It’s that time of the year, Halloween, again. And we welcome back to DEMAIN, Martin Richmond. This time around he’s created a poetry collection called Halloween’s Best Cellar (available now for pre-sales; cover by Adrian Baldwin) which will be published on Friday 15th October. As the lockdown restrictions were lifted, Dean and Martin sat down and talked about it…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Martin! Hope you’re just fine and dandy. Okay, a little departure from your last Short Sharp Shocks! Beasties…but for those that don’t know you (yet, anyway!) do you come from a literary background?
MARTIN RICHMOND: Hi! Great to be here. I have no literary background unless you count the couple of years I spent as restaurant critic for the Speakeasy magazine, a local council publication, and the time I spent as chairman of the ‘Falkirk Writers' Circle’.
DP: And what poets did you like as a child?
MR: My 'go to' poet as a child was always A.A. Milne, 'When we were very young' and 'Now we are Six' were always a comfort zone that I'd fall back on and read to my own children as well. Something I would recommend to all parents reading a bedtime story. The rhyming couplets stay in the memory.
DP: They do. I’ve not actually read much Milne so will put that right asap. How did you get started as a poet and why poetry?
MR: As a teenager I would create poetry fairly constantly, but always with a leaning towards the fantastic, horror or science fiction. Creating a collection that lead to most of my publications.
DP: I’ve said in other interviews I did go through a three or so year period where I wrote nothing but poetry. Interesting that I’d never been interested in it before or since. Very odd. Anyway, do you find writing poetry easy?
MR: With writing poetry I needed a theme or a specific subject matter to kick start the creative juices flowing. But once started, I have to finish it even if it leads to many, many re-writes until the tale is told.
DP: So it energises you?
MR: I feel quite energised with poetry and completing one is always greatly satisfying.
DP: Oh I bet. Perhaps I need to pick up the pen and find the muse again. Do you have to do much in the way of research?
MR: I do very little research writing poetry as I lean toward the fantastic and anything goes when it spills out so no research is ever needed.
DP: Makes sense. So how do you start a poem (asking for a friend obviously haha)?
MR: Kickstarting a new poem is probably the hardest part of the creation, knowing where to start can be a trial and error session until I get that hook to get it moving.
DP: And how do you develop it? Do you show your work (at any stage) to friends/family?
MR: Developing the poem once started can be very quick as I'm eager to get it down on paper before it escapes me. Scribbling on a notepad is far more creative than on a keyboard. The computer can wait. My daughter Aimi gets to see all my work and tells me what she thinks as she tends to live in the same literary world as I do and tells me honestly if it works - or not.
DP: That’s cool and I’m like you, there’s a lot I do on paper first and then when I think it’s ready I stick it on the computer. I do love it when I have something finished in ‘hard copy’ first as it feels that something has been accomplished and is ‘real’. Do you think poetry has a purpose by the way?
MR: Poetry can be very therapeutic. Some people tend to dismiss poetry as boring and don't consider the fact that most popular songs of any style are basically poetry set to music. That earworm you can't get rid of rattling incessantly round your head is a poem and it can get you through your day doing the most mundane of things with smile inside your head or on your lips.
DP: I like that. I definitely think there are some amazing poems out there. I tend to lean towards French poets myself (particularly Rimbaud) and it’s a shame if any poet/poem is immediately dismissed as boring…so who are your favourite poets?
MR: A.A. Milne is still a favourite poet, although the poems far outweigh the adventures of her little bear Pooh. I can guarantee at your lowest ebb, reading Milne's, 'Forgiven', or 'Waiting at the window' or 'The Four Friends' will put you into a far better place. But, a 'grown up' poem I always call to mind is 'Etiquette' by W S Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan, the opera writing duo. It tells of a time when social etiquette was always of prime importance, even when stranded on a desert island.
DP: Oh wow, I don’t think I know that poem, so will have a read. Do you read poetry regularly (I know I certainly don’t read enough!)?
MR: I refer back to poetry only occasionally, particularly if I need inspiration, probably because I can bring to mind most of the main ones that continuously hurtle round my inner universe, ready to dip into.
DP: Poetry is hard to get published, tell us about your experience…
MR: My first collection was The Trapdoor to Halloween, published in the USA in the Nineties. It is the inspiration for my book Halloween's Best Cellar, the only trick or treat book you'll need at Halloween and before the next Halloween.
DP: I love it! Do you ever get out there with your poems and do readings / meet your readers? I certainly don’t do enough of that and of course it’s been damned difficult these last couple of years but perhaps in 2022…
MR: When publicising my first book of poetry I was invited to give readings to several local groups and it was such great fun getting instant feedback from an audience immersed in your worlds and words. I once read a piece out that ended with, 'the show must', and paused for the next, obvious line to be spoken by another character, only to have the audience all say in chorus, 'go on!' A great feeling they were so wrapped up in it that they wanted to be part of it.
DP: That’s brilliant! Is that your best poetry experience?
MR: No.I once gave a copy of my book, The Trapdoor to Halloween to the great Scottish comedian, Billy Connolly, before his appearance at a gig in a local theatre and he commented on it in very glowing terms on stage, something I didn't expect, but love the man all the more for it.
DP: Wow – that’s amazing! Well done! Okay: can poetry save the world?
MR: Poetry saves the world in its own special way, giving hope and courage to pursue goals and achieve things that might make a difference.
DP: That’s a great answer, thank you. What do you think about social media (or the internet as a whole when it comes to poetry)?
MR: The juggernaut of the internet allows poetic words to travel much farther than was ever previously possible so it is a force for good in this instance, allowing the sharing of thoughts and deeds instantly, everywhere.
DP: So true. Are you a member of any local poetry writing groups…
MR: I used to share my work with a local writers’ group, The Falkirk Writers' Circle, where everyone was a poet and all genuinely wanted to hear what you had to say. Such an important stage in my writing life that I would urge others to join too and develop their own work.
DP: I will thanks! Okay, last two now Martin. Should every poem mean something or can they just be ‘enjoyed’?
MR: Poems don't always need to have a meaning or important message they can just be an enjoyable plunge into a word pool to make you laugh, cry or to just provide a small escape from a difficult world.
DP: And finally – do you have any advice for an aspiring poet?
MR: If someone should also wish to try their hand at writing poetry I would recommend reading as many poems as possible from different poets, to decide the style of poetry they feel most in tune with, then scribble some words down (on paper, not a computer) and read them out loud to yourself. Hearing them aloud tells you if they sound as good as you imagine they do on paper, then share them with a willing friend or relation to get feedback. If it's negative, accept it and keep trying, never give up, otherwise the world could be robbed of the next A A Milne if you do!
Thanks for your time Martin – very much appreciated. All the best with your Beats! Ballads! Blank Verse! Halloween’s Best Cellar…
Dean M. Drinkel