February 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
Interview with Claire Trévien by Diane Tingley.
1) When did you first start to call yourself a poet?
I started calling myself a poet towards my second year as an undergrad at university. Some university magazines and anthologies had published my work and I’d found the courage to sign up to David Morley’s module The Practice of Poetry for the following year. I had been writing poetry for four years by then, but it wasn’t something I admitted to many people. I had been part of an online community of poets for several years by then however, and one of my mentors on it had been encouraging me to own up to the title for some time. It’s still not something I’m 100% comfortable telling strangers.
2) Who inspires you?
Plenty of people, top of the list for going out of their way to create exciting projects: Sophie Mayer, Amy Key, Sarah Crewe, Kirsten Irving, Jon Stone, Tom Chivers, Tori Truslow, Emily Hasler, … the list could go on for some time. More personally, my mother and sisters are inspirations to me for being strong independent and passionate people. There’s no way I could have aspired to an uncreative life with them in my life.
3) In September (2012) Fiona Sampson suggested in an article for The Spectator that if we want more people to read poetry, we need more precise criticism: signposts. Is this at all the raison d’etre of Sabotage?
In part, the idea behind Sabotage is to review what isn’t usually reviewed (or at least not on an equal par with the attention novels and full-poetry collections get). It brings attention to small-budget creations, but also refuses to mollycoddle them. This does lead to some difficulties, I know that James Webster, the editor of everything to do with performed poetry, struggles to find people willing to review spoken word nights. This is because would-be reviewers are often performers themselves and don’t want to be critical of their peers. It’s harder to hide from your subject’s ire if they’re in the same room as you!
4) Is editing a review journal helpful to your own poetry: why?
Not directly, if anything too much reviewing can be stifling to my writing, which is why I’ve taken a step back from it lately, I’m much happier editing than reviewing at the moment. The problem is that it takes more time away from my writing, and my free time is a precious commodity at the moment.
5) Do you have anything which you wish you could share with everyone about how to edit their poetry?
Not really, there are no hard and fast rules. There are perils to over-editing poetry, and letting too many outside voices influence your work, but at the same time your first draft is never going to be good enough, no matter what your brain tries to tell you during that moment of elation, and it’s useful to have someone who understands your work to pull you back from the brink. It’s always worth giving poems resting time, and return to them with fresh eyes – seek opinions, yes, but satisfy your own high standards first.
6) Do you identify with feminism? Does this affect your writing?
I am a feminist so it must feed into my work on some level, just like being white, female, Anglo-Breton, 27 years old, alive, … probably filters into my poetry in ways that I can’t necessarily decipher. I have made attempts to be more overtly militant in my poetry but I’ve rarely been satisfied with my efforts. Fortunately, there is no lack of poets who do it much better, check out Sophie Mayer and Sarah Crewe’s Binders Full of Women for plenty of examples or Lucy Ayrton’s Lullabies to Make your Children Cry which has a lot of fun taking fairy tales apart.
7) Do your think that there are more or less opportunities for female poets in the spoken or written word scenes?
I think that poets who identify as female are still under-represented on the page and stage. It’s often dispiriting to open a magazine or attend an open mic and find that women make up barely a quarter of contributors. Vida publishes statistics regularly, the 2011 one is here and I expect the 2012 one will be out soon. The figures are very revealing showing that in most mainstream magazines women are not only less published, but also less likely to be reviewed. Plenty of writers have speculated more intelligently than I could on why this could be, certainly it seems that women submit less to magazines and will put themselves forward less to sign up to, say, a slam; but these things work both ways and if a magazine or event is not getting enough contributions from women then it has to take a hard-look at itself and evaluate what it is doing that is putting them off. When it comes to a curated poetry evening (or an edited anthology that commissions authors) there is less of an excuse, I organized a reading series in Beaconsfield last year and was always careful to invite two female and two male poets to read – it’s not that hard, there are so many talented female poets to choose from!
On a more positive note, the majority of movers and shakers of my generation of poets are women creating their own opportunities. This is always an option of course, if there isn’t a scene out there for you: make one. Check out Mark Burnhope, Sophie Mayer and Daniel Sluman’s poets against ATOS project for instance.
8) How far can a poem travel, and do you think that paying poets might be related to this – or not?
Finished poems and poets are independent entities. Once a poem has been released into the world, the poet loses control of it. I don’t think this is related to paying poets or not. How much money is put into the business of publishing and promoting the poem plays a part in its reach, though that is not always necessarily the case.