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The Good Dark – an interview with Ryan Van Winkle

An interview with Ryan Van Winkle by SJ Fowler.

Poet Ryan Van Winkle wearing a scarf

A central figure in a new generation of 21st century British-based poets who are taking control of the curatorial space of their medium, Ryan Van Winkle‘s decade on the British Isles has been spent consistently expanding the possibilities of literature, especially live literature and most specifically with an always outward, global, generous mode. Having pioneered events and programs in his now home city of Edinburgh, his projects have seen him instigate tours and collaborations across the globe, from Pakistan to Iraq and back. His own work has been marked by an incisive and ever evolving sense of privacy, intimacy and intensity and this interview is presented to mark the launch of his long-awaited second collection. Van Winkle is a key poet in understand the similarities and differences between contemporary British and American poetics, and a vision of what the poet might now be, or become.

3:AM: There has been five human years since your debut collection, and the Good Dark. Many would laud your patience and diligence in taking ‘proper’ time to develop your work, but was this period about the nature of your writing, letting it evolve and breath, or about more practical factors?

Ryan Van Winkle: Good question and one appropriate as during the slow forming of this collection I often thought (quite jealously) of the pace of your own output. However, I do take my time in making a collection – particularly because of what I think a collection is for. To me, a book should operate as a unit, as poems that have a reason for being bound together and presented as a whole. That’s just my opinion and not a rule. There are many ways for people to make a book.

One of my favorite things in the world is that 1966 John Baldessari painting, Solving Each Problem as It Arises in which he writes,

‘It can be subject matter of religious nature, a scene in a foreign country. Whatever the subject the professional artist makes exhaustive studies of it. When he feels that he has interpreted the subject to the extent of his capabilities he may have a one-man exhibition whose theme is the solution of the problem. It is surprising how few people who view the paintings realize this.’

So, I consider my books as a solution to a problem. However, I don’t tend to write towards a brief or to a particular concept. For instance, I’ve never done something like you’ve done and leapt into a project where I explore & research the prison environment as you did in that powerful Minimum Security Prison Dentistry collection. I admire that ability and have thought a lot about it and have been able to absorb some it’s spirit and use it in other outlets such as in commissions, collaborations and theatre work (but more on that later).

My point is, for a collection, it takes a good while before I fully understand what problem I’m trying to solve. With this collection I thought from the beginning that I’d have to address the failure of my relationship but, as the collection matured, I was surprised to find that there were a lot of bones sticking out from that very thick thematic spine which gives the book its shape. Losing an important relationship caused me to reflect on other things which have been lost – periods of time, memories and objects which we simply never get back. In that way, The Good Dark, is an accounting, a stock-taking which deals with growing up, becoming an adult, and learning what we carry with us from one epoch in our lives to the next. You can’t take everyone. You can’t take everything. Life is an EasyJet flight where the excess baggage charge is far more exorbitant.

So, with that in mind, I always assumed a book would take about 4 years to form. The length of time it takes to graduate from high school or university. It is enough time to evolve but not become unrecognizable and to chart that process. Which, I guess, is what I’ve accidentally done between my two collections. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m remembering that my brothers and I are all four years apart in age. My parents liked a four year cycle too, I guess.

So, time, to me is an essential ingredient to a collection of mine. It isn’t that I’m precious – though I’m sure it can appear that way – but about the length of time it takes me to understand what a poem I write is really trying to say and then zooming out and understanding what a collection might be trying to say. That process is really slow but it is also very natural to me. It is a slow sifting of material. And, I’m lucky, because I’m actually able to draft a poem very quickly. In the past 5 years there have been hundreds of poems written or half-written which could have gone into this collection. I edit each one of them – often well after the original inspiration occured – and I try to hear what the poem is trying to say. That process takes a while as it means going back and interrogating all the poems individually – trying to understand what a poem is trying to do, what its secret resonances are, what is moving under the surface of the poem. Sometimes there’s nothing below the surface and the poem about taking a shit is just a poem about taking a shit. To me, that’s not an interesting poem and I’ll discard it once I’ve looked at it a few times. The interesting thing, for me, is discovering what the poem is trying to tell me about myself, my more unconscious concerns and worries and obsessions. So, as those poems with a little more meat get polished up and tightened I start considering the material I’m piling up as a unit and imagining what a book might look like, what it might sound like, what solution it might present. It became quite clear to me in the while between getting the book accepted by Penned in the Margins and its release that there were quite a few poems which addressed my break-up very directly (like these poems on 3:AM) and which, ultimately, were discarded. That’s because many of those poems were written a long time ago now and removed from the proximity of the situation, they lost their power and distracted from the larger picture. Which, I feel, is a narrator coming to terms with the past and accepting the present. If the book was released in 2012 (when I thought it was finished) I don’t think I’d have had the emotional sense to see that. The reason it evolved is that I had had distance from the poems which allowed me to make decisions about what I needed to cut.

This, for me, is always a difficult process because I can get very loyal to a poem – perhaps because of a certain line, or a reference, or maybe a joke – and I often want to believe the poem can sneak into the collection. However, as Mario Petrucci once explained to me: a book isn’t just a collection of poems, it isn’t a greatest hits album containing all the poems you think are strong.

So, up until a month ago I was deleting poems from the collection and, at this stage, I wouldn’t change a thing in the book. To my mind the poems presented here have reached the limits of my talent. I couldn’t make them better now if I tried. Some have taken many years to get here but they are truly finished.

So, the way I feel about what a book of mine should do – that’s going to limit my ability to get a full collection out in the world. Over the years I’ve thought about the poet I might want to be and made a decision that a full printed collection didn’t have to be my only formal output. It has taken some time to gain confidence in that and, partly, being involved in your Enemies work has reminded me that this is all play and that the stakes aren’t too high and there is incredible value in just starting to roll. Part of learning to roll, however, was giving myself permission to leave things less cooked, written in a style out of keeping with the collection which was growing at the same time. So, in between books, there were theatre pieces like ViewMaster, Adrift with Screen Bandita, and Red, Like Our Room Used to Feel theatre pieces, a slew of collaborations, and some fun commissions like Elemental which took place in Australian planetariums and allowed me to work with long-time friend and collaborator Dan Gorman & the filmmaker Rebecca Salvadori again. So, I certainly have started making work faster than I used to though there’s still an aspect of that work which feels unfinished, work which I’d change. Which I have changed.

To me, these poems are another type of work, almost another form, distinct from the two collections I’ve written. I find these works tend to be more abstract, more elliptical, longer, than the poems I take more time with. I guess over a longer period I have more opportunities to go back with a knife as the poem informs me what it is trying to be. What I’m excited about now that The Good Dark is out in the world is looking back at how work which was topical, commissioned, collaborative etc will effect my next collection.

3:AM: Do you think there’s a marked difference between the books, stylistically?

RVW: Yes, and I hope it is evident to readers. I felt that my first collection, Tomorrow, We Will Live Here, was quite deliberate. It had a deliberate voice, one that didn’t reveal too much, left things unsaid. That was a primary concern of mine at the time and those narrators were often rooted in describable places, describable rooms. They had names. Yet, in writing the poems which formed The Good Dark I began letting things spin out and I wanted a style which reflected the overwhelming series of emotions I was going through at the time of an important relationship dissolving. I suspect everybody struggles with a torrent of troubled thoughts at times and, in particular, with recurring ones which you just go over and over for as long as you are awake. Sometimes it feels like there’s a gerbil running a wheel in your brain and the writing of the book was partly an effort at trying to get that gerbil to slow the fuck down. I wanted to get these thoughts on paper in a way that kept that spinning vibe and not bash them too much.

There were a couple of important tangents to settling on the style of this collection. One tangent is that when I was finding the voice of this collection I read Michael Burkard’s thoughts on rewriting in his Selected & Uncollected poems – Envelope of Night.

Revision had served me well sometimes in the past, but I had an urgency now to give up revision as a form of rewriting. Rather now to use revision as I had once read in an essay by Denise Levertov as a way of seeing things again, to experience the thing again.

Having extensively rewritten the poems in Tomorrow, We Will Live Here in order to make them communicate as simply and clearly as possible that quote was a profound notion to me. And, as I said, I do still take a lot of time editing, but because of the material I was working with, it was natural to let the poems feel more tangled and to not over simplify or feel the need to explain.

I let the poems themselves guide me in this. One in particular was a keystone of the collection. A Raincoat, A Spell of Rain Ago was written before Tomorrow, We Will Live Here was published and I very much wanted it in that collection as I felt it thematically suited the series of narrators who couldn’t articulate the problems they were mired in, the lives they had come to live. However. the style was sharply different than the other poems in the book. It was so weird and wild I just couldn’t find a place for it in Tomorrow without breaking the momentum I was building there. Ultimately, I decided to cut it. But I noted it as a shift to a different kind of rewriting where I allowed a poem to go further and kept that trajectory. It might read like a creative writing exercise (it wasn’t but I can see why it might be thought so) but I can remember feeling myself stretching when I wrote that – getting somewhere closer to where I wanted my work to sit for a while.

Because it was cut out of Tomorrow, We Will Live Here I really just wanted to write a book where a poem like that would fit in. Where it could be among brothers. So, I found myself shifting into a less deliberate voice with less of a need to hang an emotion on some kind of distinct narrator or story. Oddly, I even thought about cutting it from The Good Dark but, in so many ways, it contained what the collection seemed to be about – accounting and absence. It was a harbinger of my concerns long before I’d unraveled them through the process of writing the other poems in this book.

So much of what I liked about Tomorrow, We Will Live Here was that casual but evasive voice. The characters could describe where they were and what they had done. They were clear about certain things – they ran away from their wife on 9/11, they found a dead body under a bridge, they were on death row – but they didn’t quite know what it meant or how, exactly, they felt about where they were. They were struggling with the decisions and fates which had lead them to where they were. They were narrators who didn’t know themselves but yet wanted to express something and there was a lot of of reading in-between the lines. I felt very comfortable in that kind of cagey voice and I eventually recognized it as emblematic of a personal problem. The shift in style between collections is me making an effort to challenge my natural inclination to operate in between the lines, between the said and unsaid.Unsurprisingly, being left by my partner caused a lot of introspection and caused me to re-consider why I still feel most comfortable in that in-between place. So, in this collection, I’ve said more of the unsaid than I would have previously. It was a way of rectifying what I had broken.

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3:AM: Naturally the subject of the works are markedly different, as you have aged five human years. Mortality, aging, withering and other inspirationally inevitable things seem to be an increasing occupation for you, as I’d suggest, they should be…

RVW: Are you threatening me?

But, seriously I don’t know if I’m old enough for those things to be an increasing occupation. I’ve always been interested in the human life-span, working out how I feel about getting older, letting memories fade, changes in general. I think it will probably stay that way as I get closer to understanding the limits of my mortality. For instance, way back in 2006 I was writing poems like ‘An Old Photographer Gives Up’ which opens with the not exactly youthful ‘Dear Camera, today we are glaucoma…’. I’ve always been an old man, it is only now my hair color is catching up.

3:AM: You are part of a generation of poets in the UK who really seem to be taking responsibility for their curatorial space, in the way artists have for a long time. What I mean by this is it seems outside of criticism, anthologising and academia, if a poet organised events, exhibitions, tours, led podcast programs, created international exchanges and artistic hubs, there seemed to be a bit of resistance to this. The reasons for that are for another time, but I wanted to ask you whether you had deliberately taken on these activities, or whether they happened to you by accident? And whether you saw this widening of the poet’s purview as important?

I’ve taken on a lot of work outside of my own writing process and I’ve certainly taken on those activities willingly and deliberately. I’ve taken on work, largely, which I find enjoyable and which allows me to work with, meet, and speak with a plethora of people.

Back in 2001 I started volunteering in a space called The Forest in Edinburgh (and this touches on your later question). The Forest is an artist-run, collectively-owned, free arts & events space masquerading as a volunteer cafe. It was an environment where I was able to work directly with all types of people including artists and organizers. I collaborated with musicians there for the first time, starting publishing zines and chapbooks which involved working with artists and other writers, and I started putting on the kind of events I wanted to see like The Golden Hour. And many others were doing this in the space at the same time which introduced me to a range of work from electronic music to grass roots activism. That was all supreme fun but – importantly – we also had to run a cafe staffed by volunteers, deal with landlords and the council and the police and manage all the events’ logistics in the cafe. I realized that if I wanted to be involved in the fun stuff I had to be responsible, too, for the work involved in keeping the space going whether that be volunteering for more shifts, helping to look after visiting artists, liaising with the council or cleaning the toilets.

Obviously, all that would have taught me a lot about things which sound alright on a CV but that wasn’t on my mind. We just wanted to continue the Forest project so we could keep a place where we could make anything we wanted. We were working, I guess, for artistic freedom. For us and for the people who still use the space or may use it in the future. I feel like my whole ability to survive as an artist is thanks to the fact that The Forest exists and I hope we can keep it going so others can have the opportunity to be transformed by it. On a very basic level – because it is run by volunteers, because it allows people a way to meaningfully engage in a project and affect real change on a micro level – it offers people who find it an idea about a third way. In spaces like The Forest you find people realizing that not all public spaces must be commercial, that money doesn’t mean everything, and that there are like-minded people who will support you if you are struggling.

In many ways, I’ve been astounded by how The Forest has led directly to the things I do now. For instance, my work with Highlight Arts in Iraq and Syria has come about thanks to having shared responsibility of The Forest with the aforementioned Dan Gorman who got me involved when I was Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library. Or there’s the fact that the Forest Fringe was born out of a friendship with Deborah Pearson who was studying in Edinburgh and working with me in the cafe at the time. Making guacamole, probably talking shit about Canada. And through the Forest Fringe I was introduced to a kind of theatre I hadn’t known existed before and that led directly to Red, Like Our Room Used to Feel and the success of that gave me a huge boost of confidence in the poems which are in this book.

That kind of work and that community have even effected the work in The Good Dark. When Tomorrow, We Will Live Here was published I spent a year or so reading from it in front of audiences and I’d created what I think was a pretty tight set of 10 – 15 minutes. I had some funny stories, some dark poems, and I felt comfortable. But, after a while, I realized I was scared to present new material to an audience. The material in The Good Dark was too hard for me to read and fulfill what I saw as my obligation as a performer. Mostly due to insecurity, I won’t read my poem till I think you like me so I’ll stall and try to build a relationship with an audience and I couldn’t see a way of elegantly doing that with The Good Dark poems. But I knew I had to get comfortable with them (and test them) in front of an audience somehow. I turned to my friend Gareth Warner who’d been the treasurer at The Forest. He also was an electronic musician called ‘Ragland’ and together we put out the Red, Like Our Room Used to Feel album. The material, at that time (2010, prior to Tomorrow, We Will Live Here’s release), was already close to forming a collection. At least, that’s what I thought. Later that year I was asked to be involved with the first Hidden Door festival in Edinburgh. They were looking for collaborative installations and I immediately thought of our album and wondered how to bring that to life. I’d been seeing a lot of ways of presenting theatre thanks to the work Andy Field and Debbie were doing at Forest Fringe. I’d seen Debbie do a very sweet, very nostalgic show in a tent as well as other intimate pieces which Forest Fringe had put on at the Battersea Arts Centre and those kind of small spaces with limited audiences seemed ideal for the poems I was writing. I saw a way in which I could present what I saw as soft, intimate, quiet material.

In this way, Red, Like Our Room Used to Feel became a theatrical experience for one person. Just me, you, poems, and a room filled with references to the objects, smells, sounds and images in the reading. I didn’t tell a story or really speak, I just read the poems and then left the room with the audience member in it. It was in this way I came to feel confident in the poems, began to see what the could do, and saw they did have meaning to listeners despite being more abstract than my previous, very solid work. I also had the opportunity to understand what point they were making as a unit. I could sense what was absent in terms of collecting these poems into book. Thanks to a review in Exeunt by Tom Wicker I saw that the poems as gathered in that performance portrayed a narrator trapped in a mausoleum of memory. In gathering a collection together I could see that was only one note and that with more space (60 poems rather than 15 as in the performance) that one note was tiresome to sustain and would have been awful and too intense and too indulgent to send into the world. Which all had a radical effect on this book and so, what I’m trying to say is, you never know what a thing is going to turn into, how things will flow together and overlap. I think I got the chance to be Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library largely thanks to the volunteer work and event production I did at the Forest which led directly to all the podcast work I’ve been doing the past seven years with Colin Fraser.

Those connections, that line backwards, is always fun to look at and the lessons I learned from all of this non-writing work are many, least of all that there isn’t a necessary border between the organizing work and creative work and that the artists I admired are ones who support other people in their work as well as their own.

As much as I can, I want to be involved and engaged with people doing stuff. I always believed that I was meeting some of the best people in the world, people who were generous with their time and their talents for no reason other than the pleasure of making. I also fundamentally believed that movements are founded in these kind of fertile public, yet backroom, spaces. Now, I don’t think we’ve yet made a movement out of the Forest though it still exists and I hope in time it will be known widely for the massive wealth of talent which flowed through it. Got their hands dirty in it. Put a shoulder to the wheel and built, moved, hauled, and gave.

I do know that, right now, if you look at the artists and organizers who are linked to the Forest you’ll find people who are making brilliant art, organizing events, and supporting others all over the world. So, all that said, doing stuff with other people – especially if it involves supporting someone else’s work – is a major part of my purview. Not only does it contribute to the work I make as a poet but as a human it is important to support people who are making an effort. Not everybody has had the experiences I’ve had, but everyone I know well contributes to the community just by doing free gigs, collaborating with others, or organizing projects or events.

3:AM: Part of this curatorial activity involves you traveling, often, more than most poets I’d say – Iraq, Pakistan, Germany, Bulgaria etc… – Is this just a pleasant (if you think it’s pleasant) side effect of your outlook and activity, or a deliberately vital part of your general creative mode?

RVW: It is a pretty pleasant side effect though not without its challenging aspects. In terms of travel and my creative mode, I always find it hard to write when I’m on the road. Mostly because the writing tends to drift towards a touristic diary and it never seems to reveal anything more than surface to me, so most of that stuff goes unpublished.

What does tend to happen is it feeds my poetry in a larger way. Just in terms of traveling to places that people have preconceived or abstract notions of like Iraq or Syria is profound. What I end up thinking about and learning about is how people are wildly kind and generous and loving all over the world and that the differences between people across cultures are far less significant than our similarities. It turns out that kids skip school in Damascus, that radio stations in Erbil play recognizable hits, that people everywhere enjoy a good boogie. The fact that one can empathize with those whose experiences are wholly unique to you is always astounding for me to see in practice.

So, travel affords these real moments of feeling connected and human and part of the world. But, then, there’s the alone time and the disconnectedness from your home, your relations, your past. There’s that feeling of other-ness. And all that is balanced by the joy in spotting something unique, something a simple as a mannequin with a toaster face, or a rad motorcycle detail. Travel heightens my attention to detail and my feelings of being connected and simultaneously individual, singular.

And those larger feelings do feed into my work as well as the persistent notion that I don’t have to travel to achieve it. I can miss my love anywhere in the world. I can miss my brothers anywhere in the world. I can miss them by just staying in my adult flat (which, of course, is far away from my childhood home). I think my two collections try to negotiate those concerns and there are ideas about being close and being distant which have certainly been influenced and heightened by travel (and living abroad).

That said, I’m not certain that travel is vital. In Tomorrow, We Will Live Here I opened with the Bill McKibben quote, ‘Why leave when you can live in a place you understand and which understands you’. That quote would be equally at home in The Good Dark because I still struggle with that idea. I still live in a place far apart from my childhood home which, in many ways, I could imagine never having left. I’m compelled to try to understand why I live abroad. And when I willfully organized myself on endless tours for months and months I was also interrogating why I was doing it – I was avoiding sorting out my adult home – but I was always returning to Scotland, always wishing to get home, to slow down and rest.

I’ve always seen travel as an almost dangerous thing and I was keen for it and yet terrified. I was terrified that I would meet people in Bosnia or elsewhere whom I would care about, become friends with. And yet, I could foresee a time when letters and emails would dwindle, when I wouldn’t visit or they wouldn’t visit for many years, maybe never again. Travel, inherently, is a giant sadness. The world is too big. And you have to say goodbye too often. Sometimes, though, you’re lucky. You get to develop new projects with people, you get to play again, and those relationships – when I sit to think about it – are incredible considering the vast amount of people we both meet.

Which reminds me that another great part of travel is meeting other artists and allowing my work to be influenced by their practice. I very much enjoy meeting poets. Like, hanging out with you in Bulgaria that first time we met was inspiring for me. I was definitely in a rut as The Good Dark felt done but didn’t have a publisher and I wasn’t writing any new material for it. So, with that book in a state of stasis I was worried by the lack of new poems and I was frustrated by the fact that the few poems I had produced weren’t coalescing into anything yet. I was worried that if I couldn’t place the second collection, I would still want to write a third yet I didn’t have any direction for that third collection.

At that point, I remember meeting you and finding a great freedom in talking to about your own process and thinking through what a poem could be, what it could do, how it can work, and I came to understand the conceptual and avant garde a little better and felt more loyal to it. I could see how it could be related to and absorbed in my own work – I think you once sarcastically quipped, ‘That’s right Ryan, a poem always has to be understood.’ That really reminded me of what I was trying to do with The Good Dark – coupled with Burkard’s earlier quote – those were important thoughts during the editing process and probably the reason why the book closes where it does. Meeting other poets who have read and supported my work, who have offered profound thoughts on my podcast, totally effects my work.

3:AM: What has kept you in Edinburgh, by that I mean this side of the pond, for as long as you’ve been here, way over a decade I think?

RVW: That question, artistically, has been the source of a lot of the considerations in my work and, for a long time, I argued with myself about whether I did live here at all.

I moved to Edinburgh in 1999. Practically, I’d say, it was The Forest which has kept me here as it was exactly what I was looking for in my life. I got involved in 2001 when my girlfriend at the time got sick of me hanging about the house all day pretending to write poems. Back then the Forest was a tiny space with a couple of turntables, a video library, and a handful of committed volunteers who organized film nights, bizarre happenings with lots of super 8 projectors and massively over-crowded hippy style Open Mic Night called Kin. Importantly, there was a clear entry point (volunteer) and a clear mission (keep this thing going by selling coffee and burritos) which bound the enterprise together. I was a manager there for 8 years (and 3 venues) and even when I had to return home to America, I was eager to get back to the people I knew who were busy putting on shows, throwing parties and changing lives.

Of course, operating out of a large church in the centre of the city put us on the radar of bureaucracy and authority which has left a sour taste in my mouth in terms of how I feel about the concerns of Edinburgh City Council and many of my best friends have sought refuge in cities like London and Berlin where it is easier to make things happen, where things are already happening, and where the battle for support isn’t a constant time-consuming process which distracts you from the primary goal of creating a space to play, experiment, fail. This was all happening during the making of The Good Dark and I was working out why I was staying in Edinburgh when so many of the closest people in my life had picked up sticks. (Dan Gorman famously left after the council imposed a ‘dancing ban’ at the venue he was managing here.) But, ultimately, I’ve lived here for over a decade and established a life and I felt it would be too hard to try to do that again and I knew I didn’t want to return home.

With that in mind, Edinburgh remains the most comfortable place I can imagine living. Many friends are still here or return regularly, people I’ve worked with for a long time are here, Creative Scotland & other institutions have been very generous and supportive of my work and and I feel comfortable and secure in a smaller city where I know my way around physically and socially. Like, I hate being in Rome and not knowing where to buy duct tape. Coming to terms with this simultaneous feeling of being trapped and feeling cozy crept into these poems.

3:AM: My personal experiences of Edinburgh and it’s poetry have been remarkably positive, now, after so long working there in literature, how do you feel about the city?

RVW: At the moment, I’m really glad to be living here. I think, as you know, there’s a lot of great people here doing a plethora of work in literature and in the arts in general. And, importantly, the people doing that work seem to be sticking around and being afforded the space and support to grow and expand. I won’t say I’m entirely happy with how the city council continues to stymie artistic activity outside of the rumspringa of August’s festival madness but there are an increasing number of people willing to fight back against the restrictions placed on doing public events or forming creative spaces throughout the city. And I think people are waking up to the value of having a vibrant cultural scene even if they aren’t personally invested in it which is important. Certainly, the live literature scene is doing very well here partly because it is an artform that doesn’t tend to be too loud and doesn’t require a lot of investment to be seen as successful. I’m cautiously optimistic that the people doing things now will continue and foster others willing to do the same. I’ve seen a few life-cycles of events growing and then declining but despite the precarious nature of eras and epochs the scene does seem to be growing.

3:AM: Do you think you’ll write your whole life, until you die?

I don’t see why I’d stop and I know from when I do take a break from writing poetry (sometimes deliberately, sometimes not) I get a little angsty in my daily life. So, I think as a person who naturally has a degree of neuroses (does everyone hate me, how did I get here, am I happy, what is happy, I’m satisfied, it it okay to be satisfied) poetry has become a natural outlet.

Often poets I interview speak about the ability to surprise yourself during the process of making work. It is no different for me and what I’ve found recently as I’ve been assembling and discussing The Good Dark is that through my poems I’m speaking to myself and trying to come to terms with what being alive is and how I feel about it and discovering where these feelings may come from. I don’t think there are any answers, but there are a lot of different ways to consider the question. I feel like no matter how well I know myself, there will be a problem in need of a solution.

The Good Dark is available from Penned in the Margins


SJ Fowler is a poet and artist. His latest collection is {Enthusiasm} from Test Centre (2015). He is the poetry editor of 3:AM magazine.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, May 25th, 2015.