2016 has been quite a fruitful year for me, poetry-wise.
To date, I’ve had eleven poems published in six different journals and websites. And it’s not even half the year yet! As in the words of Josh Radnor’s 2010 film, happy, thank you, more, please.
One of my 2016 publications include a spot on the second issue of Anomaly Literary Journal, which featured a poem which I never thought would be put up for consideration, let alone be chosen. But, as the universe keeps on reminding me, we can’t predict everything. So in March of 2016, the second issue of Anomaly has been released with “Cover Down/Strip Up” as one of the poems.
It was fun being able to be a part of their podcast for the second issue, too! Hearing my voice on playback after they posted it was all sorts of things, but ultimately it’s nice to be able to talk about the craft and be able to hear other people’s perspective on it, too. Our podcasts are titled “Anomaly Issue 2 Part 1” and “Anomaly Issue 2 Part 2”, respectively.
During their submissions call for their third issue, I managed to snag a few minutes to ask questions for Lorcán Black, writer and editor from Ireland, currently residing in London. His previous poetry publications include Boyne Berries, Worldegs, Breath & Shadow among others. He’s also got some new stuff coming up in a few weeks through Assaracus, Blue Lyra Review, Opiate Magazine and Chiron Review so watch out for that!
Alongisde Oli Tatler, Roseanna Free and Joseph Birdsey, he is also one of the staff of Anomaly and all around fun person to talk to.
Read on below to know to read about life as an editor, his honest and refreshing advice on beginning writers and how writing a poem usually goes for him.
1. How does a usual writing process go for you? Who inspires your writing style?
Coffee. It will always start with a cup of coffee and reading. I probably read for about hour before I even think to start writing. I’ll read through whatever latest editions of literary journals or magazines are out at the moment or I’ll read through some of my favourite poetry books and generally just soak it in. It helps switch my brain into that particular state where the words, phrases or images start coming more fluidly. Mostly a poem, for me, begins with a phrase- often out of nowhere and I build on it from there. Then I’ll set the poem aside for a day and come back to it, edit it again, revise it or add to it for a couple of weeks afterward, depending. If I’m having trouble, I’ll take a fifteen minute break, make some tea and sit in the garden before I get back into it. Being outside helps clear my mind a bit.
I’m influenced by a lot of very different poets, I feel. There are collections I come back to again and again like an addict – my nightstand currently has Wislawa Szymborska’s collection Here which I’m really enjoying, Sarah Howe’s Loop of Jade, Anna Akhmatova’s Selected Poems, Sylvia Plath, Vona Groarke, Anne Sexton, Yehuda Amichai, Jack Underwood and a couple of collections by Blas Falconer. I’ve started reading Elizabeth Bishop, which I haven’t read much of before. It’s getting really crowded!
2. Where do you stand on the whole social media divide between writers? Do you think it plays an important part in a writer’s paraphernalia or is it just an elaborate diversion from precious work time?
I think it can be either. We’re in a generation where it has got to be utilised. There is an element of it that I think is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it’s a great tool for self-promotion and especially with Anomaly, we wouldn’t have survived at all without it. It continues to be our life-line.
There is an element of green-eye with social media, though, you see a writer you know is doing really well and you tend to think “God, I wish I was that prolific” or “I wish I was doing that well”, but it’s up to you at the end of the day. I can’t complain, I’ve had a productive year. Thirteen poems coming out in eight journals so far, I feel like that’s a good amount and they’re all journals I admire, which is important. You just have to keep it going, refuse to have writer’s block and just push through it. There are so many resources available to writers online now that I just don’t understand how you’d gain any traction without it – but then I’m an 80s baby so to me it’s magical and amazing. I couldn’t go back to the days before the Internet, I’m glad I remember what life was like before it. Sure, there’s an element of nostalgia about it yet at the same time I’m glad I can have that nostalgia and then tweet about it!
3. How does being an editor for your own journal help your being a writer and vice versa? Has it made you love the craft even more?
It has most definitely made me appreciate some of the really wonderful work going around out there. There are some poets in particular who sent us their work who I just admire immensely, people like Scherezade Siobhán, Jack Warren, Zelda Chappel, Ace Boggess- there’s a whole list of writers who are just wonderful crafters and to be honest, make me a little jealous.
And I love it when another writer makes me jealous because it just encourages me to push myself but it also tells me that they’ve done something I really like. I think it also shows you different ways of doing things, whether it be structure or a use of imagery or a word you hadn’t thought o use in a certain way. The best part of it is the exposure to completely different styles of work and through that, to entire different cultures.
4. What sort of work do you look for for Anomaly? What sort of vibe are you hoping to catch for this next issue?
It has to be good- that’s pretty much it! Talent and skill are pretty much the most important factors. The work has to have skill and a talent for language. Not everyone has it and past a certain point, it can’t be learnt either. Writing is like any art form, you can learn it to a degree but I think the level to which you can improve will hit a ceiling, you know? Not everyone can be da Vinci.
You can tell immediately when you read lazy work or when a writer has no real interest in challenging themselves or improving their work at all.
There are a lot of people for whom writing is a hobby but it’s always obvious when the work is more of a compulsion, it’s something they must do because there’s always, always a superior level of craftsmanship and skill involved and when you read it, it just floors you. So, we don’t really go in for themes, we never gather work with a theme in mind because it’s too limiting.
As the website has gained more and more traffic we’re gaining more submissions and as a result, Issue 3 is expanding quite a bit and it’ll be interesting to see how much we can pack in. We don’t have a set page limit- it’s just the best of what comes in by deadline time, which is August 20th for this issue. We’ve had a lot of compliments on our choices for the artwork and photography, which is wonderful. We’ve been incredibly lucky with the artists who’ve given us our work so far, David Reali and Erik Brede, Gabrielle Montesanti and of course Sofia Monika Swatek. This time round we have a major name attached and we are very, very excited to host his work. It’s incredibly beautiful, so I hope everyone enjoys the artwork as well as the writing this time round- which we have also been delighted with, there are some exquisite things coming- we’re very excited!
Maybe that was the theme all along- exquisite things? I hope everyone agrees.
5. What advice can you impart to budding writers that you wish you received when you started writing?
For the love of God, don’t publish a poem before it’s ready. And learn to be more discerning about where you publish. I definitely did both of those things when I was younger, and now some of those poems still fish up from the inky depths of the Internet every so often.
I’ve definitely learnt that it’s more important to get your poems into journals and magazines that matter rather than just whoever will take them. If you can learn to be careful about where you send your work, you’ll be thankful later. It really is quality over quantity that matters most.
If you can get your work into ‘important’ journals and magazines, it’s better than having them in fifty dozen shit-rags no-one’s ever heard of and no-one reads and who publish whatever’s given to them. Be critical and careful. The Internet will be throwing it back in your face for the rest of your goddamned life – do you really want to be seeing those poems you wrote fifteen years ago, forever? No. You don’t, you really don’t.
That and read everything you can. Devour it. Learn poetic forms and structure, learn how to write a good villanelle or cinquain and do that for a couple of years. Then stop doing it and read everything you can. Throw the rule book out the window and find your own voice.
And when you’ve done that, if you were anything like me, stop being so depressed and weird and hang out with your friends more often. And go to the gym- you’re too bloody skinny!
6. And lastly, what’s one line or phrase from a poem that best described your morning?
Probably Anna Akhmatova-
‘I’ve a lot of feeling for you. You’re kind.
We’ll kiss, grow old, walk around.
Light months will fly over us
Like snowy stars.’
Only because I was reading it this morning, hungover, and Oli brought me coffee in bed. I’m a very simple man really!
Anomaly Lit’s submissions call for Issue 3 is still ongoing and will last until the end of summer. Hit the link to find out how and what you can send their way. Send your best work and best of luck!!!
Anomaly Literary Journal: