Now you have met Antony and heard about his latest collection The Nagasaki Elder, we hear more from him on poetry in this second part of the interview.
Antony Owen reading at the Restless Bones Book Launch 2014 © Rang-Zeb
1. What are your plans for 2018?
To rest, to spend more time with loved ones who I have avoided over the years. Five poetry collections in 8 years on gruelling subjects take a toll. So, to rest then and find some joy again.
2. What advice would you give to poets writing about conflict?
Write about it but be aware of the impact it will have on you. I hope all writers pen even one poem because poetry has to say something or it says nothing. What will our future generations say if artists are silent? In many cases propaganda and art were bedfellows in WW1 and WW2 but we remember the revolutionaries and poets like Sitwell, Owen, Douglas, Scannell, and not the doom merchants.
We must right that wrong and make art fight against the nefarious tabloids and avarice of media moguls out to brainwash us with apathy and front page headlines of wardrobe malfunctions of Z-list celebrities whilst 70 million refugees are ignored.
One of my friends who died last year wrote about the Jewish holocaust and she was one of the most under-rated and courageous poets I know. I thought of her a lot when I wrote The Nagasaki Elder. We are responsible to move the mirror from the vanity of selfies towards the issues like displacement and show the forgotten people and those hushed atrocities.
3. Why is poetry important?
It defines us in the most eloquent way. Poems are epitaphs for the times we inhabit. Nations like Britain are in a period of violent re-definement. For example, The focus on British Values is now being taught in our schools but what about human values? This is where poetry and art comes in as an equilibrium to reflect what is happening and suggest the malfunctions of society including government imposed changes.
School teachers and students deserve more respect and consultation in what poems should be taught. When I speak to school students they are more interested in modern poetry dealing with current issues. They crave to be heard and poetry and art are part of the clay that sculptures who we become as adults and how we respect art. Poetry is only important if it connects with people and sees them as important.
4. What prompted you to start writing poetry?
I was poor at formula subjects like Maths where you were right or wrong. Maths made me write poetry in the lessons and I found the sum of people, of language.
5. Where do you write?
Anywhere. I love writing to the music of Gabriel Yared, Hans Zimmer, Angelo Badamenti. Movie composers help create a cinematography in my mind which transcends to the page.
6. What books are you reading right now?
Everyone Is Now Unhappy by Fergus McGonigal, An anthology of unknown WW1 war poets, Genbaku poets (A-bomb poets) David Wevill and Edith Sitwell.
7. Do you have any creative rituals/ patterns?
No. Don’t snap the wand to see what it’s made of or you overthink things which kills the alchemy. I do like quiet though because my mind is always active filtering and processing the world and all its black magic.