Greta is a poet from Camden, London. She was shortlisted for Young Poet Laureate of London in 2013, and has edited a collection of British contemporary love poems for Faber & Faber, out now, as well as Points for Time in the Sky, a collection co-written with Robert Montgomery, published earlier this year.
How did you first know you were a poet?
I grew up in London, and I always had a fascination with nature, so I felt that the only thing I could do to understand it was to write it down. As if there were a mystical thing in it that I could explore through words. I ended up studying drama at RADA for a year, but my fascination was with language, so I moved to English literature and language at King’s College London.
What did that teach you?
It taught me practical, useful things about language, tools I can use. When you write, you can’t just randomly say x, y and z, it has to have some sort of structure, it has to make some kind of sense. It has to have a noun phrase. It has to conform to something but still be experimental within that. I think the big misconception, when people think of poetry, they have this notion that you just whimsically write something down, but there is a huge structure and art form to that process in itself.
Does engagement with other poets help you see yourself as one?
Only when I started going to poetry readings did I realise there is a community of writers out there who write and perform. And I found that really inspiring, because the word “poet” is a bit bourgeois, to say in public, “Oh, I’m a poet”. I think most people have a bit of a hard time understanding what it actually means.
What are you currently working on?
Lately I’ve been co-writing poetry, which is new for me, with the artist Robert Montgomery, who makes word-based art. What’s interesting is that he is great at thinking of some political idea, and he can describe it all in nouns. Whereas I bring in the adjectives. Our styles really blend, and it seems the things that he’s looking for in his trails, I seem to find in the end of mine.
Harry is a poet, curator and editor based in London. He edited I Love Roses When They’re Past Their Best, an anthology of contemporary experimental poetry, published in 2014. This February, he is curating the online exhibition Poetry as Practice for Rhizome and the New Museum.
How did you first start engaging with poetry?
I grew up in Jersey in the Channel Islands, and got really into beat poetry and ee cummings as a teenager and that introduced me to poetry as a relevant idea. Ironically, it was very dead, but it seems alive when you’re a teenager, slightly out of the loop. When I moved to London to study art history, I was introduced to people like Jack [Underwood, another poet featured in the article] and discovered contemporary poetry. The way I understand it, you discover one scene and then through that lens, find other places and people. So right now, I’m mostly interested in a lot of US poetry.
How does a poet make a living today? How does it work for you?
Well, I write freelance for some publications, I work as an art assistant and I make websites.
Has making websites helped open up your idea of poetry?
Yeah, totally. HTML has given me a way of structuring language in many ways, because it’s very modular and ultimately container-based. I’ve realised that, as I learn more about it, it’s affecting my prose and poetry – especially how I consider spatiality on the page.
What about your work with other poets? Has it changed how you think about poetry?
It has taught me not to prescribe my own definition of poetry onto other people. It’s a misguided and problematic way to view any sort of creative practice, but you see it in so much of the “academy” or the “establishment”: this is literature, this is what a poem is, you have to accept this or not. Actually, I think that the most interesting stuff is the stuff that you’re like, “Oh wow, this is kind of bad, but then who am I to say that, who am I to judge?” If you align yourself to that, it’s a really exciting process.
Is it getting easier for younger poets not to align themselves with an establishment?
Hopefully, it’s getting easier, as other structures of validation of work evolve, and it’s not only the validation of the editor of some fusty old press. But actually people realise, “Oh it’s cool, we can make this ourselves.” And that mentality of self-organising can lead to conversations with other poets via the internet and elsewhere. It’s a really rife moment for collaboration in poetry now.
Want to read the interviews with the other poets, as well as their poems? Check out the S/S 2015 issue of Bon, available in select newsagents.