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Seven Questions for Poets #1 – Clare Best

A new series begins here. I thought I’d have a fun Q & A with some of my poet friends, throwing them each seven thorny questions and seeing what comes back. Huge thanks to everyone for playing the game. Stand by for some interesting answers!

First up – Clare Best. Clare is author of Treasure Ground  (HappenStance 2009),  Excisions (Waterloo Press 2011),  Breastless (Pighog 2011) and Cell (Frogmore Press 2015). She’s based in Lewes, which is really how I met her. I’ve had the privilege of taking part in workshops with Clare and also helping out at the Needlewriters, the writers’ collective she co-founded. Clare has a great sense of fun and was quick to rise to the seven question challenge!

1 – What was the last poetry book you read, that you would recommend?

The Long Haul by Alan Buckley (HappenStance 2016) – a beautiful, tightly-worked pamphlet. Very skilled, heartfelt, complete poems, and slow-cooked. Thoroughly recommended. I’m always reading Raymond Carver’s A New Path to the Waterfall and find more in it at each sitting – I’m a big fan of Carver.

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?

The problem is you don’t really know what is likely to be at all decent until quite a while down the line! Probably one to three a year that I feel content with – enough to leave them alone. Lots get chucked out early on, most are just abandoned at some point. There’s a lot of starting…

3 – Do you enter poetry competitions?

From time to time, not often. I prefer sending to mags and journals on the whole, it feels less impersonal.

4 – If someone has never read any poetry, where would you suggest they start?

I think I’d point them towards the Bloodaxe anthologies: Staying Alive; Being Alive; Being Human and Anthony Wilson’s Lifesaving Poems. All are excellent. Oh, and Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.

5 – You’re asked to give a reading at the Royal Festival Hall, to thousands of people. What goes through your mind?

Honestly: at first, well, sheer delight – the fear etc will come later. Then, What the hell am I going to wear?

6 Why is end-rhyme considered a good thing in performance poetry, but rarely found in contemporary magazines?

Good question. There are quite a few odd differences in taste and fashion between the various presentations of poetry. I think if you see end-rhymed poetry on the page first, the end-rhyme sticks out but if you hear it first and read it afterwards you remember the sounds as pleasurable. We probably need clear sound-patterning more in poetry we first encounter through our ears.

7 – A murmuration of starlings, a murder of crows etc – what would you call a group of poets?

Depends on the group of poets. 😉  But how about a ‘plunder’ of poets?

QUICK PLUG:  Clare Best is reading in Edinburgh this Wednesday 17th August, at the Fruitmarket Gallery, alongside Tessa Berring, Isobel Dixon, Alan Gillis, Eliza Kentridge and Rob A. Mackenzie. The reading will include poems responding to the gallery’s current exhibition by Mexican artist Damian Ortega. Doors 7pm – drinks, exhibition. Readings 7.30pm. FREE EVENT! Bar, art, poetry and the special Fruitmarket Gallery festival atmosphere.

Published inBlogInterviewsSeven Questions


  1. elly elly

    That Needlewriters site is nicely set up, with the online anthology etc. 🙂

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Robin Houghton 2024