I’ve been asked by Andrew Taylor to answer three questions for his creative writing students at Nottingham Trent University and thought I’d post a couple of the answers here.

How has the current Coronavirus crisis impacted on your practice?

 I had bookings which have been cancelled, including workshops in Paris with teachers in International Schools. I was hoping to schedule a poetry reading there, at the same time. I was leading a Royal Literary Fund reading group, which has been suspended.

A fair bit of my writing is done on the move, on trains and walking around art galleries and such, including a high proportion of the poems in my new pamphlet, and I won’t be doing that for a while.

At the same time, it’s giving me space to work on the forthcoming collection and to re-evaluate what I’ve been doing. I’m restless, when it comes to writing, always thinking I’m about to start writing in a completely new way, so maybe now I will.

Reading. I’m re-reading the marvellous Roy Fisher. The best poems make you feel more alive, and Roy’s work does that for me every time. Reading feeds into the writing – you can’t help being affected by what you read.

 As we are forced to live in a different way due to Coronavirus, how do you deal with the so-called ‘new normal’ 

The lockdown? I’m OK with relative isolation because I often work like this anyway. Writing’s a solitary act – there are social dimensions, and they’re important, but ultimately, it’s you and the blank page. It helps to have a good routine, and meditation undoubtedly helps (I’ve been practising TM since the 1970s). I’m catching up with people I’ve not spoken to for ages, and getting emails out of the blue from people I was about to contact. I guess it’s made me focus on what’s important, like everything’s stripped back. Although this is a hugely difficult time, I think this crisis is a tipping point. It feels to me like things could no longer carry on the way they were – the inequalities, the exploitation of the planet – and this is a wake-up call. Things are changing.

As you prepare for your next pamphlet, due later in the year, can you share some tips about getting it all together?

This was the first question – answer to follow.

2 thoughts on “Lockdown

  1. Josephine Corcoran May 2, 2020 / 5:57 pm

    Thanks for these thoughts, Cliff. A lot of what you say resonates. I like the idea of writing in a completely different way. It’s something I’d like to try to do. I’m writing prose at the moment and I think I’m a lot freer and more adventurous in prose. I would like to find a way of keeping hold of that freedom in poetry. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. Like you say, this is probably a good time to experiment (you didn’t actually say that but I’ve taken that thought from what you’ve written.) Sending good wishes your way in this strange time. Josephine x

    • cliffyates May 2, 2020 / 8:42 pm

      Good to hear from you, Josephine! Thanks for leaving the comment. That’s really interesting – that you can be more adventurous in prose. Yes, a good time to experiment, definitely. It’s reading that does it for me – certain writers, like Roy Fisher, who I mentioned – remind me what it’s all about. Best of luck with your writing – and all good wishes. Cliff x

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