This week’s poetry advice blog comes from Kim Moore. Her first collection The Art of Falling won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 2016 and was shortlisted for Lakeland Book of the Year.
In The Art of Falling, Kim Moore sets out her stall in the opening poems, firmly in the North amongst ‘My People’: “who swear without knowing they are swearing… scaffolders and plasterers and shoemakers and carers…”. The title poem riffs on the many sorts of falling “so close to failing or to falter or to fill”. The poet’s voice is direct, rhythmic, compelling. These are poems that confront the reader, steeped in realism, they are not designed to soothe or beguile. They are not designed with careful overlays of irony and although frequently clever, they are not pretentious but vigorously alive and often quite funny.
What first drew you to poetry?
I think like a lot of people, I came to poetry through reading it. As a child, I had poetry anthologies which I read in the same way I read novels or stories. I have definite memories of reading Tennyson and not understanding it but enjoying the sound of the words – nobody ever told me I should understand it, or that poetry was ‘difficult’ so I think I approached it with quite an open mind, even as a child.
Where do you look to for inspiration?
I don’t like the word inspiration, but if I don’t have anything to write about, or I don’t feel like writing, I always read, and it often kick starts the desire to write again.
What does poetry mean to you?
This is a hard question! I’ve just had a baby, so my relationship with poetry has changed a little, in that it has been squashed into the edges of my life at the moment. But I guess poetry is my way of making sense of the world, of finding out what I really think, a way of making connections and these are all things I couldn’t live without doing. Poetry to me is those solitary moments of writing, when there is nobody to see or care whether it is any good or not, but it is also those solitary moments of reading, when you read a poem and put the book down because the poem is so good, because it has articulated something you didn’t know you felt.
How do you balance writing poetry with working? If you write full time, what made you decide to do so?
I’m currently on maternity leave from a full time creative-writing PhD, so prior to my maternity leave I had the luxury of writing full time. Now the baby is here, I have two hour slots to write whilst my husband takes care of the baby. It has to be two hours roughly because I’m breastfeeding and she is very hungry all the time!
Do you have a writing routine? What is it?
I’ve never had a routine. Before I started my PhD, I worked as a trumpet teacher and writing always fitted around the edges of my job. Now I work as a freelance writer and do a lot of travelling, so I write quite a lot on the train. I’ve learnt to trust that the poem will emerge when it is ready. My days are never the same, so it’s impossible to have a routine.
How do you prepare yourself before sitting down to write?
I don’t really prepare myself. When I’m writing a first draft or an idea in a notebook, I do this anywhere – trains, cafes, in the car. Typing it up from the notebook to the laptop I like to be at home, in my office with the door shut.
What advice would you give to poets looking to get their work published?
Read, read and read! Read the magazines that you want to be published in (how will they survive without readers?) Read the books that are published by the presses you want to be published by.
Is it important to build a reputation by submitting to competitions, magazines and journals?
I think most publishers want a track record of publications in these places so I guess it’s important in that sense, if you want to go on and publish a full length collection. I personally think competitions are a bit like a lottery ticket with slightly better odds, and it’s great if you win some money, but I prefer publishing poems in magazines. I think magazine/journal publication feels more like being part of a conversation.
Do you have any tips for submitting poems to publishers or magazines?
Create a system – i.e a spreadsheet to keep track and to give you something to do when the poems come back rejected! Instead of feeling depressed about the rejection, you can fill your spreadsheet in and send them out again.
What methods do you use to overcome feeling disheartened or to keep positive?
I use a spreadsheet to keep track of my submissions which cheers me up as I have a complicated system of colours which takes my mind off rejections. But my main method of keeping positive is reading other great poets, which reminds me of why I like poetry in the first place, which actually has nothing to do with being published or not.
Do you have any other advice for fellow poets?
Read and if you find some poetry you like, and the poet is still alive, write and tell them! It doesn’t cost anything apart from your time and you’ll make someone’s day.
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