Interview by Zoë Brigley
“I guess I listen and steal from what is going on around me. Sometimes I hear something hilarious or outrageous and think that has to go in a poem! I want to record and share it“
The names of things
Hello Bum! you say. Bum and I have become good friends, you tell me. I reply that you’re very silly, as you massage silicone into the gritty, shocking pink scar below my panty line: like a rasher of vegan bacon! And I love how you make me laugh about the reddish square beneath my arse: the skin graft from the top of my leg. The donor site. But to you and me, The Rothko. We’re inventing our own language. In bed, I call you Dobby, because your head’s big in proportion to your body, and you’re like an elf: slight with hairless legs and a startled look in your eyes. Dobby. Who never left Harry Potter’s side. Don’t leave me, you say. And it’s true, half the time, you’re away with the fairies! Your friends are a pair of urban jackdaws on your roof, you wonder if a piece of silver foil will entice them, notice how they seem less content than coastal ones in East Lothian. You like to imagine what might motivate them. Why they have chosen your chimney. You take photos of maidenhair spleenwort: the Greeks thought it cured diseases of the spleen. It trembles through cracks. And these days, these lighter days, I am noticing too, on the walk from work: little birds in glossy blue jackets with white undersides. How they glide over Jesmond allotments. The way they low-fly then circle overhead, 6 or 7 of them and keep coming back. I stop to watch, struggling for the name. Think of Martinis. Jack Daniels. Until your voice fills my head: house martins!
The opening of this poem made me laugh out loud! You have a lot of humour in your poetry, and I wonder if you could talk about that. It isn’t every poet who can use laughter in such an effective way.
Thanks Zoe. I guess I listen and steal from what is going on around me. Sometimes I hear something hilarious or outrageous and think that has to go in a poem! I want to record and share it. I suppose comedy often arises when you put unusual things together like the scar and vegan bacon here, and the raw, square patch of skin being likened to a Rothko painting. And humour can add poignancy to a poem. Now and again, I hear something and think that would make a striking opening. I note it down and email myself to come back to it later.
I let my ear lead the way when I write and paying attention to sounds often takes me in interesting and amusing directions. Half rhyme can also enhance humour and help something amusing to land for the reader. For me it is important to write what’s in my head. This might mean writing things I would not be prepared to say out loud. Let’s face it, there is some pretty funny stuff going on in most of our heads. I like to put myself on the line in my writing.
As you know, I am obsessed with line breaks. You have some interesting ones in this poem, which enhance the chain of association and thinking in a surprising way about names. How do you go about crafting line breaks?
I think about line breaks a lot. And I read the words running vertically down the page in a poem and see what the effect of that is when I am editing. I also consider carefully the words I place at the beginning of a line. When crafting line breaks, I think about the words I want to emphasise by positioning them at the end of the line, but I also think about collocations and about where to take a breath when reading a poem aloud.
How much white space there is around a word is crucial too, for example, if a longer line is followed by a shorter one, then the last word will be even more prominent because of the white space around it, than where two lines are of an equal length. The overall shape of a poem is something else I prioritise, and I think about how the form of the poem can reiterate the content. Here the zigzagging form might help suggest the meandering thoughts of the speaker and their contemplative walk home.
There’s something very endearing about this poem, because it presents two people who might not represent glamorous ideals all the time but are human! Such a relief! Seldom are we taught to love our bodies unconditionally. This poem seems very body-positive to me. Is that something that you think about in your poetry?
I am glad the characters of the poem are endearing! I want poems to feel real. I was very interested in your comment that the poem feels body positive. It is not something I had thought about. However, I do refer to the body a lot in poems, partly because it is a huge source of humour and also because the way the body is talked about can correlate to the level of intimacy in a relationship. The body is present in many of my poems because everything in life is grounded in physical experiences, so body images naturally seep in. I do think the body is something to celebrate!
Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana’s debut collection, Sing me down from the dark was published by SALT in 2022. She as been widely published in magazines such as PN Review, The Moth, Poetry Wales (57.3), The North and Artemis
You can follow her on Twitter @CorrinTachibana and keep up to date with her on her website www.alexandracorrintachibana.com
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