This week’s Tuesday Talent is a Somerset Poet who I have longed admired. A founder member of The Fire River Poets. His first book The Talking Horses of Dreams (Iron Press) was a collection I returned to again and again, it repaid repeating readings, yielding its treasures slowly, dripping beauty like honey.
When I first joined Fire River Tony was not only very welcoming, he was also supportive and skilled at offering both perceptive and constructive feedback.
Enough of my prattle, let’s hear the man himself.
How did you begin to write?
I was very lucky to have an inspirational English master at school. In his hands, O level EngLit was not just a subject on the syllabus: it was a door opening on a wonderland of words. I thought: here, if anywhere, is where I belong. What keeps me going is the unparalleled satisfaction of having created something, coupled with a compulsion to tell the truth of things as they appear in the light of the imagination.
Where do you get your ideas from?
They come in their own time and from no particular direction. Many of my poems celebrate the natural world, but I wouldn’t want to be classed as a ‘nature poet’.
Is form important to you?
Vitally important. When you write a poem you are doing two things: you are saying something but you are also making something. Form need not mean regularity. Good free verse (as opposed to chopped-up prose) may not be regular but there is a harmonious relationship between the parts, all of which work together to reinforce the poem’s meaning.
Which poets have influenced you and why?
I feel that every poem I have ever read and enjoyed and that made me think, ‘I wish I’d written that’, has probably influenced me, but if I had to name a few names, I might say A.E. Housman, Ted Hughes, Robert Graves and two Thomases (Dylan and R.S.).
Any tips for beginners?
Read lots of good poetry by lots of different poets (anthologies are a good place to start): follow your nose and don’t bother with stuff that leaves you cold. Don’t worry about being original or ‘finding your own voice’ (it will emerge in due course): just concentrate on finding the best words and putting them in the best order.
How did you get published?
The only way I know for people like me, who aren’t part of the poetry establishment: I kept sending poems to publishers until one day I struck lucky, i.e. the right poems arrived on the right desk at the right time (it helps if you’ve won a competition or so or have been published in magazines.)
Whats in the pipeline?
What pipeline? Poems, or rather the ideas for poems, tend to fall on me, infrequently, out of the blue (or more often grey) and initiate a spell of compulsive hard labour, though I do have a folder of ‘work in progress’ that I occasionally open, stare at for half an hour and close.
If you could do it all again what would you do?
The same but better.
If you were a poem, what would you be?
A discarded early draft of The Wasteland.
What is the name of your latest poetry collection?
The Shell Gatherer (Oversteps Books). Copies can be obtained from me for £9.00 each including postage (email me at email@example.com )