INTERVIEW

ONLINE MAGAZINE MONTHLY u ISSUE #9 u  AUGUST 2003 u sentinelpoetry.org.uk

Poems

Alison Chisholm (Guest)
Six Poems

Richard L. Provencher
Four Poems

JB Mulligan
Five Poems

Interview:

Nnorom Azuonye
My e-Conversation with
Alison Chisholm

Submissions

Past Issues

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NA: Do you have a favourite reading/performance venue? Is there something about the physical space of that venue that adds more depth and or resonance to your poems?

AC: I don't mind where I read - size of room, size of audience, etc.  The physical space is not really important to me, although a cold venue is uncomfortable and a  noisy one or the presence of uncontrolled hecklers is distracting.  The warmth and responsiveness of the audience are essential, and fortunately most audiences are extremely generous.

NA: What is your favourite poetry magazine? What is special about it?

AC:
This is a very difficult question to answer.  I subscribe to about a dozen and enjoy them all, although time does not permit me to read every issue of every magazine from cover to cover.  I particularly enjoy the poems selected for 'Envoi' and 'Acumen,' so perhaps I am on the same wavelength as their editors, Roger Elkin and Patricia Oxley respectively.

NA: You have published 7 collections of poems, with an 8th collection in the works. How do you find the inspiration to continue writing?

AC: With great difficulty.  I have a poor imagination, and rely a lot on exercises to stimulate the creative flow.  I feel there's no problem about using an exercise as the genesis of a poem as long as the poem finds wings and manages to fly.  I suppose that observation, reading as much poetry as I can, and keeping a writer's notebook provide me with the majority of ideas. But for every poem I submit anywhere, there are probably twenty 'flops' in the waste paper basket.

NA: You are involved in several poetry tutoring programmes in the United Kingdom. When did you realise that you wanted to teach poetry writing? Do you really believe that somebody can be taught to be come a poet?

AC: I have always been drawn to the vocation of teaching, wanting to share skills with enthusiastic people.  I have taught elocution all my working life, and started to teach creative writing in 1983.  Two years later, when my local Arts Centre mounted a series of arts-based courses and was looking around for tutors, I applied to teach poetry, and worked for them for eleven years.  I am learning the craft of writing poetry by trial and error - and it's an on-going process.  My first book on this subject was published in 1992, and I wrote it to try to distil all the advice and hints I wish I'd known when I started to write.  As a result of this, I was invited to write a correspondence course for poets.  I firmly believe that writing poetry can be taught, as long as there is the slightest spark of ability in the student, and patience and perseverence to fan it into a flame.  If I didn't believe that, I could not do my job with integrity.

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