Lifting The Piano With One Hand, an interview

Michael Stewart, novelist (King Crow) and poet, interviewed me about ‘Lifting The Piano With One Hand’ on his blog.

Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed was one of the most impressive debut collections of poetry I have come across. In your new book, you seem to have developed your voice, it is more assured, more controlled. Do you agree? If so, what has happened in the interval between books?

  • Thank you. Yes, the poems in Lifting The Piano With One Hand are perhaps more focussed and less ‘frilly’ than the ones in Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed. I think my earlier poems had more raw, but uncontrolled, energy. They are the kind of poems I can imagine scuttling off the page. My later poems seem more fixed and sure of themselves. I think that when writing Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed I was less conscious of an audience and destination for the poems. I wrote the poems without thinking about who might read them and where they might end up. They were plump things crammed full of imagery, a bit wild and a bit naughty and they didn’t care. I think, as writer, once you’re published your writing becomes more self-conscious, more reader-orientated which is both a curse and a blessing. I always worry about overworking a poem so much that it loses its pulse. Sometimes I miss the old-style-Gaia-poems for their excess. I think I tried to squeeze everything into each poem. Now I think I realize that sometimes just one single idea or image can resonate effectively throughout a poem. Less can be more. A friend once said ‘You have to write from the throat of the wolf’. I like that idea but do sometimes worry that, with this heightened awareness of ‘the reader’, I’m playing it too safe and ‘writing from the throat of the Labrador’. But yes. My poetic voice is more assured, more controlled. In the interval between books I have read more ( I think that as a writer you have to read) and lived more. I have also done a lot of teaching (poetry and creative writing) and have learned a great deal from my students.

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