An Interview with Patrick Wright

Patrick Wright has a poetry collection, Full Sight Of Her, published by Black Spring Press (2020). He has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at the Open University. He is also currently finishing a PhD in Creative Writing, on the ekphrasis of modern and contemporary art, supervised by Jane Yeh and Siobhan Campbell.

You can read his poem Metanoia in our July 2022 issue.

Would you like to tell us a little bit more about your poem? For instance, how or why you wrote it, or perhaps provide some extra context? 

The word ‘metanoia’ refers to a transformative change of heart or spiritual conversion. I made sense of this in terms of my personal experience of grief. I wanted to write a poem that captured the experience of having identity lost or torn apart by bereavement. At the same time, the poem is about moving forward despite it all, how (once we choose to live) it might be necessary to go through a Phoenix-like rebirth. 

Do you have a collection of poetry or even a single poem that acts as a touchstone or a lodestar? 

Oh, there’s so many. Though if I were to choose one, I’d go for ‘Aubade’ by Philip Larkin. 

If you didnt write poetry, how do you think you might access the same fulfillments that poetry offers in your life? 

If I couldn’t be a writer—and I am interested in other genres, especially the short story—I’d probably be a visual artist. Photography or painting would be my chosen medium. 

What are you working on now? 

I’m finishing a PhD in Creative Writing. The project is on the ekphrasis of modern and contemporary art. This comprises a collection of 65 poems and a critical component. I expect this will result in a second collection.  

How or where or with what does a poem begin? 

I think it’s mysterious. I do my best to be as receptive as I can be to the minutiae of lived experience. I capture things out of the ether. I like the Aeolian harp idea: how the poet is like an instrument played by the wind. Often, this involves a word or phrase I read about or overhear. This might then become a first draft or idea in a notebook.   

Are there other art forms that inspire or inform your poetry? 

I’ve been particularly drawn to visual art, hence my PhD on ekphrasis. I recognized that many examples of ekphrasis make use of figurative art, while other forms of art, such as abstract painting or installation, are overlooked. This led me to write poems in response to Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals or Cornelia Parker’s ‘Cold Dark Matter’, among other examples. I’m fascinated by how such artworks can serve as a prism or lens for the lyric.    

How do you make space for poetry in your daily routine? 

I ring-fence some time during the week, no matter how busy I am. I insist on that alone time. It’s a devotional act and vocation—certainly not a hobby. This might change, from week to week; though I know I’m a writer because writing for me is compulsive, and if I don’t write, I start to feel depressed.  

Have you ever received advice (or has there been something youve learned on your own) about writing or revising poems that has made you a better poet? What was it? 

Formal constraints can be really useful, at least as a starting point. Contrary to romantic myths about freedom and expression, rules can be enabling and highly creative. I’ve also learned that I nearly always over-write; so, most of my attention goes on identifying and cutting the redundant phrases, etc.   

Do you belong to a writers group? If not, where do you find poetry community and feedback? 

Right now, it’s just my supervisors (for my PhD) and editor (at Eyewear Publishing).

In terms of poetic style or craft, is there a big question you are trying to find an answer for?

I’m trying not to sound like myself. I’m intrigued at what gives my poems a signature or voice that others recognise. I’m at my most excited, creatively, when I write a poem that doesn’t look like I wrote it. Developing a deeper awareness of how I write, and why, will hopefully assist in my need to continually innovate and avoid repeating myself. Even so, this might be a futile quest, as I will probably end up reinscribing certain features in my writing; and perhaps having a distinctive style or identity isn’t such a bad thing. 

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