1. Do you write daily?___ weekly?___ irregularly?___ Is the writing a
fixed part of routine, or does it follow other pressures/dictates? Please
[Alan Baker] Very irregularly, but enough to churn out an average of
one completed work per month. No routine.
2. These days do you write in the same place e.g. in the kitchen/bathroom
etc; on the bus to work? Is the workplace in any sense a protected space?
[Alan Baker] Favourite places are where I'm in a sort of suspended state
e.g. trains/buses/hotel rooms/sometimes in the office. Rarely at home, as
there are too many other distractions there. like Christopher Hamilton,
I too have a study which I can never write in, but do use for editing etc.
I'll often stop doing what I'm doing (like painting the bathroom) to jot down
the odd word/phrase/line or amend a poem.
3. Drafting: notebooks, scraps of paper, word processor or what?
[Alan Baker] Reporter-type notebooks, with an A4 book for planning
larger pieces or making background notes.
3a. How are drafts organised - in linear/sequential mode, or in a more
complex structure? Please describe:
[Alan Baker] Sometimes a piece comes almost complete in one go,
but usually its pieced from fragmentary jottings. For longer pieces
I'll sometimes draw up a plan of the structure which then acts as a
framework to hang lines and words onto.
4. A route-to-work question: what, in general terms, is the relationship
between draft and completion? [Alan Baker] I'm not sure a poem is ever
completed. Sometimes I'll take 'completed' works and chop them up for
re-use in other things, sometimes years after they were written. Once a poem
published I usually don't change it, but may do. Making a work public seems
to help me to evaluate it objectively - so you may see more of my efforts on
4a. Does your motivation/intent change during this process? If so can you
say how? An example might help.
[Alan Baker] A phrase or line is often the starting point. The poem
'Ivy' posted recently, started with a line from a notebook:
'Time hallows heartache'.
After a long process of composing a fairly abstract
piece based mainly on cohering sound, I introduced, at a late stage, the plant
Ivy, and concretized the whole thing by making this the ostensible subject.
4b. What do you mean by "completion"? [Alan Baker] See 4.
5. Input: is there a way of generalising your raw materials? Are there,
for instance, groups of books, musics, other artworks, or people in your
life, which you plunder repeatedly? Name the most significant:
[Alan Baker] Difficult one. Too numerous to mention. Anything
which generates a passionate response.
5a. What conditions input? Weather? Nation? the Sports pages? Rejection of
all of these?
[Alan Baker] Whatever I'm reading at the time influences in a major way.
6. How open to mistakes are you? What steps do you take to encourage or
[Alan Baker] Not sure what a mistake is in this context. Accidents are always
welcome as input, often proving more fruitful than conscious effort.
7. Roadtesting your writing: on a few friends? at readings? read to the
cat? leave in a drawer for 6 weeks? Not at all?
[Alan Baker] Although I have read in public a few times, generally the whole process
for me is intensely private - I have no no-one to read poems to (unconsciously
I don't think I want anyone) but what I always do is to memorize the poems
I write - even longer ones (1-200 lines). In fact this is part of the process of
7a. Does this process transform the work? If so how?
[Alan Baker] Memorizing a poem makes you apprehend it differently even
to reading it aloud - it appears more as a whole. Often, I memorize 'wrongly'
but if the sound and rythm is right, I'll then revise the written version.
8. Do you have lots of pieces of work on the go at the same time? Are they
separate or all part of the same fabric? Or do you work methodically at
one piece, then the next, then the next? Or in none of these ways? Please
[Alan Baker] I always work on one piece at a time, and can't do otherwise,
although I've tried.
9. How do you plan/prepare for performance? To what extent is this
incorporated in the drafting? Is performance a fixed point in your intent?
[Alan Baker] Although rarely asked to perform, I always imagine
a 'reading' when writing a poem.
10. Are you obsessive about the practices you've described? Or could
you stop and do something else?
[Alan Baker] With all the pressures and distractions, I can't see how
anyone who isn't obssessive would ever manage to produce poetry.
I'm certainly obssessive!