Samantha Maw is studying a Creative Writing MA at Lincoln University and is looking forward to developing a writing career. She is a qualified teacher who has worked in primary and secondary schools in the UK and in Africa (Uganda). She has been writing poems and stories for pleasure since childhood, and continues to pass on her love for reading and writing to the next generation. She lives in Lincoln with a scruffy golden lurcher and two cats and in her spare time likes to tread the boards at her local amateur dramatic society. She is also part of the Lincoln Creative Writer’s group.
Meet the Poet 3
Dr. Kerry Featherstone.
MA Creative Writing Lecturer at Loughborough University
Poet in Residence – Bradgate Park.
photo: Suzi Corker
I first met Kerry in 2008 while I was a trainee teacher in Nottingham. He was at an open Mic night with his band and I threatened to throw my pants at him during the last song. Afterwards, the conversation took a more wholesome turn when we discovered a mutual love for the spoken word. He has always been passionate about poetry, and he was the first professional poet to take the time to help me develop my own creative voice. I attended various poetry readings and workshops, and I received critical feedback on the experimental ramblings I was coming up with. I moved away and we lost touch for a while, but fortunately, this article has given us a chance to reconnect (no nostalgic underwear-related nonsense in the following interview, I promise).
Samantha: Can you introduce yourself to the Blue Nib readership?
Kerry: Happy to. I’m 44, and originally from Lincolnshire. I now live in the East Midlands, and teach Creative Writing at Loughborough University. In between, I have studied at Essex and Nottingham Trent, spent two years living and working in France, and several years working in Literature Development.
Samantha: Who or what inspired you to start writing poetry in the first place?
Kerry: Well, before poetry came a fascination with words. Radio. Officiate. Bastard. Elk. I hoarded them, played with them; wanted to learn more. And that fed into using them in poems. I remember coming down from my bedroom, aged about 8, to write down a poem about the Titanic that I’d thought of while I should have been going to sleep. So ideas about using words were always arriving in my head and refusing to leave. When I wasn’t too distracted, I wrote them down: ‘The unsinkable ship left nothing but fame’.
The inspiration to write poems comes from the words themselves: putting them together, in different combinations, adding them and taking them away. I write about a range of subjects from the personal to the political, with travel and humour thrown in, but I don’t think I would write at all if I wasn’t fascinated and entertained by the raw material of words.
Samantha: Who or what continues to inspire you?
Kerry: As for continuing, it’s not really a decision. It is just there all the time. I have had 30 or so poems published in print and online, some as individual pieces, some in short sequences. My first full collection is to be printed by Eyewear sometime this year (2018), which I am delighted about. I am also a poet in residence at Bradgate Park, a fantastic place in Leicestershire. I am writing, running workshops, doing readings, talking to the people who work at or visit the Park: it is right up my street as a project. I am blogging about it here: https://blog.lboro.ac.uk/poetinthepark/
Samantha: What techniques/ forms do you like to experiment with in your poetry?
Kerry: I like found poetry and ekphrasis as ways into poetry (I recently had a poem published that was made up of comments from the reviews of a hotel that I was staying in). I have also played around with the idea of translation: using French and English in the same poem, or deliberately having two different versions of the poem in different languages. A lot of my work is concerned with landscapes: visual description but also the history and human experience of places. I’m currently writing a series of poems about different landscapes in the UK.
Samantha: What advice would you give to aspiring poets?
Kerry: Keep reading and keep writing. That is not new advice: everyone will tell you that – but that’s because it is true. What I try to help my students with is understanding how to read as a writer, not as a reader. In some ways it doesn’t matter whether you like or enjoy what you are reading: the point is to try to learn from how the writer has achieved their tone, emotional impact or structure, for example. Imagine you are a chef tasting dishes by other chefs: not because you are hungry, but because you want to find out what they are doing and how.
Samantha: How relevant is poetry in today’s world?
Kerry: Poetry will always be relevant because it is a form of human expression. Poetry, as taught in schools, doesn’t do it justice, in terms of the range of poets, subject matter or styles. But the rising number of poetry book sales and the success of spoken word as a form shows us that people want to read – or listen to – and write poetry. As long as there is a teenager who uses poetry to communicate their emotions or a soldier who writes a poem to describe what they have been through, then poetry will be relevant.
What Have I been Doing?
I’ve looked into your promised month;
pursed carefully as you report
Spring plans. Pansies and lobelia
which all seem to make flurry
at the need for beds.
Don’t get me wrong. They’ll
look wild and fine after
we’ve watered and waited.
Point is, I always thought
but now I see you absorbed
between the sun’s shadow and
the climbing fence
and the clay under
the soft coffee soil.
And I’m pinned back by
your twisting hair; careful lips and
thoughtful hands rolling
the root-ball into place.
You sit on the wooden steps,
setting the bulbs round,
We’ve been gardening.
Water Mill in a Forest
Are you following?
After La Croix du Chateau, where we can't
find a castle,
Here is the mill, where there is no grain.
The trees were always here,
open arms. But the mill is closed.
Tilting on its wheel, sea-sick.
The rumble of work is quiet on the floor
where the planks have been kicked
in by the storm
that came in through blind, toothless windows.
Weather folds around tiles on the roof,
breaking them more surely than stones on corn.
Are you with me? I could talk to you
about things that never break up, but I guess
you'd rather watch for hoopoes, wrens.
In the garden, almonds are fruiting. I've planted
willows on the banks. Their roots will soak up the rain.
The slow forest takes back the mill; the bricks
retire into speckled light, and then darkness.
But the river moves on over its bed,
through the wheel to the lock,
carrying summer into autumn;
talking to itself about the sea.