I met Amy Taylor on Twitter a few years ago, where we’ve exchanged the occasional tweets. She lives in Edinburgh, known worldwide for culture and literature – a good place for any writer. I only found out recently that Amy writes poetry, and it’s interesting poetry, rich in ideas. So I invited her to answer a few questions for our February Fresh Featured – here she discusses journalism, the benefits of poetry, and words that are odious as fuck…
KG: So Amy, I first knew you as a journalist/reviewer via the wonderful world of Twitter, and now here you are with some ace poetry. Do you feel more comfortable as a critical writer, or as a creative writer, or do you feel best when you’re doing a bit of both?
AT: Thank you, that’s really kind! I prefer to call myself a writer.
It’s funny, because for the last 6/7 years or so, I was all about being a journalist. I did internships, wrote for free, attended various festivals, started blogging. I even worked as an editor for two publications for a few years.
I told everyone that I was an “aspiring journalist”, and I hoped that one day I’d get one of those “proper jobs” that everyone talks about, like being a staff writer at a paper and that would make me a REAL journalist.
Then, two years ago, I had a baby, and taking time off from my reviewing schedule, , made me realise that reviewing wasn’t making me happy; who was reading it? What was it doing for artists? What was it doing for me? Nothing. So I decided to do something else, something fun, and this is it.
I still review, but I don’t go to the theatre 5-6 times a week anymore!
KG: What’s your favourite thing about poetry as an art form?
AT: That there are no limits; a poem can be two lines, it can be 50, or more. It can take any form, it can be about anything. Poetry has always struck me as being a very free way of writing.
On Christmas Eve
We drank summer berry wine
An out of sorts drink
For an out of sorts season
Next year, it will be different
We said, as
Our eyes locked and our lips
Turned to sweet berry stone
Next year, it will be different.
It will be different
It has to be.
It has to.
KG: Do you have a favourite word, or a least favourite word?
AT: My favourite word is odious. I think it’s such an eloquent way of saying an everyday, and overused, tabloidy word. Is Tabloidy a word? I also love the word ‘fuck’, and I use it far too much. Or not enough.
My least favourite word is ‘just’, as in “I’m just emailing to ask”, or “Just wanted you to know.”
I get a lot of press releases from PR companies and press officers that tend to start like that, and it irritates me more than it should. No, you’re not just emailing to ask me a question, you are asking me a question, get on with it.
‘Just’ makes things more clunky and laborious than they need to be. Be more direct, dammit.
KG: What writing projects do you have on at the moment?
AT: I’m currently pulling together a bundle of my poems in the hope that I can make something of a chapbook, or maybe even a collection out of them.
I’m also working on a project that started as a short story, but could become something a little bigger, possibly a novella, or maybe even a novel. It’s changed a lot over the last few months, and I’m currently researching a couple of things within it. I’m sorry to be so mysterious, but I don’t want to jinx it!
When You’re Strange
I’d been feeling strange
Something was happening
On the inside
Where I couldn’t see
But I’m not dying
Because I’m pretty sure
I’m not dying
I did the logical thing
Pissed on a stick but
There was only one pink
But I still felt strange
I went to wash my hands
And hurl the stick
In the bin
But there were two pink lines
Where one had been
When I felt strange
But I’m not dying.
KG: When did you start writing poetry?
AT: I started writing poetry when I was 10 and I was learning about the solar system at school. I started writing silly poems about the sun – The first line was: “The sun, the sun,” but I forget how the rest of it went – and the planets and I found that I really enjoyed it.
Better still people (grownups) seemed to enjoy reading them, which gave me a lift. I wrote regularly for years, but then I stopped, and I’m not entirely sure why. I started again last year though, and I’ve rediscovered my love for poetry.
Penny for Them
On long summer afternoons
My daughter smiles like my Granny
We sat together, her cup full of tea
My glass always half full of lemonade
Surrounded by cake
She’d smile at me and say
“Penny for them”
And I’d say
“Oh, it’s nothing.”
I’d make something up
I’d say what I was thinking
On cold winter mornings
My daughter smiles like my Granny
As we sit together, her face, not her own
And I’ll see my Granny in her grin, which says
“Penny for them”
And I’ll say
“It’s funny you should ask”
“I wish you were still here.”
KG: And finally – any words of wisdom or advice – writing or otherwise – you want to share with us?
AT: You don’t need permission, you don’t need to justify it. If you want to write, then write something, anything.
I spent a very long time not writing, thinking things like, “Oh, I’m trying to be a journalist, I’m not supposed to write poetry!” so I didn’t write a word and it’s one of my biggest regrets.
Stop making excuses. Write.
If you are an emerging or unpublished poet, and would also like to submit work for a weekly Fresh spot (every Thursday), and/or put yourself forward for our monthly poetry profile Fresh: Featured, you can find out how right here!