Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Liz Gallagher comes to town

I haven't done much interviewing on this blog. This is partly laziness and partly (as I wrote back here) because I have done quite a lot of interviewing in previous stages of life (journalism, market research...). Still, every now and then I get the urge to dip my questioning toes back in the interview water, as it were, and today is one of those nows (or thens). So off we go again - in an author blog tour stylee, no less.

And who has stopped by? Well, look who it is... Irish poet (and resident of the luscious Canary Islands) Liz Gallagher. I've been in blog contact with Liz for a while now and have always been attracted by her friendly words and total lack of poetry snob paraphernalia so when she announced the tour to launch her book of poems 'The Wrong Miracle' I asked for a date on it. And lo (sorry, we are getting towards Xmas) here I present her answers to the three odd questions that I sent her (as requested - the questions, not the oddness). Liz's own blog is here and if you like the sound of the book (though I know quite a few regular readers already have it) you can buy it here. You can also find author information and a sample poem via that link.

Before we would I describe Liz's book?
(1)Beautiful cover (always a good start...I'd quite like a big poster of this one for my wall),
(2)The poems...? They're like a brightly coloured paper bag, stuffed to the brim with every kind of pick'n'mix sweet you've ever seen (but with a few other things in it as well as alligator maybe...and a witch's hat...) and
(3)It's one of those books that you don't really want to describe because it has so much to say for itself (and in so many different ways). Just read it. See if it takes your fancy.

And now...on with the three questions. Welcome Liz!

Thanks for having me here, Rachel. And what great music you have...looking forward to listening to some of it while we chat. Here is a bottle of Spanish champagene (CAVA) to ring in the New Year with (or to drink or serve at your choosing) : )

Q1..An alien comes to visit and says 'we don't have poetry on our planet...what's it all about then?' What would you say to this alien and please provide a reading list of ten books (collections, anthologies, work in any language, anything you like) to get it started on the poetry of planet earth.

OK, Ms. Alien, take a seat...this is going to take a little time....Well, for me, at least, poetry is being able to plonk a cushion cover into my writing if I want it so, I don't have to do a prelude to the entry of that cushion cover, the cushion cover doesn't have to explain itself nor have an exit plan, it's in the poem and there to stay...On its own, it can have power in that poem without the trimmings, it can tell its own tale by just being sat there whereas in a novel or short story you've got to prepare the entrance of the cushion cover, there has to be a plot for the cushion cover where the cushion cover interacts with the sofa, the foam lining, the silk material etc, and the cushion cover demands a final adieu with the reader either clapping or shooing in other words, poetry says stuff that other writing has to go round in circles to say.

It feels hot, urgent and necessary, hence the cutting-the-top-of-one's-head feeling that poet Emily Dickinson referred to...this feeling helps one know that they have come across great poetry. The exact quote is: 'If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire could ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way? (source: here)

What else? Oh yes, I imagine you might have kids (alien or not) or have come across kids, Ms Alien, so poetry is a little like allowing oneself to be a kid with words, you can hopscotch about all you like with words as words in poems like to be woman-handled into many things from the dreamy, deep and serious to the comical and fickle. Words in poems even like being thrown up in the air and they love the unpredictability and surprise of where they might land.

And poetry isn't bossy nor lets you, the reader, decide what it don't have to fit into its way of thinking but it can fit into your way of thinking if you are prepared to meet it half-way. You see, poetry is something special because sometimes we don't know what we think until we see what we write..and poetry holds a mirror up to us, the poet (and maybe the reader sometimes too) and says: this is what you're thinking. And you know something, it makes you grow up, you learn about yourself and get all worked up about learning more and's a great journey and you pick up loads of things you never thought you wanted along the way like cushion covers, chimney smoke, a blue moon, a crowing rooster...

Ok, Ms. Alien here is my list of recommended reading for a starter poet or actually any poet really inclusion of analytical academic works until much later, if at all. Ms. Alien, there is poetry inside every one of them, hope you find it and it finds you.....

Poems of W.B. Yeats, Arlene Ang's 'Secret Love Poems', Roahl Dahl's 'Revolting Rhymes', 'The Book of Laughter and Forgetting' by Milan Kundera, Anthony Burgess' 'Earthly Powers', The Brothers Grimm Tales, 'Sing Me the Creation' by Paul Matthews, Anne Sexton's 'Love Poems', Tao Lin's 'You Are a Little Bit Happier Than I Am' poems.

Q.2.How, why and where does poetry fit into your life?

Poetry fits into my life for a lot of the reasons I gave Ms. Alien above. How? Through reading and daily writing (even though the daily writing part is on hold for the foreseeable future). Poetry is very important in my life – it leaps out at me from all angles which makes it exciting....when I'm in a poetry-writing mood, I seem to see it everywhere, things beg to be written about, poetically. It settles me, calms me, excites me, gives me confidence in me, makes me be more empathetic, more other words, it makes me feel things strongly....guess I really need it...even now when writing poetry isn't happening, I still sense it there....hovering on my periphery, possibly winking at me and saying it will wait for me....meanwhile, I am hoping it really does wait for me and not piss off in a huffy strut. Seriously though, Rachel, after a long spell of not seeing poetry anywhere, it's great that it is in my life now and I really hope it stays.

Q.3.I know this is tricky...but if someone else had given you a copy of 'The Wrong Miracle' to read (i.e. so imagine someone else wrote it) what do you think you would have thought of it?

As you say, a totally tricky question, Rachel. It's impossible to be so objective, after all this book is like my molly-coddled darling who has dared to take steps out into the with a sporadic big leap of the imagination (and clutching 'The Wrong Miracle' to me), if someone had given me 'The Wrong Miracle', I would think the following: unusual, original, daring, inventive, good fun....sometimes loses the run of itself but means no harm, playful, is a bit on the wild side at times, motivating word play, large expanse of themes, humorous, has a heart, wants to connect, is massive as in it feels voluminous – not so much in pages but in ideas, thoughts etc, treats the theme of love and war in challenging ways, revealing about the author's life, gives specific memories which can evolve into generalised memories, is personal but becomes universal through connecting with not afraid to speak out, has wings and wants to fly, is not presumptious, is philosophical.....energetic and honest...does not bear grudges....loud and silent, all at once, for those who read in low level lighting settings.
See, Rachel, I did try though, but it is fairly impossible to be objective...I just love 'The Wrong Miracle'! ; )
Thanks for the chat, Rachel. It's been fun.
And next week, on the 10th of December, I hope to be on Serena's Blog 'Saavy Verse and Wit' ...maybe see you there!

Thanks, Liz, for all these passionate and persuasive replies...and especially for that last answer (because it's quite a mean question...and the kind of thing lots of people would make a fuss about answering...). In fact, at risk of sounding like one of those blogs where everyone just loves everybody, I would have to close with the conclusion that that Liz Gallagher, she's a total star. Maybe even the star on our communal Xmas tree. What do you think?



Regina said...

Wow, what an excellent interview! I'm really going to have to check out Liz's book now! She's sold me!

Titus said...

Total star! I'd have hit you round the head with the book had you asked me those questions. The first one's like a dissertion title! And the last one's just wicked.

But loved the interview, well done the both of you.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Three totally deliciously tough questions eaten alive! Well done the pair of ye.After that third answer I'm almost tempted to get another copy of the book!

Liz said...

Hi Rachel, Red Bird, Titus and TFE,

Rachel, thanks for your kind words, the 'star' on the Christmas tree reference reminds me of the Christmas joke about how the angel first got on top of the Christmas tree, I tell it every year to my students, it's got some great vocab. and a clenching punch line that has them literally a bit open-mouthed once the penny drops! It's here, if you haven't already heard it

And a tiny wee confession, when I first saw Rachel's questions I did think 'I can only do the 2nd one' but then a few weeks ago we were without an Internet and phone connection for 10 days and guess what...I got really stuck into doing the questions and other things that had got the 'put on long finger' attitude from me! Just goes to show...!; )

Red Bird, thanks very much, hope you enjoy the read.

Titus, : ), yep, I did stall I can tell you...but once I got started, there was no stopping me...(hope it's not too rambly though!)

Hey, TFE, nice one! : ))

Rachel Fox said...

Too rambly! No such concept on here.

Rachel Fenton said...

Well done Rachel for having the nerve to ask such sharp questions, and well done Liz for your longer that I thought possible whilst keeping me engrossed answers - there's a lot packed into those three questions!

Really enjoyed this.

Anonymous said...

Very good Qs and excellent As. Really enjoyed this posting.

Rachel Fox said...

Forgot to say - Titus...throw the book at 'em (surely)?

RF - yes, rambly can be engrossing. There are rambles and rambles.

And anyway I wouldn't call Liz'a answers rambly. I'd call them thorough, detailed. Big answers.

SD - glad you enjoyed. There may be follow-up.


Rachel Fox said...

Thorough...unlike my poofing of comments.

Niamh B said...

What great questions, and answers, That book is officially going into my letter to Santa now.

Rachel Fox said...

You might not want to write to him, Niamh, if you go and read that angel on the tree story that Liz linked to...

No, it's funny. Worth a look.
Like her book.

Oh, it's one of those days..when everything rhymes...
sign of the times...


A Cuban In London said...

I'm torn between deciding what I liked most, the review, the interview or the answers. All of it, then. Especially this:

'unusual, original, daring, inventive, good fun....'

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Group 8 said...

V inventive questions, Rachel. Well done! ANd v well thought-out ansers, Liz.

R - If you fancy hosting another poetry blogger tour, I'd be delighted to drop by in January with my latest? FB me!

Liz - poetry 'feels hot, urgent and necessary'. Ooh-err, Missus!! Love that analogy!

Dr. Jeanne Iris said...

Rachel, delicious questions and enlightening answers to digest with my morning coffee and oatmeal breakfast cookie! A great way to begin my day!
Thank you, Ladies!

Rachel Fox said...

Glad you're all enjoying.

Cuban - always a pleasure.
WRW - I will indeed FB you. I think I know what that is.
Jeanne - and here's us with the sun going down and the tea on!

Marion McCready said...

Very entertaining read!! I agree, the last q is a little wicked!, Liz answered very well!

Rachel Fox said...

Wicked? Me? Auntie Rachel? I just think it is good to be honest about these things rather than parading in false modesty. If we put out a book we must think it's good at some point (right?) or why would we do it? There are so many other things we could be doing!

I loved Liz's answer. Bold and tender at the same time. There is a difference between pride and arrogance and her answer displays the former.

And I was so chuffed to see her mention Roald Dahl in question 1. Hard to explain why.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Very interesting Rachel. I wonder what we would all think if given our own poetry to read for the first time. I thought Liz kept her cool very well in her answers.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, Weaver. I might come back to that point some is something I've been thinking about.

Liz said...

Rachel (F.) thanks for rambly license on your Blog.: )

Rachel, so glad you got engrossed in those mighty long answers... ; )...have to learn the art of trimming down as still 4 tour dates to go and don't know if I can keep up the pace! ; )

Thanks Collin, glad you enjoyed it. : )

Rachel (F) Big Answers ; )

Niamh B, thanks, chuffed you want to buy it... ; )

Thanks A Cuban in London, a good sign getting torn between stuff...greetings right back
at you. : )

Nuala, thanks...I think all that 'hot, urgent and necessary' reference evolved from
the 'excite' reference when the tour was visiting your Blog. ; ) And you'll love
the visit to Rachel's Blog, it plain rocks all over, in every way... : )

Jeanne, woo-hoo!, thanks for inclusion in your very healthily-sounding breakfast! Way to go! ; )

Sorlil, thanks! A wee bit wicked ok...; )

Rachel, (F.)...I am a total Roahl Dahl fan, especially his children's the 'bold and tender'
combo...cheers, Rachel...(being a partial insomniac and being internetless for a spell did help me get my act together with the answers though, that must be said! ; ))

I don't think I had ever voiced before what I liked about my own stuff so thanks for helping me zone in on that, ...I think us British and Irish are not very good at singing our own praises...unless in a half-jesting way ...lots to ponder on there! .
It's true what you say about the time and effort put in to getting a book out there...I had to work my bot off, not with the writing of the poems but with all the rest of it...would need to be freer of commitments to take it upon myself again!

Weaver, thanks : ) I am not often referred to as ''keeping my cool' (love it!) as am the over-excitable type, usually!: D

(P.S. Rachel, I may have over-smiley-ed your comments box...sorry! and just one more... : ))

Rachel Fox said...

You can smile over here as much as you like, Liz! There is so much moaning connected with poetry's nice to have an outbreak of good cheer.

Kat Mortensen said...

Excellent interview, Rachel and Liz!
I particularly liked the last question as that's the tricky bit, isn't it—assessing one's own work.
What I find interesting with poetry (and I think you have remarked on this before, Rachel) is that you just don't know how it will be accepted. I mean, oftentimes you think a piece is brilliant and it falls flat with your readers and yet there are other poems that you think are utter crap and your readers can't exclaim highly enough about them!

I guess what I'm saying is that trying to judge your own work is strange because it forces you to say that you've written it for yourself, when deep down, you know that without that "audience" you would never be truly satisfied. Does that make any sense at all?


Rachel Fox said...

To continue the Dahl theme, Kat, you could say it's all about the unexpected. I think it happens in all the arts (to a point) - if there wasn't so much surprise involved we'd get bored and do something else maybe.

Liz said...

Thanks, Rachel : )

Kat, glad you enjoyed the interview, thanks for reading. : )

nan williamson said...

Thanks for the great interview!

Rachel Fox said...

Hi Nan
Thanks for calling in. Liz's whole tour is a good read.