It’s been a while since I posted an interview on this here website, so I am going to fix that right now!
Last December, I had the privilege of meeting up with the totally brilliant Kate Garrett.
Kate is a member of the good ship Pankhearst and the managing director of Three Drops Press. She also writes some truly wonderful poetry. Her latest collection, The Density of Salt, is out now.
So, lets crack on with the interview and see how Kate dealt with my random questions.
Here we go…
Tell me a little about ‘The Density of Salt’.
The Density of Salt is really a collection about journeys, changes, growing up. There’s a lot of sex and fairytales and myth and putting mother/child interactions under the microscope. Freud would probably have fun with it.
The title is from a line in one of the poems, ‘Following the River Exe on a Wednesday Afternoon’, and I decided it was the right thing to call the collection because salt covers so many bases – the sea, blood, tears, sweat, there is salt everywhere. One of my friends in Sheffield is a science teacher and a writer, and at the pamphlet launch he talked with me about how salt is made of two elements – sodium and chloride, obviously – that on their own are volatile and deadly, but if they’re combined to make salt they are necessary for life. The Density of Salt as a collection has more than a hint of this kind of precarious balance.
You have a passion for myths, magic and all things ethereal. Tell me a little about this and how it has influenced your poetry.
I do indeed. And the biggest influence this has on my poetry is my desire to make the ethereal more tangible, and the tangible more ethereal. If something is magical I want to make it feel real. If something is mundane, I want to make it a myth.
How do you manage to juggle being the brains behind Three Drops and a being on the good ship Pankhearst?
Passion (for helping writers), loyalty (to the good ship Pankhearst, and to writers) and a love of books! They are two very different places to work, and that keeps things interesting. A lot of writers have crossed from one to the other as well, which is nice – and I’ve recently started up an online-only journal, Picaroon Poetry, as well.
Out of all your poems, which one are you most proud of?
I always say ‘Changeling’, because it’s the first poem I wrote where I felt like ‘Wow, if this was someone else’s poem, I’d love this, I did a good job.’ But now I’m also proud of ‘When I think about Hans Christian Andersen’. They’re both about my mother and growing up in an abusive home, but the latter is also about dealing with PTSD and how you get an odd sort of super-strength through the ongoing recovery from trauma.
Do you listen to music when writing? If so, what kind and why?
If I am writing / outlining prose fiction, then yes I do listen to music when writing – and what kind is dictated by what I’m working on. When I was outlining plot, characters and prose sections for Bewitched, I listened to a lot of Ocean Colour Scene, Belly, The Jam, Bush, Sarah McLachlan… I actually still have a full Bewitched playlist on Spotify!
Poetry is a different thing altogether, because of the musicality involved in writing a poem – even in modern free verse, where I’m not consciously counting beats or syllables, metre is important to me. I write from my own sense of rhythm. Listening to music just confuses that situation.
What motivates you to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys)?
I honestly have no idea. It’s just what I’ve always done, from the time I was three and a half years old. And now I’m nearly 36, and other people read what comes out of it, so why on earth would I stop?
Which poem do you wish you had written?
Only the ones I haven’t managed to write yet.
The best thing about being a writer is…
As far as the craft itself: satisfaction of having created a thing – and I don’t mean “writing” as getting the idea down on paper, the first scribbles. I mean the editing, and redrafting, shaping of it – so much of my writing is rewriting. You know when something is finally finished (or as good as it will get). And the best thing about being a writer whose work is seen / heard by others: the sense of connection, and you never know when that’s going to happen or who it will be. It’s always magical when someone sees themselves in your story or your poem.
The worst thing is …
Self-doubt; periodically coming to fisticuffs with the inner critic. Kicking its ass is hard work…
Same here! Finally, anything in the pipeline we should know about?
Decked in Jackstays, which is my collection of historical fiction / murderous / sexy / queer / feminist / tough / all-heart pirate poems. It’ll be released via Pankhearst later this year. I just need to finish it first.
My thanks to Kate for her fantastic answers. To finish, Kate has kindly given me two poems to post for your reading pleasure. If you would like to know more, click on the links! You know you wanna
Anne Bonny walks out to sea
The salted air no longer stings my cheeks,
just as a skilled carpenter never splinters wood.
This path pushes out, sanded smooth; I reel along
it to the shoreline, away from honest, lawful
men who trade another’s neck for silver. I decide
to chance my own for waves, fitted with a mermaid’s
tail – trousers hide my landlegs, curls knotted
behind my back, tucked under my hat. I would swing
before I let Jack down, drown before my debt is settled.
If only he brought fire from our bed to steam the water’s
edge. He lacks ambition. But he loves me for the way I hold
a gun, the knife wiped clean of blood on my white shirt.
(From Decked in Jackstays)
When I Think About Hans Christian Andersen
from this pile of detritus
cushioning our bodies
where we fuck,
where we laugh,
where we sleep –
instead of twenty mattresses
and feather beds,
I have duvets,
yoga mats, my old baby blanket.
There is no pea waiting there to test me
but sometimes I still detect the pinch
of 1991 in the hollow of my back:
its sting of ribbon-rainbowed
hair clips, missing guitar
picks, bottles of Opium
and Dior Poison on a walk-in
closet shelf –
inside I’d hide my knotted
hair and too-short jeans
curled into the scented dark
trying to imagine infinity.
She pushes up through
the sheets, into my skin,
your whispers drowned out
by the thud of a washing machine
spinning her clothes;
my sparrow hips threaten
collapse under the thought
of her missing collarbones,
her thick calves, asphyxiation
breasts, the delicate press of her fist,
and a fairytale blooming
in the scrape of her nails
against my cheek. Still,
let her try to prove I’m not a princess.
(from The Density of Salt)