Kate Garrett – grew up in small town Owensville, Ohio (pop 800) and moved to Sheffield (via somewhere called London). Between being mum to three kids, working, writing and editing, she found time to take cocktails in the Cremorne with our correspondent to talk poetry. Here’s what she had to say –
Where did the urge for writing come from?
When I was about 3 I wrote a Care Bears fan fiction. And from then on, it was all I wanted to do – to be a writer. I wrote stories at first but I got into poetry properly when I was about fourteen or fifteen.
At school I was in an advanced English class and we had to write ballads. I remember The Highwayman (Alfred Noyes). It’s still one of my favourites. It was a ballad and a ghost story, and I was into ghost stories. Even though my poetry doesn’t rhyme on the end of lines or anything like that these days, it was still the starting point.
Then it was the Beat Poets and Sharon Olds and listening to punk. Like Bad Religion. I paid attention to the lyrics – they’re very poetic. But I took poetry more seriously in my mid-teens. I wasn’t any good then but that’s when I started. But you’re never sure if you’re any good even when you’ve been writing for years.
Were there any other influences?
I met Sally Goldsmith at a community writing group and she gave me a tip that changed my life – focus on a specific moment. Before that I was into how words sounded and felt and it didn’t always make much sense, it was too vague. We all fall into a trap of one sort or another and mine was being vague.
I read her pamphlet ‘Singer’. She told me to focus on a moment and then you have a tangible something. That was helpful. I kept that idea and that’s what I wanted to get out of it, to hone my writing.
And the editing?
I love editing. I work for an independent writers collective called Pankhearst. We have editors all over the world. It started with publishing fiction, but when I joined we expanded into poetry. I edit the Slim Volume anthologies. I’ve just made the selections for the latest – This Body I Live In.
I also edit Fresh and Fresh Featured where we have interviews with emerging poets. And Three Drops from a Cauldron is my own small press . It’s mostly a webzine at the moment, poetry and flash fiction based around folklore, mythology, fairy tales, legends. I’m looking to expand that. There’s currently a poem up four times a week. We’ve just released our first print anthology (Lughnasadh 2015) and we have seasonal e-journals – the first one will be Samhain 2015, out on 1 October.
And what’s happening with your own work?
I have a paperback which just came out on 26 August published by Pankhearst – ‘Bewitched and Other Stories’. Bewitched came out as a “poetry novella” on Kindle in 2014, but it’s now out in print with 15 other flash fictions. Well, some of them are prose poems.
I’m also working on another chapbook of poetry called Decked in Jackstays which is historical pirate fiction. And I just had a pamphlet accepted by Indigo Dreams (The Density of Salt) which is coming out next year. It still hasn’t sunk in that they’ve accepted it.
I love the scene in Sheffield. Everybody supports each other. There’s always something interesting going on. I’ve not been a member of writing groups, but that’s out there in Sheffield. Spoken word events are lovely and I’ve been putting on my own events too. It’s the kind of place if you want to put an event on, you do that. I’m sure other cities have a scene too but I can’t imagine it being any better than here.
Who are your favourite poets?
There are so many – poets who I’d see as “contemporary classics” like Gary Snyder, Gillian Clarke. They’ve helped me understand poetry over the years, and helped me grow as a writer. But contemporary people too – like Bethany W Pope or Mab Jones – are wonderful to read or hear, and there are too many of those to mention.
I need to stop and take a breath and concentrate on finishing Decked in Jackstays but I also want to keep going with Slim Volumes and Pankhearst. I plan to put on more Three Drops events. I see it as a “poetry bonfire” because everything is based on folklore, myths, fairy tales – so the poems tell the stories, like we’re all sitting in a circle sharing stories.
Interview: Al McClimens.