Friday evening’s poetry reading at Circles Bookshop in Bristol was hugely enjoyable. The venue was very much my kind of place – cosy, intimate, brimming with second-hand books and with a little café-bar area. I did about forty minutes of performance, then after the interval, the event organiser, Trevor Carter, otherwise known as the Bard of Windmill Hill, interviewed me about my inspirations, aspirations and motivations.

As a starting-point for the interview, I’d been asked to bring along five pieces of writing that have inspired me in some way – it was, of course, extraordinarily difficult to choose just five. After much mulling and pondering, re-reading and list-making, though, here’s what I plumped for:

1) Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler – the book that first got me interested in ice and snow and polar exploration

2) Three Women by Sylvia Plath – the poem that triggered my desire to write Two of Me Now, my poetic drama about Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, way back at the beginning of the nineties.

3) Earth Shattering: Eco Poems – edited by Neil Astley. When Trevor forced me to get more specific and pick just one poem from this anthology, I went for Frogs by Kathleen Jamie.

4) The Woman of the Sea from a collection of Inuit Folk Tales, edited by Lawrence Millman. This is a story that’s informed quite a lot of my most recent poetry, not to mention the collaboration I’ve been involved in with printmaker Pat Gregory.

5) (this is a bit of a quirky one) – Ah, But Underneath – lyrics by Stephen Sondheim from his musical, Follies. I’ve always been a huge Sondheim fan and when I’m writing performance pieces (for Radio 4’s Saturday Live, for example), I’m aware that his use of assonance, alliteration, double and triple rhymes, is something I really aspire to.

So, that’s my list. Ask me again in a week, though, and I’d probably come up with a completely different selection – there were so many favourites I had to leave out…

5 responses to “Desert Island Writings

  1. 40 minutes! It sounds exhausting, but I'm sure you're used to it.

    I loved reading your list of inspirations. I'm going to seek them out. Whenever I pick up my copy of Kathleen Jamie's Findings I think of you!

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