Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Astra Papachristodoulou

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.

Songs

Astra Papachristodoulou

is a graduate from the MA Poetic Practice at Royal Holloway with focus in experimental poetry and the neo-futurist tradition. She has given individual and collaborative performances at events in Slovenia, Greece and the UK, including the European Poetry Festival, Free Verse Poetry Book Fair and IGNOR Festival. Her work is collected by the National Poetry Library, and has appeared in magazines such as The Tangerine and 3:am Magazine, and anthologies including No, Robot, No! (Sidekick Books, 2018) and Wretched Strangers (Boiler House Press, 2018). She tweets at @heyastranaut.

www.astranaut.co.uk

www.haverthorn.co.uk/store/p16/astropolis.html

http://sidekickbooks.com/booklab/books/no-robot-no/

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

Like most poets I know, I started writing from a young age – for me it happened around 13. As a child, I was fascinated with theatre and most days after school found me writing one-act plays and reading theatre classics by Chekhov, Ibsen and Fo – to name a few. I started writing poetry much later in life in my early twenties at a point where I was struggling with depression and writing was the only way out. My first poems were terribly emotional and I’m glad to have moved away from that since then, towards conceptual and experimental writing.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My father, Lakis, found comfort in painting and writing poetry during difficult times, so unconsciously, you could say, that he may be the one who introduced me to poetry. I see poetry in the simple things, and I think that we are all exposed to poetry from the minute we are born. We just need to preserve our inner-child’s curiosity as adults. Poets are curious beings.

3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

Not aware at all – it’s not something that I’ve thought about before in that sense. The network of experimental poets in London right now is a mixed bag in terms of age. There are just as many older and experienced figures, as there are younger emerging poets. You see collaborations between older and younger poets in recurring events such the European Poetry Festival, and it’s a wonderful thing really.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Discipline has always helped me produce work consistently. I aim to write/edit a poem every night before bed, although recently my current job has disrupted that pattern slightly. I am a late bird and my brain lights up from midnight onwards. It’s funny how that happens – I’ve met many fellow poets and artists who are most alert late at night.

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

I’m still young but you could say that since my MA in Poetic Practice at Royal Holloway a few years back, my taste in poetry has totally changed and I don’t think that any of the writers that influenced me back then interest me now.

Actually, scrap that – does Bowie count as a writer? If so, he’s probably a consistent source of inspiration since childhood. I read somewhere this: “if innovation was a person, he or she would look like David Bowie”. Probably the reason why he influenced me then, and influences me today.

6. Whom of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I think that you have just opened Pandora’s box – the list is endless! I really admire Robert Hampson and Stephen Mooney whose work always pushes the boundaries. I admire Steven J Fowler for his relentless passion for collaboration. I always look out for new poetry from Sarah Cave, Nancy Campbell, Kirsten Irving, Matthew Haigh, Muanis Sinanović and Julia Lewis because they’re pretty awesome. The list could go on and on and on…

6.1 Why are Sarah Cave, Nancy Campbell, Kirsten Irving, Matthew Haigh, Muanis Sinanović and Julia Lewis awesome?

Sarah Cave, Nancy Campbell and Julia Lewis are excellent ecopoets – this is a strand of poetry that really interests me. Sarah Cave’s book ‘like fragile clay’ has several poems that showcase her incredible rhythm and precision: “in a painted / wooden post-box / dirt and mould / dirt and mould, / thorns, / thorns and snail shells / imprints / transfers”. Nancy Campbell is a very innovative poet – she’s also a printmaker and an environmentalist. She recently painted a poem onto towpaths in hydroponic ink (this kind of ink only shows up when it’s raining) – you can’t predict what she’s going to do next!

I came across Kirsten Irving’s work through Sidekick Books – she’s a co-editor there alongside Jon Stone. As an editor, Kirsten is known for producing visual poems with an interactive twist (love it!), and as a writer, she retains that playfulness. It was through Sidekick Books that I was introduced to Matthew Haigh whose interests in futurism & visual poetry are close to my own. Lastly, Muanis Sinanović, a poet and translator, is the cherry on top of the cake – a very honest voice, always keen to try new things.

I should say that I know most of these poets personally and they’re all wonderful people. I admire good poets but appreciate them even more when they’re open and interesting in real life.

6.2. What is futurism?

Futurism is an avant-garde movement that was launched in Italy by F.T. Marinetti back in 1909. What set futurism apart from other movements at the time was Marinetti’s objective to project it, from its inception, not only as an artistic movement, but also as a social and political force. The movement explored, amongst other things, the transformations in human experience brought about by the machine – this is something that fascinates me.

A few months back I was commissioned by Sidekick Books to develop my neo-futurist manifesto, which refashions the tools of futurism to orient itself toward the future, as we understand it today. You can read the manifesto in the Sidekick ‘No, Robot, No!’ poetry anthology.

7. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

Writing poetry has now become one of my functions and I couldn’t live without it – cheesy, I know! I think of language 24/7 and my mind never rests to think of much else. I write because I enjoy writing, I write because it’s my job to do write, I write to have a voice.

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

It’s tricky to give someone advice on how to become a writer because everyone’s path in writing is totally different. But your question makes me think of this: can one become a poet, or are we born poets? To be a poet, one has to be creative and curious – these are things that have to be part of your nature, in my opinion. Nowadays, a poet has to be persistent and be able to promote themselves on social media and beyond.

9. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

At the moment I’m working on a book with Guillemot Press, which is scheduled to be released around September 2019. I’m also working on a few collaborations with Oliver Fox, Sarah Dawson, Michal Piotrowski and Lina Buividavičiūtė for the European Poetry Festival and other Camarades. This week you will find me performing at the Avivson Gallery on Wednesday 20th February (7.30pm) as part of SJ Fowler’s exhibition Poethetic Pathogens, and the opening night of the Museum of Futures’ Phoetry exhibition on Thursday 21st February (7.30pm).

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