I can’t seem to settle on one way to write a poem. Each one feels like assembling a miniature scene, a diorama, and each requires its considerations of shape, space and tone. Certain aesthetics please me – perfectly justified blocks of text, for example; I think there’s something quite alien about them. I also like the meaning and weight that can be attributed to a line with plenty of space around it.
For my debut collection, Death Magazine, I started experimenting with cut-ups – mainly because it felt like the best way to create a mirror of that corporate wellbeing language. The thing is, if you follow the technique exactly as it’s meant to be used – i.e., just using whatever words tumble out of the hat in the order they come – then you can end up with ugly gibberish. So I adapted the technique a little, splicing in lines of poetry I’d already written with the cut-ups, and imposing a little more control over the outcome than leaving it up to chance.
There’s a great value to this – it throws in an element of surprise that keeps the writing exciting, and it can expand the poem into something you didn’t know it was going to be. By doing this, I created some lovely imagistic pieces for the book. Brad Pitt was made of crystal, refracting rainbow prisms through his muscles. Bruce Lee invented Grand Theft Auto V. Wellness gurus dreamt their bodies with light and carried snow in their handbags.
I would say that humour and gorgeousness are key ingredients to many of my poems – there’s a kind of paradise in daydreaming, in pink sunsets, in the 80s synth music we might wash ourselves in. I enjoy attempting to capture images that resonate like that and freezing them on the page. With Death Magazine there was certainly a bit of social commentary happening, but when performing the poems I loved to have the audience laughing as well. Sometimes the jokes landed, sometimes they didn’t – but it’s all a learning curve.
Since I started writing poems, it has always been the case that ideas and language come to me when listening to music. I’m constantly daydreaming and listening to music in between the everyday activities of living. The music I’m listening to at any one time seems to infuse itself into the writing and, to an extent, dictate the feel of the poems. Slowly, incrementally, a whole world accrues in my head, and after a considerable time of stewing and dreaming, everything kind of bubbles over…
That’s when I sit in front of the computer and start typing the poems straight into a document.