by Jayne Stanton
We steam on barstools
read between slogans on a plastered ceiling
tune to the cuts and grace notes in banter
binge on ambience, high on E minor.
Coburg Street, past midnight, soaks
in sodium light. Rain beats time
on bodhran umbrellas, my spine
a river of running quavers that stick
to the soles of my sensible shoes
so I high-step the home stretch.
Framed in doorways on Wellington Road
crinoline ghosts wear mirrored skirts
that flirt with moonlight.
Guest house stairs are in rising fifths.
My top floor room’s a tall ship, exploring
the lilt in the Lee’s liquid fingers.
First appeared in Southword 2013. (Highly Commended in the 2013 Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition.)
Jayne Stanton lives in Leicestershire, UK. Her poems have appeared in various print and online magazines and anthologies including Best British & Irish Poets 2017 (Eyewear Publishing). She has written commissions for a county museum, University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing and a city residency. A pamphlet, Beyond the Tune, is published by Soundswrite Press (2014).
“Lyrical free verse best describes my style,” Jayne says. “ I’m also a musician, so I’m continually striving for musicality in my writing. It’s what I instinctively tune into at poetry readings; my default, when reading silently, is to sub-vocalise. I tend to favour brevity over narrative; my work often has a dark under-layer.”
Jayne and Bekah connected via The 2018 Poet Bloggers Revival Tour. We wanted to know more about her and her writing, so here is our interview with her.
Q~Tell us a little about “Sin É.” Is there a back story you want to share?
A~The inspiration for the poem was a traditional music session in a bar in Cork, Ireland (I was on a poetry exchange as part of O’Bheal’s Twin Cities project, at the time). As a fiddle player in a ceilidh band I’m more accustomed to performing than being on the receiving end, so the experience was a change to my usual perspective.
Q~Did it come easily to you or was it hard to write?
A~The first draft of this poem was written around five months later. I think the time lapse was beneficial in that it allowed the experience to percolate until the rain, the city streets, and my accommodation overlooking the river also took on a musicality of their own. There were fewer re-drafts than usual so, although the poem didn’t write itself, it wasn’t an arduous process. The poem was Highly Commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition, 2013, and published online in Southword issue 23A. The poem, together with the judge’s comment and my report on O’Bheal’s Twin Cities project can be found here.
Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share on writing?
A~Writing is a solitary act, but it’s equally important to actively seek, and maintain, an outward focus in order to inspire and inform one’s writing. Connect with other writers, both face-to-face and online (it’s never been easier); be an active participant in your local writing scene; attend writing workshops, poetry readings, literary events, festivals; support the work of others (it’s not a one-way street); live life (it’s the richest writing material I know). And, read far more poetry than you can ever write.
Q~You mentioned on your blog having signed up for some writing workshops recently. Why do you value this?
A~I look on writing workshops as part of my ongoing poetry education. I value the learning to be gained from more experienced poets in order to explore, for example, the use of writing constraints, set forms and routes into writing that I tend to shy away from, ordinarily. Writing outside of one’s comfort zone often produces surprising results. For me, it’s the main benefit of joining a NaPoWriMo group, too; I’m prompted into writing what I’d never otherwise have written, in terms of subject, form, choice of language etc. April becomes a break-out from my writing rut.
Q~Are you involved with your local poetry scene? What’s it like?
A~There’s a lot happening on the poetry front in my local area. Many local writing communities overlap and there are a growing number of regular open mic poetry and spoken word events, so there’s something for everyone, whatever their style or preference. Leicester’s two universities also organise literary and independent small press events. I’m involved in running a women’s poetry group, Soundswrite, which meets twice monthly to read and discuss published poetry by others and to workshop each others’ poem drafts. I also attend the South Leicestershire Stanza, which is affiliated to The Poetry Society. And I regularly read at poetry open mics across the UK Midlands as I think it’s healthy to step outside of one’s poetry locality.
Q~How does having a women’s only space like Soundswrite enable creativity for you and the group?
A~Soundswrite was set up in 2005, by Karin Coller and Pat Corina, as an open group for women in the UK East Midlands enthusiastic about all aspects of poetry. In my experience there exists a difference in group dynamics between the women-only and mixed gender poetry groups I attend. I think it’s fair to say that, while most of the active members of Soundswrite also attend other (mixed) groups, Soundswrite’s longevity is due, in part, to the need for a women-only space within the wider poetry community. I continue to value our robust discuss of all forms of poetry, and insightful and impartial feedback on work-in-progress. Soundswrite Press provides a showcase for our writing, having published, to date, several anthologies, and single-author pamphlets and short collections of poetry.
Q~Do you find yourself returning to themes or subjects in your work? What are they and why do they resonate with you?
A~Many of my poems are slants on memories (or misrememberings), grains of truth or pure fiction. In writing about the people who made me, I explore love in its various forms and guises, including the darker side; ageing and longevity are offshoots from the theme. I’ve recently begun to explore superstition, old wives’ tales and folklore for a new writing project.
Q~Which poet first made you fall in love with poetry?
A~After years of studying the Classics and the English Romantic poets, it was Wilfred Owen’s WW1 poetry that leapt off the page and introduced me to a very different world: shocking images and vivid detail wrought from first-hand experience; poetry as protest and honest reportage.
Q~Who are you reading now?
A~I’ve been reading Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds; it was an honour to hear his T S Eliot prize reading in London in January. Helen Dunmore’s final (and Costa prize-winning) collection, Inside the Wave also had a profound effect on me, especially its end-of-life poems. Next on my TBR pile is Wislawa Szymborska’s Here, translated from the Polish by Clare Kavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak.
Q~There are lots of publications out there. What is a literary gem you feel deserves more attention? Why will we love them?
A~I consider Magma Poetry to be one of the best windows on the breadth of contemporary poetry; it publishes work by new or little-known writers to the more established, accepting international submissions. With reviews of current publications and thought-provoking articles, it is as informative as it is inspirational. With three themed issues annually and a rolling editorship, Magma maintains a fresh approach to the publishing of poetry and comment.
Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?