Christopher has three poems published in a NYC publication of short love poems that have been translated into Farsi with the translation being printed alongside the original English. He’s such a dedicated writer and he has plenty of knowledge to share with you so let’s hop into this interview! And for more of Chris’s work, you can find his blog here).
I see you have a section on your website dedicated to Haikus. What made you fall in love with the form? Do you prefer strict form or free verse?
Writing haiku is at first glance a simple task, a bit like following a yoga routine every morning to set your mind right for the day ahead. Like a yoga session it is a challenge to focus the mind on the form. I do love writing haiku; particularly the discipline required to utilise the 17 syllables in such a way that there is a twist in the images being created in so few words. It is a test of vocabulary and phrasing to produce maximum effect. It also teaches you to struggle with word choices and word order to get maximum value within the box.
I work particularly hard to form a three word phrase from the first words of each of the three lines that make sense if taken alone. It is very satisfying to do this when the phrase adds to the moral of the 17 syllable form and a real hit when the first words
of each line and the last words of each line can be written to create this effect. A friend of mine has called this form of haiku the Haiku-o (Haiku-tail). It is like a word suduko and hours can disappear working at such a puzzle.
With regard to free verse or strict form I feel that free verse is great for drafting longer poetic ideas. However, when redrafting I consider whether specific word choices, or the number of lines used and the stanza lengths can be drawn into a pattern of some form, but this rarely ends up in a strict form of poetry.
I really enjoyed reading your poems in the NYC publication, how did it feel to have your work in front of such an audience?
Thank you for saying that you enjoyed reading the three short love poems published in Persian Sugar in English Tea – Volume 3. These were my first published poems and from my first ever submission. I thought that getting poetry published was easy when I got the acknowledgement, but then I was reminded that I had not submitted enough work yet to make such a judgement!
Now I am very grateful to have had something published, particularly about love, a subject that every poet on earth writes about. Possible Side Effects was written in 2008 and had only previously been shared with the person it was written for, so it was good to see it out there. In the Garden had led to my selection as poet of the day in the NaPoWriMo (National Write A Poem A Day Month – now a global writing challenge) in April 2018.
That was written on April 5th and selected over-night for that honour. Again, it was very flattering to see recognition of a spontaneous love poem in hard print. The third poem True Love was written on my birthday last year as a gift to my best friend, so she was thrilled to see it published, which made me very happy too.
A fair amount of the poems on your blog are inspired by Nature, what else inspires your writing?
The inspiration for all of my writing is movement and change. I am always (we all are) on the move and life is movement as nothing stays the same forever.
It is easy to be critical of change and to hold nostalgic feelings for the way things were. It is equally possible to presume today is an improvement on yesterday and that tomorrow will be better still.
As I travel through life I try to keep my eyes and ears open and write about what is happening around me and make connections with things I have seen and learnt. I am outside a lot which brings me closer to nature and the nature of people – the staples of poetry writing.
What made you take to writing seriously in later life?
When I was younger the stories of Graham Greene held my imagination and inspired me to think that I might have something to write about. I then spent my time getting an education, chasing a career, paying a mortgage, raising a family and spending 15 years teaching in a large secondary school. I was quite busy and always thought that I would like to be a writer when I get the chance, whenever that might have been.
I always write travel journals during holidays and started one or two page-a-day diaries, but never took it seriously until I attended a poetry reading at Books Books Books, (the English bookshop in Lausanne run by Matthew Wake). The reading was organised by the Geneva Writers’ Group. There I was told by one of the organisers that I should stop saying I would like to write and start calling myself a writer. As in a haiku, changing the words a little can have a huge impact. This was the moment I became a serious writer.
Which poets have influenced your writing?
When I consider my literary education I remember specific moments of insight that came from reading Pike by Ted Hughes, hearing a class-mate reading The Day My Pad Went Mad by Dr. John Cooper-Clarke and To His Coy Mistress by John Donne. All very different and all equally inspiring. I think that I was very lucky to have been born at a time when the Beat Poets had laid down a new pathway for poetry.
The greatest influence of all has been the lyrics of Bob Dylan. His story-telling captured in his album Blood on the Tracks is the ultimate poetic trip for me. It is not just what he says, but what he leaves out that allows the listener to fill gaps with his, or her own pictures that I find so brilliant.
It is impossible to tell how much one is influenced by individual writers. Every poet tries to speak with an original voice, so I just hope that what I write is distinctive enough to be worth the reader’s attention and gives some pleasure.
Why is writing important to you?
What a difficult question! I think that writing helps me make sense of the world I inhabit. Writing is a way of engaging with others. Writing is also an entertainment for me that costs nothing, which when done well, can also give pleasure to others. For example, I get a particular buzz from taking part in poetry open mic sessions. Finally writing is important because I am not passing through life passively, but taking part in life.