1) How long have you been writing?
Not long really. I started writing Poetry in March 2015. I was encouraged to write by my creative writing tutor (and now very good friend) Hilda Sheehan.
2) What tips would you give to someone starting out?
Read – write – read – write – repeat! It is so important to read when you are starting out – I learned more from reading than I ever did writing and it exposes you to different styles. This is what helped me find the writing style that worked for me.
Secondly, don’t worry about being bad. I think it is important to just write at the beginning – being good should be secondary, that will come with time, but I think most writers struggle with feelings of inadequacy. My advice is to write through it – I think we all have to write the personal, cheesy poetry to break-through to the good stuff!
Stephen Daniels had his debut pamphlet published by V. Press in 2017
3) Where did ‘Tell Mistakes I Love Them’ start?
I had written a lot of poetry and had been lucky enough to have much of it published. So I started thinking about what I could do next. I looked at the body of work I had created and realised I had a strong theme running through some of the work and started to pull it together.
I had around 50 poems which were semi-autobiographical, telling tales of my life, my family and my anxieties. I went through them all with some poet friends and whittled down the poems to around 30 and the line ‘Tell Mistakes I Love Them’ stood out on one of my poems and I felt like it summed up what I was trying to say.
The poems can be quite devastating, and I liked the idea of optimism running through them – even though some times it can be really, really hard to spot!
4) Why V. Press? (I know you did lots of research – admirably so)
I have read a lot (A LOT) of poetry over the last two and a half years, and I found V. Press by accident, I read a poet called Claire Walker and loved the poem – so I bought her book – which was published by V. Press – I read it in one sitting and fell in love with it.
My first poetry love! The content was amazing, but I also loved the way the books were produced and I felt a strong affinity with the style of poetry. So I started buying more V. Press books.
I have nearly all of them, and love them all. So when I found out V. Press had an open submission window, I sent them my manuscript. They were the only place I had considered, and thankfully the editor Sarah Leavesley enjoyed my poetry enough to offer to publish it!
5) I know we shouldn’t have them, but a favourite poem from your book?
I shall skilfully avoid this question and my own ego – by bowing to the people! One of the biggest surprises of having a book published is the poems that resonate with other people.
The poem that has resonated most with people was not what I expected but it has been a very pleasant surprise and that is ‘Wordslast’ a poem that came out of a Hilda Sheehan workshop… I will share the workshop task below so that you can try it!
Now she shouted shutwindow
Shutwindow now she shouted
So I said windowshut
Windowshut I said so
Opendoor now please come in I said
I said Please come in now opendoor
Dooropen now she screamed at me
Now at me she screamed dooropen
Lockedgate She demanded now
She demanded lockedgate now
I replied gatelocked now
Now gatelocked I replied
Now she questioned clearroad
Clearroad now she questioned
Roadclear now I answered incorrectly
Incorrectly I answered roadclear now
Wideeyes she pleaded with me
With me she pleaded wideeyes
Eyeswide I struggled to tell her
I struggled to tell her eyeswide
Handhold she asked me to
She asked me to handhold
Holdhand I said closing my eyes
Closing my eyes I said holdhand
(Previously published in ‘And Other Poems’)
Also published and discussed here https://louisacampbellblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/signpost-twelve-wordslast-by-stephen-daniels/
6) Describe your typical writing day.
I crave a typical writing day!! Unfortunately, like editing, I tend to write in the space in between things. I tend to give myself time in the evenings to write, but if I am struggling to put anything meaningful on paper I always have book nearby as an alternative.
7) Where do you write?
Anywhere, I find my best poetry tends to happen when I am watching people – on a train, in a pub, in a park etc. but sometimes an idea just grabs you and you have to write it there and then. I find that if I don’t capture it at that point, it rarely comes back again!
I always liked Ruth Stone’s story of how she would capture poems… I’m not sure my experience is as intense, but I definitely relate to the experience!
Taken from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Stone) :
As [Stone] was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out, working in the fields and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. It was like a thunderous train of air and it would come barrelling down at her over the landscape. And when she felt it coming . . . ’cause it would shake the earth under her feet, she knew she had only one thing to do at that point. That was to, in her words, “run like hell” to the house as she would be chased by this poem.
The whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Other times she wouldn’t be fast enough, so she would be running and running, and she wouldn’t get to the house, and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it, and it would “continue on across the landscape looking for another poet.”
And then there were these times, there were moments where she would almost miss it. She is running to the house and is looking for the paper and the poem passes through her. She grabs a pencil just as it’s going through her and she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it. She would catch the poem by its tail and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. In those instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact, but backwards, from the last word to the first.
8) Who are you reading right now?
Books I am enjoying right now include Sinead Morrissey’s collection ‘On Balance’, Pascale Petit’s ‘Mama Amzonica’ and ‘The Nagasaki Elder’ by Antony Owen – a stunning collection of poems published by V. Press earlier this year.