When did you first feel like a writer?
I started writing poetry for myself when I was quite young, in my early teens. I ‘felt’ like a writer even then, but I would not have said that to anyone, given my strict convent-girl schooling to be modest and unadventurous. And then for years of broadcast journalism, I thought of myself as primarily a peddler of facts rather than creative words.
What’s the most interesting thing that has inspired your writing and what was the result?
About ten years ago I was travelling for work in a plane that flew over southern Greenland. I was struck to the core by the sight of a fleet of icebergs in blue ocean, and wrote some lines about it which morphed into a poem published by Arachne Press in 2021, ‘Views of Greenland from seat 39A.’ This poem about melting ice reflects on the fact that dilution of water by water destroys plankton and ultimately kills the whales that feed on them.
Paint us a picture: what does your writing process look like? Do you write in coffee shops at night or only on an old type-writer?
I often start poems at about 5am or so in bed, after a line has flown into my brain like a winged insect. The proto- poem is written on my phone, and transcribed on to the laptop later. Luckily my spouse is a deep sleeper. I also write looking at the sea (Plymouth Sound) occasionally by hand in a big hardback, lined notebook. Later I might go in for slash-and-burn laptop editing of several poems in a session – I suddenly see the poetic hiccups and delete them in brutal fashion. And never regret them.
Describe your ideal reader: who would your work speak to?
Someone who loves the sound of words. Anyone who likes hearing the music of echoing vowels in half-rhymes. Not someone who cares deeply about classical poetic form – that’s not been my focus so far.
Who’s an author you’ve changed your mind about and why?
When I was young I loved the formal, insistent rhymes of Tennyson, especially poems such as ‘The Lotos Eaters’ – ‘Why are we weighed upon with heaviness/ and utterly consumed with sharp distress/ while all things else have rest from weariness?’ Now I
find it hard to enjoy Tennyson’s mannered style. (I still adore Wordsworth though.)
If you could interview any other writer/artist, who would it be and why?
Well, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people as a news presenter – I guess this would be a rather different kind of interview. I would love to talk to John McCullough, to find out how he developed such amazing poetic depth and versatility.
What motivates you to keep writing?
Sheer excitement of finding words that can fit together like bricks slotting into a wall – not that this ever comes quickly or easily. I’m only a trainee bricklayer. Also the passion to write about the sea and sailing which is a large part of my life. I am attracted to the ocean, repelled by its history of seaborne colonisation and appalled by the environmental damage that humanity has caused. Swimming in and sailing on the sea has also helped me come to terms with sadness. Trying to express all that could take the rest of my life.
How do you deal with writer’s block or being overwhelmed by the writing process?
I have days where if I want to submit something, I look through current work and despair, because it all looks trite, amateurish and worthless. I have to leave it for the day and come back another time, when this negative mood has passed.
Where would you like to see yourself in a decade? A creative writing teacher? As a best-seller?
I hope to be classed as a sea-poet. But I would like to have the breadth of vision to tackle tricky subjects such as capitalism and materialism, which are less attractive to most poets, worlds I know intimately through years of being a global business reporter. Also, I would love to use my broadcasting experience to interview other writers for audio formats and podcasts.
What has your work taught you about yourself?
How much of me has been made by grief. I lost most of my close family in the space of a few years and the poetry reaches deep into that loss, whether I like it or not. It’s also taught me how the sea has been a kind of therapy, through swimming and sailing and simply staring at it. But it’s also revealed depths of anger in me about terrible things some family members were subjected to. The question is whether I reach into that gut-level fury and whether the end result would be worth reading or not.