BLOG Susie Wild

NWR Issue r19

Better Houses

I am writing this on National Poetry Day 2017. I celebrate it every year in some shape or form. Today you find me quietly typing blogs and articles to promote my new, debut collection, Better Houses. There are sunflowers in vases, a serendipitously timed gift on a rare sunny September day at home in Cardiff. Although the book officially launched on 1 October, I had previously taken it out to show off with preview events in Bridgend, Swansea and Cardiff. In late September I also attended Free Verse: The London Poetry Book Fair to sell it alongside other Parthian poetry titles, and then my book and I tour together until December.

Better Houses is about the places we inhabit in life, about relationships and the extraordinary in the everyday. It has all the key subjects: birth, death, sex, love and loss. At the book’s core, it is as much about moving house as it is about trying to centre yourself somewhere, to find a place to call home, to be still. I have moved at least every six months to two years in my adult life, sometimes through choice and often not. This draws on those experiences of packing and unpacking boxes, but it also employs fiction, humour and imagination. Other poems escape fires and great white sharks, test beds and language barriers and hunt fossils and comets, spells and adventures.

If I finish another book, you can place bets on the next title. Friends have already pointed out with amusement The Art of Contraception of my twenties, the Better Houses of my thirties… I’m hoping to get another book finished if not out by my forties, I’ve some time yet. Although this latest one has been a long time brewing, you were saved from my teenage poems by a fire. Be thankful!

I have read poems avidly since I was small, written them too, learnt them to recite in my head as a bored child without a book. I have turned them into lyrics for my brief time in an arthouse band. I have rushed, bursting with excitement, to as many spoken word shows as I could, aged twenty-one in London. Too scared to perform myself, then, instead I befriended poets and learnt what I could from them along the way. I have finally got up on stage, again and again and again, aged twenty-five and since, at dives and dance halls and festivals from Green Man to Glastonbury, Hay to the Dylan Weekend.

So, in its way, this book has taken over twenty years. Those years of living, learning, gathering material, style, performing, editing, attending workshops, taking two poetry modules on my Creative Writing MA finished a decade ago, and more recently, setting up a peer-to-peer writing group that now meets almost monthly at my house.

It has taken me to a stint as writer-in-residence at the Mothership in Dorset where I was able to write, to garden and to be alone. Taken me on to a place on the Autumn Poetry Masterclass in Ty Newydd with Gillian Clarke and Imtiaz Dharker last year; on, later, to be blessed with Zoë Brigley as my guest editor and on, finally, to this launch stage.

It is a strange process, bringing out a book with the publishing house where you are also publishing editor, a role you didn’t have for Book One. This time you find yourself checking production is running on time, requesting your own blurb quotes, popping all the publicity material and tour dates together, driving your partner (who is also your cover designer) mad because you are both the poet and the publisher, and because, of course, like with buying shoes, you will return to the first cover choice in the end, after all.

There’s a poem in my new book called ‘Gifts Like Honey’ that sprung from my then-kitten Hooper rushing in through the cat flap with this low buzz sound coming from his mouth. After a while he’d drop a bee, still alive, on to the doormat, bat it about for a bit and then pop it back into his mouth and run outside again. Repeatedly. I feel a bit like Hooper, now, with all these new poems to share with you: ‘I have so many bees to tell you/ I lay them at your feet and // wait…’

Better Houses by Susie Wild is published by Parthian, and is also available at her tour events scheduled between now and early December, and from all good book shops on and offline. Author Website @Soozerama

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previous blog: Table Talk: A Moveable Feast
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