MY E-CONVERSATION WITH
By Nnorom Azuonye
Nnorom Azuonye (NA): Do you recall your earliest contact with poetry? Did you have an immediate love for the art or did this love have to grow?
Alison Chisholm (AC): I can remember enjoying nursery rhymes as a very small child, and loving the completeness of a poem. When I was about five years old, my uncle gave me a copy of 'A Child's Garden of Verses' by Robert Louis Stevenson, and this book inspired me with the magic of a poem's ability to open up a new world for the reader in just a few words. (My uncle died in his twenties shortly after giving me the book - a very special legacy.) When I was eleven I started studying elocution, and learned to love speaking poetry as much as I loved reading it to myself.
NA: In your poem "Fait Accompli" you mention Wordsworth as one of your influences. Are there other poets that influenced and or continue to influence your poetry today?
AC: I suppose I'm influenced by everyone I read. So many poets leave me gasping with admiration. I love Keats, Browning, Frost, Shakespeare, Byron, Donne... also Sylvia Plath, Kit Wright, Carol Ann Duffy, Tony Harrison, Brian Patten, Dannie Abse, U. A. Fanthorpe ... but any poet can influence me with a stunning phrase or perfect image. My response 'I wish I'd written that' is all too common!
NA: If you were introduced to somebody as a poet and the person asked a rather ambiguous 'What kind of poet are you?' what would you say?
AC: A jobbing poet - something of a hack. Yes, of course, I love to write the words that flow from my heart directly into the pen, but I'll produce whatever people want to a deadline - poems on particular themes or for particular occasions, rhymed poems, free verse poems, poems for children, articles about poems ... anything.
NA: You have been known to be a great reader/performer of your poems. How do these performances form a part of your creative process? Specifically, do you return to tweak poems after your have given public readings of them? If you do, what informs the bits of changes you make - is it the reaction of your audience, or smoothness of the lines on your tongue?
AC: Thank you for such a lovely compliment. I love reading my poems, and try to do so with vocal expression and variety, but without a melodramatic, over-the-top performance. Yes, I do make occasional 'tweaks' after a reading. If a line or stanza does not flow easily I may well change it, and I also respond to audience reaction.