with Stuart McPherson:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Stuart: I was definitely a late bloomer. I read when I was a teenager, but I also discovered punk rock. This pretty much took over my life. I spent a large part of my adolescence driving around the country in the back of a van playing the dingiest dives you could imagine. At the time I loved it but looking back it was sadly facilitated by a desire to escape what was happening at home. I was lucky that I found some responsible (and much older) band members who genuinely did look after me and treated me like a little brother.
In relation to punk rock, it was here that I really discovered both poetry and writing. I was always a fan of Black Flag and Henry Rollins and I ended up consuming all of his music/lyrics and religiously reading all of his books. However, it wasn’t until ten years ago that I started to explore writing poetry and other poets, picking up some classics such as W.H Auden, Phillip Larkin, but more importantly Charles Bukowski. Bukowski was definitely my gateway into the world of poetry. Early on I’m sure I tried to emulate his rawness of style (Terribly I might add!). From here I started to branch out and read as widely as I could. I still do now. I consume everything and enjoy poetry and poets of all styles.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Stuart: Tough question! I’m influenced by so many different writers. I absolutely love Frank Stanford, who remains in my opinion one of the most underrated poets of all time. I have huge love for ‘Crow’ by Ted Hughes which is just an absolute juggernaut. However, I love so many different poets that its hard to choose! I have huge respect for the work of Aaron Kent, not just his writing but his ethics and creativity. I would say rather than pick out individual poets I’m more influenced by work that has a distinct emotional depth, as in the feeling is just as important as the use of language. Poetry can look fantastic on the page and highlight great use of form and language, but it really has to connect on an emotional level. I would say I’m more influenced by individual poems that are able to achieve this. ‘Sheep in Fog’ by Sylvia Plath would be a great example of one of these. ‘Dear Mother, You’re Dying’ by Aaron Kent would be another ‘Dear Mother You’re Dying’: a poem by Aaron Kent – Wild Court
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing?
Stuart: I grew up in a tiny little village called Croxton Kerrial which is pretty much in the middle of England. I then lived in a town called Melton Mowbray which isn’t that far away from it. Both of these places were/are pretty unremarkable but shared the fact that they were predominately poor and working class This is an interesting question, as I don’t think my writing has ever really been influenced by a sense of ‘place’ or geography. I’m much more interested in looking inwards. So what’s happening inside the home, inside someone’s head, inside someone’s sense of self. I’m more interested in what human factors have had an impact. In this respect I think that we all share some fairly common and distinctive traits. However, I’m very aware that from my own point of view this is probably due to my own lack of connection with where I grew up as I don’t have particularly fond memories of it. In fact I’ve tried to forget it for large parts of my life. This is probably why I’m much more interested in internal politics rather than outwards. With that being said, my writing has definitely been impacted by experiences of poverty and working-class ideas of masculinity.
Q4: Have any travels away from home influence your work/describe?
Stuart: Honestly, no! I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to the US, to China, to South Korea, but I’ve never felt compelled to write about it! I think this is because I only feel comfortable writing about what I understand or have experienced fully. This is the only way I really feel authentic. If I were to start incorporating places I’ve travelled to or visited, I’d feel like I probably wasn’t that qualified to talk about them! The more I think about it, maybe I’m a bit trapped by being so inward looking. Perhaps I should open myself up a bit more!
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer/poet?
Stuart: I’m not sure that I really did want to be a poet! For me, a huge part of the process was related to mental health. As a survivor of sustained abuse I had to find an outlet later on in life to stop me from just grinding to a halt. Music satisfied this to a degree, but it was collaborative. I needed something personal, something that I could have full control over. In that sense poetry became the perfect vehicle in that I could express myself, even abstractly, and feel a sense of ‘unpacking’ or catharsis. I often used it in combination with therapy (I still do today!). And so I felt compelled to write, and as trite as that might sound it’s the only way that I’ve found that I can make sense of things. I’m still not sure I’m any good at it! But it certainly serves a purpose.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Stuart: I like to get out on my bike. I like to get out into nature and just get some time alone! Of course, I’m aware that sounds incredibly anti- social. I’m not at all, I just like a bit of solitude now and again and getting out into the open air helps. I’ve recently got a mountain bike so expect to see pictures of me in a full body cast very soon!
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Stuart: I have a pamphlet coming in December via the wonderful Broken Sleep Books titled ‘Water Bearer ‘ www.brokensleepbooks.com, as well as some work coming out in print anthologies via Nine Pens Press www.ninepens.co.uk and The6ress www.the6ress.com . You can find me links to some of my previously published poems via my website www.theeabsentee.com
Q8: What is one of your favorite lines from a poem/writing of yours?
I actually have a short poem that was published in April in my debut pamphlet ‘Pale Mnemonic’ via Legitimate Snack /Broken Sleep. It’s so short that it could just be one line
“When you die / I will illuminate / with the ovality of a paper lantern / The empennage of a distant plane / Untethered / from the ankle of a crow”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Stuart: I’m very grateful to have met some lovely friends and mentors who have helped me along the way. They have taught me about ethics, patience, creativity, and individuality. I would specifically call out Serge Neptune (@mermanpoet) , Aaron Kent (@godzillakent), Anindita Sengupta (@Anu_Sengupta) , Zoe Brigley (@ZoeBrigley) , and Louise Mather from Acropolis Journal (@AcropolisJourn). All exceptional poets. Please do give them your support