Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Kerry Priest

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews 

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Kerry’s poetry features in this anthology 

Kerry Priest

Kerry’s work has been anthologized in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2018 (Eyewear), Future Poems (Emma Press, forthcoming) and has appeared in journals such as French Literary Review, Acumen and The Broadsheet.
She grew up in Sheffield and studied Anthropology and Linguistics at Edinburgh University.
She has lectured at the Universities of Humboldt, Berlin and ULCO, Boulogne-Sur-Mer.
Kerry also used to be a professional DJ.  http://www.kerrypriest.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

I left the city and moved to the countryside round about the same time as both my parents died. Contact with nature’s cycles of life and death seems to have led to an outpouring of poetry. The first poem I wrote in 20 years came from seeing a red kite in a Derbyshire churchyard and it all spiralled from there, really.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My mother taught me how to write poems when I was seven years old. We used to read John Betjeman together.
I also had a fantastic English teacher, Rosie Ford, who took us to Lumb Bank on Arvon courses. The guest poets included Carol Ann Duffy and Don Paterson. We had no idea who they were, obviously, because we were fourteen.
The third lot of inspiration came years later, when I saw Jackie Juno perform and she introduced me to the idea of spoken word poetry.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I’m very drawn to the 60s, as that was the point where existentialism and metaphysics loomed large, so Norman MacCaig, Peter Porter, Ted Hughes, Wallace Stevens, Wislawa Szymborska.
The history of poetry and the bardic, shamanic side of things is truly fascinating. On a good day, I like to feel myself part of an ancient tradition. Perhaps predictably, therefore, I read the more cosmic people like Blake, Donne, Vaughan, Whitman, Yeats, Rilke, Rimbaud…

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I keep a notebook for walking on the moors and otherwise I try to write or edit something every day. If I’m not in the mood, I’ll usually read instead.

5. What motivates you to write?

At the moment, I’m sort of embedded in a couple of projects, so I have the impetus to see them through.
The process of reading widely is very inspiring for me. I’ll often be busy borrowing ideas from other poets, or just be inspired by something I’ve read about Mary Queen of Scots or breakdancing or something.
Mostly, though, I’ll just be haunted by an image and I have to keep writing about it until it leaves me. Like at the moment, I’m obsessed with a particular conch shell that I can never quite see right inside and I‘ll never know what monster lurks inside that pearly spiral corridor, but I couldn’t bring myself to smash it open because the mystery of nature is what attracted me to this particular conch in the first place.

6. What is your work ethic?

Pretty good. I seek out like-minded communities to make it more fun if it gets stale.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

One of the first poems I fell in love with was Louis MacNiece’s Snow. That feeling, the giddiness at hidden layers of reality, is a recurring theme for me.
Liz Lochhead, John Keats and Ted Hughes are three poets who’ve never left my reading pile.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Some that spring to mind are Matthew Francis for his variety, Liz Berry for her musicality, Jo Bell for the killer phrase, Alice Oswald for her controlled yet wild use of metaphors.
Also John Burnside, Selima Hill, Paul Farley. I’m just listing names now…
I recently discovered Abigail Parry and adore the creepy world she conjures up in her poems.

9. Why do you write?

Probably because I have finally found something I can do quite well. I’m very competitive with myself.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I guess anyone can write, in fact everybody should write. But a good writer will care more about the art than about self-expression.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I’m writing The Ice Baby, which works as a pamphlet and as a performance. It’s about Prehistory, ritual, origins, medicine and magic. I do a live soundtrack using bones and sticks I’ve found on Dartmoor and amping them up with a guitar pickup to make a kind of minimal techno-drone backing track.
Polyphony has been around in music for a thousand years, but is yet to reach the spoken word, so that’s something I’m working on with Jennie Osborne. Inspired by attending Alice Oswald and Stevie Wishart’s summer school, we have put together a multi-voiced choir which does poetry instead of singing.
I am also writing radio plays which feature dramatic verse and radiophonic sound experimentation.

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