A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Briony Collins

with Briony Collins:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Briony:

I’ve been interested in telling stories for as long as I can remember, but didn’t write one down until I was eight. At that time, I was reading a lot of Jacqueline Wilson. The way her characters always had unusual backgrounds or situations that differed from the stereotypical nuclear family always appealed to me, because my own home life wasn’t ordinary.

It was tough growing up in a single-parent household with my father, who was heavily depressed after the passing of my mother, and my younger brother. We didn’t have much money and so I spent a great deal of time imagining alternate realities. Ones in which we were happy and could afford things. Sometimes I was brave enough to dare dream of a world in which my mother was still alive. Reading was an escape for me, but it wasn’t enough to just float into the pre-scripted universes conjured up by other people; I needed to learn to do it myself.

When I started writing as a young girl, I found it hard to stop. My fascination with stories shifted into poetry, plays, and finally encompassed all forms. While the drive was always inside me, I think it was through Wilson’s work that I gave myself permission to celebrate what made me different and turn it into art.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Briony:

My answer to this question changes daily. Today, it happens to be Charles Bukowski. I’m going through a big Buk phase at the moment, but I think it’s for the same reason that I was initially inspired by Jacqueline Wilson so many years ago.

His words command the page with a power beyond contestation, because he is so courageously himself. There are few writers I can think of who match Bukowski in authenticity, because he does not shy away from the dark, depraved nature of his difficult life. Instead, his work teaches, in his own words, that, ‘your demons are here to teach you lessons. Sit down with your demons and have a drink and a chat and learn their names.’

When I write, I consider each word on the page in terms of how authentic it is to me. I am only interested in writing the truth. While I may not always know much about the world around me, I’m an expert in myself and my experiences. I place that at the heart of my writing, and gravitate towards writers who do it too.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing?

Briony:

I spent the first fourteen years of my life growing up in Leicester, England. It’s a difficult place to describe to anybody who hasn’t been there. The city is so vibrant and multicultural, that I was exposed to a lot of different backgrounds very early in life. I visited the Gurdwara, bought jalebi from the spice mill on my street, went to watch Diwali fireworks with friends, and took some Gujarati and Arabic lessons. My friends were all from different heritages and religions, but no one in our little group ever felt out of place.

Growing up in Leicester helped shape me as a writer because I was immediately surrounded by such a variety of perspectives and beliefs. It taught me the value of different points of view and the rich diversity of humanity. Spending my formative years and beyond in an environment that cultivated a deep respect for people different to me was vital in my artistic development.

Q4: Have any travels away from home influence your work?

Briony:

After growing up in Leicester, I spent a few years living in Virginia and then Wyoming, USA. It was unlike anything I’d experienced up to that point. While I had some difficulties living there that ultimately led me to move back to the UK alone when I was 18, there were two parts to this chapter of my life that really influenced my work.

First, the reason we moved out there was because my father married an American woman. For the first time since my birth mother died almost a decade earlier, I knew what it was like to have a mother figure. She has become my chosen family and I call her Mom. While she hasn’t had a direct influence on my work, she shows me unparalleled support and love. Being a writer can sometimes get lonely. Just one person’s encouragement can make an enormous difference.

Second, I had a teacher in high school there called Mr McGee. I took his Poetry and Science Fiction classes. There were quotes on laminated A4 paper all around his classroom. I can only recall one – by Nathaniel Hawthorne – ‘Easy reading is damn hard writing.’ On the back wall was a print of Monet’s painting, San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk. I remember looking at that quote and tracing the walls of the classroom back to that painting. It struck me that both writer and painter worked hard to make their visions accessible. Accessibility became just as valuable to me as authenticity, and I learned that good work requires both.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Briony: I wish I could name a specific moment. Some writers have incredible epiphanies. They can trace their ambitions back to a single point. I don’t have that. I grew up knowing what I wanted to do and, apart from a brief daydream dalliance when I was a child about owning a convenience store, I haven’t strayed from this path. It’s not something I do; it’s who I am.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Briony:

Relax? What does that mean? I’m not familiar with this word…

I juggle a lot of projects aside from writing. I’m a co-editor of my own digital publication, Cape Magazine. I’m in full-time education finishing my Master’s degree this September and starting a PhD in October. I enjoy acting and directing plays, and recently founded a theatre company that is currently working on launching and preparing for our first show. There’s always a lot on my plate. By the time I get around to relaxing, I’m either having a pint in a pub with friends or zoning out watching Netflix. Recently I took up learning the guitar…it’s not going well!

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Briony:

My debut poetry book, Blame it on Me, is coming out with Broken Sleep Books on August 31st this year. It’s currently available for pre-order here: https://www.brokensleepbooks.com/product-page/briony-collins-blame-it-on-me

‘Briony CollinsBlame it on Me is an extraordinary collection of poems that focus on the death of her mother, when she was just five years old, and the ensuing family upheaval. Collins’ poetry moves mellifluously, sensitive to the sound of words, infused with a delightful music. Collins believes, to quote her favourite poet Jim Morrison: “You should stand up for your right to feel your pain” – in Blame it on Me, that’s exactly what Collins does.’

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

Briony:

My favourite line I’ve written (so far) is from my poem ‘Sunset,’ which first came out in Black Bough Poetry’s Deep Time Volume II anthology and is also in my book, Blame it on Me. The poem is about my mother’s last night alive. This is the line:

‘How the skin cracks around your eyes, blackening with the slow dilation of forever.’

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Briony: While I’m fortunate to have many encouraging friends and a supportive family, my progress with writing is a testimony to the excellent teachers I’ve had the pleasure of learning from throughout my years in education. I’ve already mentioned Mr McGee’s inspiring classroom, but when I moved back to the UK and started studying for my A-Levels, my English lecturer was pivotal in shaping me as a writer.

Samantha Egelstaff-Thomas was the person who encouraged me to take my work beyond the classroom and start submitting it to magazines and competitions. Before her, I had no idea how to do that. My first submission was to the 2016 Exeter Novel Prize competition, which I subsequently won. Without her initial encouragement and guidance, I wouldn’t have been confident enough to enter the competition and start my journey towards a career in writing.

Links:

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Briony Collins

New Poems by Briony Collins : “A Fig in Winter” & “Holocene”

https://thewombwellrainbow.com/2020/03/27/wombwell-rainbow-interviews-briony-collins/

A Review for Black Bough Poetry: Dark Confessions

(c) Darren Green (c) Black Bough Poetry

Dark Confessions

When editor Matthew M. C. Smith has an idea he goes all out. He looks for and seeks out challenges that generates wonderful ideas, poetry & art from contributors to the Black Bough brand.

His latest baby is “Dark Confessions” a book that explores a variety of themes such as isolation, confinement, disease and corruption. This is a prelude to a second edition which will focus on themes of ‘Freedom’ and ‘Rapture’ which is brought about as a tribute to poet/singer Jim Morrison (50 years after his passing) and the idea of “Riders on the Storm” and Blondie’s “Rapture” a very interesting idea indeed.

Matthew knows many wonderful artists & poets through the communities. He’s got a wonderful poet co-editor on board with Kari Flickinger, as well as co-editors Ness Owen & Ranjabali Chaudhuri. The artistic design of the book(s) come from designer Darren Green, from Swansea. Very visually appealing and leaving you wanting to begin to tap into the human feeling, the edginess that the human brain tip-toes on. That comes from Dark Confessions.

This series is dedicated to Welsh poet Dai Fry (a Fevers of the Mind Poets of 2020 contributor as well) who had an untimely passing as the book was going into publication. Please read his work below for a sample of his work in Fevers

3 poems by Dai Fry from Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020

The contributors of writing & art in “Dark Confessions” is a who’s who of current day poets that are putting out life changing pieces everyday and should be looked at more often.

Contributors such as Matthew M. C. Smith, Elizabeth Barton, Tara Skurtu, M.S. Evans, Marian Christie, Eileen Carney Hulme, Ness Owen, Claire Loader, Jonathan Braceras, Ranjabali Chaudhuri, Steve Jensen, Devon Marsh, Kari Flickinger, Briony Collins, Jeffrey Yamaguchi, James Lilley, Adwaita Das, Daniel Blick, Kim M. Russell, Alan Parry, Dominic Weston, Sophie Livingston, Philip Berry, Mike Farren, Rich Schilling, George Sandifer Smith, Tolu Oloruntoba, Maeve McKenna, Tom Lagasse, Liz McGrath, Jo Gatford, Elinor Ann Walker, Billy Fenton, Nick Newman, Roger Hare, Elizabeth Spencer Spragins, Julie Mullen, Emry Trantham, Andy MacGregor, Daniel Fraser, Wendy Humphries, Dai Fry, Anthony Paticchio, Ankh Spice, Natalie Ann Holborow, Mark Antony Owen and i’m hoping i’m not leaving anyone out, because this is quite the list.

I’m still reading this collection which was gifted to me to read, and some of these poems I keep re-reading because the imagery has to be rested on for awhile and just mingle with your mind tingles for a bit. You can feel the emotives that are put out there, and do you dance with that emotion, do you hide from that emotion, do you cry for awhile in those emotions, do you smile from the creative wordplay?

Polish Mother Bones by M.S. Evans
“Each of us has roses in our throats”

Mercy by Tara Skurtu 
"You can easily be
forgotten in the unforgiving
blood of the family"

Just an example of some lines from these creative poems.
You will definitely want to check this series out from the brilliant Matthew M. C. Smith's latest endeavor in a collective poetic magnum opus.

New Poems by Briony Collins : “A Fig in Winter” & “Holocene”

a fig in winter

a fig in winter

the night after you shatter me
you send me videos about stoicism

like that means a goddamn thing
but you want to help

i’m afraid to move
if i get up i might disturb the memories

might shake up the dust and find it settles
into shapes i no longer recognise

might dislodge the texture of the walls
where you pressed me, where i died

might lose the temperature from the pillows
the sweat of the duvet twisted into knots

by your hand, i am freezing
and you send me the words of dead men

fuck you

they tell me to thaw and surrender
but i am your winter

holocene

holocene

all his exes are crazy
not him

upon waking i stretch
crack the base of my spine
my fluids run thin, deplete
their vitality between bones

he sleeps with his nose
squashed into a pillow
what an ugly thing, i think
to be so sure of sanity

the sun doesn’t visit us here
in this flat, gone noon
the austere, saxe filter
of the day already dying

we are a moment
a lungful of our lives

upon waking i stretch
my mind over the length
of my limits, i’m an ugly thing
for losing myself in another

arise, mad sisters
we are the last

photo by Haojie Xu

For Briony’s bio see link below

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Briony Collins