with JP Seabright
JP Seabright is a queer writer (she/they) living in London, with poetry, short stories and experimental work published online and in print. Their debut poetry pamphlet, an experimental conceptual work, Fragments from Before the Fall: An Anthology in Post-Anthropocene Poetry is published by Beir Bua Press. A debut prose chapbook NO HOLDS BARRED is due out with Lupercalia Press in early 2022, as is GenderFux, a collaborative poetry pamphlet, published by Nine Pens Press. More of their work can be found at https://jpseabright.com and via Twitter @errormessage.
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences & biggest influences currently?
I think I’ve always written or at least made up stories. I expect every writer says that, but I first explored this through songwriting, having been in a band with my brother and others as a teenager. We self-produced an album, which sold exceptionally poorly in the schoolyard, but that DIY approach is something that’s stayed with me in my writing.
I read voraciously as a child and teenager, and was obsessed particularly with dystopian fiction from the age of 12 or so. George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Aldous Huxley were pivotal writers for me, as was Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and later in my teens Emily Bronte, Margaret Atwood, T.S. Eliot and James Joyce.
Current influences remain Atwood, Eliot and Joyce and writers such as Lucy Ellmann, Rupert Thomson, Susanna Clarke. But I’ve mainly been consuming vast amounts of poetry this year, which has been wonderful, with far too many contemporary favourites and influences to mention here.
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
JP: As well as songs, I wrote mainly poems as a child and young teen, but I don’t think I ever seriously thought about being a ‘writer’. Probably because I didn’t have any encouragement from either home or school to pursue it, or to even share my words. It has always been a burning desire however, and I wrote my first story in 1996 (aged 23) which was published in a national magazine in the UK. I got paid! It was 10 years before I saw my second published, the gap largely due to ill-health, as well as my own lack of confidence. But I guess that first publication (as well as a very encouraging rejection letter from Faber & Faber, to whom I also sent the piece – not knowing any other publishers at the time!) gave me hope that I should continue to pursue my dream.
Q3: Who has helped you most with writing?
JP: Until this year I’d never been part of a writers’ group, or shared any work with anyone. I lack confidence in my writing and due to chronic illness (I have had ME/CFS since 1996) my opportunities to write have often been limited. Early in the year I joined the MumWrite programme run by Nikki Dudley, which was the first time I ever took my writing ‘seriously’ enough to devote time to it and share it with others. Another key support has been Full House Literary Magazine run by Leia Butler. They accepted a piece of my work in early 2021, and I later joined their editorial team when I saw a callout, and since summer this year have been their Assistant Editor. It has been wonderful and a true privilege to read and support other writers’ work in this way, and for the first time to feel part of a writing community (largely on Twitter). Leia and Nikki have both provided invaluable encouragement and support for my work.
Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?
JP: I was born and currently live in the UK. Moving at the age of 8 from the Midlands to the flat and sparse countryside of Norfolk in East Anglia. I think this only influenced my writing by reinforcing my feeling as an outsider from a young age. In response, I hid myself further in books and music. I have travelled extensively, taking two years on a round-the-world trip through the Indian subcontinent, South-East Asia and Australasia. I have also lived for three years in Amsterdam before returning home to London. Experiencing other cultures, peoples, languages, food and customs always helps to broaden the mind, and has influenced my work – both indirectly through my outlook, but also directly in my unfinished travelogue account of that two year trip.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
JP: Probably my work-in-progress novel. But then that’s easy to say, because its still unfinished and not yet shared with the world. Hopefully, one day, soon! I’m also very excited about my recent publication Fragments from Before the Fall, particularly because it addresses the climate crisis in a very real and startling way. As well as the forthcoming poetry pamphlet GenderFux, out soon in 2022 from Nine Pens Press. This is a collaboration with two other poets, Jem Henderson and Jonathan Kinsmen. Both brilliant writers and far more experienced than I. Working with them was my first experience of collaborating on a poetry project and was great fun and very creatively stimulating.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
JP: Listening to music is my main relaxing, inspiring, as well as motivating and energy-inducing activity. Spending time and playing with my two-year-old daughter is up there as one of life’s most rewarding activities. And writing of course. Writing without imposing purpose or deadlines, just for the sheer creative joy of putting thoughts and words on the page. This is my jam.
Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from a writing of yours or others? Or share a link to a favorite artwork or music video.
I know T.S. Eliot may be a bit old-hat to quote from these days, but his poetic works that I first read as a teenager have often stayed with me, and were my first introduction to a more ‘modern’ style of poetry. I loved unpicking the references in The Wasteland, but this quote from Choruses from ” The Rock ” has long been a favourite. Not least because in my professional life I am a librarian, specialising in information systems and knowledge management for NGOs, so it has always been a prescient message for the information age.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
Q8: What kind of music do you enjoy? Favorite musical artists, influences, songs that inspire?
JP: Music is a huge part of my life and probably my first love. I still play and compose, although rarely these days during the parenting commitments, and my brother is a professional musician so it’s always been a large presence in my life. I always have a soundtrack in my head when I’m writing, either a soundscape of how I imagine the work ‘sounds’ or actual music. For my recently-published poetry debut I collated a Spotify soundtrack which soundtracks the work. It’s quite gloomy (be warned!) but elsewhere my musical tastes range from ambient/experimental work, prog rock, pure pop, classic rock, traditional and modern jazz, contemporary classical and opera. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7ahCC5VNSNx6cwWTf1bAhw?si=2b7c5f31dd074173
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
JP: My poetry debut pamphlet has just been published by Beir Bua Press. Fragments from Before the Fall: An Anthology of Post-Anthropocene Poetry is a conceptual experimental piece, which uses erasure as a means of commenting on the current climate crisis. This is a subject I’m passionate about and this form marries my nascent attempts at ‘eco-poetry’ with a lifelong obsession with dystopian and post-apocalyptic worlds.