A Ten Question Interview With The Artist… Laura McKee

Why do you write?

Often it’s to understand something for, or about, myself. So, it’s honestly the cherry on the cake if it also connects with a reader. Also, for me, writing works as a meditation, I’m a short fused soul.

What books do you read?

I have four kids, and in later years realised I have dyslexia; I do love to read but it can take a determined effort to give myself space to focus on a book. Ironically, at one point, in my twenties, I was reading lots of long Russian novels. Now, short stories help, I loved Ali Smith’s The First Person and Other Stories, and Alice Munroe’s Too Much Happiness. Letters and diaries are also good, The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, Alan Bennet’s Diaries, and I should also mention The Uncommon Reader by A.B., because it was fab and funny. Two books I return to are Kafka’s The Blue Octavo Notebooks, and Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table.

What inspires You?

Fragments and details, I’m still like a child wanting to pick up every little thing and turn it over in my hand.

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

At primary school I was dubbed the class poet, at secondary school I was expected to be a journalist, but I didn’t really see any of this in myself. I began writing poetry around 2009, after hearing Ira Lightman on The Verb, on Radio 3. He seemed to wake me up, and I wanted to understand, then gradually learnt that understanding wasn’t a precursor to enjoying something.

How do you deal with rejection?

When I had my first rejection I was a bit gobsmacked at my own upset which left me in tears for most of an afternoon. Since then, mostly with chocolate.

Who are some writers you admire?

Thom Gunn, Louis MacNeice, Elizabeth Jennings, John Hegley, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Plath, Lynette Roberts, Robert Alan Jamieson, Ira Lightman, Andrew McMillan.

Is writing the only artistic medium you do?

I like to draw, I used to paint and draw for my babies, and then with them as children, now they put my efforts to shame.

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

Relax a little and believe in your own authentic voice, your own story.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I don’t think you need to force yourself to write every day. Try reading instead, and listening to other voices, not just in poetry. Go for a walk, keep moving.

What is your writing process?

I go for a walk and keep moving! Mostly I keep scraps of words and phrases and ideas. I wait for connections to occur between them. Or sometimes a poem arrives without me having seen it coming, which is scary and lovely.

Laura Mckee

Laura McKee has had poems in various journals, including Other Poetry, Prole, Neon, The Lake, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Journal, Morphrog. This year she had a poem nominated for Best Single Poem in the Forward Prizes, and will have a poem on a bus at the Guernsey Literary Festival.

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