Ira Lightman

August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Interview with Ira Lightman by Mica S. Bailey

Ira’s YouTube channel.

1. Is there a general message or emotion you wish to convey or provoke through your poems?

Possibly. I suspect it is love. Or clearing what gets in the way of love. My work is very sex – positive, and keen that people should be more open about sexual desire, and more frank about sex. Thought is also important to me. I feel that children are not taken seriously, and so people begin life and live childhoods of unnecessary neglect. Not in the sense of crisis neglect, but a kind of giving up of best hope, a falling back from the best possible, that hurts and creates loneliness and bitterness.

2. Who are you speaking to in your poems? Who are they for?

That question has haunted me all my writing life. I very much want to connect, with sympathetic people. I want mutuality. I don’t want to overpower or just blow off steam, well, maybe a bit blow off steam. I can’t picture someone reading my work, when I write, or once it’s published. In a prophetic sense, the writing is for the people it goes on to find, who treat it kindly.

3. How has your work changed or developed since you started writing?

Latterly, in the last 4 years, I have been writing Facebook updates up to ten times a day. This has made me finish off and polish a thought, instead of waiting for it to connect with other thoughts. I like to compress a thought into a sentence for a good update. W hen the thought won’t compress, I often nowadays babble it out into a longer piece, then post it as a Facebook note. I’m not sure of the quality of any of this writing, but I think it’s been a very good exercise in building a possible audience, and I have written in my old ways, picking up a piece of paper and penning a poem, and these latterday penned poems are noticeably different, more lyric, more standalone. I have also become very interested in prose, from reading all of Henry James, and then all of Philip Roth, and all of Penelope Fitzgerald. I have attempted more prosaic poetry, and tried to write prose (not well).

4. Is the presence and absence of punctuation in your poems significant?

I tried not to use commas and full stops etc at all for years. These days, I have come back to punctuation with a vengeance. Because I know how to make line breaks and a comparison of two lines do most of the work of punctuation and then just sprinkle a few commas and especially semi-colons as gracenotes, extra flourishes.

5. When you begin writing do you decide what the finished product will be or do you ‘go with the flow’?

I never know what the poem will be when I start writing, although I perhaps have an idea what it might look like in long shot. But the poem can become something I never planned, with my great consent and delight.

6. How did you write the poem Politessoric?

I picked up a VOICE TO TEXT app on my smartphone, and ranted a lot of mostly sexual things at it in very plain language. Then I looked at the prose it created and mostly just inserted line breaks, with a tiny bit of streamlining. I started off line breaking that one and it seemed to be producing a graduation, of lines broken shorter and shorter, so I tried continuing that with decreasing and then increasing line lengths, and was happy with what happened.

7. Why do you write duet poems? Do you consider yourself to have more than one identity or to have conflicting properties?

I don’t consider myself to have more than one identity, no. I like counterpoint in classical music, when the bass part makes figures which echo the figures in the treble part, and play against them. I aspired for years to write poetry with counterpoint. I also worked in a band, and that worked well with two voices. The actual poems were often written separately, but in chronological order. So, a poem from June 1st 2004 might be followed by a poem in June 12th 2004, written without the former poem to hand. The number of lines in each poem was often spookily identical, as if the echo of the first poem unconsciously guided the second. I would put the poems side by side to see what happened, and they fitted uncannily, with minimum tinkering. I’m especially pleased with these poems because I can do, in one column, any of a range of poems, concrete, pun-based, rhyming, free verse, and they are somehow blended in with other forms. The naivety (a flaw of mine) of any one poem somehow works in the context of all the language play set up by putting two together.

8. What is going on in your poem The 80s? What does it mean?

Another VOICE TO TEXT app poem. I like having that one in the book because it is almost the most transparent in the book. It recalls going to see Peter Greenaway’s Drowning by Numbers in a cinema off Leicester Square in the 1980s. And then lets the app wreak havoc with what it hears.

9. Does it irritate you when someone misinterprets your work?

Nope. There isn’t one interpretation. I crave interpretation, I get so little of it.

10. How do you support yourself financially so that you can write?

I made public art in the New Labour period. These days I mainly go into schools as a visiting artist/poet. Probably my strongest developing skill is I’m very good at demonstrating new methods for teaching maths!


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