August 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
Interview with Aoife Mannix by Sasha Bhardwaj
1. What was the first poem you read? How did it affect you?
I can’t really remember. My mother loved Emily Dickinson and I remember her showing me ‘Because I Could Not Stop for Death’ when I was about eleven. I loved the rhythm and the image of the grave as a kind of house and the idea of writing from the point of view of eternity. When I was about eight or nine, I loved Hilaire Belloc and used to learn his poems off by heart from a book I had. My favourites being ‘Matilda who told dreadful lies and was burnt to death’ and ‘Jim who ran away and was eaten by a lion.’ I loved the humour and the rhymes.
2. Which other poets inspire and/or influence your writing?
There’s so many it’s hard to say. I love Jackie Kay, Brian Patten, Roger McGough, Carol Ann Duffy, Roger Robinson, Malika Booker, Jacob Sam La Rose… I could go on.
3. What do you enjoy most about being a poet?
The chance to meet lots of different kinds of people and be inspired by them.
4. How did you get your work published or heard? Did you confront any difficulties?
I entered a competition and failed to read that the small print said if you were a finalist you had to perform the poem in front of an audience. I found the idea of performing terrifying and nearly didn’t go. Luckily I kept my nerve because I won the competition. One of the judges was the editor of a magazine called Gargoyle and she asked to read more of my work. That’s how I first got published. I think I’ve been quite lucky but like most writers I have a stack of rejection slips!
5. Is there a particular process you use when writing poetry?
6. Have you ever made up a word in a poem? Why is it effective to do so?
I’ve mainly made up words in poems I’ve written for children. I think kids enjoy having fun with language and discovering the possibilities of invention.
7. How did you bring together the different ideas and inspirations in your poem ‘Unwanted Gift’?
I can’t remember!
8. Can you retrace your thought process when writing and/or editing your poem ‘Learning to Skate’?
It was based on a memory of something that happened to me as a child. I originally wrote it in the first person but then changed to the third when I edited it. I think it gave it more of a sense of a story. Also it became part of a series of poems about my life called ‘Growing up an Alien’ which I performed as a poetry and music show that toured the UK.
9. What is poetry – both in contemporary society and for you personally?
Poetry for me is somewhere between music and prose. It’s a way of expressing how you experience the world. It can be both intensely personal and intensely political. I think in contemporary society people still turn to poetry to mark the most significant occasions in life such as weddings and funerals. Poetry is a compact and powerful means of revealing our inner most thoughts and feelings.
10. What advice would you give young writers to encourage them to write poetry?
Don’t be afraid to find your own style and voice. It’s very important to read and listen to other poets for inspiration. However your poetry should be about what you really care about and what you really want to write about. It’s important to be emotionally honest and not to just follow somebody else’s idea of what poetry is.