Q1: When did you start writing and whom influenced you the most now and currently?
Naoise: I’ve always written in some form or another – as a child I used to write a lot of plays, which I would scrupulously direct in the school playground. Poetry came later, as a staple in my early teens, but stopped at around sixteen or seventeen, when exam burnout and an eating disorder dulled my passion, leaving me exhausted and with little to say. I started writing creatively again during lockdown, after recovering and gaining a sense of self. My main influences were confessional poets: Julia de Burgos; Melissa Lee Houghton; Elisabeth Horan. I read what I enjoyed and expanded my interests from there. My mum has also influenced me a lot – she’s a musician, and she was really important in allowing me to explore the arts, not just as a hobby but as a potential career. Along the way, I’ve met some fantastic poets who inspire me to keep pushing, like Olivia Tuck and HLR, who I believe are writing important and ground-breaking stuff. Their books – Things Only Borderlines Know by Olivia Tuck and History of Present Complaint by HLR – continually remind me that there is a space in the world for honesty and vulnerability, and that writing is still a rebellious act.
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Naoise: I remember writing my first ‘novel’ at seven, carrying it round in a big blue notebook and keeping it close so it couldn’t get lost or damaged. From around seven to twelve I knew I wanted to be a writer. The desire never really went away but it did get obscured by all the contradictory noise in high school – I think it’s instilled from a very young age that we mustn’t dream, that we’ve got to be practical in our career aspirations, and if we’re at all intelligent we’ve got to be a doctor or a lawyer. I didn’t want to be either of those things. But the education system did grind away the belief that writing was a possibility for me – I just lost confidence that I was good enough. I kept writing though. I remember my R.E. teacher telling me that she’d read my writing, and it was good, and I should stick with it. That kept the flame smouldering. Small compliments meant so much when I was starting out. There was a moment in eating disorder therapy too – we had to write letters to ourselves, or to our families, or to anorexia. The other patients (and one of the therapists) were very complimentary about my letters, and suggested I started writing again. It felt like permission. And when I got my first acceptance as an adult – two years ago now, believe it or not – I realised that there were people out there who would read my work, that this was the moment I’d been waiting for since childhood, and that if I wanted to be a writer, maybe I should just try it and keep submitting and see what happened.
Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?
Naoise: Other poets. You can’t underestimate the kindness of the poetry community. Joining Twitter and interacting with other poets was one of the of the best things I’ve ever done. They inspired me with their words. And they supported me, retweeted my work, raised me up and gave me hope that there were opportunities out there. I’ve already mentioned Olivia Tuck and HLR, but there are so many other poets who were infinitely generous with their time and knowledge: Elizabeth M. Castillo, Laura Jane Round and JP Seabright have been especially wonderful.
Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?
Naoise: I grew up in West Yorkshire, although I’m not sure you could tell from my poetry. I think a lot of the experiences I write about were quite isolating, so my poems often take place in bedrooms or kitchens or GP surgeries or hospitals, which look similar regardless of the city. I do like to include nature, but this often draws from when I was a student living near Coventry, as I was lucky enough to live in student housing amongst green space, with lots of geese and a lake. I also tend towards the surreal when describing place, as my interpretation of my surroundings depends so much on my mood, a clinically unstable thing. When I was writing my debut pamphlet, After the Flood Comes the Apologies, I was studying abroad in Italy (Venice, and then Naples), and if anything, I think these are the most noticeable locations in my poems, as there are lots of references to rain and water and flooding.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?
Naoise: From my first book it’s got to be Mania, one of my first attempts at experimental writing, which unfolds around the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for a manic episode. It’s also one of the few poems I’ve let my mum read. Overall, I would say there are three or four poems from my first full collection IMPLODE EXPLODE which I could say are most meaningful to me (depending on the day). But probably Anorexia, the first poem in IMPLODE EXPLODE. If you know my work, you know I write mostly about addiction, with a smaller number of poems tackling eating disorders or other forms of mental illness. For some reason I have always struggled to write about anorexia, which was a huge and destructive part of my life for over three years. I think it’s really difficult to write about it without either romanticising it or focusing too much on the external, physical body, as though you’re looking at yourself in the mirror rather than writing your own experiences. I’m really proud of the poem ‘Anorexia’ as it’s experimental, it’s honest, and it discusses that part of my life with absolutely no references to the appearance of the body or the degree of thinness. The condition is not dictated by one’s weight so I believe writing around the subject should reflect that. I think it’s my most meaningful poem to date because it truly expresses how I felt at the time, without being too cliché (hopefully!).
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Naoise: I enjoy baking, making short films, reading, listening to music and watching television. I know it’s not cool but give me an unlimited supply of decent television and I could happily just sit and watch it forever. My ideal day goes as follows: wake up, write, read, bake cake, eat cake, watch tv with my family, watch tv alone, listen to music, go to sleep. I’m essentially uncomplicated. I’d love to write for a soap opera one day, or write my own tv show. I particularly love crime dramas, comedies, and even better, a mixture of the two. One of my favourite shows this year was Alma’s Not Normal, written by the amazing Sophie Willan – I’m eagerly awaiting series 2.
Q7: What is a favorite line/ stanza/lyric from your writing?
Naoise: I really like the final line of One Every Four Days: ‘We loved you. We loved you.’ It’s very basic but when read with the rest of the flash I think it becomes quite poignant. The piece was about my friend, who lost his life to suicide. At the end of the day, when the anger and the confusion and the grief has subsided, there’s not much else to say. We loved him, we wish he was still here with us, and we won’t stop loving him.
Q8:What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?
My music taste is very eclectic: according to Spotify it’s a strange mix of rock, soul, britpop, new wave, rap, indie, psychedelia, and pop. I enjoy a lot of older music (Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, The Velvet Underground, Etta James, Nina Simone) but also newer artists like Cavetown, Girl in Red, Maneskin, Bears in Trees and Little Simz (who I think is a poet in her own right). And I suppose in the middle there’s people like My Chemical Romance, Amy Winehouse, and Radiohead. I struggle to write while listening to music, so if I ever do it’s to quieter, calmer music: for example Radiohead’s OK Computer album, or Coming Down by the Dum Dum Girls, or Me in 20 Years by Moses Sumney, or Sharpener by Cavetown, or To Know Him is To Love Him by Amy Winehouse, or the Donny Hathaway version of A Song for You (which is my favourite song of all time). It’s definitely a mix of genres, styles, eras, and sounds – one day I’ll be bopping to Boyfriend by Dove Cameron, the next it might be Up the Junction by Squeeze, or Breezeblocks by alt-J, or I Love You I Hate You by Little Simz. I absolutely love music and pretty much just listen to whatever I fancy and enjoy.
Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc that you would like to promote?
Naoise: Yes! My first full collection is called IMPLODE EXPLODE and it’s coming out with Beir Bua Press this October! It’s split into two sections which represent two very separate breakdowns: the implosion, and the explosion. Focusing on love through the lens of mental illness, addiction, eating disorders, trauma, queerness and neurodivergence, IMPLODE EXPLODE is a blend of confessional, experimental, and spoken word genres of poetry. It includes a couple of poems/ flash fiction pieces you might have already come across: One Every Four Days (longlisted in the Summer 2021 Reflex Flash Fiction Competition) is in there, as is Mixed Episode which was an honourable mention in the Magdalena Young Poets’ Prize 2020-21. There are also tons of new poems, like Anorexia, which I mentioned earlier, as well as Fred and Dorothy/ Dorothy and Fred, which is a gentle meander through the quiet love shared between my grandparents despite trauma, and Me (Autistic and Unsociable) Dating a Neurotypical, which discusses what dating is like for me as an autistic, asexual, and generally grumpy woman. The book launch is on Friday 28th October at 8pm IST with Michelle Moloney King and Richard Capener, who will be launching his new book The Voice Without. You can get tickets here https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/october-launch-naoise-gale-richard-capener-hosted-by-moloney-king-tickets-395157626097 and follow me at @Naoisegale13 on Twitter for updates.
Bonus Question: Any funny memory or strange occurrence you’d like to share during your creative journey?
Before I started writing poetry, someone called the main character of a prose piece I was writing ‘unbelievable and unlikeable’. The main character was me. She was a fictionalized version of myself. So, if you like unlikeable people, maybe buy my books (this is also a perfect example of what I love about poetry – likeability is not required.)
IMPLODE EXPLODE book launch – https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/october-launch-naoise-gale-richard-capener-hosted-by-moloney-king-tickets-395157626097
Twitter – @Naoisegale13
Linktree – https://linktr.ee/NaoiseGale
Link to my Debut Pamphlet After the Flood Comes the Apologies – https://ninepens.co.uk/shop#!/products/after-the-flood-comes-the-apologies—naoise-gale
Naoise Gale is an autistic poet from Yorkshire, whose work focuses on mental illness, eating disorders, and addiction. Her writing blends confessional and experimental genres of poetry with elements of flash fiction, prose poetry and spoken word. Her debut pamphlet After the Flood Comes the Apologies was published by Nine Pens Press last year, and her first full collection IMPLODE EXPLODE is due out with Beir Bua Press in October. You can find more of her work on Twitter at @NaoiseGale13.