Today poetry collection House of Weeds is released ‘Weeds and humans overlap in this prickly-sweet fusion of poetry and illustration, painting tales of society’s outsiders’ Here is an interview with its author Amy Charlotte Kean.

 


 

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1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

 

I’m on a journey to become as weird as David Lynch. I’d say I’m about 3% of the way there, so this may take a while. Most of what I write – my columns, my poems, by books – are about being yourself and accepting your weirdness. Some of us are more capable than others, because being yourself is an extremely brave act. Weirdness is feared intensely in the world, often by insecure people.

 
My first book The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks is about being completely, unapologetically yourself and not worrying what people think. I try not to be cliched about mental health. In the book, the main character Elodie-Rose deals with a constant buzzing and whirring in her brain whenever she decides to give zero fucks for something the day has thrown her way; like bullying or sexual harassment or even being told she’s too loud in debating class. Eventually, when she decides to live life as she chooses, the whirring stops. And in my upcoming poetry book, House of Weeds, every character has been labelled an outcast by society. The poems are about rebelling against norms and embracing your strange. Making peace with it.

I’ve been influenced by the oddest, most magical content: Jim Henson, Roald Dahl, The Mighty Boosh, The Worst Witch, horoscopes, Ella Frears, Anne Carson and Michael Rosen. There will always be a dark humour in my work, because I believe even the saddest, most terrifying situations need laughter.

 

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

 

Every single waking second of every day I spend working, with my laptop open. It’s ruining my eyesight. And I live on Twitter, despite how angry it makes me. I write a lot of comment pieces on the themes of my books and have a regular column for a magazine called Shots, which is designed for the creative community. I’m known as outspoken, which is weird in and of itself, because I only talk about what I believe. In the book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson talks about how we’re cultivating a society where only the bland will thrive. I try and remember that when I write.

 

3, What projects are you working on at present?

 
House of Weeds, published by Fly on the Wall Press, is coming out on 17th May. As soon as the world is back to normal and it’s appropriate to do so, me and the book’s illustrator Jack Wallington are staging an immersive exhibition in Peckham, so you can go straight to the scene of the book, and live like its characters. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m also writing an audio sitcom and am in the final stages of a novel about the dark, exploitative side of the volunteering industry, set in Kenya.

4, What does poetry mean to you?

 

I struggle with the inaccessibility of poetry, sometimes. So many regular people simply feel they “don’t get it.” What a tragedy! I don’t want poetry to be a secret club, for English grads from redbrick universities who use the same words and voices. It defeats the object of the world being gifted this unrivalled art form that allows people to rip out a piece of their ridiculous brains and throw it on a page to see what happens. When I started writing poetry I was stunned at how much I could get away with, how much I was able to speak my mind, but do it beautifully, with wit and surprise. Poetry is therapy, genuinely. It’s becoming more accessible over time, and when my friends say to me “I don’t get it” it makes me sad, because they don’t realise that all you have to do is try.

 

 

 


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Amy Charlotte Kean is an advertising strategist, innovation consultant and writer from Essex. Her first book, the number 1 bestselling The Little Girl Who Gave Zero F*cks was published in 2018 with Unbound. Amy’s rants, reviews, short fiction and poems have been published in The Guardian, Huffington Post, Disclaimer, Glamour, Abridged, Burning House Press, Poetry Village and many others. She was shortlisted in the Reflex Flash Fiction competition and was an Ink, Sweat & Tears poet of the month. Her second book, House of Weeds, is out in May with Fly on the Wall Press.


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Four Questions with Martin Grey

 

 


 

1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

 
I’m a Nottingham based performance poet and event organiser. I spent the best part of a decade writing poems I barely showed to anybody, before starting a now defunct poetry blog in 2011 and nervously taking to the stage for the first time in 2013.

 
My poems tend to be about little details and connections to people, objects and time, but I also write nonsense and found poetry when the mood takes me. I try to layer a positive social or political message into my poems, but generally prefer to leave it under the words for people to find. I consider it a compliment if three people read a poem of mine and take three different meanings.

 
I’ve always been drawn to nuanced and character focussed writing, especially in poetry and song lyrics. I used to blow my early teenage mind exploring all the possible meanings in 90s lyrics from the likes of Richey Edwards and Gruff Rhys. Today, I still find that poets who have had the most influence over my writing tend to explore these same themes. Mike Garry’s poem “Made in England” is a great example of this.
My writing is also strongly influenced by how many incredibly talented poets there are in the East Midlands. Just seeing great poet after great poet at an open mic is often enough to make me work extra hard on a poem, in the hope it can hold up next to everybody else’s!

 

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

 
I promote through my social media accounts (instagram, youtube, facebook) and a website. While I do find these useful (it’s great if you want to get people to your event or livestream, for example), I also find they have limited value on their own, and keeping them active can be to the detriment of my own focus. All that said though, you should definitely follow me.

 
I personally think the best promotion, especially locally, comes from not actually promoting, but from being present, being genuine and being aware. Talk to people at events, give people confidence and a platform where you can, tell that instapoet why you liked their poem, make sure you’re on the mailing list, apply to whatever you can and be nice to people. I personally find these help create more opportunities and add time to my own writing, because they fill my mind with ideas and remind me why I love doing it.

 

3, What projects are you working on at present?

 
Quite a few at the moment. My first book, The Prettyboys of Gangster Town, is due out later this year with Fly on the Wall Poetry, which I’m super excited about!

 
I’m also closely involved with two local groups, DIY Poets and World Jam. At DIY we run quarterly events, monthly writing support meetings, and produce what we believe is the longest running free poetry zine in the country, although we’d love to meet a group with a longer running one. At World Jam we try to facilitate global poetry and music through events and workshops, by getting people together from as many different backgrounds, native languages and styles as we can.

 
I was also going to start bringing some spoken word theatre shows to Nottingham, but unfortunately all that has gone on hold at the moment. I guess I find it hard to say no to poetry things!

4, What does poetry mean to you?

As horribly cliched as this sounds, it really does mean the world to me, because it’s good for me in so many ways. It’s friendship. It’s belonging to a community. it’s being part of something positive and being able to help open doors for others. it’s educational, teaching me a lot about how other people feel and process what comes their way. It’s a therapist with unlimited time to help me come to terms with any difficult times I face. It’s also made me much better at taking constructive criticism!

 
On a different angle, it’s also a marker of how good something can be. In a great poem, the words seem to dance on the page or paint great works on the walls of the venue. There’s nothing quite like that breathe out moment, when somebody’s poem gets right into the blood cells of everyone in the room, and the only tools you need for that are a pen and the back of an envelope. It’s magic.


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https://www.youtube.com/martingreypoet

 

 

4 Questions with Sam Love.

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1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)

I have been concerned about the environment since I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as a teenager. I also worked on the national staff of the first Earth Day in 1970. In April it will be the fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970. Unfortunately, many of the events have been cancelled. Over the years I have had a number of environmental poems published so I decided to pull some of them together in a manuscript which Fly on the Wall Poetry Press published as “Awakening: Musings on Planetary Survival”.
I had previously self-published an illustrated children’s book “My Little Plastic Bag” which educates children about where plastic goes in our ecosystem. It won a number of awards and is now in Spanish and English. It has been my best seller.

 

www.mylittleplasticbag.com

 
I feel poets can play an important role in changing our environmental consciousness and they need to speak out in poems with clear messages. It is not a time for obscure images that we hope some people will get. Also, people are scared and depressed because of Covid-19, but they are spending a lot of time on line so we can provide inspiration and understanding for them. I recently put up a graphic on Facebook “Quarantine Your Body, Not Your Mind, Read Poetry”. A number of people shared it.

 

2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?

We timed the release of “Awakening” to the Fiftieth Anniversary of Earth Day and I set up a number of readings through environmental groups and they all got cancelled so I am working social media and trying to get some press attention. But Covid-19 is sucking up all the oxygen. As a result, I have done some virtual book launches and will record some of the poems and put them on my website, YouTube and Facebook. I am also writing some pieces on the resurgence of eco-poetry as a set up to promote “Awakening”.
If you don’t promote your work it is invisible, so you need to let people know about it.

 

3, What projects are you working on at present?

I am trying to find ways to promote my new book and that is time consuming, but as I have ideas for new poems I write them down and store them in a working file. It’s like planting seeds that I may watch germinate.

 

4, What does poetry mean to you?

Joy Harjo, our American poet laureate, is the first native American poet laureate. She says something like, “Poetry gives voice to the spirits in the wind.”
I feel like we are channelling some unconscious survival instincts. In my poem in “Awakening” about the disappearance of the ecology symbol that was everywhere around the first Earth Day I write:

  “if everyone lives the American dream,
we will need a planet three times
the size of Mother Earth
and the last time I looked,
she’s not gaining weight.”
That sums it up for me.


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An Interview with Elfie, author of the chap Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her?

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1. Tell us a little about your chapbook Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her? and the inspiration behind it?

 

Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her? is my first published book and I am so proud to have it out in the world! It is a retrospective look at the sapphic experiences of my youth and my inevitable queer realisation. I originally wrote it as a tool to come out to my family, hence the title, but it also addresses friends and God too.

2. What experiences or people have had a significant impact on your writing?

 

I am very fortunate to have had a writing buddy for literally all of my life. My friend Ebony and I were born on the same day, in the same hospital, and have grown up together. We are both very creative and it has been really inspiring to have someone so talented and passionate close to me. I genuinely don’t know what I would be doing without her support. There are also a lot of incredible people in the writing community on Twitter who have inspired and encouraged me so much! Imani Campbell, Juliette Sebock, and Lenee H all have such distinct voices and reading their work is a delight. There are so many amazing writers in this world! As for experiences, they mainly seem to be negative ones — experiences that I need to process, confront, and reflect upon. Writing can be very therapeutic.

3. Since you started to write how do you feel you have changed, and your writing developed?

 

I started writing when I was in a depressed state and it really helped me to understand what I was feeling and gave me a chance to express those emotions in a safe way. It is emotional looking back on poems and seeing how my perception of the world has changed over this past year and how my mental state has improved. I also became very interested in poetry in general and read as much as I could – especially from online literary journals – and my understanding of language and style has made me a lot more self-critical. I want to put out my best work, the poems that I am really proud of.

 

4. Which period of your life do you write about most often?

 

A lot of my poems in Will You Still Love Me if I Love Her? were about my teenage years and crushes on girls that I developed but refused to acknowledge, and subsequently by late teens and early twenties when I was involved in serious relationships and finally realising my queer identity. Now, I tend to write about recent experiences as a way to process them as I go through them.

5. What did you edit out of your book?

 

With a chapbook, you have to be very selective with which and how many poems you include. I wanted to create a narrative that readers would be able to follow while staying true to my own perception of events and the order they happened. Some poems were removed because they confused that narrative, and other poems were taken out because I didn’t feel like they were strong enough. All of my beta readers suggested changing the order of the poems and I think that made the collection so much better.

6. How many hours a day do you write?

 

It changes every day! I usually begin each day journalling and then turn some of those thoughts into poems. Sometimes a poem takes a minute, sometimes I agonise over it for week.

7. In terms of receiving feedback for your writing who or what do you use for a sounding board?

 

I have been very fortunate to make connections on Twitter with some truly talented writers and editors, so I send my poems and manuscripts to them for their opinions. Poetry is very subjective so I get a mix of responses. I think it’s important to go with your gut but feedback is definitely helpful.

8. What are the aspects of writing that you find challenging?

 

A lot of my writing surrounds my own experiences, mostly to do with traumatic events, so I have found it difficult to decide what to put out into the world and how to word things so that certain individuals can’t be identified, in respect for them and myself. It is also really difficult sometimes to figure out if a poem is done or not. You can keep tweaking and tweaking forever but at some point you have to let it go.

9. Other than your writing, what else occupies your time?

 

I have recently gotten back into playing the piano! I started around ten years ago but stopped due to anxiety. It feels really good to be back sat at those black and whites keys that I loved so much! I also love wandering through nature and taking photographs.

Thank you so much for this interview! I have really enjoyed it!


 

Find Elfie @ElfieinBloom on Twitter & Instagram and their website https://www.elfieinbloom.co.uk/

 


 


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An interview with Beth Gordon. Author of chapbook Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press.

 

Bio Photo - Beth Gordon 6.19.19

 

 

Beth Gordon Bio:

Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother, currently landlocked in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Riggwelter, Into the Void, Five:2:One, SWWIM, Verity La, Califragile, Pretty Owl Poetry and Yes Poetry. She is the author of the chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press. She is also Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.


 

  1. Tell us a little about your new book and the inspiration behind it?

My new book published by Animal Heart Press is Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe. Since 2014, my poetry has been informed by loss, grief, and realizing that I live in a world where my experiences of loss are shared by more people than not. The poems I wrote 2014-2016 were explicitly about death and grief. The poems in this book were mostly written in 2017 and 2018 and are about what survival looks like, what life looks like after loss, how to find joy in a life that will end. And how to think about that juxtaposition of joy and death/tragedy on a more universal scale.

2. What experiences or people have had a significant impact on your writing?  

The most significant experience that impacted my writing over the past five years was the death of my granddaughter at the age of seven months – November 2013. And in the 9 months that followed her death, I also attended five other “significant” funerals. In the middle of the “year of the funeral” I met another writer, John Dorroh (JD) who has become my writing partner (and muse). Not only did he help me as a friend during the darkest time in my life; he led me back to writing.

 

3. Since you started to write how do you feel you have changed, and your writing developed?

 

I’ve been writing poetry since I was seven years old, so I’ll speak more narrowly about changes in my writing over the past five years. I would say that like many writers, I was very attached to the subject matter of my work, especially when I began writing about my granddaughter’s death. I relied heavily on the emotion of that subject matter. Over the past five years, through a willingness to let my work evolve, I’ve tried to rely more heavily on my craft…on the art of writing…to carry the weight of each poem. If I’m successful, the emotion will surface through a more deft use of language.

 

4. Which period of your life do you write about most often?

I tend to write about the present. I may pull in elements of past experiences, but usually I’m writing about recent experiences and external events. If I write about the past, it’s because it is relevant to a certain theme.

 

5. What did you edit out of your book?

 

This book started as a full-length manuscript, with a section that included some older poems that were peripherally related to the other poems in the book. I decided to pull out that entire section. I thought it would be hard to do, a kind of emotional amputation. But I was happily surprised to find that what was left was so much tighter and powerful. I’m a brutal self-editor as it is…I have no fear of ripping apart poems and re-assembling them…which is what I did with the book.

6. How many hours a day do you write?

For four years, I know I wrote at least an hour a day during the week (I have a fairly demanding day job) and 4-8 hours a day on weekends. I would say now I write about 10 hours a week, on average.

7. In terms of receiving feedback for your writing who or what do you use for a sounding board?

My main sounding board is my friend and fellow writer, JD. If we are both in town, we get together every Friday night (and sometimes Saturday night). We share what we’ve written the week before and spend focused time writing new poems. I’ve been asked if we are writing collaboratively, i.e. are we creating poems that are co-authored. Except for one poem recently, the answer is no. What we do instead is read our work out loud…which is so important. I hear so many things I would not otherwise notice if I’m just looking at words on a page. It’s easy to become self-absorbed and convinced that no editing is required. But I hear glitches when I read out loud and can also get a sense of how the poem is being experienced by the listener. I’m also part of a writer’s group in Carlinville, IL and get feedback. And I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some poets along the way (both through social media and “in person”) who are willing to read/critique work in progress.

 

8. What are the aspects of writing that you find challenging?

The biggest challenge is making sure that I continue to evolve. I go through phases where I become proficient at writing a certain kind of poem – whether it’s form or subject matter or both – and then I explore that “type” of poem for awhile. Eventually, it becomes too easy to write multiple version of the same poem and I know it’s time to switch things up. That period of time when I push myself to improve my craft…for me, it feels like I’m lifting something very heavy. Pushing to the next level is difficult…then I’m there and writing feels “lighter” again. Until the next plateau.

9. Other than your writing, what else occupies your time?

I have a job that often takes up 50-60 hours of my time (weekly) and I spend as much of my “non day-job” time writing. I also like to spend time with my family which includes a son in St. Louis, a daughter in Richmond, VA, a daughter, son-in-law and 3 grandkids in LaBelle, FL, a brother, sister-in-law and nephew in Winchester, VA and parents in Asheville, NC. If I can find time, I also like to travel for fun. This year I’ve been able to spend several days in Portland, Oregon for the AWP Convention and I’m wrapping up a week in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi (on the gulf coast).


 

 

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