Many of the poems in this issue seem to coalesce around themes of
darkness and light. In what ratio of shade or illumination do your
poems thrive? Does a dark poem need light, and vice versa?
The poems I suppose I trust most arrive in a kind of half-light and
seem to occupy it. I like to think they have a separate life from my
own which is, frankly, largely managerial. Both of my poems here offer
a kind of glimpse into other possible universes—a good poem (and I’m
not inferring mine are) creates its own universe, though there are
clearly touch points with my own experience and the anxieties and fears
for the world I live in, the world of my children, the world of
“Brexit” here in the UK.
“Fat Days” is certainly driven by the bleak premise of its first line,
and it’s perhaps clearly political in its portrayal of a world of
failing utopias. We increasingly seem to occupy spaces that have more
than one narrative, more than one set of occupants, with wildly
different visions of how the world can work. We all recognise that
Western democracies seem increasingly fractured and our tendencies are
shifting increasingly towards secession and resistance; we can’t seem
to share visions across political divides or accept the pressures of
globalisation—the placelessness of capital. All we have is anger and a
kind of simulation of political engagement. Well, that’s my fear.
“Nights Again,” the second poem, seems to me even darker as a narrative
of dispossessed gloom. Yet again we have our golden vistas, those
nostalgia-driven stories of glory elsewhere. If there’s something to
counter the darkness, it’s the idea that all our worlds are
constructions, and if we need to fix them, we need to devise those
stories that can unite us, right now we can only witness.
Perhaps poems that arrive in the dark by their nature are points of
light, tiny engines of doubt that, by their nature show some form of
redress and rebalancing?
The speaker of these poems feels vaguely detached from any given scene,
but deeply invested in developing a communal, yet mysterious “we.” What
opportunities does the first personal plural afford you here?
I think my concern about the modern erosion of shared identities
is everywhere in these two poems. I like to think that poems are
fictions that point away from me, so I regularly play with the first
person plural as a way of drawing the reader into the space and then, I
fear, provoking them with something absurd. Using “we” lets me play
with all those natural expectations of coherence and tribal narratives.
I’m anxious equally about the loss of communities and their
construction. I find nation states rather repugnant in the twenty-first
century, but I recognise that people like to be somewhere rather than
nowhere, that belonging is a powerful experience and that people can
long to belong to something others may find repellant. We’re back to
that dual sense of the world, the real one that has no borders, and the
other constructed world where people not only enjoy borders, but want
more of them, with walls.