J.S.Watts is a poet and novelist based near Cambridge. Her poetry has been published across the world and in magazines such as Acumen, Envoi, Mslexia and Orbis. Her latest poetry pamphlet, The Submerged Sea, was published earlier this year by Dempsey & Windle and her novels, A Darker Moon and Witchlight, are published in the US and UK by Vagabondage Press.
What makes you write poetry despite the overwhelming majority of people’s crushing indifference towards it?
Because I’m not indifferent to it. Because I know many people who are not indifferent to it. Because other people’s indifference should not prevent anyone from practising their art. Because I’d like to decrease the indifference of the many (if it exists).
WH Auden wrote that ‘poetry makes nothing happen’ – how do you know that this isn’t true?
How do you know that it is? Anything written is unlikely to have a direct impact. It’s not like building a bomb or saving someone’s life during surgery. Poetry, and writing in general, spreads ideas, influences, makes people think, feel, respond and who knows what may come of that? Things happen because of how people feel and poetry stimulates that, but it’s rarely direct cause and effect and even if it is, you probably can’t see it.
Once when I sneezed, a piece of sweetcorn came out of my nose – can you tell me something interesting about you?
Eurgh, gross! I have never knowingly mistreated sweetcorn. I am, however, a French Horn player, which I think is interesting.
If poetry was a metaphor, what metaphor would it be?
Poetry is one long metaphor. Poetry is every metaphor ever written. Poetry is a metaphor for itself.
What is your favourite room?
When I’m sleeping, it’s my bedroom. When I’m working, it’s my study.
What is the worst poem you have ever written?
Sshhhhh, I’m so not telling.
Which poems or poets are currently inspiring you?
This is a difficult question to answer, because there are so many. As soon as I write one name down, I think of another and I don’t want to leave anyone out. So, in no particular order and naming both the living and the dead (and apologising to some who should be down here, but I’ve momentarily overlooked): Charles Causley, Alice Oswald, Anne Sexton, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Wilfred Owen, Liz Berry, Fay Roberts, Pascale Petit, Dylan Thomas, Carole Satyamurti, Benjamin Zephaniah, Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, Imtiaz Dharkar, Allison McVety, Helen Mort, T.S.Eliot and John Donne. There are more. There will always be more.
What is the most annoying moment you have ever experienced at a poetry event?
Timing is always a frustration. One open mic event I went to was advertised as starting at 7pm. The MC advised everyone to get there early to make sure they could sign up. I arrived at 6.50pm. The MC didn’t turn up until 7.30pm and then said things wouldn’t start till around 9pm because people were always late. Grrrrr.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing poetry?
Go write it. Why are you hesitating? Enjoy writing it. Don’t, however, expect to earn a living from it alone.
What is the point?
The end of my pencil.