Monday, 3 March 2014

 Adam White Interviewed
Adam waits until answering question seven to tell us that, ‘I'd like to add that my first book, Accurate Measurements, was published in Ireland in April 2013, and it was shortlisted for a Forward prize in London, so is worth a read! I'm working, very slowly, on a second book.’ To be shortlisted for the Forward prize makes him a very worthy poet to be attending the St Clémentin Literary Festival in August of this year.
Now, before you see and hear him in St Clémentin, read on…
1.  When did you begin writing?
I began writing in 2009. I was reading English and French at university in Galway, in Ireland, and took part in a seminar on modern Irish poetry. We read eight or nine Irish poets, but it was reading Seamus Heaney that made me want to write. His childhood poems, in particular, brought back a lot of memories, and then poems about working, such as farming or thatching roofs, made me think of jobs I had done in the past. I used to be a carpenter, so I started writing about what went on on the building sites. That's how it started.

2.  Did you take any formal training?
I didn't attend any creative writing workshops, if that's what you mean, but I consider close reading of great poets to be a sort of training. I read a lot of poetry at university, and haven't stopped since. I often think that, just as I did a four-year apprenticeship to become a carpenter (and learned from observing great carpenters), it took me four years to put my first book together. That too was an apprenticeship, as while I was writing it, I read all the time, and observed what was happening in the poems of the writers I loved.

3.  Do you write across all genres, ie fiction, poetry...
Only poetry. I feel I have to concentrate on that genre to be able to do my best there.

4.  If you weren't a published author would you still write?
Yes, I would. When I hear someone playing guitar, I want to play it too. The same goes for poetry. The type of literature I read, whether it be poetry, short stories or biography, is always linked to experiences I have had myself (manual labour, or emigration, for example), and makes me want to write about these. Whether it was good enough to be published or not, I would still feel that I should have something to show for the reading, something that will last a while.

5.  Who are your favourite authors?
I have to say Seamus Heaney is my favourite, because reading him turned me on to poetry. Something I got out of reading him was a realisation that the way in which he drew from his experiences on the farm, the way he wrote about things he could depend on there (the religious and agrarian cycles that lent his youth there some sense of important order), could be an inspiration for someone like myself, who really missed working on the building sites and the cycles there – wrapping up an old job, starting another, gradually getting better at specific tasks that keep coming back to you, the lunch with the lads. So suddenly I felt that there was something important there to write about, because it had disappeared. This is a theme I tried to explore in my book, Accurate Measurements, and I wouldn't have thought of it without the help of Seamus Heaney's poetry.

Ted Hughes is one of my favourites. I like when he writes about the blood and mud of the countryside, and the extremity of the weather, especially the wind and the rain. He does sometimes exaggerate, but that’s one of the reasons his poems are such a thrill to read, and in this way the language in his poems never seems tired or second-hand. Seamus Heaney said that he was a “guardian spirit of the land and the language”, which I think is very true.

Recently I found Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems on my shelf (I’d bought it over a year beforehand), and reading him I wonder why I didn’t discover his poems a long time ago. I remember that Robert Frost said you don’t write a poem until you have something to say, and if you don’t, then go away and find something to say before you start. Well, Philip Larkin definitely worked on that basis – often very simple things, but beautifully said, in simple language, and always things that are important to all of us and very thought-provoking.

6.  What are your main interests outside of writing?
I’m interested in music, and nature, or the natural world, but my main interest outside writing is building - building houses. I like to see how techniques differ from region to region, from country to country (last summer I helped to reroof a house in Germany). The way houses are built (maybe I should say used to be built) here in Normandy is different to the way they do it in Brittany, and of course back in Ireland it's another story altogether.

7.  Can you tell us anything about yourself?
I can tell you that I'm from a small seaside town in Cork, called Youghal, in the south of Ireland, but I'm living in Honfleur, Normandy at present. I did a lot of carpentry in Ireland and in Brittany, but right now I'm teaching English at a collège in Le Havre. I'd like to add that my first book, Accurate Measurements, was published in Ireland in April 2013, and it was shortlisted for a Forward prize in London, so is worth a read! I'm working, very slowly, on a second book.

8.  What will you offer to the literary festival?
I can only say that I have gotten nice, warm reactions from audiences at poetry readings/events in the past, and hope that this continues. It might have something to do with the fact that I don't go in for difficult, elusive poems that try to impress people with information and references to literature, or 'high' culture. My poetry is about everyday life, about really important things like work and family, that are both simple and complex at the same time, and in this way it is easy for people to relate to it and take something from it. I have yet to meet another carpenter who writes poetry!

9. What do you hope to take away from your experience at the St Clémentin Literary Festival?
I simply hope to meet some writers from France, or living in France. I know a good many people from the writing community back in Galway, where I used to live, and do my best to keep in touch.

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