be read during short breaks, or as a book on a longer journey. In this collection you will find stories containing irony, humour, delight, surprise and even the dark side. David and Frank recommend this book as a good read for those short on time. There is something here for everyone. Order here from Amazon
If you are on the ‘self publishing’ track and finding the going hard…don’t invent the wheel.
Take encouragement and advice from some of the most successful people out there, who are only too willing to help you benefit from their expertise.
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“You won’t make any money from self-publishing.”
The internet has revolutionized every business it has come into contact with, and publishing is no different.
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If you are considering self-publishing, if you need to breathe life into your flagging sales, or if you want to understand why it’s a great time to be a writer, Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should will explain it all.
Praise for Let’s Get Digital:
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You don’t need luck to self publish…you just need to use the wheel…it’s already invented. – Museshack
Have you ever had you dream of being a writer challenged?
This has happened to most aspiring writers. Sometimes the challenge comes from family and friends with statements such as ‘get a proper job’ or ‘writing won’t pay the gas bill’ etc. Sometimes the challenge comes from circumstances and harsh reality; you go to the cupboard to gather the ingredients to make a meal and it is bare, or that utility bill came in and you were struggling to pay it. In situations like these, it is all too easy to cave-in and decide that writing is a bad career choice. However, though the demands of living in the real world have to be met, there remains the possibility of earning a good income from writing.
One of the areas of writing that I would suggest for consideration is that of writing for the Internet. Many writers while working on their cherished manuscripts and struggling to make ends meet, overlook this rich source of revenue. The reality is, there is a whole world of writing opportunities on the Web and with as little as forty minutes a day you can be earning an income that will support you in all your other writing aspirations. You may even find that being a web author is so rewarding that you go on to make this your primary source of income.
Freelance writing online is enjoying growth and people are fulfilling their writing dreams by providing copy for information hungry websites. If you have access to a computer, have good writing skills, can present information logically and clearly, then there are opportunities for you to support your writing career.
Please enjoy this guest post by Brian Holers, author of the literary novel,Doxology. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $450 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.
Not just for Christians
One of the beauties of self-publishing is that the gatekeeper has been fired. In this new world of books made possible by the Internet, no one is left to guard the door. To tell the reader what is what. This state of affairs may introduce an element of confusion for dogmatic readers, but the good news is, new breeds of literature are being created.
Self-publishing allows literature to cross over in new ways. Traditional Christian fiction publishers, for instance, disallow most references to sex, and even the most juvenile profanity. Self-publishing changes this. Not to suggest a writer should ever debase a genre—as writers we are obliged to choose our words carefully. But the old Christian books kept many readers away. “I’m not going to read that. That’s Christian. It’s boring.” Still, nearly every Christian I know periodically swears, fights, and even becomes amorous from time to time. Christians like good stories too, with depth of character, excitement, whimsy, action. The success of a book like The Shackshows the need for stories of real people dealing with real problems, in a faith-based context. It doesn’t even have to be good literature.
As humans, we all look for answers. Stories are stories. Conflict builds to crisis, which leads to a form of resolution. Sure, some people never doubt their faiths, even in the face of horrible tragedy. Others do. Some never ascribed to a faith in the first place, and instead spend their days casting about for a context to this condition we call humanness. The problem with much traditional Christian literature is this; when a character is pushed to a crisis, and the only change we read is “he fell on his knees, then and there, and accepted Jesus into his heart,” that incident may describe a beautiful sentiment, and may have value to a real person in real life, but as a reader, it doesn’t tell me anything. A reader wants details. He wants to see the sweat break out. She wants to hear the thoughts and words that accompany the character’s condition. Literature is literature. We want to see development. We want to get inside the characters. We want to get to know them. That’s why we care. Regardless of the genre label put on the book.
Doxology is a story in between. The book has a religious message; given its primary setting in rural north Louisiana, that message is Christian. But the characters are just people. They experience the same emotions all people do—love, joy, loss. Their conflicts grow and grow until they must be resolved. Like real people, they go astray, take paths of separation from God, or just from what is good for them. They experience desires that can never be fulfilled, want things that can never be had or even understood. They discover the traits in their lives that aren’t working, and set out to find new habits that will work. Many Christian values are universal—a belief, despite evidence to the contrary, that our lives are worthwhile. An understanding that letting go, and learning how little we are in charge, makes life more manageable. A certainty that the kindness and compassion we offer to others is returned to us a hundredfold.
Some say God. Some say the universe. But we all–when we’re honest, and when we pay attention, have a sense of something looking out for us, giving us what we need. Putting people we need into our lives. We give credit for these gifts as we see fit. Good literature promotes a point of view by showing the reader how a character’s modes of operation and beliefs work for her (or don’t). Good literature, whatever its genre, lets the reader inside. Lets the reader do part of the work. Doxology, in this vein, is a story at the crossroad of God and man. It presents God as the characters experience God, and as real people experience God, looking out for them, giving them what they need. Coming to understand how God has been there all along.
Doxology is a love story. Faith plays a role, as it helps the characters find answers and resolution, improves their lives. Like Jody and Vernon and the others, we all look for redemption from brokenness of the past. They and we find it, as people both real and imaginary alike do, in family, friends, productive work, a sense of place, a faith in something greater. Doxology is a story, first and foremost. Its characters face problems. Their conflicts grow. They look for resolutions and ultimately find them, imperfect as they are. We the readers get to know them, and we care. We sympathize. They matter.
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Last year I established an organisation called Writing2day. The aim is to inform, educate and resource writers from a current perspective on the craft of writing. We are beginning to fulfill our mission statement.
So, with the thought on writing today, I offer the following bold statement that ‘writing is easier today than ever before’.
Do you feel the well has dried up? Have you hit a blank page? Has the light gone out? Is the Muse departed? Is the flow of your imaginings dammed up? Yes, I know you are probably reading this and screaming ‘mixed metaphors!’ But I have a purpose.
Whatever genre of writing we are involved in and however much we may wake up full of vigour for the writing task – the truth is, when we least want it, need it or expect it, our gift vanishes. That’s why the Muse and I have so many spats…I love her dearly, but she goes away without a word…like a morning cloud vanishes from the mountain top. When the gift is gone, the worst thing we can do is stress and try to make it work. Here’s my suggestion for restarting the flow:
Take a seat in a quiet and favoured spot and relax. For me it is the old log outside the Muse Shack that is a fallen tree. Something happens when I sit there. I connect with something beyond myself…a stirring begins that is different every time, but looks a bit like this:
All the pent-up and unacknowledged stresses of my life are laid down as I give myself to the inspiration of my landscapes. As soon as my body and hands interact with that ancient seat…I become aware of all the things I could not experience five minutes before…textures, colors, smells, scents, sounds (minute some of them), feelings, emotions, desires, wishes, memories, people, places, events (gone and yet to be), pain, happiness, special joys, accolades, disappointments, fears, hopes, dreams, places that fascinated, dark places I never want to see…and shall I go on? In a few minutes of respite in a favoured place, the well is flowing, the light has come on…get the picture?
The secret is to allow yourself to feel, to sense, to smell, to hear…extend every little thought and experience out in a ‘free-flow’ way…what does it feel like when a bug from the tree is crawling up my leg? There’s a character in there…a scene…a moment of hilarity or anger in the past. Sight of a Damselfly and the scent of Barley fumes sparked my poem ‘North East in Eden’. I’m sure you get my drift!
You see…the Muse is never far away! She is always ready to fly to my need…all I need to do is allow her freedom and then sit quietly and let her know I need her. She never disappoints.
Oh…I carry a notebook and a sharpened memory because the Muse gives me a hard time if I forget what she has brought to my attention.