Susan Utting Susan Utting 


Interview for Tongues and Grooves: Featured Poet for Two Ravens Press

What influences your own writing?
What I’m reading – prose fiction & news as well as poetry; what I’m listening to on the radio; what I’m trying to get my students to write about (I try out the class exercises on myself to see if they’re possible). Probably the most fruitful influence is other creative arts – theatre, dance and visual arts. Going to poetry readings is often a marvellous inspiration, not to emulate or copy what I’ve heard, it’s simply that other poets’ readings boost my enthusiasm for the craft.

What type of poetry is getting published today? What are the trends do you think?
All sorts of poetry are getting published today. This, I think, is one of the most encouraging trends: poetry’s broad church. Although there does seem to be a fashion currently for more formal poetry – traditional forms and structures, rhythms and metres – this has not ruled out experimentation. As well as all the varieties of “free” verse and invented forms, poets are re-interpreting traditional forms, acknowledging them and in varieties of ways making them their own.

What in your view is the difference between performance poetry and poetry written for the page?
There are pros and cons to each. In performance, you can get away with murder! You can skip over the dodgy lines, rhymes, the loose rhythm. But a performed poem has to have an immediate appeal, must not be too allusive or obscure - you’ve got to engage your audience from the first line. This can be limiting. Poetry for the page, however, can take its time, can work on many levels, as your reader can re-read, consider, ponder, look things up! However, it must also be tighter, a really “well wrought urn”, it must be able to stand closer scrutiny. Of course the best poetry works well in both mediums – on the page and in performance.

What audience do you write for and why?
I don’t think I have much of a sense of an audience when I’m writing – I write to try and work things out for myself, to understand and clarify my own ideas, memories and imaginings. So I suppose you could say I’m my own audience. Although in the final reckoning, I do want my poetry to be clear and accessible to others – to anybody, not just “poetry people”, so I suppose it comes down to the same thing.

How can poetry be both serious and accessible?
How can it not be both? Even humorous poetry has a serious under belly. We can respond to a poem on an emotional level without necessarily understanding every word, every notion or image. But if it engages us on first reading, intrigues or moves us in some way, we will read and re-read it, live with its language, imagery, rhythms and cadences. All poetry should be accessible, eventually.

What’s the title of your next poem?
If you mean what I’m currently working on, the title will be something about a Taxidermist. Or King Lear. Or Love. Probably!

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