I have a few success stories to crow about, so I’ll let them all go here.
First, I’m proud to have three poems in the anthology As the World Burns published by Indie Blue. I get a special thrill that my third entry is the poem that closes the collection. Yes, my desk is a mess but I can’t tidy it because of the ladybirds hibernating on it.
Today I am very excited to have the very talented Jane Dougherty to visit and discuss her latest book. This is a new adventure for Jane as this is a poetry book.
Hello, Willow. Thank you for inviting me to talk about my very first book of poems.
Hi Jane it’s great to have you here do sit down and have a cup of tea, tell me what made you decide to write a book of poems about the elements.
It wasn’t a conscious decision. I write a lot of poems, every day, and although I post many of them, there are still lots left. Some of them I have been keeping because I think they deserve a bit more than to be just one blog post among thousands. A themed chapbook seemed like a good idea. Every time I do some physical sorting, weeding or clearing out, I hurt my back, but sorting poems is a relatively safe activity. When I looked through the scores of poems in the homeless folder, they all seemed to fall into a few main themes, and the first theme I tackled was water.
That makes a lot of sense Jane, I am all for saving my back too. When did you first start writing and was there a specific reason.
I went to a very special primary school—big shout out for Saint Patrick’s in Birstall—with a visionary head teacher. It was founded by Irish immigrants who wanted their children to succeed through education, and the nun who headed the school through the 1960s and 70s until she left to run a war orphanage in Sarajevo, believed in education, not just the three Rs. We learned about the natural world, about physics and how things work, we had an orchestra, learned calligraphy, meteorology, how to wire plugs and make cheese. And we were encouraged in all kinds of creative activity, all kinds of art, and writing; we all wrote poetry from the age of nine or so. I had an ideal environment for developing a taste for creativity and taking it seriously. Having a father who was a poet and sculptor and mother who was an artist and art teacher certainly helped too.
Your school and teachers sound very progressive and you obviously had a varied education. Would you like another cup of tea.
Tell me Jane who most influences your work.
It probably sounds strange, but there aren’t too many poets whose work I read and reread with boundless admiration. There are individual poems I love, but not many whole bodies of work and none remotely contemporary. Yeats is the poet I love the most and whose words, even when I don’t get all the mystical references, inspire and uplift. Francis Ledwidge too is a favourite and John Masefield, Walter de la Mare. All rather old-fashioned sounding now, in their clarity and lack of self-analysis. The poems point outwards rather than inwards, showing us the world as it is all around us, not how it seems at the back of a troubled head.
You mention your parents in the dedication of your book, were they influencal and supportive to your writing.
Both my parents died when I was still in the throes of having babies and bringing up young children. I hadn’t started to write seriously, then, but as I said earlier, they were both artistic and expected that their children would be too. I know they would be proud that I have finally got around to it.
Tell me Jane have childhood memories influenced you much.
I think that a happy childhood has been fundamental to making me what I am. It obviously wasn’t happy every single minute, and there are memories that still make me anxious. Tuesday, for example, will always be music lesson day, when I’d leave school early and walk up the hill to the music teacher’s house with fear oozing from every pore. But it was a country childhood, on farmland at the edge of a small town, and we four children spent most of our time poking about in woodland and along the banks of streams, listening and learning. Although I have enjoyed some of my time living in cities, I have always hankered after trees. Three years ago, we moved from the centre of Bordeaux to the countryside, with a large chunk of land of our own. Too much, really, but sharing a place with trees wildflowers, animal and birdlife, has been a revelation. Who knew there was so much life going on?
Now tell me Jane which do you prefer to write poetry or prose.
I write poetry for pleasure. It’s something that I do in-between doing other things. Often an image will strike me and I jot it down to find that it’s already working itself up into a poem. Poems are short and they can be turned out in hundreds of different ways. I can work with an idea or an image for half an hour and get something that pleases me. A novel is different. If writing a poem is like sketching, or shaping something in clay, a novel is like hacking at a slab of wood or stone. The frame of the story might be tenuous, the characters vague, and all I have to go on might be an opening phrase or an idea from a legend or myth, but it’s there. The hard work is in revealing the story trapped inside and maintaining enough interest in it, because it’s a long job. The two approaches probably complement one another; I write poetic prose and often write stories into poems.
Thanks a lot, Willow, for the opportunity to give some background to what I do and why.
Jane Dougherty has wandered a bit from her Irish origins but still feels close to her roots, especially in the bit of green field where she now lives in southwest France. She writes incessantly, and hopes to continue as long as the ideas keep coming, and the scene beyond the window demands that she take notice.
I have read Jane’s book, thicker than water. It is full of beautiful poetry. It’s a joy to dip into but I read it from cover to cover unable to stop. I can highly recommend it. Here is my favourite poem .
All is death and the ache in the breast where the heart is wave-wrought in cold seas or on grey pavement, it whispers in the spray of salt and blood,
There will be no moon this night no petals on the rose
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