Interview - JS Watts
Writer and Poet JS Watts discusses her first poetry collection, her
writing inspirations and being a writer living and working in
Watts has been writing for as long as she can remember. She is a
creative polymath, and writes short stories, poetry, flash fiction,
novels and non-fiction, as well as editing the work of other writers.
Her own work has caught the attention of publishers across the globe
and her pieces have appeared in an eclectic range of magazines and
anthologies in the UK and abroad. In 2011, one of her poems received
a nomination for the prestigious US Pushcart Prize, and her work has
also been performed on BBC radio.
Londoner by birth, JS lived in various locations throughout the south
of England, before settling in Cambridgeshire in 1998. After a
successful career in the education sector, she became a full time
writer in 2008.
first full poetry collection 'Cats and Other Myths' is out now,
published by Lapwing Publications and her novel 'A Darker Moon', is
due to be published by Vagabondage Press in the Autumn of this year.
She also hopes to release a poetry pamphlet by the end of 2012,
featuring an extended poetry sequence.
caught up with JS, via the wonders of the internet, to ask her a few
questions about her writing.
did you begin your career in writing and what was the catalyst which
inspired you to turn your hand to writing at a professional level?
started submitting poems to literary magazines in the early nineties
and had a reasonable level of success, but the day-job in further
education rather took over my life and whilst I kept on writing, I
never seemed to have the time to submit, so grew out of the habit. I
always promised myself that one day I’d try submitting to the
magazines again and I’d try to have a full poetry collection
published, and I’d go back to writing short stories (which I hadn’t
written since university) and I’d try my hand at a novel and… I
never did. Then in 2008 a variety of things came together. I knew of
three people my age or a little younger who dropped down dead
horribly young and without warning and that made me wonder whether
putting off my writing intentions was such a good idea. Then
circumstances at work changed and I decided to seize the moment and
see what I was capable of in writing terms.
often read your work at poetry open mic evenings, literary festivals
and events, which do you prefer: writing or performing?
enjoy both writing and performing. I suppose each resonates with a
different part of my personality. The imaginative recluse in me loves
to write. The creative extrovert loves to perform, but, as I perform
what I have written, my first love has to be writing. I’ve always
wanted to write. Performing my writing is the icing on an already
beautifully rich cake.
any one novel or collection inspire you to write for yourself, and if
so, what was it?
can’t think of any one novel or collection that initially inspired
me to write, but I can think of a whole sea of writers whose work has
inspired me in a rather more amorphous, all-embracing way: Ray
Bradbury, Charles Causley, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, T.S.
Eliot, Alan Garner, Ted Hughes, John Keats, Sylvia Plath, Edgar
Allen Poe, Anne Sexton, Rosemary Sutcliff and J.R.R. Tolkien are just
some of the writers who inspired me. I'm an omnivorous reader and
somewhere along the line most of my favourite authors and poets will
have left their mark on my consciousness. At least, I hope so.
work often focuses on myths, legends and fairy tales - why do you
enjoy writing about these themes?
always had a love of traditional tales and more modern fantasy. I
think the tales we tell ourselves, when we are free to make-up
anything we want, tell us as much about ourselves, our hopes and our
fears, as the stories they narrate. I find they are a good way to
explore both the individual and social psyche and can be a fruitful
medium for developing more abstract ideas. It’s a bit like the
American Sci-Fi films of the 1950s, which probably said more about
The States’ fear of Russia than little green men from outer space.
Also, traditional tales, because they are already known, can create
resonances within new writing which can be used to powerful effect.
first collection is called Cats and Other Myths – what is the
significance of this title and how does it relate to the collection
and Other Myths” explores some of the old myths and legends from a
modern perspective and finds the mythic in modern life. The title
comes from the last poem in the collection, “Cats and Other
Mythical Creatures” which is a slightly whimsical take on the fact
that our innermost needs shape our fantasies and the stories we tell.
Although whether the poem is a reflection of the cat’s view of
itself, or an articulation of human disquiet at the inherent
contradiction of cuteness and cruelty in domestic cats, is another
matter. Cats play a big part in folk-lore and I rather like the
creatures, so it seemed like a good idea to interweave their somewhat
mythic status through the poems.
poetry focuses on darker subject matters but the tone is often
light-hearted – is this a conscious decision on your part?
light and dark go together naturally. Life is often light and dark
simultaneously and elements of my poetry reflect this. Life can also
be exceedingly dark and some of my poems go there too. What I tend
not to do consistently is light, because I don’t see life like
that. Even when life is light and upbeat there is always the
potential for encroaching darkness. I suppose I am something of a
pessimistic optimist. Sometimes lightness of touch when dealing with
dark subject matter can emphasise the darker shades, whilst making
them more accessible and acceptable. I like the impact that type of
juxtaposition and contrast can have within a piece.
living in Cambridgeshire made an impact on your writing?
love Cambridgeshire. I arrived here in 1998, expecting to stay for
only a couple of years, but I put down roots and here I still am. I
don’t know if it’s a good or bad place for writers per se, but
it’s good for me: a long and intriguing past, beautiful and
historic towns like Cambridge and Ely, inspiring countryside and
landscapes, a rich variety of wildlife and easy access to London when
I want it. On the poetry scene there are lots of wonderful venues for
listening to other poets and showcasing your own work like:
“Allographic” and “CB1” in Cambridge and “A Pint of Poetry
and a Dash of Drama” in Peterborough. There are also great venues
nearby in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Suffolk. The poetry scene
is very rich in East Anglia.
to JS Watts for agreeing to this interview.
Watt's first poetry collection, 'Cats and Other Myths' is published
by Lapwing Publications and available now.
more information on JS Watts, please visit her website
posted on 28 June 2012 21:07 byLeanne Moden