The Next Big Thing

The lovely Rebecca Gethin, a poet and novelist http://rebeccagethin.wordpress.com, tagged me in her blog, ‘The Next Big Thing’. It’s for artists to blog about their next book, or play, or edition of their magazine, or whatever. I shall answer, as Becky has in her turn, these set questions about my 'Next Big Thing' project (my first poetry collection To Know Bedrock), before I tag four others. Details of those people at the end of this blog…

Here goes:

There was never an idea as such, I just kept completing more and more poems and eventually thought it might be a good idea to try and gather them together in the same room. We chatted, we broke bread, we drank too much wine, you know how it is – and by the next morning To Know Bedrock was hatched.

The thread is basically is one person’s journey (um, mine) through all the usual stuff of life – childhood, love, art, travel, being a parent, illness, bereavement, the search for self-awareness and understanding, and ultimately some kind of forgiveness and acceptance about our place in life. Hence the title (which is the final line of a poem near the end). Within the collection is a sequence of poems about breast cancer that I wrote while I was undergoing treatment myself, which has a similar narrative arc to the collection as a whole: a rabbit flung into the middle of the road with a car racing, headlights blazing, towards it?

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh maybe someone like Julia Roberts or Charlize Theron, you know – charming, beautiful, elusive. Completely unlike me.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

I’ll be cheeky and quote Adam Thorpe who wrote: "Sharon Black's poems are hugely impressive: sensual, gentle, poised between the 'storms of the heart' and the head's 'light rainfall', they have the secret, echoing force of subterranean streams."

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The poems were written over a period of five or six years, most of them in the last three years. The second and subsequent drafts came together very quickly because I was working to quite a tight deadline. (Pindrop signed me and published the collection within a year).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Living? More specifically, becoming a mother – it was when my younger daughter started going to school full-time that I started to write in earnest, and both parenthood and domestic life are strong themes in my earlier poems.

Travels in the Peak district and through Morocco, newspaper stories, anecdotes, odd phrases, stories overheard and flights of fancy sparked off others.

Latterly, a series of visits to Scotland (I’m Scottish but have lived in France for 12 years) – in particular to the west coast which is very rugged and beautiful, and even more particularly to the tiny, windswept island of Iona where I do a writing retreat once a year with the wonderful Roselle Angwin. These visits triggered a swathe of poems about wildness, the Scottish landscape, the meaning of ‘home’, and what it means to live away from your roots.

The relationship between land and body seems to crop up a lot in my writing: the natural world has a visceral effect on me. I’m constantly drawn to raw, uncompromising places and I think this is a mirror to some extent of a need to explore these things within myself.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The cover image. It’s a painting – a female nude superimposed on an old nautical map of an area of the Scottish Hebrides – by a fabulous artist called Isis Olivier who is English but lives close to me in France. She’s done a series of these nudes, oils on canvas, and I was drawn to this one because of the almost surgical appearance of the compass symbols and lines of longitude and latitude visible through her body. At the time I had just finished treatment for breast cancer and this image spoke to me. There’s actually a whole sequence of poems in the collection inspired by another of Isis’s paintings. Art frequently informs my writing.

Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

It was published by Pindrop Press, represented by Jo Hemmant, a very fine poet in her own right.

My writers / artists to tag are:

Lucy Wadham a Faber novelist and author of the brilliant, The Secret Life of France, whose next book Heads and Straights, a memoir about growing up in London in the 1970s and 80s, will be published by Penguin in March 2013. http://secretlifeoffrance.com/

Wendy Klein – a poet whose work I admire enormously whose second collection anything In Turquoise is about to be published by Cinnamon Press. http://www.wendyklein.co.uk/

Jo Bell - a poet whose wonderful collection Nagivation draws on her life and travels in the narrowboat where she lives. MShe is now working on a non-fiction book about canals for Profile books. http://belljarblog.wordpress.com/

Alex Duncan – a musician who also happens to be my husband but I’d tag him anyway: his acoustic album Wind Over Valley was released last year. He is currently working on an electronic music project. www.alexandreasduncan.com