August 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
Interview with Clare Pollard by Sabrina Prescott-Nelson
1. What was the first poem or poet that you ever read? How did this affect you or your writing in the future?
I had a wonderful treasury of poetry when I was younger, full of many famous poems including ‘The Raggle Taggle Gypsies’ and ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’. The first adult poetry I got into was by John Donne and Sylvia Plath. I loved both of their work and discovered them whilst studying my A Levels. Reading Plath blew my mind when I was only sixteen; she is really good at angst. Both writers influenced me whilst writing my first book.
2. What do you enjoy most about being a poet?
I have always wanted to be a writer that is just how I like to express myself. I began writing musicals at the age of four, since I could remember that is what I loved. I am quite easily bored and a poem is just a little thing, whereas with a novel you keep on working on it for a year or more. But poems you can do in a couple of hours and it’s done, you can be pleased with it and then move on to the next one. I suppose that is what is nice about poetry. Also I like the oral side to it; I have always liked performing and reading, so I love that aspect of it as well. It is very social; I get to do a lot of readings and workshops, rather than a Novelists life which I think might be a bit lonely.
3. Your first play was The Weather and it was performed at the Royal Court Theatre. How do you prefer to hear your work? In poetry, plays, reading it yourself or other forms?
I found having a play on a really mixed experience. As a poet you are very use to controlling your work and every word used. So to have a play on and their saying the lines in ways you don’t expect and they change the stage directions, I found it quite horrific really. Having it out of my control made me feel really angsty. So not theatre, probably reading my poem myself is probably the best form for me.
4. When you began writing what did you imagine it to develop into, a hobby or a career?
I guess I saw it as a career, which is quite naive actually as I didn’t realise how difficult it is to make a living as a poet. But I always wanted to be a writer; there was no question about it.
5. Do you ever get torn between writing novels, short stories, plays or poetry?
Yes I do, I am still am torn between all those things. I think I just found poetry easiest, so that’s what I got my success in first. I do write short stories and I have written novels that haven’t yet been published. I recently published a children’s novel and I’ve had a play on, so I have written all different genres. I think the one thing you can’t do in poetry is storytelling, so that is what draws me to other forms because I want to make up stories. Although there are some of those stories in my new poetry book, it is harder to tell a tale.
6. Before writing a poem how much research or planning is needed?
It really varies; some just come to me from things like the news. I wrote some poems about the Pendle Witches, I grew up near there so I knew it would be a good subject for me. I really wanted to find out a lot about them, so I did a lot of research and read all the transcripts from the original trial. I spent ages thinking how I can approach this subject, that took a lot of research, but other things can come more easily.
7. How do you see your work different from other contemporary poets?
In my earlier years I was known as the “The bad girl of British Poetry”, I was known for my confessional style and I was very honest about being a young person. Including sex and drugs in my work made me stand out. My new book is very different from that, it’s much more immersed in folk and a lot more political than most of my contemporary work.
8. When you began writing how did you get your work published or heard?
I started sending stuff to poetry magazines, I was very lucky to have my poems published in some of the bigger magazines like Poetry Review when I was only sixteen or seventeen.
9. Why do you use particular verse form, mode or style?
I am very interested in form, but only as far as it goes to serve the content. I wouldn’t write a sonnet just for the sake of it, I would write it because the poem needs to be short, tight and maybe have a little turn in the middle. For me the subject and the form always have to fit, although I don’t always use form or stick to one. Ballard is the form I have been interested most in lately as it is a story telling form like a narrative.
10. Why did you write about a certain social or political issue in your poems?
In my new book there are a lot of poems about social and political issues like honour killings, capitalism and the banking crisis. Many issues inspire me to write like the gangs in Dalston helped to create the poem ‘The Skulls of Dalston’. I am always interested in people and relationships; I think that it’s interesting in cities because you’re in these strange relationships with people you don’t know. I feel like if there was stuff happening on my street it would be nothing to do with me, it’s like a separate world going on next to you.