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 Tianna G. Hansen. Author of Undone, Still Whole published by APEP Publications.

 

 

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

My new book, “Undone, Still Whole”, from APEP Publications, (https://www.apeppublications.com/product/undone-still-whole/) chronicles my journey to recovery and healing from trauma, guided by divine feminine figures along the way. It is a very personal body of work, discussing both my mental illness which I have had my entire life, as well as my PTSD and trauma triggers from sexual abuse. It explores what it means to feel like you are a broken being, finding the strength and resilience to carry on and to discover wholeness again. I was very inspired by witchcraft throughout as well as Greek mythology goddesses as symbols of strength and overcoming. The book (https://www.creativetianna.com/undone-still-whole) evokes Persephone, goddess of the Underworld, who embraces the darkness; Artemis, hunting trauma and triggers to relish their destruction; Calypso, feeling passion like the waves of an ocean growing, allowing one to consume and be consumed; Hecate, Three-Headed Goddess of Witches, who evokes the idea of crossing over, a silent witness to pain and suffering. This collection asks “what am I?” A woman undone, but still whole, a body that has been battered by the hands of time, by men and abusers. A woman not broken but who does not feel whole – this collection attempts to make sense of that feeling, of living in the aftermath of trauma, embracing womanhood and the moon as a muse for being whole in every phase of life.

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

Since my book deals with many of the traumatic experiences in my life, they are a significant influence, but I also took a lot of inspiration from what I have learned. I wouldn’t change a thing if I could about my past, because it has all helped me become the person I am today. The people who have been part of those experiences have obviously had an impact on me, but this book is largely about overcoming the burden of feeling like anyone can have such an effect on me. It’s about discovering self-love and acceptance just as much as finding a way to heal from my past.

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

When I first started to write, I was a little timid to incorporate anything so blatantly personal in my writing, but I just read an interview with the writer Maggie Smith who I admire very much and she described the feeling perfectly: “I think sometimes it’s easier to write a hard truth than to speak it.” I have always felt worried about what my family or friends will think when they read my honest work, and that’s something I am (still) growing out of. But my family and close friends have been so receptive to this book, it has been inspiring. My writing has taken on a strength of its own. Once I finally passed that boundary within myself and started to allow the words to come as they needed to, I discovered my voice. It began with writing creative nonfiction essays about my mental illness and trauma, which then inspired me to write poetry. I have developed a strength in finding my unique voice, allowing it to speak without feeling I must keep it inside. After I released the need to be careful with what I write, I found my writing grew into a new entity, took on its own form. My writing has always come from a deep emotional focus for me and as an empath, I am never out of emotions to fuel this. I love to challenge and push myself, though, and to see where else I can take my writing. It’s a growth in itself to feel this freedom with my writing, and see where it takes me. I feel my voice grow stronger each time I allow myself to write with this open and honest outlook, and I know I will continue to change and grow as time goes on.

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

I have found myself writing from all periods of my life, but with “Undone, Still Whole” I focused on the present, on trying to work my way out of the traumatic influence of the past, and how I am still in the long process of healing today. Most of the poems in the collection are focused on this present state of being and there are many raw emotions behind each piece. I’ve noticed I also like to write about a period of my life where I felt a deep innocence, especially after surviving so much trauma. I’m no longer afraid to go to the very dark and negative periods of my life, either, where I often felt I was drowning or like I would never make it out alive.

What did you edit out of your book?

There was one poem meant to be the “ending note” of the book, which I scratched. Looking back, I’m not 100% sure why I did. It was a happy, positive poem about my life with my husband now. A love poem, which is somewhat rare for me to write. But as I was working on the edits of the book, it stuck out as a sore thumb to me. Not that I didn’t want any love poems or to have the positive note of how I am living now – focusing on the good, simple moments – but the rest of the poems deal intensely with the emotions I am working to overcome on a daily basis, a reclamation of my soul and self, as well as my passions and my body. As a sexual trauma survivor, I often struggle to engage myself in sex and in wanting that passion again. I think that poem may have fit in there, but I also wanted the piece to exist on its own. It was such a cozy poem about living in happiness and as I was editing my book, it felt like I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that these things are connected. I wanted each poem included in the book to focus on my singular experiences, rather than those joined with anyone else. To show that I do not need anyone else to discover or define my happiness. It is really a book about claiming this on my own, bringing out the strength in my womanhood.

How many hours a day do you write?

I try to write for at least half an hour every day. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but between juggling my day job and working on editing and running my small press, Rhythm & Bones, trying to find time to focus on my own writing can be difficult. I want to carve out more time in the near future. I try to at least write one or two poems a day and crave more of a structured writing routine.

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

 
I’m fortunate to have a strong community of writers behind me. I have a writing group and I recently joined up with a collective who are very supportive and wonderful. It’s so important as a writer to have a community, to have a group of people who are willing to read and give feedback on your writing and support you. For this book, it was vital to have my editor at APEP, Jeremy Gaulke, as a sounding board for each poem. He really helped me refine each piece of work and pull out of me what I wanted to express. Having a good, devoted editor can make all the difference, especially with such personal poems like the ones in “Undone, Still Whole” where I think I could get to a certain point and not really know how to voice what I wanted. It is all very raw emotion. I also love the support I’ve found through the literary community on Twitter, and I’ve made many friends who support me and the work I’m doing. It’s a lovely feeling.

What are the aspects of writing that you find challenging?

I find it challenging, as I mentioned, sometimes expressing my emotion in a concrete way. I have always loved strong imagery, but I also have a large focus on the emotive aspects of my writing. Finding a balance between the two can often be a challenge, but one that I enjoy. I also love to do research, and this was a large aspect for “Undone, Still Whole” as well, making sure I channelled each goddess correctly. It’s a challenge sometimes to mix the personal with something that is true for everyone, but I have a dear writing friend who always reminds me “the personal is universal”. I hold this now as a focus as I create.

Other than your writing, what else occupies your time?

When I’m not writing, I’m editing. As previously mentioned, I founded and work as editor-in-chief of my small press / lit mag, Rhythm & Bones Press (www.rhythmnbone.com). It is very rewarding work, focused on the idea of turning trauma into art and giving a platform to authors who have survived trauma they wish to portray to the world. I’ve run R&B for a year now, and we already have a large catalogue of stunning books which mean a lot to me. I’m excited to continue growing as the years go on and see where this takes me. I also work at a small community newspaper as my day job, and when I’m not working, I spend time outdoors, gardening, and enjoying the company of my husband and playing with my cat, Stella.


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