A Ten Question Interview With The Artist… Melanie Branton

Why do you write?

To communicate; to get my thoughts and feelings out in a way that makes sense to other people. For as far back as I can remember, I have always preferred writing things down to saying them and I often find that I can tell friends how I’m feeling until I’m blue in the face and they don’t understand, but then I write a poem about it and they’re, like, “Oh, now I get it.” In fact, I frequently write to find out myself what I think or how I feel.

But sometimes just to enjoy messing around with language, playing with sound patterns and extended metaphors and ambiguity. Sometimes it’s like making a mud pie or like doing a crossword.

And like, I suspect, most spoken word artists, I write and perform because I’m seeking from the audience a love that I feel I’ve missed out on elsewhere.

What books do you read?

I’d really like to be able to say that I discover a new poststructuralist philosopher every week, and turn to James Joyce and Proust when I want some light reading. But that would be a total lie.

Truth is, I am horribly addicted to trashy whodunnits and those intelligence-insulting fantasy novels that always have a map in the front of the book. I rarely read anything other than total rubbish.

What inspires you?

Very peculiar things. I have written poems about the storage instructions on food packaging, the Equal Opportunities monitoring form that comes with job applications and Christina Rossetti’s fondness for pasta.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?

At infant school, when I used to fill up exercise book after exercise book with long, rambling stories and was once awarded an unprecedented six Smarties by the teacher for writing “a real poem. With rhyme and everything.”

How do you deal with rejection?

Very badly. And I usually seek consolation in a liquid form.

Who are some writers you admire?

I’ll confine myself to poets, or we could be here all day. Emily Dickinson, Seamus Heaney, Christina Rossetti, Selima Hill, Philip Gross, Tadeusz Rozewicz, Kathleen Jamie, Katherine Pierpoint, Philip Larkin.

Spoken word artists: Cat Brogan, Salena Godden, Jonny Fluffypunk, Harry Baker, Robert Garnham

I’m sure I’ve missed someone important out here

Is writing the only artistic medium you do?

I used to direct plays, but haven’t done that for quite a few years. Maybe I’ll return to it. I’d love to be able to make music, but I’ve tried learning instruments and have always been really, really rubbish at it.

What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?

Don’t be so obedient. Nobody will thank you for it.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t let self-doubt hold you back or make you censor yourself. Your job is to write, not to decide whether your writing’s good enough – let your audience be the best judge of that.

What is your writing process?

I tend to think that poets divide into two camps: watchmakers or shamans. I’m a shaman.

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Melanie Branton is the 2015 Bristol regional Hammer and Tongue slam champion. She has also had poems published in a variety of online and print journals, including Prole, Ink, Sweat & Tears and The Interpreter’s House.

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