Book four in the Beats! Ballads! Blank Verse! Series is William Clunie’s Laws Of Discord. The ebook is released on the 29th of May (though out now for pre-sales) – with a cover by Adrian Baldwin. With Bill based in Germany and Dean currently in the UK – their interview was conducted within social distancing rules.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome William to DEMAIN, it’s a pleasure to have you on board. Can you tell us a little about yourself, do you come from a literary background at all?
WILLIAM CLUNIE: Hi! And No. Not a textual background, anyway. The language was colourful in my family and the stories plentiful, but only as an oral tradition. Illiteracy was not uncommon in the older generations, but some of those plebs could tell a good story. Remembering the men-folk and their tales I think of the e.e. cummings lines “the boys i mean are not refined/they do whatever's in their pants/they speak whatever's on their minds/they shake the mountains when they dance.” I took to reading at an early age because of sickness, asthma and congenital disorders, and was always an outsider among those casual savages.
DP: I’m not entirely au fait about cummings but read a couple of articles about him – very intriguing and I will read more, so thanks for that. As a child the what poets did you read…
WC: I didn't come to poetry until I was seventeen when a friend gave me Allen Ginsberg. There was a poem about opposing armies putting down their weapons and “fucking rosily on the battlefield”. I was disgusted until I realized that to my mind having them slaughter each other would have been perfectly acceptable, mayhem, blood, and viscera just a yawn, but gods forbid they have sex. It made a 17-year-old think.
DP: I bet it did. Did reading Ginsberg lead you into getting started as a poet and what attracted you to poetry in particular (rather than prose, as an example)?
WC: I fell in love with the musicality of language through the Elizabethans and the Romantics, then appreciated the distillation of the world into imagery with the modernists, then tried to combine the traditions into Lofty Works, then decided that the pursuit of the intentionally lofty was a bit embarrassing. Then I wrote autobiographical 'drinking story' poems that were entertaining and forgettable , and now I just write a poem when a few lines won't let me go for whatever reason.
DP: So you find writing poetry easy?
WC: Yes because I only write it when I have no choice and it writes itself. Rewriting can be difficult, or rather sad. Throwing lines away that I loved at one time is more sad than difficult.
DP: Right now I am writing a very specific short story (in terms of paragraph length and overall word count) so I know exactly what you mean about throwing lines away…it is very sad…how do your poems develop – would you say you have a specific writing method? Do you ever show unfinished work to friends / family…
WC: I scribble lines down as they come to me, longhand, or stanzas, if more than one or two lines come, then type them all up in a Word file and sometimes return to them and add more, or combine them. Combining lines or images works because I'm usually ruminating on the same themes over the course of any given week or two so all, or many – or some at least – of the lines are connected either musically or thematically or both so pressing them into each other like working clay isn't as odd as it might seem. After they look something like a lyric I come back to the words later and see obvious new line breaks that have to be there or instances of necessary enjambment and I manipulate the technical aspects of the poem more than the content. At some point it's either a finished poem or something that doesn't work and has to be discarded or parted out into a few components to be used elsewhere.
I don't show them to anybody as I work. I'm not always entirely comfortable showing them even after they're finished, to editors and publishers, say, or more accurately I'm not comfortable choosing the appropriate time to show them to editors and publishers. I wish they would stand and walk out the door when they're good and ready without even a backward glance, a bit rudely but entirely mature and on their own while I'm busy attending to the younger ones.
DP: Ah, I love that image! Who are your favourite poets and who are you reading at the moment?
WC: Favourites - Milton, e.e. cummings, Auden. Currently reading - John Clare, Eileen Myles, John Donne.
DP: You read poetry regularly?
WC: Yes, usually every day unless I'm so involved with a prose work that I can't put it down.
DP: And finally William, do you think poetry can save / change the world?
WC: It changed my world. It's changed the world of any number of people. Not sure it can change THE world, but poetry, along with all the arts, makes the world worth saving.
DP: A great answer!
Thanks William for your time – best of luck with Laws Of Discord
If you would like to connect with William direct, please find him on Twitter at @billclunie