Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting interviews with the authors and poets who will be taking part in our Book Fair: http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.
There are forty of us so, obviously, there are many genres for both adults and children. There will be talks an writing and books, creative writing workshops for adults and fun workshops for children, activities for the children and a fun book trail through Narberth, the gorgeous little market town in Pembrokeshire.
And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.
And, as usual, there will also be the writing competition: this year is a poetry competition: Submit a poem, in any form, of 20 lines or less, on the subject of : –
BOOKS AND READING.
Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.
Although, five years ago, I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2 and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ .
Today I’m really pleased to be chatting with the first of our poets, Helen Williams.
May I start, Helen, by asking you why you write?
To write is to believe there is hope that people can communicate and comprehend one another. To write is to pick up and weave one slim thread in the warp and woof of literature.
What is the ultimate goal you hope to achieve with your writing?
For it all to sound as if it came effortlessly and for it to make sense to at least one other person.
What book that you have read has most influenced your life?
Probably Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born. I first read it when my eldest son was 10 months old, when being a female head of household, sole earner, provider and mother was relatively new to me.
Who is your favourite author?
Depends on the day of the week, the time of day, and my mood at the time. Could be Ezra Pound or H.D., Willa Cather or Colm Tóibín, Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson, Allen Ginsberg or Adrienne Rich, Louise Erdrich or Toni Morrison, Diane Glancy or Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy or Baudelaire, Robert Browning or Elizabeth Barrett-Browning — I could go on!
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
Two monographs and more articles and contributions to conference proceedings etc. than I can remember. I guess I’d have to say Native American Literature: Towards a Spatialized Reading was my favourite, because it marked a departure from anything else I’d done before. It was exciting to move into this area which is fraught with cultural sensitivities and to explore so many excellent authors who are barely know in this country. But I have a soft spot for two essays on Adrienne Rich that book-ended my academic career. The first one arose directly from my experiences in a feminist consciousness-raising group in the early Eighties: “Adrienne Rich: Consciousness Raising as Poetic Method” in Contemporary Poetry Meets Modern Theory, and the second was a chance to write a retrospective account of my life-long admiration of the US radical feminist poet: “Adrienne Rich: Introducing the Selected.” in Selected Poems: From Modernism to Now. I have very happy memories of the conference at Caen where I delivered the paper the essay was based on, and also gave a reading of my poems about Southport beach.
Now I write predominantly poetry, I’m really enthusiastic about my chapbook, The Princess of Vix; I feel I’ve managed to include lots of my thinking about myth and history and combine it with my deepest feelings about motherhood and mother/daughter relationships.
What genre do you consider your books? Have you considered writing in another genre?
Mostly, I’ve published academic writing. In addition to monographs, essay collections, journals and things like the Cambridge Introduction series, I’ve published a lot of lectures and materials online because I wanted to share as much knowledge and understanding as I could. But I’ve always written poetry and published it in little magazines, etc. Now I’m writing, performing and publishing poetry more than any other genre. But I have also edited my mother’s memoir and I am currently writing a novel. I’ve also written a few plays and what might be a Sci-Fi children’s book. So, I’ve explored most of the traditional literary genres.
Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?
The Celtic Princess of Vix, whose burial chamber was discovered at Vix, a small village close to Châtillon-sur-Seine in Burgundy, was crippled due to injuries sustained in child-birth. This sequence dramatizes poetic identification with the female, Iron Age shaman, whose distorted, pained figure marked her out as different. I delve into the strong emotions associated with motherhood, evoking a series of feminine archetypes associated with Greek, Etruscan and Celtic culture. The Vix Princess officiates at an autumn ritual that synthesizes elements of Greek, Etruscan and Celtic culture. Her daughter, the Kore, is at the heart of the ceremony, which thus becomes a rite of passage. The third major figure in this drama is an Etruscan foot soldier, who has migrated to Vix, without having yet had experience of battle. And the fourth major figure is the Hecate or Hag; thus, completing the triple aspect of the Goddess and of women’s lives, from Virgin to mother to old woman, who has seen and experienced it all before and is now a spectator of the continuing, female drama. I would say it is a must read for anyone who wants to think about what it is to be a daughter, a mother, or a grandmother. And it’s not just for women; anyone who is fascinated by Greek and Celtic myth will find a new perspective on some fundamental myths here.
What was the inspiration behind The Princess of Vix?
Complex, varied and deeply personal.
How long did it take you to write The Princess of Vix?
I wrote the first draft of the sequence over an autumn and winter. Each time I completed one poem, the next one would start to emerge. The drama gradually unfolded for me, as it does for the reader.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote and directed my first play when I was eight years old. Does that count?
Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
I taught in Higher Education for 33 years (39 if you count the first six as a sessional tutor); so, I guess most of my talents have been on very public display most days of my working life. You’d have to ask all the people I taught what talents I have; I know that many of them had incredible talents and I felt humbled and grateful to be their tutor and mentor.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Modernism and post-modernism had a strong influence on me from an early age, so my writing probably displays traces of US and French modernist styles. But it’s usually easier for the objective reader to see these things than the author herself. And besides bits of Romanticism probably creep in when I’m not looking.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read; tend my garden; spend time with my family, cook, walk, knit, read, watch French films without English subtitles, travel in Europe, read some more.
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? Not particularly to do with your writing.
I got bladder cancer, whose main cause is smoking even though I was a virulent anti-smoker all my life.
Give us a random fact about yourself.
I’m left handed.
|Helen May Williams is a poet and author, living in West Wales. She has written extensively on twentieth-century poetry and formerly taught at the University of Warwick, where she was a founder member of the Warwick Writing Programme Advisory Board. She runs the Poetry Society’s Carmarthen-based Stanza group and is an active member of Penfro Poets. She recently completed a translation of Michel Onfray’s “Before Silence” (“Avant le Silence”), a volume of 21st century haiku. Her poems have appeared in numerous poetry journals and anthologies.