Pavilion Author Q&A: Martha Sprackland

Always international in its reach, Pavilion Poetry is poetry that takes a risk. Whether by new or established and award-winning writers, this is poetry sure to challenge and delight. 2022 marks the eighth year of Pavilion Poetry, and we’re taking the opportunity to look back at our brilliant collections with a series of author Q&As. For the latest interview in the series, we chatted to Martha Sprackland, author of Citadel (2020) to discuss her collection, collective anxiety, psychedelic experiences and visual art, examining how these interplay within her recent writing.

What sort of things are you thinking about at the moment?

Fungus! I’ve been writing a lot about mycology and plant networks, and the research for that has been fascinating. I’m writing new poems, finally, post-Citadel, and a lot of those are about psychedelics. I’m also thinking a lot about anxiety, hallucinations, altered states, and wider, collective anxieties. I never really stop thinking about parallel worlds, so they’re in there. I’m writing about visual art a bit more than I have before, and about base myths. Some smaller obsessions seem to remain – eggs, teeth, radios, telephones. I keep noticing how concerned the poems are with cars and road travel, at the moment, which is odd – I can’t drive, and don’t have a car, and I hate being a passenger. But mainly, it’s mushrooms, mould, moss.

How might this have changed since the publication of your book?

When I was writing Citadel it was quite a sealed world – I was thinking a lot about Juana and that world and that time; the voice of those poems, or the voices of them, doesn’t do much looking around in the present. Without consciously trying to sit up and ‘take notice’ of what’s around me, I do find that some of the more distant stories that interested me a couple of years ago are fading, and I’m feeling the desire, or the impulse, rather, to write with immediacy, to try to take hold of something brief and elusive and sketch it before it moves on. I don’t know. I’m writing something that feels less settled, perhaps (and Citadel didn’t necessarily feel settled, to me, so this new stuff must be really quite unsettled), and I think by its nature – I’m writing about anxiety, and the poems’ mood feels anxious. I’m writing about psychedelic experiences, and I think in so doing the poems are permitted a freedom, a non-linear, non-rational sort of shape. I don’t necessarily mean non-linear on the page. But Citadel had a narrative of sorts, a progression in and through time, and – to me – a clear beginning and end, like it was a single episode, a bracketed thought. This is looser.

Has your approach to writing changed at all since publication?

Citadel came out in the middle of the first lockdown, in April 2020, and then I wrote more or less nothing – no poetry, no fiction, really not much at all – for a year. A few months ago, for whatever reason, something shifted or dislodged and slowly little fragments started to come back, but I’m still feeling quite slow, drifting around my obsessions rather than digging into them properly. I don’t write every day, at the moment. But I’ll be moving house this summer, and perhaps that change will effect other changes. I can tend to find that quiet or uneventful periods are not conducive to poetry, so lockdown (all the lockdowns) were a write-off, for writing.

Have your thoughts about poetry more generally shifted at all since publication?

I don’t think I would say that I’ve had any sweeping realisations, but the kind of small alterations in my approach to poetry are changing, I think – as they do, periodically. I’m using rhyme differently, and the voice that seems to be emerging in the new poems is different, less whole, perhaps, weirder. I’m sort of letting it happen, without trying to work out whether this is a permanent change or a phase, a symptom of the engine switching back on.

What poetry/books/essays are you particularly enjoying at the moment?

Emblem by Lucy Mercer, coming out soon from Prototype. I’m a fan, I’ve been waiting ages for Lucy to publish a first book, and the book is wonderful, strange in the best ways. Another long-awaited treat was Caviar by Sarah Fletcher (Out-Spoken). I just finished reading a proof of The Passengers by Will Ashon (Faber), which appealed to my taste in multivocal, collaged sort of things – I thought that was great. What else? Hourglass by Keiran Goddard (Little, Brown), Unexhausted Time by Emily Berry (Faber). Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au (Fitzcarraldo). Oh – the wonderful poet Rodrigo García Marina, who I read with in Madrid the other week, and whose Desear la casa (Editorial Cántico) I’ve been reading and rereading. But otherwise I haven’t been reading a huge amount, recently – too much work! And I’ve got about five issues of the LRB to catch up on. I’ve been easily distracted, when I do find the time, so I’ve been looking out of the window or going for long walks and listening to Mary Lou Williams and John Coltrane, and sometimes podcasts (CarneCruda, Backlisted and The Rest Is History).

You can purchase a copy of Citadel by Martha Sprackland via the Liverpool University Press website.


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