Utterly Salt: Julia Bird
In the run-up to the Salt gig at Utter! on the Free Fringe, I’ll be posting a poem by, and a mini-interview with, the other readers. They’ll all be answering the same questions, which I’m hoping will be an interesting exercise in itself.
Brutus, even you.
Don’t tell me it’s not true,
the college city urban myth
that every breath you or I or anybody takes
contains a single molecule of air
expired with Caesar’s dying words.
To me it is an article of faith
that my blood, yours and everyone’s
is salt with two thousand year old oxygen
and, it follows, grains of every sneeze
or yawn or opera that there’s ever been.
Steam from Stephenson’s first Rocket ride,
songs that went to space and back,
each bark and war-cry, each World Cup whistle blast,
Spartacus shouting I’m Spartacus,
Kirk Douglas shouting I’m Spartacus—
particles of these are sherbet in our throats.
And this is where I make observance :
the front row seat in the stalls
for the opening speech of the final act,
at the foot of the soap-box and the busker’s pitch
and in the market, where the man who sells fruit
is zesting the air with his citrus patter.
Here, my lungs are nets to catch
this glitterfall of exhalation
to keep with Caesar’s sigh and Cassius’s kiss.
This cloud of breath’s a borrowing and lending
which links everyone, including me and you.
Do you believe it too ?
Breathe, if you do.
from Hannah and the Monk
Who or what is the greatest influence on your writing?
People who run marathons, build matchstick cathedrals, cultivate giant leeks – those who pit themselves against the world inspire me to knuckle down and write. Someone else will have to tell me who my writerly influences are as I think that’s a subconscious process. If I’m trying to solve a particular problem, I often read anthologies until I find another poet’s solution that I can wangle for my own use – ‘Emergency Kit’ ed Shapcott & Sweeney is a favourite for this purpose. And I went through a phase of adapting Michael Longley’s ideas and processes for a while – ‘This Much is Almost Guaranteed’ is a poem that came from one of his by a circuitous route.
Why is poetry important?
Same as why microscopes and jam is. You need to look at things closely, and you need to preserve the decent strawberries.
Why is Salt important?
Expansive list, beautiful books, passionately sold. That’s not a given amongst poetry publishers – but with Salt, it’s at their heart.
What is your favourite Salt book and why?
The Brand New Dark by Mark Waldron. If you’ve had enough of poems rendering contemporary life through ancient myth, you need to read Mark’s tales of contemporary life rendered through the lives of Florence and Dougal from the Magic Roundabout.
Any other projects you’d like to tell us about?
I’m slowly working my way towards a second collection, and a bit more speedily towards a live literature tour featuring John Stammers and others. I may not make a living through my own poetry, but I am lucky enough to do so with others’ – this is me at work www.jaybird.org.uk and www.poetryschool.com
Links: Julia reading on the Poetry Archive.