Welcome to this blog and to Llandeilo Kathy. We're very happy that you could join us this year. Please tell us about the books you'll be bringing to the book fair
I'll be bringing my two latest poetry collections The Shadow House and Gardening With Deer to the Llandeilo Book Fair. Gardening With Deer was published in 2016, and represents a considerable shift in style and subject-matter from my previous collections. Whilst I have a continuing interest in the landscape – both urban and rural – and in some senses would describe myself as a 'landscape poet', since giving up my day job I have been able to develop my other passions for archaeology, history, astronomy and science, all of which have fed into my poetry. I like to explore and write in 'other voices', whether it is from the perspective of an historical or literary character, an animal, or even a non-animate object. I love the intense research involved in this process, and the chance to broaden my knowledge and learn new things. My poem Re-Entry, for example, which is about the astronauts' return from the Apollo 11 Moon Mission, gave me the opportunity to read the NASA voice-transcripts from the mission, and opened up a whole new world of language and imagery. Of all my three poetry collections, I think I am the most proud of Gardening With Deer because I felt I had been able to marry these diverse interests together in a much better and more mature way than in my previous books.
Well, the obvious answer to this is to sell books! It is not easy for a poet to flog their wares on the open market. There are a lot of extremely good and prolific poets out there, all publishing amazing work, and the buying public would very much prefer to purchase a good novel than a book of poetry: in the main, poetry tends to be bought by other poets. Publishers also expect you to try and sell your books, and to be proactive in obtaining readings and other events where you can showcase your work. I had already attended both the Carmarthen and Tenby Book Fairs, and enjoyed them very much, but wanted to come to Llandeilo because I had heard great reports of the Christmas Book Fair which I had been unable to attend.
Do you have a special connection to Wales?
I have lived in Wales since 1972, but I would say I was a typical 'Liverpool Welsh', having been born in the city of mixed Irish/Welsh ancestry. Part of my decision to come to a Welsh university was because I felt a very strong connection to Wales and to its history and culture. I don't speak Welsh, but grew up among relatives who were Welsh speaking, and so I always felt an affinity with that side of my heritage.
I first came to Wales to do a BA in English Literature at Lampeter (now the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David), and then worked in the university library there for many years. I gave up my job in 2014 to do an MA in Creative Writing at the university, and now work as a full-time writer. Apart from writing, I am a keen gardener. My partner and I have a garden with a large pond, which attracts frogs, dragonflies, and a raft of wild mallards who fly up from Aberaeron to rampage round the flower beds. We also have visiting badgers, foxes, and hedgehogs. It's a perfect life for a poet!
Who are your favourite authors?
An impossible question to answer! My favourite writers are those that I happen to be reading at the time, whether it's Seamus Heaney, Garcia Lorca, Elizabeth Bishop or Mary Oliver. I read poetry all the time: current favourites are Jo Shapcott, Alice Oswald, Katrina Naomi and Paul Henry, simply because those are the ones I currently have open on my bedside table. I've just finished Cynan Jones' latest book Cove, which is simply stunning. I also love the work of James Rebanks and John Lewis-Stempel. I think, though, that in terms of the novel, Kazuo Ishiguro is the one that I go back to time and time again, for the sheer beauty of his language.