Utterly Salt: Mark Granier
Mark Granier was born in London but moved to Dublin in 1960, where he has been living ever since. He has published two collections with Salmon Poetry, Airborne (2001) and The Sky Road (2007). Fade Street was published in June this year. Catch Mark and seven other Salt poets on Monday 23 August at 6.30 pm in the Banshee Labyrinth as part of the Free Fringe.
Here’s an answer –-
slim-skulled, playful, austere,
clear as the nose –-
to a problem no one posed:
how to release the bull
from the bicycle
so handlebar horns offer
a leap, charged with laughter.
from Fade Street
Who or what is the greatest influence on your writing?
The greatest ‘who’ is probably still my old friend and mentor, the poet and piano teacher Anthony Glavin, who died a few years ago. He taught me the importance of revising (cutting back, losing ballast, etc.) and introduced me to the poetry of Derek Mahon and Philip Larkin, among others.
The ‘what’ is many things, including life/marriage/parenthood, etc., in the strangely expanding territory of middle-age, what Richard Ford (in ‘Independence Day’) calls ‘the Existence Period’. Photography and the alert visual sense that goes with it (the eye on standby) is my second obsession and certainly an important influence.
Minimalism, coupled with strong imagery, has always attracted me. I can remember clearly the first time I was really struck by a poem. I was about fourteen, in English class. We were reading Thomas Kinsella’s short poem, ‘A Garden On The Point’ (part of a sequence called Moralities). It opens with these lines:
‘Now it is Easter and the speckled bean
Breaks open underground, the liquid snail
Winces and waits, trapped on the lawn’s light green…’
When it fell to me to recite this in class I really tried, for the first time, to do a poem justice (despite the slagging I got from my fellow dossers in the back row). Later I came across D.H. Lawrence’s and Pound’s miniature, imagistic poems, which I still think are fantastic, then Jean Follain, Ian Hamilton-Finlay, the haiku masters and marginal nature poems by Irish monks in the first millennium. I love that capability in poetry, to unbox a whole realm, numinous or earthy, in a few lines.
Why is poetry important?
I tried to answer this in a number of different ways. None seemed adequate, but here are the best three I could muster:
Firstly, the gnomic: Poetry is vital because it is of no importance whatsoever.
Secondly, the highfalutin: Poetry enables us to take a step back, creating a momentary habitat, at once familiar and strange, just off the beaten track. From here, we can look at one part of that track come alive, beating with a new light, the electrified dance between language and meaning. And when we step out of the poem’s habitat, we can carry it with us, a self-contained segment, a soundtrack.
Thirdly, here’s mud in your eye: Poetry is the only place you can go to get served language that’s 100% proof.
Why is Salt important?
I think Salt’s importance speaks for itself. When I first heard of them, not all that long ago, they were a much smaller operation. Now, despite the financial difficulties, Salt is a big and rapidly growing presence, especially online. Salt poets are being shortlisted and winning prizes in major competitions. There are public debates (such as the current one in the comments stream for this Guardian blog post) about Salt’s identity, or whether it is too elitist or not elitist enough. And the Cover Factory’s designs deserve a special category. There should be a Salt Award for Best Cover of the Year, except it would, almost inevitably, go to the original shaker.
What is your favourite Salt book and why?
I don’t feel right talking of a favourite Salt book, as the list is so huge and my own (growing!) collection so tiny by comparison. So I’ll mention the first book I acquired, a couple of years ago, which was Katy Evans-Bush’s excellent Me And The Dead. Two poems that really stood out for me were the opening poem ‘The Only Reader’ and ‘Your Ghosts’ (an unusually good poem on that subject).
Any other projects you’d like to tell us about?
I am working towards a fourth collection and hoping to publish some poetry for children. I also have some photography projects on the go, one of which involves collaborating with another poet.