The title poem of his new collection with Knives Forks and Spoons Press.’this hall of several tortures’ (with thanks to Fran Lock)
A link to Reuben’s earlier Wombwell Rainbow Interview:
1. What inspired your new book?
I’ve always been fascinated by Science Fantasy starting back in the late 60s with Michael Moorcock, which is where I had my first contact with the idea of the multiverse. This continues years later with Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and later with China de Mïeville. I’ve been reading Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ as well. I’ve often wondered what kind of poetry, if any, would be found on these parallel worlds. I suppose I wanted to have a go at writing it. I’ve also been stimulated by Dean Pasch’s multi-layer photos and was delighted when he agreed to do the cover, one which sums up the idea of the collection so well.
1.1 In the poems you speak of approaching these worlds from an odd angle, an edge. Would this be what some fantasy writers call a “portal”?
Yes. A membrane between the universes. The collection is built up around the multiverse concept. A young woman lives on a parallel world from the (through the membrane) she is somehow able to see and sometimes participate in events on this dystopian world of ours.
1.2. A stranger in a strange world. An observer
Yes. It gives me several layers of separation between me, the poet and the ‘i’ that appears in the poems.
1.3. The fragmentation of syntax conveying the fragmented worlds she is observing.
Ha! That’s my most usual voice. My poetry is very much affected by music: in the topics and images by the Dylan of 1964-66, Roy Harper and Captain Beefheart(also musically); musically by minimalists such as Terry Riley, and Jazz such as Mikes Davis, Kind of Blue, John Coltrane, Blue Train. I followed Coltrane through ‘A Love Supreme’ and into his work in Free Jazz. This is what I try to do in poetry. I like to think I write Free Poetry. Any word or image can go anywhere but only the really good poet can recognise that place and allow the word or image to go there, just as only the very best jazz musicians can play Free Jazz. I want to be that good a poet and it’s what I’m working for. I hope I’ll get there some day.
2. You do have certain phrase such as “she said” that hint this experience is being reported to you.
That’s her on her planet. Reporting to me and I’ve no idea where I am. Lost somewhere in the aether or bouncing off the membrane and rather anonymous.
2.1. Ah. So the writer moves between worlds as well as the participant. Both are like refugees in the others world.
I think a poet lives in the world he or she writes about.
2.2. And that world must have like Free Jazz as many “possibles” to explore. You riff off the meaning and emotion of the phrases.
And the white spaces which are an essential part. Meaning may change from one side of the space to another.
At times. Slow like Pluto at others. And all mixed up with black holes, dark matter and singularity events (see Hawkings).
2.4.Time squashed, or elongated. You also use “un” as in “earths of undelight”. These remind me of ee cummings use of the term.
I was thinking of the painting by Hieronymus Bosch, ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’. ee cummings has been an influence on me for a long time.
2.5. Another example, as in Free Jazz of phrases that hint at other art outside of the poems, delightful surprises for the reader or listener that deepen the work as a whole.
Thank you. I am affected by many kinds of music and also painting and photography. I look for creative imagination in all art. Hockney leaves me cold, for example but Miro and the later abstract painters really get me going.
2.6. How must the reader out loud read the white space, as a pause or run straight on into the next word?
The white space is the same as for music: silence. The greater the space, the longer the silence. They also give the reader/listener time to think, rethink and participate creatively.
2.7.Profound messages about grief and loneliness are conveyed in plain language, no wondering off into Latinisms. It is all breath and bone, and all the more powerful to me because of this.
I’ve been accused of ‘being difficult’! This is certainly not because of the vocabulary. I don’t want readers to need a dictionary by their sides. I haven’t studied poetry since my A-Level days. My speciality is in Applied Linguistics: I play with grammar and I may use an adjective as a noun or an adverb, for example. A useful question would be the Wittgensteinian, ‘why this word here and now’. I play with the words and the grammar.
It gives me a new/different way of looking at things in our shared world.
4. One final question: How did you know when this book was finished?
I submitted it to Alec Newman at Knives Forks and Spoons Press last year, a little before my current book, ‘some time we are heroes’ came out with The Corrupt Press. I was bowled over when he accepted it as the quality of the poets that KFS accepts is tremendous. I’ve just been further surprised that, along with other KFS poets, I’ll have a poem up as part of Blackpool Illuminations.