Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Sleeping on Horseback

Tonight we launch Frances Samuel's debut poetry collection, Sleeping on Horseback. Here is a short Q&A with Frances, ahead of the launch.

How does it feel to be publishing your first book?
I’ve felt a spectrum of things – excitement, relief, anxiety – but where I’m at now is: curious. I’m interested to find out which poems particularly resonate with people. Sometimes I’ve found, after readings for example, that it’s the poems I’m most unsure about that receive the most comments.

What themes or feelings of urgency drove the poems in Sleeping on Horseback?
One of the (unexpectedly) great things about the publishing process was having the editor give me an overview of what she thought the book was about. It was a revelation. I didn’t have the distance to be able to see those themes myself. The urgency you mention – this is slightly off topic, but for me I think a lot of it has to do with whether the poem is even going to make it into existence. A line will sort of catch in my mind, and if I have some uninterrupted time, and I can grab a pen and paper and write it down, I’m away. I usually get the shape of the poems down fairly fast, and then there’s lots of revising of course. After that, I might sit on them for, well, years, before possibly changing something again. ‘Sleeping on horseback’, the title poem of my book, was different because it was slow to write: the stanzas came almost complete, one after the other at a steady midnight hoof pace.

There's a liminal space that some of your poems seem to inhabit – or is it better to describe it as a mythical space?
It’s definitely a tricky space to describe … Perhaps not entirely mythical, because the worlds or scenes in the poems are plausible in a sense, I think – vivid and precise rather than watercolour. When I’m writing the poems, there doesn’t feel to me to be a boundary between the ‘real’ world and imaginary. The poems just seem to need to be located in certain landscapes in order to say what they have to say.

You've been publishing work for a while now in journals – a long gestation?

My first published poems were in Sport in 2002. Actually, thinking about it now, one of those poems is in this book! So yep, luckily for me, sometimes if you sit on something for long enough, it hatches.

Sleeping on Horseback will be launched by editor Ashleigh Young tonight at The Guest Room, Southern Cross Garden Bar, 39 Abel Smith St, Te Aro. 5.30pm–7pm. 

Frances Samuel, photo by Grant Maiden

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