Gyroscope Review editors decided that a good way to honor contributors to our journal is with an occasional interview. We decided to begin with our friend and colleague, Oonah Joslin. Read on.
GR: Thanks for agreeing to let us interview you for Gyroscope Review. We’re pleased that your work is included in our first issue. Can you please begin by telling us where you’re from, where you write, and why poetry?
OVJ: I am originally from N. Ireland but I lived in S. Wales and now in Northumberland – England’s most northerly region. But I seem to spend most of my time inside this wee box and that’s where I do most of my writing. I don’t write poetry exclusively. I have 100 MicroHorrors online and other stories on various sites and anthologies, and a novella. In fact I have over 90 pieces of work in Bewildering Stories including a discussion, with poet John Stocks, of the work of T S Eliot. Some of you masochists might like that.
GR: Who, or what are your poetical influences?
OVJ: I used to do verse speaking at the Feis when I was just in primary school. I had trouble learning to read and so poetry helped me because of its rhymes and I loved singing hymns too. Of course when The Highway Man came riding up to the old inn door and Death raised himself a throne under the sea, well — I was hooked. At eleven one my first poems, The Scarecrow, was put on the classroom wall. I had a lot of great teachers! And you never stop learning. Being an editor hones your skills too. I’ve learned a lot from reading a lot of submissions.
GR: How do you decide what ‘form’ a poem should take?
OVJ: I usually just start writing and sometimes lines suggest themselves. I play about with poems a good deal. I like to experiment with form but nothing too restrictive. I am not fond of Pantoums or Villanelles. I don’t mind non-repetitive forms. I quite like sonnets. I prefer free verse, prose poems and Japanese short forms because — they’re short — and so am I. I have no ambition to write an epic narrative of any kind.
GR: What is your writing process like?
OVJ: Chaotic. Eclectic. Messy.
Shortest — under a minute to write was this one. https://postcardpoemsandprose.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/pret-a-porter-by-oonah-v-joslin/
Longest – took over 20 years.
Heart of Brightness, about Manhattan, was started on 15th Sept 2014 and finished just before publication. Here’s part of the first draft at which point it wasn’t even a poem — just a voice in my head:
“Never imagined it would be like this – like a diamond.
It looked like a jewel from the air. A jewel casting light in all directions, splintering the sun into shards and throwing them out like so much tinsel. It looked like a jewel from the ground. At a distance, sharp and facetious: cut to impress. Inside its movements were pure Cartier – precise, intricate, non-stop clock-worked motion that ticked so loud you could hear nothing but the heart of it: could attend to nothing but the incessant avalanche of noise.”
GR: Do you belong to any writer’s groups – face to face or online? If so, Are they part of your process?
OVJ: Heart of Brightness took more than 10 drafts, two of those being work-shopped in Writewords. James Graham is a tremendous help. He can unpack a poem like no other. No detail is beneath his notice. I owe a lot to James and to the other poets who comment there. I attend two other ‘live’ writers’ groups periodically but one doesn’t generally get such good feedback. I like working from prompts so – yes they are all very much part of the process.
GR: What do you look for in the poetry you like to read? Any favorite poets?
OVJ: Depth. Breadth. Spirituality. To say something other; something I hadn’t thought of in that way before. The big picture. Hopkins is still one of my favourites, Auden, Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, Basho, Rumi, Baudelaire; but you know there are lots of good poets out there; lots I haven’t come across and some of my online friends and the poets I’ve published are pretty great!
GR: What is the most important role for poets today?
OVJ: Writing poetry.
GR: Which poets have you had the opportunity to hear read? Alternatively, what is the most recent book you’ve read?
OVJ: Colin Will recently did a reading from his latest collection, The Book of Ways, which is rather unique – an entire book of Haibun. I enjoyed reading it more than hearing it because, on the page, the short forms stood out more and therefore took on more emphasis; a more separate significance from the prose and I could see how they worked together as a whole.
GR: Any future plans for your work that you’d like to talk about?
OVJ: I am going to be a great success, win some major prize, have several collections published etc etc. No. I just write, you know?
GR: What other interests do you have beyond literature?
OVJ: Cooking, eating. Anything to do with space exploration. History and science.
A Quantum History of Gastronomy ☺ – that’s me. Ah – the title for my book!
GR: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Please let our readers know where they can find more information about you or your work:
Parallel Oonahverse https://oovj.wordpress.com/
Discussion of Poetry: http://www.everydaypoets.com/what-is-poetry-149-oonah-v-joslin-and-john-stocks/ and look in the Author Index for me.
Or you could just google and see what comes up. I am on Facebook, too: https://www.facebook.com/oonah.joslin
GR: Thanks, again, Oonah. It’s been a pleasure.
Oonah’s poem, Heart of Brightness, appears on page 7 of the inaugural issue of Gyroscope Review.