I've been meaning to update this blog for a while and the impetus was an invitation by my good friend Kim Moore to take part in a Blog Tour called My Writing Process. The idea is simple. It's a few questions about writing which each person answers and then passes the baton on to three more people. Hopefully it will be interesting to anyone who reads my poems, but it should also build up into a wonderfully diverse collection of responses, showing the immense range of writers and writing.
Kim's blog can be found here
So here we go:
1) What am I working on?
I'm putting the finishing touches to my third collection of poetry Homecoming. My second book Territory explored the idea of what it means to make a home in a particular place. Much of it was set in the village of Leadhills in the Southern Uplands of Scotland, where I was then living. To some extent this new book picks up where that one left off, but in 2008 I left Scotland after 21 years and moved back to the North of England, to Cumbria. The poems I wrote then were essentially Cumbrian poets, exploring the history, natural history and my day to day living in Cumbria in a similar way to how I treated Leadhills in the earlier book, but as time went on I began to reconnect with South Yorkshire, where I grew up, and the book as a whole became about homecoming in a wider sense. Other dimensions were added too. As regular readers of this blog will know I work for the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, on a site that includes Dove Cottage, so the lanes that Wordsworth walked are my office corridors. Wordsworth becomes an inescapable presence in some of the poems, haunting the book in the way he haunts the Lake District.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I'm not sure if it's for me to say that my work is unique or different. I would much rather let readers decide that for themselves. I'm also conscious that all writing, and poetry in particular, responds to other writing. I'm very aware of the influence of Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and Elizabeth Bishop on my poetry generally. In this book there are poems that respond directly to some of Wordsworth's poems or to elements of his biography. I also immersed myself in the work of other, more contemporary, Cumbrian poets, like Norman Nicholson, William Scammell, Geoffrey Holloway and Jacob Polley.
Notions of eco-poetry were very much behind a lot of Territory, and our relationship with the natural world, and ways that we can explore that through poetry, continue to be of interest to me.
Having said all that, my poetry does come from lived experience and one of the things I'm trying to do is write a modern Lakes poetry, if you like. I live and work in a rural area but I go to work in an office. I see the things that the Lake Poets saw but I see them when I'm driving past to get to work, or to go to a meeting. I walk the hills but mainly at weekends or on public holidays, when I'm already thinking about what I need to do when I return to work. We can still occasionally manage to touch the sublime, though, despite the pressure of modern life, and that's one of the things my poems are trying to do.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Much of my poetry takes its starting point from personal experience, whether that's a sudden flash of memory or something that happened or a casual thought on that day, but there are usually ideas, both about poetry and about wider political concerns, that I'm thinking through, and I often try to work these out through my poems.
How we can write concern for the environment into poetry without it seeming didactic is one of my poetic concerns. I am interested in the idea of animal encounters, about what happens when we come face to face with another creature. I also have a very specific interest in the 'local', in what it means to be a part of a small community.
In this new book I return to the industrial South Yorkshire of my childhood too, which I've always felt ambivalent about, and try to resolve those feelings in poems.
The challenge when I write a poem is to take the initial impetus and find something within it that seems to resonate in some way with my various interests.
4) How does your writing process work?
The Canadian poet Don McKay talks about 'a moment of poetic attention that is pre-language' and that really resonates with me. Some image or incident seems to tell me it holds a poem, and the process of writing is a way of finding that poem.
My poems usually begin as notes, or as a very rough first draft where I'm not paying much attention to the structure or shape of it. I would normally then put it away and take it out at intervals over the next few weeks. Sometimes time alone can solve problems for us. Over the next 7 - 8 drafts it starts to become a poem, and that usually involves a lot of paying attention to language, of re-ordering things, of adding, enhancing, taking way.
I'm often puzzled when people talk about editing as something apart from the writing. For me they are part and parcel of the same process. My poems often don't seem to become poems until I have finished editing them, and even minor edits in response to other peoples' comments usually involve a certain amount of rewriting.
The process of putting a book together has been different each time. With the new one, when I had between 25 and 30 poems I started cutting and pasting into one document to see what they looked like. A shape seemed to emerge and that dictated the rest of the poems to some extent.
.....and that's it for my part of the blogging tour! Thanks again to Kim Moore for inviting me to do this. I will be posting more stuff about Homecoming as it approaches publication, and there will be other bits and pieces in the coming weeks. There's also a new poem on the Monthly Poem page.
Jules Horne is a playwright and fiction writer based in the Scottish Borders. She loves theatre, music, art, hurtling down hills on a bike, and the sound of the curlews and skylarks which live in the field next to her house. She writes radio drama and stage plays and has won two Edinburgh Fringe Firsts for Allotment and Thread for Nutshell Theatre. She teaches dramatic writing for the Open University.
Katie Hale was born and raised on the edge of the Lake District. She recently completed her Masters in Creative Writing at St Andrews University. Previously a Barbican Young Poet, her work has appeared in Poetry Review, The Frogmore Papers, and Cadaverine. In 2013, she was an emerging poet in residence at Theatre by the Lake, as well as producing and curating Beneath The Boughs poetry installation at Lowther Castle & Gardens. She currently runs New Writing Cumbria.
Jean Atkin works as a poet and educator, and lives in Shropshire. She is a past winner of the Torbay Prize, the Ravenglass Poetry Prize, the Ways With Words Prize at Dartington Hall and others. Her first collection Not Lost Since Last Time, was published by Oversteps Books in spring 2013. Her work has been anthologised by Grey Hen Press, Offa’s Press and Cinnamon Press. She has a new pamphlet out, The Henkeeper’s Almanac, in collaboration with artist Pamela Grace.
And that's it, but thanks for reading, and more very soon!