Five Minute Interview with Richard Scott

By Wasafiri Editor on February 14, 2017 in Articles, Poetry

Richard Scott was born in London in 1981. His poems have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies including Poetry Review, Poetry London, Swimmers, The Poetry of Sex (Penguin) and Butt Magazine. He has been a winner of the Wasafiri New Writing Prize, a Jerwood/Arvon Poetry Mentee and a member of the Aldeburgh 8. His pamphlet Wound, published by Rialto, won the Michael Marks Poetry Award 2016.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I am rereading Frank O’Hara’s Selected Poems edited by Mark Ford, specifically his longer poems like ‘Memorial Day 1950’, ‘Commercial Variations’ and ‘Meditations in an Emergency’. O’Hara is a master of the short, seemingly spontaneous, lyric poem but his longer poems display such an incredible ability to sustain ideas and explore homosexuality and art in 1950’s New York. I’m also reading Gay Shame, a collection of essays edited by David Halperin and Valerie Traub, which celebrate the infamous academic conference in 2003 – which birthed an entire movement of queer-theory as a reaction to the commercialisation of Gay Pride. I am usually reading two or three things in concurrence; my rucksack is always heavy!

Where do you write?

At home, on trains, on the bus and at cafes; basically everywhere I can! For me, writing can be about sitting down for long hours but also about grabbing ten minutes on the tube to edit or start a new poem. Poetry can be versatile and moveable!

Does travelling inspire your writing?

Not directly but being away and the associated headspace and change of scenery certainly helps my writing and filters into my work. For the past few years I have been going away to France for two or three weeks in the summer to stay at a friend’s house and the silence and warmth have allowed me to start new sequences or to edit old poems that have previously seemed unfinishable.

Paper and pen or laptop?

IPhone notes and then laptop! I have never written with a pen and paper or notebook; as much as I love the idea, I find jotting down some notes onto my iPhone and then emailing them to myself a much more realistic way of working. Although when working directly onto a screen you do have to be careful that your work doesn’t appear more finished than it actually is. I am always copying and pasting or retyping entire poems to avoid the falseness of the digital medium.

What was the first book you read that made a difference?

Probably Mark Doty’s My Alexandria, although I came to it relatively late in life – about six years ago. When I read his poem ‘Days of 1981’ I suddenly felt companionship and inspiration; that it might be possible to write openly about homosexual experience in poetry. I have since reread the collection many many times; I would call it essential reading for anyone trying to write contemporary poetry as Doty explores and explodes the metaphor with such seeming ease. He is a master of comparison, a modern day George Herbert.

What one book would you take to a desert island?

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman; not only do I love ‘Song of Myself’ and turn to it constantly for fresh ideas of tone and inspiration, but the whole collection, which he rewrote at least six times throughout his life, is a large, lengthy and constantly surprising touchstone. Every time I read it I am amazed at his keen poetic eye, his generosity towards society and his astounding modernity. I think of him as one of the first homosexuals; he was truly ground-breaking and a stark reminder that writing queer poetry is always an act of political resistance.

Which new author should the world be reading?

Edward Doegar, who’s intensely political and restless poetry is available in Ten: The New Wave, published by Bloodaxe, and Clinic 4; he is also having an entire pamphlet published later this year by the wonderful Clinic! He’s a powerful and important new voice who engages with the world around him, the current political state of play and society. He also draws on the voices of German poetry from the last 100 years, like Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Volker Braun and Günter Eich, and manages to fuse an awareness of their subtle technique with his own experiences of growing up in a very divided Britain. He is something of a magician.

What book or books are you most looking forward to reading next?

British Museum by Daljit Nagra, which is being published by Faber in May. Nagra’s poetry is about as refreshing as it gets; he’s also something of a 21st century Auden and a rousing critic of modern society. His long poem, ‘A Black History of the English-Speaking Peoples’, published in his last collection, not only showcased how a contemporary poet might engage with post-colonial politics and the world around them but also changed the way I viewed society and a poet’s ability to engage with it. Nagra is an outspoken revolutionary who’s poetry has never been more relevant; indeed his poem ‘Look We Have Coming to Dover’, from his first book, seems almost as if it were written in response to the current and horrendous migrant crisis. I cannot wait to read what he does next.

What role does Wasafiri play in international contemporary literature?

Wasafiri is an astonishing and impressive magazine, one which has managed, through careful editing, the awarding of prizes and strength of believe and purpose, to turn a political literary movement into a major journal and to impact the way we read new literature within the UK. I was so proud to win the Wasafiri New Writing Prize in 2011 and utterly proud to be in the magazine itself. It is inclusive, educational and always new!