Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Interview with the English poet Patrick Widdess for "Sh"

You gluttonous people for poetry and creative photos and words, an interview with the English 
poet and artist Patrick Widdess is now available for the Macedonian literary magazine "Sh". 
It's been translated into Macedonian together with his poem "String"  and some of his photos, for our website

Still, you can also read the interview in English here:

Patrick Widdess

"Sh": Patrick I have seen you perform your poems at several spoken word shows in Cambridge. How do you identify as a writer? Poet of the page or of the spoken word? What can you say about their relation?

P. W. : Some poems are written to be performed but mine are written for the page first. They communicate through language rather than sounds and actions. But I enjoy performing and giving my work a more dynamic delivery than when the words are static on the page.

"Sh": What is your experience with slamming?

P. W. : I first entered a slam in Vancouver
. I came last but got some great feedback from the audience and enjoyed the other performers too. I like the way slams make you focus on the poetry, both yours and the other poets’.  I wouldn’t want the competitive side to get in the way of that positive atmosphere.
My last slam was at the Hammer and Tongue final in London. I was competing in the team slam with Fay Roberts, Leanne Moden and Hollie McNish. It was incredible to be part of an event with so many terrific poets. It was a bit terrifying getting up on stage in front of them all but the response was amazing.

"Sh": Can you tell us more about The Smell of Cubes, your digital album of poetry?

P. W. : I’d recorded a few poems at various times for different reasons and was experimenting with making tunes using some iPhone apps. I’d also tried setting some of my poems to music. After a while I realised I had enough material for an album. Putting it together and releasing it on Bandcamp was very straight forward.

from travels, Patrick Widdess
"Sh": Your blog reveals you've lived in Poland. How do changing landscapes and cultures influence your writing?

P. W. : When you experience new things you’re more motivated to write. I blogged regularly when I was living in Japan just for friends and family and I started a travel blog when I lived in Poland ( Recording and reflecting on experiences travelling and living abroad can lead to poems, but not always straight away.

"Sh": One of your photos won a Guardian competition? Can you tell us more about your engagement with photography?

The winning shot for The Guardian
P. W. : Like poetry photography is about recording and responding to the world around you in a creative way. I started experimenting with photography at university using camera shake, unusual subjects and camera angles to create abstract images.
I moved on to photographing events and I’ve been lucky to photograph some high profile artists at The Cambridge Folk Festival and the Junction. Highlights include Booker T, Seasick Steve, Lee Scratch Perry and Courtney Pine who started imitating camera sounds on his sax and started jamming with me and another photographer.

The Guardian Camera Club gives you an assignment to focus on and a good platform to share your work. I couldn’t believe it when I won the competition. It was the first time I’d entered.

"Sh": On the poetry and music radio show, Headstand, you have played a variety of styles of music? How do you choose pieces and does this relate to your writing?

P. W. : I don’t think it does relate to my writing. I grew up listening to John Peel on Radio 1. I was always fascinated by the way he’d play a 1920s jazz record followed by hardcore drum and bass and then something else equally different. It inspired me to find the best tracks from across the musical spectrum to play on my own show.

"Sh": At one of your poetry workshops you reminded participants of the art of composing kennings. How do you come up with such ideas for workshops and in your own writing?

P. W. : I only learnt about kennings this year at a workshop I attended. They are creative descriptions of objects and people. It was the perfect form to teach at a workshop I was developing to show people how to respond creatively to their everyday surroundings. It works well and some participants have composed superb kennings about everyday items like a pair of glasses and a matchbox.

"Sh": Can you finish this line for us,  "a poem ..." 
Abstract, Patrick Widdess

P. W. : A poem inhabits the spaces between the words.

"Sh": In your Newton poem you speak about rebelling against rules, even those of nature, like gravity. In your opinion, what literary rules should young poets disobey?

P. W. : Poetry isn’t about following or disobeying rules but knowing the best way to express different ideas. It’s important to understand different forms and conventions so you know why they are effective. You can then make an informed decision about whether or not to use them.

"Sh": Can you give us 5 don'ts in writing poetry?

P. W. :
Don’t show off with obscure language or complex forms that don’t communicate anything.
Don’t overrun your slot at open mics.
Don’t constantly compare yourself to other poets.
Don’t underestimate the poetic potential of the humble toothbrush.
Don’t disregard your weaknesses, or your strengths.

"Sh": Lastly, which 5 artists, living or dead, would you like to have long discussions with over dinner and some nice wine?

Carol Ann Duffy
Haruki Murakami
Salvador Dali
John Lennon

William Shakespeare


I went around the neighbourhood collecting bits of string. I tied them together until I had a long enough piece then attached a tin can to either end. I gave one to my brother, who was going to India for a year. When he arrived the string just reached, and our voices travelled sharp and clear across the continents.
            He said he’d forgotten his reading glasses so I hung them on the string, raised my arm and they slid down the line. He sent us packages of incense, sweets and a teapot in the shape of the Taj Mahal. We would sometimes get interference when birds perched on the line or someone walked into it. Once a knot came undone in the middle and I had to walk half way across Europe to fix it.

from Travels, Patrick Widdess

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