This is the start of a new series where I interview poets about their process and writing in reference to a single poem. I’m delighted to start with Barry Hollow, a fantastic poet and all round great bloke who I met through Bristol Tonic.
Faith, Hope and Flames of Indifference
you are recently deceased again brother
rested in peace
I always hope, to not let you burn and feel
the lights go out
in your mother’s cavernous heart and
creation inspires cremation
out of ashes, charcoal drawn
from the devouring fire once more,
as a circle of birth and destruction
I sing, I am caught in your gravity, and
you must be exalted, so
do not tell me that
I should never meet my idols and
tell me to beware of false idols, as you were my idol,
as we were womb-bonded, you
taught me many lessons
your ego and temper, oblivious,
so perfectly obvious to me. I remember
I never thought I’d be a father, it was
with examples, you moulded me and
I followed as a barefoot pilgrim, bestowed
dedication, given with soles worn through,
with bleeding and open eyes, yet blind
as a disciple, giving faith
as a subject for acceptance, my only care was
receipt of your attention
D: What a poem to kick this series off! It feels confessional and autobiographical, what was your initial impulse for writing it?
B: It is both of those things. I’ve been trying to experiment on being abstract but also switching to be being clearer and more ‘honest’ in my writing. The hope is to avoid the trap of writing in the same style too often.
D: As part of the experimentation do you revise your poems a lot? How many revisions and changes did this piece have?
B: I have a real mixed bag of editing processes. Sometimes I do a free write, then leave a piece alone for a while. Other times, when working in a form, I have an original idea and work it and hone it until it’s in an acceptable first draft, then review it a bunch many times and tweak as I go. This one was written for a poetry competition to write a reverse poem and I only had 72 hours. This one was also peer reviewed and edited a couple of times. This is probably v3.
D: Your approach to writing is very varied, do you have a routine or do you write when inspiration strikes?
B: I definitely write more when inspiration strikes me. However, as I’m new to the poetry game, I often have a book of some sort on different poetry writing practices on the go, so have been know to try these different exercises out, using my poetry notes to frame it. Also committing to different projects also helps give some structure and deadlines to help motivated me!
D: How has your interpretation of the poem changed? Have your feelings about it changed at all?
B: It’s a poem I wrote while the emotion behind it was still quite raw. I feel I’ve moved on somewhat but because it’s more obviously autobiographical than some of my poems, I still wonder about any consequences. That said, I still stand by it as a record of what I wanted to convey. That’s something I’d like to ask of other poets; Can you forever stand by your poem?
D: I’m not sure! Maybe I’ll ask the next poet. Barry, thanks so much for doing this.
Raised in Ayrshire, Barry’s poetry often features a sprinkling of old Scots. This can be seen in a variety of poetry journals and anthologies. He has a pamphlet length collection within - Symphonies of the Wild Hearted - by A.B. Baird Publishing, available on Amazon or direct from the publisher. Barry has been featured on BBC Radio Bristol, Bristol Festival of Literature and hopes to gain more experience of the live spoken word scene in the near(ish) future.