Catherine Woodward Interview
1. Where do you write?
I like to write somewhere quiet when I’m alone, I get too distracted otherwise. I’m rather boring I’m afraid.
2. Tell me about the last poem you wrote?
At the moment I’m working on a sister poem to a sonnet I wrote some months ago. It’s a univocalism (a poem with one vowel, although in this case it has one instance of the letter I) about Pacman. I’m having a lot of fun writing it but it’s slow going. I’ve also just finished a first draft of a parody of A kill from the Crow poems.
3. Which poet got you into poetry?
It may have been the combined work of Ted Hughes and T. S. Eliot, they’re the poets that come to mind when I think about sixth form college, when I first started reading then writing poetry. Since then lots of poets have inspired me along the way and got me even further into poetry, Caroline Bird, George Szirtes, Jack Underwood, Aisle 16. But it was more my friends and fellow poets who have got me into poetry in a big way and also spurred me on to try my hand at performance poetry; John Simpson Wedge, L. Eaves and Hassina Allen to name a few. There’s nothing quite as motivating as an active, passionate poetry community; without people to share poetry with I doubt I would love it as much as I do now.
4. If you looked outside your window what would you see…answers in haiku only please.
After The Flood hit,
The last sluice of Pend d’Oreilles.
Hairy backs of hills.
Cheating really, I’m currently on holiday in Idaho and I’m right on the Pend d’Oreilles River.
5. What poets have you discovered in the last year?
I discovered Ruth Larbey as I was reviewing a group of pamphlets early on in the year. I recently read and enjoyed Selima Hill’s Bunny. I’ve discovered a number of great poets at Norwich Poetry Club events; some that stand out include one half of a Mancunian comedy duo called Thick Richard and Salena Goddan, who was a delight. In fact, there I discovered many of the poets on Nasty Little Press, which really is a great small publisher. Also, I had the pleasure of being briefly acquainted with an American poet Brian Folan, who had something of The Beats and the avante-garde in him, he was certainly a fresh influence on me and some of my poetically-minded friends.
6. Can you suggest a collection or pamphlet that people should read?
I don’t think I can; no poet is right for everybody and I could never know what books someone would benefit from or enjoy without knowing them a little first. All I can really do is suggest collections or pamphlets I love or that might broaden someone’s horizon: Richard Price’s Rays I think is a good one, and it’s a good idea to keep your eyes peeled for poetry on the blogs Silkworms Ink or Etceterart.blogspot. Anything by Frank O Hara and Imagism by Peter Jones for an insight into the fascinating history of the movement.
7. I use ‘the’ far too much in my poetry. What word do you use too much?
8. How does your style come across in your work? In the performance? Or the layout? Or the language? Or…?
I don’t think I have a fully developed style yet. The pamphlet is a challenge because I’ve been adapting what semblance of style I have to other styles that I want pay homage to; the poems I’ve written for the pamphlet vary a lot, some are abstract, some narrative, some are formal and others free. I suppose this shows that at the moment my style isn’t rigid but there’s definitely some common elements between the poems which speak of an up and coming style. Stylistically I like to follow, in part, Ezra Pound’s dogma; I try to avoid ornamental language and use as few words as possible to say as much as I can, I think simile and metaphor should be integral to my poems and not additional or as afterthoughts. My poems often end up being quite ‘to the point’ as a result, in a plain sort of style but still as poetically complex as possible. This kind of language works for me very well, I try to write poetry that doesn’t alienate but doesn’t compromise itself either. That comes across in my performance of poems too; when I read I like to do a lot of crowd interaction to get people involved with poetry and to encourage them to invest themselves in it a little, rather than be passive observers. I think I struggle a little with address though, generally the poems I write are quite intimate, but the intimacy struggles with my fondness for big, bold public statements. The pamphlet, as I mentioned, is quite different, I’ll just have to see how it turns out. Free verse, for one thing, has been strange to me, I like to write in form because of how creative it is; form squeezes as much out of thought and experience as possible, free verse, to me, often feels only flabby and approximate. Anyway, that’s my perception of my style, a reader’s may be completely different, poets don’t often know much about their own poetry.
9. What themes run through your poems?
I’ve been producing increased levels of love poetry lately, which overtook previous themes of death and forgetting, those are broad themes but I don’t know about smaller themes. I’ve begun to work on projects as a way of guiding my writing to make myself more prolific. Lately my writing has been about exploring depth in seemingly shallow things with existential and vaguely philosophical themes branching out of that (my last project was an attempt to write a poem for each of the 150 original pokemon). I’m young and I’m still finding my voice, I don’t think I can pinpoint any truly consistent themes, not yet, it would take a critic to do that.
10. Which poetry magazines do you read?
Mostly ezines, Silkworms and Etc as I’ve already mentioned. Also Eyewear, The Glasgow Review, Hand+Star.
11. Tell us about your pamphlet?
My pamphlet will be called Snapshots of Rude: From Rude Tube and the Idiot Box. It’s inspired by Hughes’ unfinished Crow poems. I wanted to follow a similar format; the spiritual journey of a semi real protagonist mostly in free verse, only I want to succeed where Hughes failed and finish mine. The series is a work in progress and the pamphlet contains extracts from what will be a longer (hopefully finished) series. Rude Tube, a humanoid television, discovers an approximation of what it means to be human through various unintentional encounters with pop culture and the media. As he comes to know himself he learns all about the good and the bad aspects of being human, he’s put through trials and finds that the world around him is questioning his past, by the end he’s hit the lowest of the low and is ready to love. At least that’s the plan, I’m still writing it. The poems range from humorous to horrible and are sometimes humorous and horrible. Metaphor and reality are all one in an attempt to make realism irrelevant. It’s barely even poetry. Hopefully it’ll be as much fun to read as it is to write.
12. Finally, if your poetry was a drink what drink would it be?
A cup of tea. Dark or light, sometimes sweet, it comes in many varieties, it’s quintessentially English and it’s made with love.