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Ashley Capes - Poet Series

By Justwrite @must_write
Ashley Capes - Poet Series
Ashley teaches Media and English in Victoria, Australia. Hisfirst collection of poetry pollen and the storm was published withthe assistance of Small Change Press in 2008, and his second collection SteppingOver Seasons was released by Interactive Press in 2009. A haiku chapbook OrionTips the Saucepan was released by Picaro Press in 2010.
When did you firststart writing poetry? What do you enjoy most about it?During high school, I think I was about fourteen. They werea mixture of awful teenage poems and hopeless recreations of The Beats, and Ithink I was relying on the natural world a lot too. Probably the best thingabout them was the simple fact that they could be finished in a reasonable amountof time. Not like a novel, and I liked that.Tell me about thefirst poem you had published. The first poem published was by the dubious folk known as,variously, ‘The International Library of Poetry’ the ‘International Society ofPoets’ and the ‘International Poetry Hall of Fame.’ It was exciting for a kid,but after being given an ‘offer’ to pay a lot of money to travel overseas fortheir award ceremony, the shine was of course tarnished. It was about animalsin a forest or a jungle (it seems to change a lot when I look at it now) andwas heavy on imagery. And bad.What is your usualwriting routine? Do you write every day? I do write every day, but it’s difficult. The time I have towrite varies of course, and what qualifies as ‘writing’ does too. It might bepart of a story, haiku, verse poetry, a lesson plan or something for uni. Likemost of us, with obligations all over the place, that time gets eaten away –especially in daylight hours. I usually end up writing late into the night.It’s quieter and my mind seems to work better then, though in the morning I’musually not impressed with myself for it.What advice would yougive a would-be poet?Read widely, because in some ways that is your preparation –but just as importantly, don’t forget to actually write. Don’t think or talkabout it, don’t plan to do it, just write.That one sounds obvious but sometimes it isn’t I guess, sometimes (in allfields) we can become obsessed with preparing. I’d also suggest one of the best pieces of advice I’ve everbeen given – that is to switch mediums. If you hit a wall with writing, paintfor a while. Or turn to music, or something else artistic – or even somethingnot artistic at all. Just get some distance, recharge with that other art formthen come back to poetry and you should have some more ammunition.What’s your opinionof self-publishing? Would you recommend it?I am a fan of self-publishing if you have two things: a goodinstinct (or editor-friend) for quality control and a base in a metropolitan area. Make that three things, if you’re personable. If not, I think it’d behard to sell your books. When you self publish you’re afforded control of yourwork, from layout to cover art to content, which is awesome. It’s toughhowever, when you get to things like distribution – which is why I mentionedthat second point. If you live in or near a city at least, you’ll have easy(and cheap) access to events and markets and you should thus be better able tosell your work.Do you perform yourpoetry? What are the differences between writing for the page and writing forthe stage?I do, though not as much as I’d like. The difference for meis in the audience – because, of course, it’s live. It’s immediate. I imagineit’s a bit like acting or standup vs a film. In a film, the reaction to whatyou’re doing or have done, it delayed (or absent). On stage, you hear theaudience, see the audience, and get an immediate sense of what your material islike. It’s very nice – it can certainly be daunting, but it’s something you getat no other time as a writer.Have you beeninspired or influenced by a particular poet’s work? How did it affect your ownwork?In the beginning it was the Beats, and rock and folklyricists, but perhaps the most important influence would be from haiku poets.I think whatever imagistic elements are present in my work are due to influenceof the haiku masters like Basho and Issa. What they did, I believe, isdemonstrate beyond a doubt (among other things), that narration can be achievedindirectly, through images created by just a few words. I’ve since thencontinued to struggle to achieve that ‘economy of words,’ and to prune back mynatural tendency to overwrite!If you had to choosea favorite contemporary poet who would it be and what makes them your favourite? Graham Nunn. For his ability to floor you as a reader –whether it’s through his imagery, his tenderness or his insight, but for hiscommitment to the art form and to those around him too. (I thought I shouldmention that I added that last bit to my answer not to detract from his poetry,or as an attempt to bolster it, but rather as a very serious and equallyimportant aspect to Graham as a poet. I don’t feel the worth of poet should bejust the measure of their (published) output, and so I’d like to suggest thatGraham’s skill as an editor, promoter, organiser, motivator and supporter isjust as powerful and valuable to the community as his written work.)What about themasters? Who would you choose and why? Here I can combine a few things together – this one is ahaiku that Graham reminded me of when I interviewed him last year.on Starvation Ridgelittle sticksare trying to grow
and it’s by Jack Kerouac, so there’s an Australian poet,haiku and The Beats all in one answer! What I enjoy about this most is probablythe verb ‘trying’ or perhaps the simple, effective contrast between‘Starvation’ and ‘grow.’ It’s also a great demonstration of why the 5-7-5syllable count isn’t needed in English language haiku. This doesn’t adhere tothose limits but it is undeniably a haiku, and it evokes a story through theimage. other objects
my wedding ring is aplain silverbarrel band. same asdad’s, very modestand very hard to keepsmooth,with scratches I can’tkeep track of anddon’t want to hide.it’s no good pretendingthe marriage isperfect, no usehanging all ourmemories and everystep of the future onjust one symbol. otherobjects speak of love,too. the weepingmaple we’ve shifted toevery house, thecup we fill with knivesand forksor the handwrittenaddress you gave methe night we met,walking the cityand flinging orangepeel into hedges, things that endure, thingsthat have lines and marks to provethem.
Why is it your favourite?Other Objects isprobably my favorite because it’s hopeful without being treacly, and I usuallyfind those poems really difficult to write. I think it paints a realisticpicture of marriage, and it was through this poem that I was able to recognisea habit I’ve picked up, of writing about objects and the store of emotion weseem to place within them.Where was it first published?July 2009, in Island– a journal I’m very happy to have appeared in, it’s always beautifully presentedand has such great material, cover to cover.What was the inspiration for, or story behind, the piece?I suppose it addresses my belief and concern, perhaps, thatmy marriage not become snagged on a single symbol, and that the wear and tearof the marriage is ultimately just as important as any other aspect. It runsthrough a few other objects that have memories attached to them, triggering forme, the night I met my wonderful wife. 
Ashley Capes - Poet SeriesAshley Capes - Poet SeriesAshley Capes - Poet Series
Find out more about Ashley here.

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