Featured poet, Uncategorized

Featured poet- Emily Blewitt

I’ve often written here about the opportunities poetry readings and festivals afford for meeting people and making new friends. This year I arrived for my one-day visit to the Aldeburgh Festival and soon bumped into my friends Maria Taylor and Kim Moore. Also in this company of poets were Holly Hopkins and the very smiley Emily Blewitt.

It has been my great pleasure to feature several guest poets on this site over the past couple of years, all of them in their twenties.  I read a couple of Emily’s poems on-line and liked them, and I wondered if she would be interested in sharing some of her work, so I contacted her after the festival.  I’m delighted that Emily responded with the following poems and a short piece I had requested in which she talks a little about herself and her influences.

Ladies and gentlemen, Emily Blewitt.

2014 was a big year for me.  It was a year of firsts: my first poetry residential course (with Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley at Grange-Over-Sands), my first poetry festival (Aldeburgh), my first transatlantic flight (to New York, on holiday) and my first blog post.  I started kickboxing fitness classes at my local gym and wrote a poem about it, which got me in Poetry Wales.  I wrote some poems about recovering from depression and by so doing recovered my voice, which had been lost for a little while amid experiencing the same depression.  I became bolder, irreverent, sexier and louder.  Off the page, I began reading at open mic nights and was invited to be a guest poet at Cardiff’s ‘Made in Roath’ festival.  I got engaged; I embarrassed my fiancé at open mic nights by pointing him out after I’d read a poem about him.  Past his blushes, he didn’t really mind.

I also spent some time discovering poets who were new to me and rereading books that had been waiting patiently on my bookshelf.  Current favourite collections include Kim Moore’s If We Could Speak Like Wolves, Jonathan Edwards’s My Family and Other Superheroes, Bronwyn Lea’s The Deep North and Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Lucky Fish.  And there’d be something amiss if I didn’t mention the poets who first touched me and made me want to write poetry – Kate Clanchy, Kathleen Jamie and Sharon Olds. I think you can probably see their influence on my early poems, which are very much concerned with sound and domestic life.

It’s now 2015, and here’s a selection of poetry that I’ve chosen to show where I am now.  These are exciting times. Here’s to the next twelve months.

 

When in Recovery

Get out of bed. Feed the cat.
Add a level teaspoon of sugar to builder’s tea and stir clockwise.
Resist the urge to stick your knife in the toaster.
Be reckless enough to descend hills at a decent pace
but pick your mountains wisely. Get out of breath.
Focus on words, wasting them.  Take citalopram –
four syllables, once a day, behind the tongue.
Understand that there are days you watch yourself
as though you are a balloon held aloft your body
by a slip of string you fear will break.
Grow your hair.  Buy exotic oils at discount stores
and comb them through. Think in colour.  Sit in the salon and explain
no blue is blue enough now.  Try red – pillar-box, satanic red.
Enjoy the sharp press of the needle, its single tear of blood
when you pierce your nostril.  Put a diamond in it so it winks.
Find your meridian by placing your index and middle fingers together
and tapping a tattoo on the top of your head.
Accept that sun-worship is good, the Vitamin D produces serotonin
and sensation. When you cry, howl at the moon.
Wear your rituals lightly.  At the end of each day, step out of them
as though they’re expensive silk lingerie.

Originally published by Carolyn Jess-Cooke in ‘Voicing Shadows, Singing Light’

 

Resolution

I will make myself Morticia Addams.
I will grow my hair to my waist, wear

floor-length black velvet.
I will smoke.

I will hang gilded mirrors, watch myself
pass without reflection.

I will slowly descend great staircases, intricately laced
with antique cobwebs.

I will hold brief but meaningful conversations
with the spiders.

My house will be ruined;
my underwear immaculate.

The bed in which I wrap my tongue
around my husband’s French

will be cast iron, four-postered,
shrouded in silk.

Published in Cheval 7 (Parthian, 2014).

  

When I Think of Bald Men

I think of vultures, the misunderstood deep-cleaners
of the Sahara, immune to disease.  The ones who orderly gather
in committees, who are proud of their collective nouns:
a venue, kettle, or volt of vultures putting together

the agenda before arranging sandwiches for delegates
and mince pies at Christmas; vultures photocopying Any Other Business
in Confidential purple; vultures washing-up and picking clean
leftovers in the staffroom, at the buffet table; a wake of vultures

that dance, dad-style in lines, or bob their heads to a kill in time
to the music.  Vultures that shout And all’s weeeellll! at 3am
after the Office Christmas Party; vultures that tidy up the mess
in the Ladies made by a gaggle of geese, parliament of owls, an exultation

of larks, brood of chickens, tiding of magpies, a murder of crows…
Vultures with their trouser legs rolled up, showing milk-bottle legs
vultures with laughter lines and wrinkled backs-of-necks;
vultures that are nicknamed Bearded Vulture,

Slender-Billed Vulture, Red-Headed Vulture, White-Rumped Vulture
by their vulture friends.  Every office has some –
you know the men I mean.  The ones that are reluctant
to fly; the ones that hiss when threatened.

 

(Previously Unpublished)

 

 

Homecoming

You are man, now.
Stand upright as this house
you were born in, your arms
these green oak beams
which hold us, as you take me

through the finish:
the fine brushed grain
of my smooth round belly,
a perfect curve
so rare in carpentry.

Yet I am undone, too –
frayed as this half-finished shawl
I am knitting, my hands
scrabbling for spools,
unravelling thread –

how you were carried
the Welsh way,
slung high on the hip.
Your cheek to my breast,
crumpled as cloth.

 

First published in Nu2: Memorable Firsts (Parthian, 2012).

 

 

My Colours

First, on my right forearm, a peacock in jade and gold
so when I flick my wrist its feathers unfold
and fan out like the winning hand at cards;

On my left breast, in oyster-grey,
beats the anatomical diagram of a heart;

A tiger’s fierce orange and black stripes stalk my back
to hide the scars, while in plain sight
between my shoulder blades two white wings take off;

On my collarbone a cicada sings
in yellow glory to crimson catkins;

On my right breast, Blodeuwedd, the owl girl with amber eyes
becomes lilac, lavender, foxgloves, daisies,
and above my womb the moon waits in all her phases;

Coiled around my inner thigh a snake hisses, bottle-green,
while at my hips, macaws kiss;

On my right foot, a greyhound sprints straight off the blocks;
At my left heel curls a brown hare and an orange fox;

A mandala in Indian sand circles my elbow;
On my ring finger glitters a diamond in rose gold;

I am strawberry blonde and oriental raven,
an ephemera of red kites wheeling through stormy skies;

Love, when I show you my colours
I am a riot, a cacophony, a bird of paradise, a polka

on mosaic tiles, a gilded kingfisher diving blue.

Previously Unpublished

 

Biography:

Emily Blewitt was born in Carmarthen in 1986. She has published poetry in various print-based and online anthologies, including Poetry Wales, Furies, Cheval, Nu2: Memorable Firsts, Brittle Star, Pomegranate and Cadaverine.  Emily won the 2010 Cadaverine/Unity Day Competition, and was selected as a Honno ‘Poet of the Month’.  She was Highly Commended in the 2014 Terry Hetherington Award and will be a guest poet at Seren/Literature Wales’ First Thursday of the Month event in February.  She is studying for a PhD in English Literature at Cardiff University.  She blogs at emilyblewitt.wordpress.com.

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Into the Silence (or slaying vampires)

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I first met Kim Moore at a Poetry Business writing day about two years ago. Kim had arrived with a poem she had written on the train from Barrow on Furness where she now lives.  I’ll always remember the awed silence that followed Kim’s sharing of the poem during the workshop section of the day. The poem, later to appear in Kim’s first pamphlet, flowed so easily and naturally from one startlingly lucid image to the next.

I’ve met people who admire Kim’s work and more than one has mentioned that she is a natural, an instinctive poet. Whilst this is true I am keen to point out that she is extremely hard-working and dedicated. When I got to know Kim a little I found that she brings an intense focus to bear on whatever it is that she wishes to achieve, whether this be her music (Kim studied trumpet at The Royal College of Music) or, during her school days, her cross-country running.

Kim’s writing benefits from her energy and outlook, her constant reading and appreciation of others work.  As a figure on the poetry scene she impresses with her generosity and magnanimous attitude to others and her with her honesty and down to earth good humour.  I haven’t asked Kim for any poems to follow this interview as I would find it impossible to select a few favourites from her pamphlet due to its consistent quality. Instead, I’d like to recommend you buy a copy if you haven’t already.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Kim Moore

Hi Kim.  Your pamphlet  Smith/Doorstop Pamphlet  ‘If We could Speak Like Wolves’ has been extremely well received, being nominated for the Michael Marks award and gathering great reviews and recommendations. Has this helped you feel enabled more established as a writer? Also, along with the positive aspects of praise and recognition, were there any negatives?

Thanks Roy for saying this – yes, I feel very lucky to have had some lovely things said about the pamphlet, from writers whose work I greatly admire.  I don’t feel more established as a writer because of the pamphlet.  I see it as the start of a journey.  I do feel more confident in myself as a writer, and this has led to doing a lot more workshops and readings.  I can’t really think of any negatives that have come along with the pamphlet.  It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience, right from the first moment when I got the phone call to say I’d won the competition. 

Tony Harrison once said ‘I hate everything about writing except doing it’.
In contrast you seem to enjoy, celebrate and embrace associated roles and aspects of poetry such as promoting the work of others on your blog and elsewhere. You also lead and attend workshops, perform regularly and write reviews.  I wonder if you find all these activities complementary, and if you sometimes feel a burden of responsibility to keep all these aspects of your writing life going simultaneously.

None of it feels like a burden, otherwise I wouldn’t do it!  I love going to poetry readings – for me, sad as this may sound, this is my social life!  The same goes for performing at poetry readings – maybe this is a left over from performing as a musician – but I love reading.  I’ve only just started writing reviews for magazines, but I enjoy the feeling of giving something back, and I like writing reviews because it forces me to slow down and think – sometimes I do everything at breakneck speed, including reading.  I enjoy planning workshops, because I learn something every time from running a workshop and I enjoy spending time with people who enjoy writing.  My blog has been going a year and a half – and the regular feature of a Sunday Poem from a poet whose work I’ve read that week or seen read is probably one of the best things I’ve done.  It ensures that I have to keep reading.  It means I get to say nice things to and about other poets without expecting or wanting anything back, and again, it forces me to slow down and think about why I like a particular poem.  Sometimes it feels like hard work because it is quite a time commitment, but that is only a fleeting feeling and it soon passes.  Most of the time I really enjoy it.  The main burden of responsibility I feel is keeping the music teacher side of my life going.  I have to put as much energy and time as I can spare into this side of my life, otherwise I feel that my pupils would be short-changed. 

On a related point, do you set aside time to write, or do your poem arrive as and when they arrive?

I don’t set aside time to write.  I read all the time – but I don’t have to set aside time to do this.  I have an innate fear of being bored and I carry a couple of poetry books with me everywhere I go.  Poems come from this – as and when they want to. 

I wonder if you could identify the qualities that make for a good workshop or residential course?

The tutor being organised.  The tutor wanting to be there, and a tutor that cares about people.  A tutor that remembers what it was like to starting out.  I think the whole atmosphere of a course/workshop is created by the tutor, in the same way the atmosphere in a lesson comes from the teacher.  And the tutor has to be enthusiastic about poetry of course.

One of the things I admire in your writing is that it can be , and is I think, appreciated and enjoyed by both the poetry establishment (by which I mean editors, completion judges, fellow poets) and by the generally ‘non-poetry reading’ public.  Is this something you consciously aim to achieve? Have you ever worried that your work might become ‘poetry written for poets’ and lose this quality?

I don’t consciously aim to achieve this – so it is nice of you to say so.  I write first drafts without really thinking, as quickly as I can.  When I’m editing then I suppose I am thinking about an audience, but only in that I want whatever the poem is trying to say to be understood.  I’m writing a sequence of poems at the minute about a relationship that is shadowed or haunted by domestic violence.  Part of me is very worried about how these poems will be perceived – I have been trying to write these poems for six years.  I think I’m finally getting somewhere now – and the only way I can progress with them is to push that conscious, evaluating part of the mind into silence so I can get on with the act of writing.

That’s a great answer Kim, thanks. Just a few more questions and then I’ll let you get back to the silence! When did you start writing poetry? What do you admire in others writing? Are there any influences on your work are you aware of? Has your motivation to write changed since you started writing?

I’ve always written poetry but I didn’t show anybody my writing until about five or six years ago when I joined a writing group in Ulverston.  I admire mystery in other people’s writing.  I admire poems that make me wish I’d written the poem.  My favourite poem at the minute is ‘The Visitation’ by Maitreyabandhu.  I think this poem is so poised, and perfectly balanced, and sure-footed.  That is the poem I wish I’d written!  My influences come from what I read, but also the poets and friends that I hang out with a lot.  I know that David Tait’s love poetry and Jennifer Copley’s surrealism have been huge influences on me.  My motivation has not changed since I started.   I still write when I feel like it, and read if I don’t.  And if I feel like doing neither, I watch Desperate Housewives or Buffy the Vampire Slayer…

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A post reading report and ‘Catching the light’

There was a lovely display of poetry books at the Mappin Street Blackwell’s on Wednesday night. I was warmly welcomed by organisers and hosts Bev Nadin and Ben Wilkinson and had time for a chat with fellow readers and guests before the reading.

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Reading poetry to an audience for twenty minuets in a brightly lit and pin-drop quiet bookshop is hard.  Despite my familiarity with my own poems, some of the emotion bottled there will occasionally leap out to catch me by surprise and make reading difficult.  My voice was a bit cracked due to a sore throat, and I was a tad more nervous than usual. I did overcome my nerves to read some newer poems as well as a selection from ‘The Sun Bathers’ and my rehearsed links seemed to work well according to my supportive friends Vicky and Zaffar and Chris.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to fellow poets Shelley Roche- Jacques, Janet Rogerson and Rory Waterman, all of whom read superbly. I’d thoroughly recommend Janet’s Rialto pamphlet ‘A Bad Influence Girl’ which John McAuliffe accurately describes as a place where ‘the extraordinary meets the recognisable and everyday’  in poems ‘whose timing is bewilderingly confident and assured.’

There is a tremendous two page review of poetry pamphlets in the TLS today entitled ‘Catching The Light’. Andrew McCulloch has written a skilful summary of recent publications, allocating a paragraph each to eighteen pamphlets in what reads as a ‘best of 2012-13’ selection. I’m very pleased that my friends Kim Moore, Suzannah Evans, David Clarke, Ian Parks and  Jodie Hollander ( two of whom have recently been interviewed on this blog) all receive favourable reviews, as Andrew McCulloch  succinctly identifies the main strengths of the various collections .

My own ‘Gopagilla’  is also reviewed with quotations from ‘Zen Garden,’ ‘The River Swimmers’  and ‘La Gioconda.’  I was very happy to read McCulloch’s comment that my poems ‘hold words to the light until they catch it and flash with sudden truth.’

It is a tribute to the production and editorial values of my first publisher, Crystal Clear, that this pamphlet has made it into such esteemed company. Although all the presses can be described as ‘small’ , excellent presses such as Smith Doorstop, Flarestack, Tall Lighthouse and Rack have all been established for some time. The series produced by Crystal Clear Creators was a first venture into pamphlet production.