Philip Berry, whose poem ‘Thirst for Knowledge’ is published in issue 5 of Lucent Dreaming and featured in Lucent Dreaming’s THE M USICAL, is a London-based writer and doctor. His poems have appeared in Easy Street, Black Bough, Little Dog Poetry, The Healing Muse and Chrome Baby. He also writes creative non-fiction, short stories and a regular blog on medical ethics. Bonewhite Light, a collection of short speculative fiction, was released in 2017.
So, what inspired your piece ‘Thirst for Knowledge’ and how did it find its way to Lucent Dreaming?
My poetry is heavily influenced by science, astronomy and the metaphysical, but tries to keep one foot firmly in human experience. I hope Thirst for Knowledge succeeds with its suggestion of celestial bodies as sweets or drugs, and the dazed consumer compelled to contemplate the infinite. Why Lucent Dreaming? When I saw its luscious artwork and production values, I knew this poem had to go there!
What does writing and art mean to you?
I had a very scientific education, which was necessary to get into medicine. But I was always jealous of friends who kept going with the humanities. Later, when there were no more exams to study for, I was able to start writing and enjoying the arts. I am interested in humanity’s quest to understand the laws of the universe through science, and its unceasing desire to encapsulate the human condition through artistic endeavour. Creative writing allows me to combine these interests.
What are you most excited about right now and what writing/creative projects are you currently working on?
I’ve been working on a series of SF novellas about a medical examiner who solves mysteries on colonised planets. The main character is a combination of Sherlock Holmes, House and maybe Asimov’s Elijah Bailey. Insensate, the first one, examines the psychological effects of cryopreservation. It’s self-published – finding an agent seems to be a full-time job. I continue to write poems, flash and creative non-fiction – short form writing is very tempting because you actually finish things and get acceptances/rejections relatively quickly! I keep hearing about chapbooks, so maybe when I have enough good poems I’ll try to present them in one.
Tell us about some of your favourite books or art you’ve experienced – of all time or more recently. Why are they favourites?
I was given a biography of Oscar Wilde recently, written by Matthew Sturgis. I cycle past Oscar’s old house on Tite Street in Chelsea every day, and reading this book has been a wonderful immersion in his life, times and the artistic world in which he circulated. It’s tragic, of course, but he was a generous soul and his warmth towards others comes. He could not compromise in his approach to beauty. Recommended. My favourite poetry collections from recent years are Fiona Benson’s Bright Travellers and Hannah Sullivan’s Three Poems.
What advice would you give those who want to do what you do?
When I think about the perfect conditions for writing, I picture a cosy room overlooking the sea in Cornwall, or a quiet cottage in Wales. But these situations don’t exist for most of us, and if you wait for them to happen, you’ll never write a word. So, I ponder ideas in life’s gaps and write whenever the opportunity presents itself. It’s cliched advice, but writers write. And submit. And get rejected, time and again. But when a cherished piece does find a home, the shadows of the preceding rejections are burned away. I have been so impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of people behind small presses, literary journals and web zines – they have encouraged people like me to keep working and submitting.
Where can people see more of you and your work?
My website www.philberrycreative.wordpress.com has links to lots of my poems, flash, CNF and short stories. It’s been fun learning how to create the site on the WordPress platform, so please take a look.