Claire is a wonderful Worcestershire poet. One of my favourite poetry memories is from a reading given by Claire – one line in particular took everyone’s breath away and there was an impromptu mini interval while hearts were nudged back into their ribcages. I was proud to read at the launch of Claire’s debut pamphlet ‘The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile’ (V Press). Her second pamphlet ‘Somewhere Between Rose and Black’ (also V Press) was shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet in the 2018 Saboteur Awards.
What makes you write poetry despite the overwhelming majority of people’s crushing indifference towards it?
I increasingly ask myself the same question! When I first started writing, I don’t think I knew how indifferent most people were. By the time I realised, I had started to get to know lots of other people who were part of the poetry community, and I feel very lucky to have so many people in my life who are interested in poetry. Although it would be nice if poetry wasn’t such a relatively niche thing.
WH Auden wrote that ‘poetry makes nothing happen’ – how do you know that this isn’t true?
I know it’s not true because poetry makes me laugh, it makes me cry. It makes people get together and listen to each other, and find connections with one another. It forges friendships and strong bonds, and opportunities to collaborate. I also think that it can give people the courage to speak out at times when they may be feeling scared or alone. I think recent anthologies like #MeToo and Please Hear What I’m Not Saying have given strength and reassurance to many people.
Once when I sneezed, a piece of sweetcorn came out of my nose – can you tell me something interesting about you?
Well, that’s a hard one to beat. I have no sense of smell, and people seem to find that interesting when I tell them. My mum says I definitely had a sense of smell when I was a child, but I have no recollection of when or how I lost it. I don’t think it involved sweetcorn though.
If poetry was a metaphor, what metaphor would it be?
Poetry is a toolbox with a torch, hammer, nails, tape measure and spirit level inside.
What is your favourite room?
My study, because it’s where I write and read. It’s not been taken over by anyone else in the house – it’s calm, and it’s mine!
What is the worst poem you have ever written?
I don’t think I’ve got one particular worst poem, but there are many from when I first started writing that I’d be embarrassed to show to people!
Which poems or poets are currently inspiring you?
Cheryl Pearson, Ben Banyard, Anna Saunders and Kim Moore to name a few.
What is the most annoying moment you have ever experienced at a poetry event?
Oh it’s definitely got to be the times when someone turns up, reads their bit, then leaves almost straightaway without listening to others. If you expect people to listen to you, you should have the good grace to listen to others! Also, I’ve been to events where there is a lot of heckling from the audience – not to be rude to the performers, but ‘in jokes’ between regulars. I find that quite annoying too, as it can be alienating for newcomers.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing poetry?
Read as much as you can, as often as you can. Try to be strict about making time to write – it’s so easy to push it to the end of the to-do list because it doesn’t have to be done, but if you don’t set aside time to write then you definitely won’t! Also, ask people you trust to read through your work and offer feedback. It can be nerve-wracking to show someone what you’ve written, but it’s invaluable to get opinions and advice.
What is the point?
Is that a rhetorical question?