What do you need to be a writer? In the past it used to be a pen. These days, obviously, you can do without a pen. In the past, it used to be a backbone too. These days you need a network.
As someone who has never had a network, I considered myself an oddity until I came across these lines in one of Charles Bukowski’s novels: “The worst thing for a writer is to know another writer, and worse than that, to know a number of writers. Like flies on the same turd.”” Now, Bukowski’s novels have an exaggerated reputation for realism: anyone who knows anything about women would take them with a pinch of salt. And a six-pack of beer. But I am convinced that when Bukowski talked about writing — or drinking — the man was dead honest.
To quote Janis Joplin, “I’m a victim of my own insides”. But that’s it really. Ever since I was a child I engaged with the world emotionally. I felt grief intensely, I felt joy intensely and as I grew up, heartbreak was paralysing, highs were never enough and at some point, that intensity needs to get out in some way to keep yourself sane. Writing is my method of coping with my insides.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
Love is an Empty Barstoolcame out 6 years after my first collection. What I love about this collection is that it is compact, and captures a precise time in my life when I was questioning if I had the capacity to be as vulnerable as I needed to be in order to let someone in or and as brave as I needed to be to let someone go. The title encapsulates it for me. If the barstool is empty, you’re drinking alone, maybe because someone has left but there’s also the possibility of the right person sitting down next to you, which is exactly what being in my twenties felt like. So it’s a little time capsule in a sense. It’s a collection that feels bluesy and a little drunk and lonely.
It’s also significant for me because many of those poems are Mango Dollies pieces, and performing with Anjana is always special because she’s my best friend and gets what I might have been feeling when I wrote them better than anyone else could. When she puts a song to them, it’s always a little bit of extra magic. So it’s a songbook, and a snapshot, and I’m pretty happy with it.