I first met Anna Kisby at the Brighton Poetry Stanza and was struck by her writing. Sadly for us, she then relocated to the west country. But it’s always a joy to come across her work, and we met again recently at the South Downs Poetry Festival, where she was awarded first prize in the Havant Poetry Competition. Last year she was commended by Faber, and she recently won the BBC Proms Poetry Competition. Here are Anna’s answers to the seven questions…
1 – What was the last poetry book you read, that you would recommend?
The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe, recent Poet Laureate of New York State. I’m interested in how she writes about the actuality of life – using plain language and metaphor only very sparingly – but the poems lift off the page.
2 – Philip Larkin and Dannie Abse are both alleged to have said they only wrote one or two decent poems a year. How is it for you?
Sometimes there are poems that, as a friend describes it, ‘Come out whole, like laying an egg’. I always feel affection for poems I write like that as opposed to the ones I labour over, which start to get on my nerves.
3 – What would be your ideal place for a writing retreat?
That hotel in the Alps where Hemingway and his wife Hadley stay in the 1920s (as described in A Moveable Feast.)
4 – Do you enter poetry competitions?
In phases – at the moment, yes! A mixture of the biggies (worth a try?) and smaller ones tied to local festivals.
5 – If someone has never read any poetry, where would you suggest they start?
A predictable answer but: Staying Alive (Bloodaxe, ed Neil Astley). It set me going again.
6 – You’re asked to give a reading at the Royal Festival Hall, to thousands of people. What goes through your mind?
7 – Can you remember the first poem you wrote? What was it about?
Living in America, aged 8, a long rhyming poem about sisters Primrose and Camomile Brown – it was flowery and quite self-consciously English. The important thing was that when I showed it to our neighbour, a craftswoman, she made me feel it was the best poem she’d ever read, bought me a special Poetry Notebook and took me very seriously as a writer. I rather let her down by not focusing on poetry again for another 30 years…
Anna Kisby’s most recently-published poem is included in the Live Canon anthology 154: contemporary poets in response to Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. On 4th Nov 2016 the Live Canon ensemble will perform a selection of poems from the anthology at Oxford Playhouse – details available here.