Amy Kinsman comes from Manchester and lives in Sheffield. She probably hates Liverpool.
Who are you? My name is Amy Kinsman and I’m a twenty-two year old poet and playwright.
And where in the world are you? The North of England, specifically Sheffield, although not always that particular city.
What is the best thing about your country? Socialism. The great institutions that are the NHS and the BBC (not that they’re infallible, just that they’re two of the most excellent ideas we’ve ever had). The way tea has become a weird social language all of its own (especially the way people will always offer it to you). Yorkshire puddings, gravy, all that stodgy, winter, pastry-heavy food. Having such a cacophony of accents and dialects in such a tiny bit of geography. Humour (how much we love putting ourselves down and truly terrible puns). That weird my-hometown-is-a-worse-shithole-than-yours competition everyone gets into from time to time.
And the worst? Oh God, the colonialism. The ridiculously rigid class system hanging on by its grubby little fingers. The fact that England is fetishised by people of other nationalities. The fact that autocorrect tried to put a z in fetishised just then. Stephen Moffat and what he’s done to Doctor Who. The current government intent on destroying the NHS, the education system and non-privatised British infrastructure as we know it. The fuck you temperament of the weather. The fact that Margaret Thatcher ever existed. The fact that stuff happened that created a necessity for Operation Yewtree. UKIP. The Bullingdon Club. Most of the South of England (see the North/South divide). People that make awful cups of tea.
How has your country shaped you? I think it made me a sceptic. Things in Britain have a way of just ebbing and flowing like the tide coming in and out. Everything goes round and round and round and it’s always been that way and always will be that way. There’s just a way of sighing and carrying on with things or sighing and starting to draw your protest signs. I wouldn’t say people in Britain let things go more easily or that the notion of “keep calm and carry on” is something we truly take to heart. It’s just there’s a way of nothing being wholly unexpected. I think it left me with a pervasive sense of déjà vu about my entire life, like every step is one I’ve already taken in some previous existence not the same but at least similar to this one.
Tell us about your favorite place in the world. Between the town I currently live in (Sheffield) and my home town (Manchester) is a stretch of road called the Snake Pass. It’s a pretty dangerous bit of road that takes you through the Pennines, which are very, very old mountains. So old you can hardly call them mountains any more. Lots of people have been killed in car accidents there and there was a helicopter crash a long time ago. I don’t drive, but when I go to and from these towns my dad or my brother usually drives me. You go past Lady Bower reservoir, through a stretch of forest and then you’re in the Peaks. There’s a moment coming over the top, through all the moors looking moody and desolate (the landscape likes to remind you how small you are), where you can’t see the road ahead of you because of the angle. It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to cry for reasons I don’t really understand. A lot of people are terrified of it. I don’t know. I’ve always adored it, but in a sad way. I guess you’d call it sublime.
Tell us about your poem in America Is Not the World. Northern Gothic is really a poem about trying to describe the essence of being Northern. It’s really odd, but trying to explain to people who aren’t British (or even some people who are but who have always lived down South) about the North/South divide is normally like banging your head against a brick wall because it’s largely things you can’t articulate. For me, it’s rooted in landscapes (the South is your traditional home-counties, garden England by and large and the North is a more volatile landscape) and all the old pre-Roman invasion culture that we don’t really know anything about. It’s an unspoken crackle in the air. I guess this poem was an attempt to articulate something that you can’t really articulate. You can decide how successful I was.
Tell us about a writer in your country that we should know about. Bless him, he’s dead now, but Felix Dennis. He was famous mostly a publisher who was part of the British incarnation of Oz magazine. The magazine and three of its staff, including Felix Dennis, went on trial for several counts of obscenity that transgressed against the censorship laws that existed at the time and was crucial in bringing down those laws. He is also credited as the first man ever to say the word “cunt” on British television. Towards the end of his life, he started writing poems and I own several of his collections but my favourite is called Homeless in my Heart. It’s not academic, experimental or poetry that could be called “difficult”. It’s deeply accessible and I know snobbier people might call it trite. It’s poetry to live your life by really, written at the very end of his. Also “you either come when called – or sleep alone” is a motto of mine.
What else is going on? I’m co-editing a Three Drops From A Cauldron anthology with Kate Garrett! Tailfins and Sealskins is an anthology of water-based lore that you can submit to over at the Three Drops Press website. It’s the first time I’ve co-edited anything. I’m so excited I could wet myself.
What is next for you? I’m working on a few things. I perform a lot and I’ve been getting a few headline gigs, which is deeply flattering. I want to release a pamphlet in the near-ish future and I’ve been working on a novella about lesbians and heists.
Tell us a secret. I’m the worst at keeping secrets. I always spill my guts to everyone. That’s both the best and the worst thing about being a poet. What I can tell you is that I’m in love with another poet that’s in America Is Not The World. Have fun wondering.
Give us a song. ‘One Day Like This’ by Elbow.