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An Interview With Poet Will Burns

Will Burns’ pamphlet was published as part of the Faber New Poets 10 series, funded by Arts Council England. We asked him a few questions about his experience of publishing his work and for any advice he had for the poets and writers amongst us.

What’s been your experience of being published? 

Having the pamphlet published was an extremely exciting thing, and to see your poems in print is always gratifying, I think. And Faber made those pamphlets into such beautiful objects they’re hard not to love. I do think that publication should always be seen by the writer as a by-product of an intense relationship with the work though, not an end in itself. That said, it’s a positive thing and should be seen as such. If you’ve loved books your whole life, it’s pretty great to see your name on one – and I never thought I would, truthfully.

What did you learn from publishing your first collection?

I learned not to think about the thing’s reception too much. When the pamphlets came out, the four of us were on a little tour organised by Faber and we were speaking about the reviews that were coming in. There was nothing too major, just small magazines and online bits, but it was the first time we’d had any exposure of that kind. I saw how it made all of us feel, both the good and bad reception, and decided there and then it’s best not to worry about any of that too much. Or at least to think about it critically rather than personally. Just make sure that the writing is what’s affected by any analysis of a review, not your feelings. After all, you’ll need your feelings for the next poem.

How important has performing your work been? And what do you think performing brings to poetry? 

Performing is a funny thing. I do believe poems have to live in the ear as well as on the page, but I don’t enjoy my own speaking voice (who does?). I recently heard a new poem of mine spoken by an actor on stage and it was a strange thing. Much more of a performance. They got things out of it in the reading that I don’t think I would have been able to. I like the idea that the writing of the poem isn’t the end of its life, as well. That it can be different each time you read it out loud, like a song.

Do you have any advice for other poets/writers?

Read as much as you can. As widely as you can. If anything else feeds your writing, do that as often as possible, whatever it is. Don’t ever apologise for making art, don’t water it down, or compromise it for the sake of ease in the rest of your life. Everyone has to pay rent and live among other people of course, and sleep and eat, but always serve the work. When it’s going well and the writing’s coming, there’s nothing better.

What are your current/future projects? 

I’ve just started the mentorship that is part of the Faber New Poets scheme, so I’m hoping that process will help shape what comes next and help my writing improve. I’ll just work on the poems until I feel like a full collection is ready, I guess. It’s all quite new to me, so I don’t feel in too much of a rush.

Interview by Lou Clement

Will Burns’ pamphlet, is available from bookshops and online at Rough Trade.

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