A C Clarke, whose poem ‘Armchair Explorer’ is published in the fourth issue of Lucent Dreaming, is a poet living in Glasgow who has won a number of prizes over the years and been widely published in anthologies and magazines. Her fifth full collection, A Troubling Woman (Oversteps Books), centred on the Medieval visionary Margery Kempe, came out in 2017. It is a companion book to Fr Meslier’s Confession, which is centred on the atheist priest Jean Meslier. She was one of four joint winners in the Cinnamon Press 2017 poetry pamphlet competition with War Baby, which was published in January 2018. She has worked with the poets Maggie Rabatski and Sheila Templeton on a series of poems in Gaelic, Scots and English, her own contribution being in English. A second collection of these poems is due out this year.
So, what inspired your piece ‘Armchair Explorer’ and how did it find its way to Lucent Dreaming?
‘Armchair Explorer’ started out, like quite a few of my poems, with the first line of a poem by someone else, in this case ‘The maps were the gift of the place’ from a poem by Roger Harvey. I generally read several poems by others before I start a writing session and note their first lines. As one among several methods of working I go back to my collection of first lines working through them in order without any reference to the original poem. The line gives me a focus and often a rhythm from which to start but I never have any idea where the poem will go. In this instance the line made me imagine a library in which someone was looking at old maps, which I’ve always found fascinating, particularly the ones made before people understood the shape of the world. The poem flowed from there. I edit a monthly newsletter for members of the Federation of Writers (Scotland) and am always on the lookout for new places to publish. I came across the call for submissions from Lucent Dreaming and my poem seemed to fit the exploration theme. I was delighted to have it selected.
What does writing mean to you?
It keeps me sane – or else it is itself a form of insanity! I have a compulsion to write and become unhappy and irritable if I don’t write for a few days. It’s a way of trying to make sense of the world but equally it is the pleasure of language itself – its sounds, its rhythms, its ambiguities – which draws me.
What writing/creative projects are you currently working on?
I am a kind of grasshopper flitting about from project to project but the three main ones are: a series of poems/collections about Gala Dalí and the surrealists; related to that a daft project to translate all the poems of Paul Éluard, Gala’s first husband, before I die (he wrote over 1000 and I’m 76 …); an ongoing project with two friends, one writing in Gaelic and one in Scots. We had a pamphlet published two years ago with poems responding to each other’s work and will have another one published this year (both by Tapsalteerie Press); a third collaborative book is beckoning.
What are you most excited about right now and for the future?
The above projects – and also an upcoming Poetry School course on dismantling and rebuilding ones poems, the upcoming Poetry School April Prompts, which have been a fertile source of poems in the past, the hope of continuously finding different ways of presenting and exploring ideas. I try not to write the same book twice.
How and where do you find inspiration to do your craft?
I think inspiration finds you, not the other way round. I do use prompts (see above), I am naturally curious about the world and completely in love with language, but poems
go their own way and I often don’t know I’ve been inspired by something until I find myself compelled to write about it. I do plenty of exercise type writing too but it never takes off unless my imagination is seized.
What advice would you give those who want to do what you do?
Read, read, read! Write, write, write! Accept that a lot of what you write will be rubbish but there will be nuggets hidden among the dross. Get some critiquing friends you trust to give honest feedback but don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t self-censor. Keep going!
Where can people see more of you and your work?
I am in quite a lot of anthologies. I will be reading with others published by Cinnamon Press in Glasgow’s West End Festival in June. I have nine books/pamphlets published so far, details of the most recent at:
Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, imaginative and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. Our aim is to encourage creativity and to help writers reach publication! Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.