Katy Price

August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Interview with Katy Price by David Lawrence.

Katy’s blog.

1. When did you start writing, and what motivated or inspired that ? Are there poets that influence/inspire your writing ?

I started around 1996 when I was at the end of my BA and waitressing for a year before I did an MA. I would wander about Manchester doing extremely clumsy silver service and daydreaming while thinking up lines.

Stevie Smith. Elizabeth Bishop. Adrienne Rich. Edwin Morgan. William Empson. Frank Black / The Pixies.

2. Do you find it difficult to find time for creativity?

I have a choice – to resent parts of  academic work as opposed to an imaginary glorious world of creative production.

Or to integrate them – eg. to find an underpinning value that applies to the work you ‘want’ to do and the work you ‘have’ to do.

At the moment my value is a search for values. It will be an ongoing quest! I do find that when I’m doing critical writing there’s no juice left for writing poetry.

3: You publish and exhibit your work in many ways, and using several techniques – do you think about all of this as being a poet/poetry?

I think of ‘poetry’ as an opportunity to use text in non-literary situations (such as a music event) – and conversely, to do non-literary things where people have come to hear poetry. So it’s about giving people something other than what they came along to hear. A ‘normal’ poem in an anthology or poetry reading can also do this by setting up an expectation and then dashing or twisting it.

4. Do you always have that in mind to include a ‘twist’ when writing?

I think it’s fundamental to all writing. But I always forget, and am taken by surprise. That way I know that the poem or whatever is doing its job. In some forms a turn is part of the structure, for example between the two parts of a sonnet or after the second line in haiku. If I’m writing something that has no surprises in store for me, it’s probably a dud and I’ve had too much control.

5. Regarding ‘control’ – do you feel like there is a subconscious that is very active when you are writing ? How do keep from being in too much control?

In some pieces I use the standard avant-garde techniques which allow the operations of language to take over from self-expression. Cut-ups, collage and anything which introduces random procedure, taking choice away from me. Or a substitution process … for example making a recording and using that as a starting point for writing in some way. Or taking the form and syntax of somebody else’s poem and fitting a new set of words and new situation into them.. Strict forms like a sonnet or villanelle can have a similar effect because there’s a struggle between what I can think of saying and what the pattern wants. Sometimes though I just write, and I have to try things out endlessly, searching for language that will allow that thing to come through rather than choking it – without knowing what ‘it’ actually is even when it’s finished. Occasionally I write a premeditated poem with me in control just for the sake of writing something or remembering that there are other ways to do things and you never know where it might lead.

6. I sense that the issue of ‘control’ could be quite pivotal? issue…., or am I over-stating that!?

Yes, this is important. It comes partly out of exposure to avantgarde work, partly out of teaching creative writing. Pure self-expression is boring to anyone else. When filtered through a focus on language and history, the emotional content can become more interesting, disturbing or brilliant (in the shiny sense).

7. do you feel your work is converging, or diverging…?

Diverging, hopefully. I’m always open to collaborations. There’s something consistent in my material that has been pointed out in workshop but I can’t stand far enough back to see it. Maybe something to do with being centripetal and centrifugal at once, in using language.

8. At a performance might someone new to your work think you are a performer of sound, or drama (rather than ‘poetry’). Does this matter to you?

I don’t mind whether people think it’s poetry or not. If they experience what I’m doing as an adjustment to a given context or situation that counts as positive feedback for me. It means I tend to be parasitic on situations devised by others to get an idea for a piece of work. If I did a solo show or publication I would need to think about how to frame it so the parasite energy doesn’t get lost.

9. Imagine that you get asked to present a solo show – and you have the choice of venue/location, and complete control over the concept, the content, and format, duration, etc., (a ‘one off chance’ …. like ‘3 wishes’ all wrapped into one!) Could you pick on some aspects … things really important to you … and say what springs to mind?

My dream gig: in the Space gallery at the Science Museum, in front of the V-2. A participatory mini-opera about rockets, for a family audience. There would be clips from Frau im Mond and we could make a rocket launch sound poem together, and maybe do a rocket launching dance. The performance is an epic tale of the rocket builder’s dreams of reaching the moon, versus the increasingly evil deeds he is involved with in order to get funding for the project.

10. I really hope the dream gig happens!  🙂 Is that story idea reflecting something really quite important  for you?

Thank you, I hope it happens too! I am obsessed with rockets and the early rocket builders. I think it’s something to do with the impossibility of getting into space, combined with almost being there and wondering how things will turn out up there. Once we have actually got into space it’s as if  […] space becomes just another place to live and work and the dreams go somewhere else – back to earth maybe.

11. In your ‘Dream gig’ you seem to be looking at good and evil, life ethics dilemmas, chasing dreams  – are these particular notions that you try to explore generally in your work?

I am more of a small picture person, whether that’s in creative or critical work or when I’m teaching. I’m short sighted and get confused around big ideas – latching on to details for safety. Maybe that will change as I get older. Poetry feels like home to me because I can take care of details all day and people reading it are free to test it out against larger concepts.

12. Re your poem: “singing in tongues” – what inspired that writing ? By writing the poem did it change you yourself, and the way you thought about life and religion for example?

When I was 13 I went to stay with a friend from bible camp and her church was massive. Everyone in the service was touched by the holy spirit except me – they were singing in tongues. Years later I brainstormed the experience and wrote down everything I could remember. The sonnet form allowed some of it in and shut out other things. Afterwards I didn’t think of it as a poem about religion, but more about being a teenager and escaping on my bicycle.

13. How do you choose the process for a particular piece of poetry writing?   How do you know when to stop editing/developing?

Trial and error, borrowing from others. It’s a puzzle – I don’t know what the form needs to be until I know what it’s about. I don’t know what the process needs to be until I know what the form is. I may not know what it’s about until I’ve finished and somebody else has told me. Or if I do have a theme, it’s not easy to know how that relates to form. I try to stop when changes are starting to make it worse rather than better.

14. Do you always like/prefer to collaborate in your creating, and in performing?  

Collaborating is a lot of fun, and takes me out of myself. It brings parameters – what somebody else is interested in, what they want to achieve, what the context will be and the themes.

15. What draws you to using ‘old’ technology and equipment/processes in your work ?

I think it’s the theme of invention – because poetry is invention too. Plus the stories are so romantic – like Charles Cros, who invented the phonograph before Edison but wasn’t quite so pushy and was a bit distracted by the search for alien life, so he didn’t get famous. And of course the language of technology is already poetry, mischief with words. And history is a way of looking at now from round-the-corner.

When we use technology today, we are complicit with forces that can be flipped or questioned by bringing something up from the past.

16. I am looking at an example of work-in-progress that you sent to me – notes jotted on a draft piece of writing resulting from a workshop – how does it work in the workshops?

This workshop was just me and two other people who have similar interests in exploring across mainstream and experimental poetry. We meet informally and usually have 1 poem each per session with about 30 minutes on each poem. The person whose work it is doesn’t say anything while the others explore and comment on their work.

17: How did the idea for this writing get triggered?

By my rocket obsession rubbing up against Adrienne Rich – in particular, ‘Trying to Talk with a Man’ which begins ‘in this desert we are testing bombs’. I was also reading a biography of Wernher von Braun – the underground concentration camp at Peenemunde where they designed and tested rockets.

18.  In what ways does a workshop session help the work do you think ?

It can help me work out whether to carry on with an idea or ditch it. In this case, one of my readers did a Freudian reading of the poem which opened things up I had not been thinking about – so I’ll be looking at the phrases Freud uses and possibly integrating some of them.

19. When did you start using this workshop approach, and how has it affected your work?

I guess since around 2005. It’s invaluable to have people reading something because at that point it leaves my solipsistic universe and gets tested against other people’s perspectives.

20. What do you enjoy most about being a poet, and do you have any regrets as a writer?

I enjoy the mischief, what words can get up to, and the generosity of others when they respond to this. Like everyone, I’d like to make more time for writing.

21. What do you hope you achieve or make happen as a writer, and do you have a longer term hope or ambition?

I went to the science museum yesterday, ate a lot of jellybeans, and scribbled for a short while beneath the V-2. Apart from that, I’d like to integrate my life and work a little more, find ways of living through bureaucracy. Not running away to write, but lichen on the roof. I’d like to get more involved with community arts and people who have a lot to say but don’t get heard.

22. what advice would you give to new writers, to encourage them to write poetry, and how to find their own style/voice?

Do open mic. You’ll be encouraged by the support and appreciation, and you’ll start to get outside what you’re writing. It completely changed my approach. Go to hear poets read, all different kinds. Make time for wandering about with no purpose. Get feedback from people with different tastes and values.


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