A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Dean Rhetoric

Bio: Dean Rhetoric is a working-class poet currently living in Manchester. His pamphlet, Cancer [+Pop Punk] is available now via Broken Sleep Books. His debut full-length collection, Foundry Songs, is due out February 2023.

Q1: When did you start writing and who influenced you the most now and currently?

Dean: I started writing short stories and song lyrics when I was about 13. I was mainly influenced by lyricists, especially Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz who wrote the songs for one of my favourite bands, Bad Religion. I loved J.D. Salinger as well, and Stephen King. The usual.

Now I mainly admire poets like Natalie Shapero, Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins, Wayne Holloway-Smith and countless others who are currently/have been on the Broken Sleep Books roster.

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Dean: I had to write an essay for my Religious Education class at school. I couldn’t remember what the theme of the essay was meant to be, so I just scribbled out some random story about dogs forming a cult and enslaving humans.

I got in a lot of trouble over it, but every time a teacher read out a few lines of it they’d burst out laughing. I was failing every class apart from English Lit, so I think it just all clicked.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?

Dean: That would probably be the friends and peers who are comfortable enough with me to give honest feedback on drafts and things like that. I think every poet should have at least one mate they can rely on to push them a little further and say ‘you can do better than this’.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your work? Have any travels influenced your work?


I grew up in Hereford and lived there until I was about 25. My forthcoming full-length collection Foundry Songs has been hugely influenced by growing up there, and my 8 years there as a foundry worker.

I live in Manchester now and have always considered it home. I can’t really afford to travel. I’ve had one trip abroad my whole life. But I was fortunate enough to go to Edinburgh a few years back for the Fringe Festival to do a few gigs and they certainly inspired some poems.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

Dean: Probably my poetry pamphlet, Cancer [+Pop Punk], because it was such an experimental idea and I’m proud of the fact that all my royalties go to a charity that supports young widows. It was rewarding to see how others interpreted it.

In fact, Colin Dardis wrote a really insightful review of it for you, which meant a lot to me.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Dean: I’m not good at relaxing but if I want to let off steam or enjoy myself, I’ll either watch pro wrestling, take a long walk, watch a film, or write. I’m probably happiest when I’ve got nothing to do but write.

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza/lyric from your writing?

Dean: I feel like a right big head posting lines I’ve written that I think are good. There’s a poem in Foundry Songs called ‘Me and my Big Fuck-off Nose’ where I describe my septum as:

Swollen to the point of Agoraphobic sundial

I’ll cringe that I even answered this at all, but let’s go with that one as it’s the last poem I looked over when proof-reading.

Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or song that always come back to you as an inspiration?

Dean: I mostly listen to punk rock, Motown, film scores, and the usual cliché stuff that poets listen to. Joanna Newsom is great too. I return to Automatic for the People by REM a lot, and it plays a huge role in Cancer [+Pop Punk].

And yes, I’m aware that REM isn’t punk pop!

Q9: Do you haven recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc. that you would like to promote?


As I said above, Cancer [+Pop Punk] is available now and can be purchased here. I don’t want to guilt trip anyone into buying it, but if you don’t purchase a copy, it basically means you hate charity.

Foundry Songs is my debut full length and its due out February 2023.  I worked very hard on it, and it would be great if people grabbed a copy.

And just to promote some other people, I’ve recently been reading Obligate Carnivore by Stuart McPherson, Salt & Metal by Sallyanne Rock, and The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju by Sascha Aurora Akhtar. They’re all fantastic collections that I highly recommend.

Review: Cancer [+Pop Punk by Dean Rhetoric (review by Colin Dardis)

Twitter: @dean_rhetoric

Review: Cancer [+Pop Punk by Dean Rhetoric (review by Colin Dardis)

Cancer[ + Pop Punk by Dean Rhetoric Reviewed by Colin Dardis

Given the ubiquity of cancer in our lives – we all know someone who is being treated for it, survived it, died from it, or indeed we may be dealing with it ourselves – it is natural that poetry should attempt to make sense of it. Of course, it is often not the disease itself that we need to try and understand, but the impact of it on our lives.

The tone in this, the debut pamphlet from working class poet Dean Rhetoric, is all at once challenging, unaccepting, disbelieving and mocking, running a gamut from “Define inoperable”, to “Meet the lump in combat” to a quickfire list of contemptuous comparisons of ‘fighting’ cancer to various styles of wrestling. Rhetoric’ poems encapsulate the sheer helplessness that cancer put us through; that whatever we do or say in our offers of help, it is not enough, was never enough to keep someone alive. As the title Cancer [+Pop Punk] suggests, dripping down through all of this is a litany of cultural references and quotes from various pop punk bands, plus a healthy dose of REM. (this reviewer will leave it to others to debate if the mentioned bands are indeed pop punk, given the preciousness of some gatekeepers in the punk community; this is a literary review, not music journalism.)

The music being the formative connection between the author and the deceased in question, Rhetoric weaves the narrative of loss and vulnerability through allusions to Green Day, Weezer, Dillinger Four, etc. Such is the lasting impact of their songs, that it takes over the form of the work. There is not so much a lyricism in the writing here, as a song-like structure, the poems presented visually on the page between musical staves. This presentation bleeds over, threatens to take over the poems, morphing lines into sing-along chorus with plenty of fa fa fa, la-la, doo doo, di da chanting. This is a defence mechanism: if we can express our distress and despair as quasi-nursery rhymes, perhaps the truth will not hurt as much.

Fruits and vegetables
seeds and antioxidants

[her stomach line tore though, fa, fa, fa!]

The smell of shampoo makes
her cry uncontrollably

[the cancer took her hair away, fa, fa fa!]

Similar to the Internet myth that Emily Dickinson wrote all her poems to fit the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”, Rhetoric pushes the reader into singing along with his work. Those of a musical slant will be tempted to reread the page and attempt a tune of their own. Yet despite all this music, all this setting of song and lyric, there is much left unsaid. The unease of not knowing the perfect words; “specific words you need to avoid | to not talk about the cancer”; the ever-presence of someone’s absence: “It’s getting loud outside and your silence has everywhere to be.” Pop punk fills these silences, but music can only achieve so much. Rhetoric realises their shortcoming, listening favourite songs that are “always accusing me of changing the subject”. Parallel to all of this, the trials of cancer continue without words.

        under neon lights where halos
        hang their laurels
        onto IV drips
        as mothers scream
        and swallow truths
        as hard to chew as hospice food
       and stumble out of swaying rooms
       no medicine improves
       and if these walls could talk
       they wouldn’t.

 We find out in the closing sequence that takes a trip through REM’s Automatic for the People that sixteen years have passed between the initial acquaintance and the death of the friend. The reader is never quite sure to the extent of the pair having been romantically involved or not, merely because the author appears unsure as well. This is not to stray into the realm of the unreliable narrator; rather the work is also a study in the uncertainty and tenderness of teenage relationships. There is already much fragility at play: the consensual removal of clothes, and then later, a kiss unrealised; the admission that “you hated me towards the end”. What seemed possible in 1998 is repeatedly cut off by the brutal reality of 2014’s treatment and subsequent funeral. It is only then that we find out that the death of an ex-partner of nine years is “not a good enough excuse to leave work”, the poem hitting us with the simple facts: no window dressing, no persiflage, just like news of a diagnosis.

All author royalties from the sale of the collection go to WAY (Widowed and Young) for the bereavement support of others, so you can be assured that with your purchase that you are supporting a worthy cause. The quality of the poems, Rhetoric finding an original and engaging way to approach and navigate anguish, is a bonus worthy of applause.

Cancer [+Pop Punk] is available from Broken Sleep Books, pp42, ISBN 978-1-915079-87-9

Poetry Reviews from Broken Sleep Books: Simon Alderwick

Sometimes I write poems & sometimes I write poems is the first English translation of poems from the young Mexican poet Martin Rangel, translated by American writer, poet and translator Lawrence Schimel.

Aside from a few poems which have appeared in Spanish in the collection Luna Hiena, the majority of poems are new. As with all Broken Sleep translations, the original Spanish appears alongside the English translation.

The collection is at points pretty meta – the first poem ‘I translate to steal’, being read as a translation, is itself full of lines worth stealing (or at least be inspired by). “I translate to steal / and I let myself be translated to be stolen”.

Rangel’s poems read like a self aware dark night of the soul, bouncing from sharp insight to bleak truth, helped along by vivid images and killer line after killer line.

“My love dresses in black 
and goes out into the street 
with a pistol in each hand 
ready for everything” 
(life is prey)

“Of all things i’ve forgotten over time 
how to live is the one I miss most” 
(“time passes slower when you can’t sleep” science confirmed)

The title poem requires you to turn your head sideways to read it (if reading on a computer screen) and might just flip your mind upside down. 
“sometimes I weep when I write poems by hand but I only do so when I don’t like them / and I want the ink to blur.” 
If you wonder why some people (perhaps even you reading this) are drawn to write poems, Rangel has as good an explanation as anyone: “Sometimes I write poems about things I feel and sometime I write poems / in order to feel things”. 

Several of the poems are dark and introspective, almost depressing, but still full of insight “You discover that life doesn’t wait for you” laments Rangel in here’s a blood animal that snores within my chest before asking out to the sky to 

“explain to me now 
I shall die 
without knowing”
(birds like suicidal arrows)

“We keep writing poems” returns to the poetry about poetry theme that Rangel does so well. Having survived his dark night of the soul, lines like “we keep writing poems against everything” cut deeper. 
“We keep writing poems and find all the doors are closed” until “everything becomes poems”. 
Rangel is not afraid to expose himself, to show his emotion. He is proud to be a poet, to see poetry as a vocation, and keep at it despite everything. 
“While we dream / while we are alive… we keep writing poems” 

These are poems for poets. Poems to inspire poetry. Poems to translate and steal. 

Liam Bates’ Monomaniac features 20 poems, all of which have ‘mono’ in the title. The poems themselves sometimes seem a little removed thematically from the titles although I did find it helped my understanding of the poems to look up some of the titles in the dictionary.

Titles range from monosaccharide (any of the class of sugars (e.g., glucose) that cannot be hydrolyzed to give a simpler sugar) to monody (a poem lamenting a person’s death) but the poems themselves have several circular themes, including a huge monolith, daffodils and some kind of doctor prescribed pills.

Bates’ poems are accomplished and he has created a complex, believable world where things are not quite how he expects them to be. And for that matter the speaker’s behaviour is equally surreal. Indeed we are never quite sure if it is the speaker or the world that is at odds with the other.

As in all of Bates’ work, his use of enjambment is at the top of the game, giving double meaning, causing uncertainty and raising a smile.

“I’d like to leave my own body
of work beside these giants
of toilet wall artistry”

Monosyllabic, as the title suggests, is a poem made up of one syllable words. For some reason I particularly enjoyed this piece.

The acknowledgements name Andrew McMillan, Caroline Bird and Roger Robinson as having helped Bates develop his unique style. His poems inhabit a similar universe to Kafka, Simic, Ian Seed and Msilocz, but he undoubtedly has his own voice, which he uses to create a world that is definitely worth your time to explore and get lost in.

Dirt by Dominic Leonard was the hardest of these pamphlets for me to get into. But I’m glad I stuck with these poems that are full of rich language and hyper real imagery. These are well constructed, thoughtful poems to be savoured, and I’m still getting to know this behemoth of a collection.

Early favourites include O, Enemy of the State, Death Poem and Whether Mortal Men May Attain True Happiness.

Leonard is an Oxford graduate with a love of medieval poetry, inspired by the likes of Chaucer and Biron. Leonard is clearly a well read guy and it comes across in this work.

There is a lot of meat packed into each poem. The work inhabits a world of kings and empires, of bloodshed and magic, in which Leonard is a sorcerer with a huge canon of classic poetry and literature at his fingertips.

One of my early favourites in Dirt is O, where Leonard seems to speak directly to the reader; where the world of the poem seems more like our own, and Leonard himself seems vulnerable and searching.

“i know the rooms within a scar…

its nights like these that make me wish i could do your cold job

for you . keeping the sky upright , washing the heavy hills.”

Similarly, in Whether Mortal Men May Attain True Happiness, Leonard seems to be in the modern world asking timeless questions

“I bite ice-cream with my
 front teeth & collect badly
 bound books because danger
 I adore you”

Dirt encompasses a range of topics, themes and styles, each poem existing in its own universe with its own rules, which is partly why it was initially difficult to find an anchor whilst reading through. But slowing down and taking on the poems one at a time, coming back to them several times, has been infinitely rewarding and enjoyable. The more time I spend with Dirt, and with individual poems within it, the more I am getting from it. These are poems which reward repeat visits. Poems which are mysterious to the point of being esoteric. Poems full of history, blood and horror.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who will feel a buzz of excitement as they open Honey Monster by Bobby Parker for the first time. Following on from 2018’s masterpiece Working Class Voodoo, Parker delivers a whopping 132 pages of his trademark kitchen sink surrealist beatnik stream of hollowed out thoughts. Where Working Class Voodoo dealt with Bobby’s personal and domestic demons (divorce, fatherhood, addiction and mental illness), Honey Monster seems to take on a more ethereal and worldly view. The poems are still confessional, personal exorcisms and tales of the tilted, jilted and heavily sedated, but at points Parker elevates out of his own predicament to speak truths about the human condition, our society and our species as a whole. It’s not glamorous or hopeful but through the sheer brutality and unreservedness of the text, as well as the zany humour and the surreal otherness of Parker’s view on life, it’s as enjoyable and exciting as any other poetry being written today, and the truths Parker imparts are just as hard hitting and head shifting as any other poet, shaman or seeker out there. Rather than quote particular lines or passages, I thought I’d give a few sample of first lines – partly as they stand as great lines in themselves, particularly in terms of immediately drawing you in, but also as the beauty of the poems is how Parker leads you through his nightmarish altered reality – I don’t think quoting last lines or lines midway through the poems will really do them justice.

“Six months before my daughter was born, my doctor/ introduced me to Benzodiazepines.” (Floating in the Harbour)

“The girl who raped me had a really nice mum…” (Spooky Jeans)

“What kind of hell planet is this?” (Sticky Legs)

“Depression is a bit like Tom Hanks” (I’m Going Over the Fence)

“The sausage looked so lonely in the chip shop window.” (Come Down (Three Bad Dreams))

“The bus is on fire again. I watch it burn as I make tea.” (A Haunting in Kidderminster)

At 132 pages the collection could be a bit tighter, but the ‘filler’ material is in a sense light relief from the intensity of the more stand out sections, and more poems just means you get to spend more time in Bobby Parker’s head, getting more value for money.

It’s not often a collection includes helpline numbers and a disclaimer warning. I’ve not really gone into how serious some of the topics are – I’d be here all day if I listed them out – but these topics are dealt with by someone who has experienced them first hand, speaks from his heart, and somehow creates beautiful, chaotic works of art out of the darkness. I hope he finds some light in his life and I hope he continues to create beautiful poetry for a long time, that all of us can appreciate and enjoy.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Andreea Iulia Scridon

with Andreea Iulia Scridon:

Bio: Andreea Iulia Scridon is a Romanian-American writer and translator. Her translation of a series of short stories by Ion D. Sîrbu, a representative of subversive writing under the communist regime, is forthcoming in 2021 with ABPress, and her co-translations with Adam J. Sorkin of the Romanian poet Traian T. Coșovei are forthcoming in 2021 with Broken Sleep Books. She has also translated a book of poems by Ion Cristofor, forthcoming with Naked Eye Publishing in 2021. She has a chapbook of her own poetry forthcoming with Broken Sleep Books, a mini-book forthcoming with Ethel Press, and a poetry book forthcoming with MadHat Press in 2022.

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?


I am not atypical in that I started out as a voracious reader: as a child, I spent a lot of time coming and going from the library and, under the influence of certain likable characters (Anne Shirley of Green Gables, Pollyanna Whittier, Junie B. Jones, Ramona Quimby, Betsy-Tacy-and-Tib, Samantha, Molly, and Kirsten of the American Girl Series) I kept a diary throughout my childhood, probably not unlike many girls my age at the time. I went to the library so many times that decades later I can remember the plan of the building. And I often think of certain picture books from my childhood that I would love to look through now. 

I became very interested in adult novels with Great Expectations, and went on to devour everything I could find by Haruki Murakami and Jeffrey Eugenides when I was in high school.

My relationship is poetry was more loaded: as a child I felt something that I interpreted as aversion but which was really emotion. I became gradually interested in it, then took to writing it on the London Tube when I moved there, and now it’s my strongest genre. 

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Andreea: I love what translating and writing reviews of others’ work has taught me, but as a result of pandemic isolation lately I’ve been equally interested in reclaiming the self in writing, so I’ve been looking at what might called self-referential fiction. The Russians are my favorites: Tolstoy’s Childhood/Boyhood/Youth, Bunin’s The Life of Arseniev, Makine’s Dreams of My Russian Summers. It’s hard to pin down a particular “strongest” influence because at the moment I read largely for study: if a year ago I was writing historical fiction, now I’m looking an entirely different framework. 

Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer/artist?


For a long time, it was something of a given that I would follow my family dynasty of becoming a doctor. That said, it wasn’t so much a pivotal moment but rather a gradual awakening or process that happened to me when I was sixteen to seventeen, when I began coming into my own and identifying as a free thinker. I also had the support of some wonderful teachers. This all came at the right moment: by 18, I knew what I wanted to do. 

Although my parents are both physicians, both of them are very artistically attuned – though perhaps I shouldn’t say “although” as they have always viewed medicine as a very humanistic occupation. My father is an excellent cartoonist and adapted The Odyssey, The Iliad, and Creation into children’s stories for me, and my very observant and also talented mother also introduced me to a vast range of music, film, literature. 

Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?

Andreea: What’s spectacular is that I’ve been throughout the years most taken by people who have nothing to do with writing, be they part of fleeting encounters or participants in  complicated relationships. But Professor David Ricks, who was then teaching Byzantine Studies and Comparative Literature at King’s College London, was the person who gave poetry an added dimension of humanity that I didn’t know it could have. It was a fortuitous thing to catch him right before he retired. 

Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?


My growing up between Romania, France, and the US absolutely influenced my writing. From an early age, this continuous change of scenery instilled a sense of atmosphere in me, which I think is essential to my poetry. And a certain flexibility, I like to think. There’s an entire epic autobiography in that. I then spent my school years in Florida and my summers in Romania, which is how A Romanian Poem was born – of that experience, of everything it meant and how I “sensed” it. It always felt like an immersive return to the past, as opposed to America, which I would say enlarged my sense of possibility and therefore made me quite enthusiastic…But Romanian aesthetics and tropes are undoubtedly an important part of my work. And I was very lucky in that my grandmother took me around Europe during these vacations, which enlarged my interests, tastes, and knowledge. 

I wrote a chapbook, Under the Nile-Green Sky, based on Debussy’s compositions, which is set in Barcelona and which will be printed by Greying Ghost Press. I wrote that when I stayed at a friend’s in Barcelona for two weeks (Laia Serratosa-Capdevila, a very talented and cerebral poet), and we wrote poetry exclusively on this topic during that time, starting from Isao Tomita’s Debussy covers. Then there’s Unicornucopia, a mini-book coming out with Ethel Press, which is a lyrical flight over Paris. So those are two concrete examples of journeys that directly influenced my work. 

Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

Andreea: I’m proud of A Romanian Poem (forthcoming with MadHat Press at the beginning of 2022)for its symphonic qualities: I feel it is faithful to the emotional experience that I had in mind when I first envisioned it. But my sense of incentive is attached to my feeling that my most meaningful work is always just around the corner.

You can read a taster of this collection here:  http://www.eratiopostmodernpoetry.com/issue29_Scridon.html

Q7: Favorite activities to relax?

Andreea: My idea of relaxation is a walk or a bike ride with no set duration or destination. It might sound dull in its nothingness, but maybe that’s what I need for my thoughts to meander unconstricted. Living in Oxford was particularly lovely for this reason: I’d either go around town and pass by the colleges, the cobblestones shiny with rain and the air rheumy under street-lamps, or follow the line of the Thames down the Canal and run into mother swans with their cygnets following in tidy rows. It felt like the Garden of Eden. 

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others? Or name or show a favorite piece of artwork if you are an artist.


I keep thinking of Lucian Blaga’s poem, “Psalm”, which I translated into English. Here is a fragment:

“God, what do I do now?
I undress in the Midst of you.
I take off my body
like a coat you leave behind
in the road.”

And here’s a self-portrait of that body in acrylic:

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Andreea: Besides my own works of poetry, I want to signal two poetry books that will be published in my English translation this fall. 

Come September, Somewhere a Blind Child will be published with Naked Eye Publishing. It’s a very moral poetry, though I think not intentionally so – rather the voice of a mature, humble yet intellectual and very likable man comes through in every brief experience that is refined into a poem. I’m very fond of its colloquial gravitas, pleasant lulling (never boring, rather sensual), and its honest perspectives.


In another interview, I recommended translation to any poet because of the special relationship that you develop with the author’s work by creating it all over again: “I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my lids and all is born again”, Sylvia Plath would say. But I also recommend it for the way in which it forces you to be attentive to every single word in a poem. This is something I learned co-translating in particular, with Adam J. Sorkin, an impressive translator and a friend I treasure for his sincerity and wit. Together, we translated the selected poetry of Traian T. Coșovei, who I think represents something new for Anglophone readers: there’s something robotic and cosmic about the world he builds, out of a very human machinery. That should be out in November 2021. 

You can read an excerpt here: https://www.asymptotejournal.com/blog/2020/10/13/translation-tuesday-three-poems-by-traian-t-cosovei/

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

with Briony Collins:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?


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?


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?


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?


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?


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?


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?


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.


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


Bio: ‘Briony Collins is a poet, novelist, and playwright. She won the 2016 Exeter Novel Prize and has several prominent publications. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Blame It On Me, is forthcoming with Broken Sleep Books in August 2021. She is co-founding editor of Cape Magazine.’