A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Vicky Allen

with Vicky Allen:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Vicky: I loved writing stories from early childhood. I used to make up stories and draw elaborate pictures to go with them, and in some form or another that has continued all the way through my life. I went on to study illustration at art college, and in the years since then have continued to weave writing and art of all kinds through the tapestry of my life.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Vicky: I hardly know where to begin with this question! The poets Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry, as well as George Mackay Brown have been really important to me in adulthood. But I am probably most influenced by the people around me, who live quietly extraordinary lives and are faithful to their gifts and dreams. I love observing that and reflecting on what that means.

A Mary Oliver Collection: A Thousand Mornings, Dog Songs, Blue Horses, and Felicity

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work/describe?

Vicky: Until I was eleven or twelve my family lived in Lincolnshire in England, and then we spent my teenage years in Scotland – first the Shetland islands and then Aberdeenshire in north east Scotland. I’ve lived in Scotland ever since, and my identity has blurred from a displaced English person to someone whose deeply at home in Scotland. I write and reflect about this in my writing in small, personal ways quite often, with the watchfulness of an outsider in some ways.

Q4: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

Vicky: A few years ago, just after my mum died, I had a deep longing to create a piece of work which recorded and reflected on the lives of some women who have been important to Scotland’s spiritual legacy, but who are perhaps not quite as well known as they should be. This eventually took the form of “Wonderlines”, a piece of storytelling and poetry which intertwined the stories of three of Scotland’s female saints connected to the part of south east Scotland I now live in. The loss of my mum gave me an impetus to hold onto women’s stories in a fresh way. I went on to share “Wonderlines” at the Edinburgh Book Festival Fringe, and two other events over the next year, and the script is being reworked into book form. It is a project that is deeply important to me.

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

Vicky: Not really…it’s all felt like the unrolling of a long mysterious scroll – endlessly surprising and precious! I have always loved to be creative so in some ways that mysterious scroll is telling me the story that was already written inside me.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Vicky: Reading, of course! Ever since I was small I have always read past my bedtime, under the covers with a torch, and my favourite way to spend any spare time is to read. Finding the peace and time to do that is another matter! I really love to get in the sea and go swimming with friends, it’s a transformative and restorative delight.

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

Vicky:

I’m really excited to be taking part in a Hedgehog Poetry Press Showcase as part of the Eastside Arts Belfast Festival in August. This virtual event will look at the connections between Scotland and Ireland, through a group of poets, like myself, who have had their work published by Hedgehog recently.

https://www.eastsidearts.net/event/who-needs-bridge-hedgehog-poetry-press-showcase?fbclid=IwAR08Sy6_YEu_INb7iha22l6Op-7a36TspKveyCfN4G8AStWJa7ZwypE79qE

Q8: One of your favorite lines from a poem of yours or others, or favorite piece of art or photograph?

Vicky: This is a print I created as a thank you for a group of poets who helped me to celebrate the first anniversary of my debut poetry pamphlet “Broken Things and other tales”. It is such a special thing to discover how we are held by the support and kindness of those around us. The image is important to me because it reminds me of that community of kindness.

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Vicky: Oh dear. Where to start?! As a child I remember my dad having a novel under development for a long time. As far as I know he never did anything with it, but there was definitely something about that early sense of possibility – what if I wrote a book? told this story I have burning inside? – that I have carried with me ever since. Over the last few years I’ve been part of a wonderful writers’ group, and their encouragement and thoughtful comments have been so important and valuable to me. I’ve had the joy of attending two of Joel McKerrow’s online writing courses, and they have been a massive influence and very formational for my writing as well (he’s an incredible writer and performer too – take a look at his website for details https://www.joelmckerrow.com/). And family and friends have been my constant encouragers and most honest critics – I’m so thankful for them.

Links:

3 poems by Vicky Allen : ‘The Circle’, ‘I Am Not a Fortress’, ‘Honesty’

New poems by Vicky Allen : “Buzzard” “five hundred and forty three years” “Kingfisher”

4 poems by Vicky Allen “Starfish”, “Nightfall” “Supplicant” “6:30 AM”,





Broken Things and other tales

https://www.amazon.com/Poetry-Vicky-Allen-Literature-Fiction/s?rh=n%3A10248%2Cp_27%3AVicky+Allen

Bio: Vicky Allen’s debut poetry pamphlet is “Broken Things and other tales” (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2020). She’s been published in print & online in Mslexia, Stravaig, Bonnie’s Crew, Writers Cafe and others, & in anthologies by Proost, Black Agnes Press & Dove Tales. She is a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives on the south east coast of Scotland.

New poems by Vicky Allen : “Buzzard” “five hundred and forty three years” “Kingfisher”

Buzzard, Bird Of Prey, Animal, Bird

Buzzard

hear me:
high-pitched cry
I am birth
I am light
I am sky
unbounded
my very feathers speak
force, power

I see you
weighted to Earth
tethered to
creature after creature
slow, slowing
with fade and flinch
a paltry ache
of passing days

you are
open-mouthed
soil-bound and
I see you
seeing me
hearing my cry
I will permit this:
I accept your wonder

do you envy
my wide wings
my hard grace
my tender, slaughtering heart?
do you long to
rise, rise
sky-bound
untethered at last?

do you long for
no boundaried heart
no boundaried life?
let us pity each other
you do not know my invisible borders
written in air, woodland
I do not know how
you can bear to be tethered so.

five hundred and forty three years

it is the
five hundred and forty second spring
of this oak

bud and branch
root, shoot
leaf and mossy bark

and I think about an acorn
falling
five hundred and forty three years ago

and I wonder
how half a millennia later
I stand beneath the weight and heft

of an acorn's descent

Kingfisher

I looked for the kingfisher
and found a lark

I booked for a pimpernel
and found plantain

I looked for the path
and found the unexpected way

The unlooked for
unhooks me

from pendulum-heavy
expectations


Bio: Vicky Allen’s debut poetry pamphlet is “Broken Things and other tales” (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2020). She’s been published in print & online in Mslexia, Stravaig, Bonnie’s Crew, Writers Cafe and others, & in anthologies by Proost, Black Agnes Press & Dove Tales. She is a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives on the south east coast of Scotland.

3 poems by Vicky Allen : ‘The Circle’, ‘I Am Not a Fortress’, ‘Honesty’

Ring Of Fire, Circle, Blue, Fire, Flame
The Circle

The tide is rolling in and out
I allow myself this -
breathe in, breathe out, breathe in
and I let the petals of time unfurl

I allow myself this -
the seeding burst through the warm earth
and I let the petals of time unfurl
as I linger on the cool threshold, a moment between moments

the seeding bursts through the warm earth
breathe in, breathe out, breathe in
as I linger on the threshold, a moment between moments
the tide is rolling in and out

Honesty

Honesty breaches the shadows
and asserts herself.
Fragile, she survives winter's
severe punishments,
withstands the long dark.
Pale, upright
quiet.
Honesty perseveres.
She is stronger than she looks.

I Am Not a Fortress

I am not a fortress
I do not choose to bolster my defences today
I do not want to be impermeable, unmoved

Let me be defenceless
Let my skin be tender, vulnerable
Let me be open-handed, wide-eyed

Let your words take aim
Let your barbs hit home
Let your truth penetrate, dividing marrow and bone

Let there be a grace to the pain
Let there be hope in the harrowing
Let there be us, eye to eye, hand to hand, heart to heart

unfettered
unguarded
understanding

 Bio: Vicky Allen’s debut poetry pamphlet is “Broken Things and other tales” (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2020). She’s been published in print & online in Mslexia, Stravaig, Bonnie’s Crew, Writers Cafe and others, & in anthologies by Proost, Black Agnes Press & Dove Tales. She is a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives on the south east coast of Scotland.

4 poems by Vicky Allen “Starfish”, “Nightfall” “Supplicant” “6:30 AM”,

Starfish

starfish
arms, legs, spread wide
my whole pale body opens up

I am water-lily, gloriously unfurled
I am sea otter, sleekly resting
I am porpoise, smiling as I breach

No, I am woman
peeling off clothes and fears
in the compassionate dark

shedding sorrow
discarding it carelessly
like old socks

laying out thick towels
of bittersweet memories
ready to enfold when I need them

I am alone
but only with my eyes closed
my heart locked

other griefs, other memories
other joys, other sorrows
are folded here too

folded in with our ordinary old
socks and towels
jackets, jumpers

look how we’ve gathered them
a circle in the wet sand
a little battalion, a fellowship of pilgriming strangers

we are soft with joy
lament lost with laughter
wonder rising with the sun

we are starfish
arms, legs, spread wide
our whole selves gloriously unfurled

Nightfall

Soft night falls
merciful
welcome peace

silver moon
gilds the hills
with quiet

and I close
weary eyes
with gladness

Supplicant

I am not afraid of the dark, the endless night sky
as much as I fear
closing my eyes to the possibility of light

So on bended knee
I am a supplicant to the ladybird
and receive the eucharist of brambles and rain

Dreaming like a child
I listen for a whisper, a bloom of hope
and hear the soft earth sigh

There are stories still sleeping here:
let them awaken
let them rise

6.30 am

6.30am
September’s final Friday (I am not ready)
air temperature 11 celsius, sea surface temperature 13 celsius (I calculate the worth)
light offshore wind (the day inhales slowly)
waves 1-2 feet (saltwater, the cure for everything)
first light (a promise)

6.30am, sun still unrisen
6.30am, brittle body aches for bed
6.30am, animal-self longs for comfort, warmth
6.30am, mouth still tasting night, eyes still bleared, blinking
6.30am, we are ready

we are ready so we peel off clothes, peel off sleep
on the grey shrouded beach
we feel our bones protest as
cold feet press into cold sand
and we make our cold path to the edge of the sea

the edge of the sea comes to meet me playfully,
nuzzling my toes 
so I wade in confidently now – I know how this goes 
this keen cut of pain 
the cold is a knife, but I can choose the wounding

I can choose the wounding –
breath goes slow and slower
purposeful and long
on the outbreath I am submitting myself
to the welcome of salt and water and wind and tide

in the welcome of salt and water and wind and tide
there is sharp second as a wave hits my chest, a piercing,
and I forget to breathe, I forget to breathe and I forget to breathe
until, remembering
I sink until I am finally swimming

I am finally swimming
and this is the change
land mammal to water mammal
as close to selkie as I can be
as close to selkie as I can desire

as close to selkie as I can desire
I greet the sea
she is quiet today and
our low voices and laughter join seabird murmurs
but I love it best when I am quiet too, quietly held

quietly held
breathing in the coming low dawn
the sea is cradling me
and cradled, I am content
September’s final Friday
6.57am

Bio: Vicky Allen’s debut poetry pamphlet is “Broken Things and other tales” (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2020). She’s been published in print & online in Mslexia, Stravaig, Bonnie’s Crew, Writers Cafe and others, & in anthologies by Proost, Black Agnes Press & Dove Tales. She is a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives on the south east coast of Scotland.

feature photo by Federica Bisso (unsplash)