Monday, September 12, 2016

LIFE OF A POET ~ JULIAN CLARKE

We are making a very interesting trip this week, my friends, to visit one of our new members, Julian Clarke, who blogs at Pen to Poetry, Guernsey. Guernsey is a small island in the English Channel, and I am eager to hear all about it, to enjoy some beautiful scenery and to hear his story. It's tea-time, out in the garden, and the teapot is hot and ready. Let's settle in.









Sherry: Julian, it is lovely to be chatting with you. Give us a little snapshot, won't you, of the poet at home, so we can get to know you better?

Julian: Thank you for inviting me onto Life of a Poet. Before I get started, and being relatively new to this poetry blog, I’d like to thank Poets United for making me feel so welcome. The enthusiasm to share poetry here is really inspirational.

Sherry: We are most happy to have you among us, Julian.

Julian: I live with my wife in an old Guernsey Cottage and share my garden with four chickens that provide us with lovely fresh eggs; and sheep in the field over my garden fence. I do feel privileged to live and work on such a beautiful island.

This is the view out of my window where I sit and write.





Sometimes I find it quite difficult to concentrate on writing as my first love, playing guitar, gets quite jealous, and so I have to go and play some tunes.

Sherry: Lovely to have music and poetry as creative outlets! You live in a beautiful place! I am fascinated by it! It sounds heavenly!

Julian: Guernsey really is a small island, with a land mass of about 30 square miles, and nestles in the English Channel in easy reach of the Normandy Coast, about 50 miles off Northern France, and about 80 miles by crow from the south west coast of England. 





We are not part of the U.K, and therefore self-governing, however being a Crown dependency means we rely on the English government for defense and some foreign affairs. 

There’s so much beauty here to inspire writers, painters and musicians; stunning cliff walks with views out to sea, beautiful sandy beaches and such picturesque valleys and winding country lanes. 

I don’t think I mentioned, but our maximum speed limit is 35 miles an hour, and in St Peter Port, (our capital), it is 25 miles per hour and so, as you can imagine, life can be quite laid back, nice. 

Sherry: My favourite kind of place: small, slow-paced, ocean all around, and full of creative people. Sigh. 

Julian: And then there is the Island's rich history, along with Myths of witches and Frae folk, stone circles, legends of privateers; but nowadays the Island really relies on tourism and houses of financial persuasion.



Sherry: I am fascinated by the stone circles!




Julian: The Circle of Stones is quite small in diameter, maybe 12 feet or so, and stand about 18 inches to 2 feet high. In local folklore, they are known as the Faery Ring. The fea folk used to gather here under the hours of darkness to perform their rituals. They are in the south West headland of the Island. In old Guernsey French, they are called Table des Pions.

Sherry: I can imagine one must feel the old energy, when standing in such a spot. I am so intrigued!

Julian: Below, I stopped to take this from my van on the way to work last week. 



Below is the view from St. Peter Port, the island's capital, out through the harbour entrance to the island of Herm to the left,



and the isle of Sark on the right.



Sherry: Absolutely lovely! And rather idyllic, to live in a small, self-contained area, away from all of the hustle and bustle. You are very fortunate. 

When did you begin writing poetry, Julian? 

Julian: My poetry writing really took a hold in the early summer of 2013. However, I had tried in the past to write, mainly lyrics for my guitar playing, but they really were only fit for the bin. 

And then one day, thankfully, inspiration took a hold. I actually remember the moment I was inspired to write a poem, and one that I was happy with. I was walking from the field at the bottom of my garden through a short wooded path full of all shades of green and punctuated with wild colour, leading out into the small meadow with its lazy stream. It is magical and quite mystical, and so the poem 'Summer's Dream' evolved. I have copied it in just in case you are interested.

Sherry: We are very much interested! First poems are very special.



Julian: The photo above is the walk through to the meadow that inspired the poem below: 'Summer's Dream'. 

Summer's Dream.

You came to me on a sweet summer's dream
Passing through worlds of magic and men,
A dragon fly guarded the gate between
You’d sing and dance in this beautiful glen.

Now most of us find it hard to conceive
Of the parallel world of our ancient way,
Listen so hard and you must believe
Open your eyes let your mind run away.

Do not be fooled by her beauty and charm
Her pretty little nose and delicate wings,
Her mystical magic may well do you harm
If you don’t respect all of nature's things.

You came to me on a sweet summer's dream
Passing through worlds of magic and men,
I wonder if you will come here again,           
To sing and dance in this beautiful glen.

© Julian Clarke 2013


Art by Julian


Sherry: This is a very lovely poem. I especially love the reference to the "ancient ways", as you live on land saturated with history, which is very intriguing to me. Your art is very beautiful, Julian. I so admire artists - being able to create such beauty is a wonderful talent.

As to writing, which do you prefer, form or free verse?

Julian: Form or free verse, well I guess that depends on the subject and the emotion I’m trying to convey; I guess for me some type of form and rhyme feels right if I am writing a romantic love poem.

Sherry: What is it about poetry that caused you to pursue it as your means of creative expression? What do you love about it?

Julian: I didn’t choose poetry, it just evolved from bad song lyric writing and an inspirational moment in the county side.

For creative expression, poetry runs alongside my love of playing the guitar and the odd dabble with a watercolour paint brush. 


A watercolour of a scene down the coast from St. Tropez


However the opportunities of having fun with words, the odd misplaced punctuation mark that accidentally changes the feel of a sentence or paragraph, and the challenge of conveying emotion or a narrative within such a small frame is, well, a challenge. Love it.


A pencil and crayon sketch of an area in Phuket
where water buffalo lived until 20 years ago.
It is all built over now.

Sherry: I do, too. When you look back, is there anything from your childhood that you think may have influenced your pursuing poetry later in life?

Julian: Something that influenced my writing from childhood; I don’t think so. I only read when I had to, and when it came to English exams I won’t even go there; let’s just say that art and drama were far more suited to me.

Sherry: Smiles. Do you have a favourite poet?

Julian: I don’t have a favourite poet. I enjoy reading and experiencing work from all different types of authors. But I do have a favourite poem, “The Owl And The Pussy Cat” by Edward Lear, loved it as a child, love it now.

Sherry: A delightful poem! I note you are a fan of flash fiction as well. 

Julian: Flash fiction, as a rule of thumb, I try to keep below a word count of 500. I do have a few unfinished pieces, which I shall return to at a later date, inspiration permitting, of course.

Sherry: Do you follow a writing routine, or do you write when the spirit moves you?

Julian: I don’t really have a writing routine. It’s as and when time permits. Having said that, I do try and write for 10 minutes during my lunch break; it may only be ½ a dozen nonsensical lines that may evolve into a poem / short story. I do have a system I work to; everything starts with a draughtsman’s pencil and an A5 pad, to eventually end up on my lap top. I always print off hard copies.

Sherry: That sounds good. Might you have another poem to share with us?

Julian: The following poem I entered into the 2016 eisteddfod where it was awarded a 1st class certificate, as did a piece of flash fiction titled 'Dilemma'. I only entered to get a professional critique on my work. Well, you can imagine how excited I was when the certificates came through the post.

Sherry: I should say so! Let's take a peek.

Yellow

The Provençal sun lights vibrant blooms golden saffron,
a Van Gogh, a picture so perfect;

a buzzing bee follows the scent of the sunflowers’ nectar
wafting on a warm southern breeze.

Splodged on an artist’s palette amidst the whites and ochres
a squeezed tube spews cadmium lemon,

light delicate brush strokes capture the bees’ colourful bands
in shades of blacks and deep yellow.

The beauties of nature’s distractions momentarily lure him
a painted lady teasingly bathes in warm summer rays . . .

the artist sits back and ponders on where to paint next year,
they say Italy’s nice, but is Naples really yellow?

Julian Clarke © 2016



Sherry: This poem is so visually lovely. (As are your photographs!) I can see the artist in you all through this poem.  

How has blogging impacted your writing, Julian?

Julian: Blogging has impacted my writing by forcing me to up my game and by trying to make the subject matter and the way I write more interesting to the reader. “I hope” - only the reader can be the judge of that. I certainly enjoy reading other poetry / creative writing blogs, there’s some exceptional talent out there.

Sherry: There is, isn't there? I am amazed to find myself in the company I keep. The poetry blogosphere is a wonder! How did you find Poets United, and do you have a few words to say to our members?

Julian: Poets United, well I came across this blog purely by chance a few months ago when searching Google for like minded bloggers. I must say that being made so welcome, and the quality of others' work and critique is quite inspirational; however there’s one thing I’d like to say and that’s a massive thank you to all who administrate Poets United.

Sherry: You are most welcome, kind sir, and we are happy you found us. Thank you for allowing us to get to know you better. Thanks for sharing the wonderful poems, photographs and sketches with us. I only wish you could play us a tune as well! Smiles. We look forward to reading your work in the months ahead. And now we can picture your glorious landscape as we read.

There are so many interesting lives being lived on this glorious planet, and we just heard about one of them. Do come back and see who we talk to next, my friends. Who knows? It might be you!




34 comments:

  1. I am not surprised you won an award for such a vivid yellow poem! It's good to get to know you a little.

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  2. So lovely to get to know you Julian - I smiled as I read your journey into writing - I think it will strike a chord (pun intended) with many of us here at Poets United, I think musicality, not being too hung on form and rules and letting those word fairies sing is perhaps how we all learn to write in a way which suits us the best. The wonderful thing about blogging and being here is that freedom. And of course the great people we meet. Thank you both and look forward to more of your poems and pictures. Maybe one day you'll even post a song..

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    1. Thanks, Jae, and yes I agree it's good getting to meet others through blogging and sharing our thoughts.

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  3. I love the idea of letting those word fairies sing, Jae, and what a good idea! Why didn't I think of asking for a music video? Next time, Julian! When we do an update, maybe you will gift us with a song!!!!!!!!! (I did try to get him out tromping around the Faery Ring with his camera, but he had to work. Darn! Smiles.)

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    1. Sherry, thank you for inviting me onto "Life of a Poet", and for making the process easy; long may your interviews continue as you always make them interesting.

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    2. Oh I forgot to say a big thank you to all who've visited my blog since joining Poets United.

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    3. You are most welcome, Julian. Thank you for saying yes.........we will enjoy knowing you better now, when we read your wonderful poems.

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    4. Tsk - there be fairy folk in the air ;)

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  4. Happy to meet Julian who visits my blog and always leaves a nice comment. I just luv that first poem and can see why his muse whispered into his heart. The photos are adorable. And the little bit of history he shared enchanting. Certainly a nice island for a visit

    Much love...

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  5. Hi Julian, I really enjoyed reading this feature. Admittedly I thought that Guernsey was part of the UK, so it is interesting to learn that it really is independent. Having spent some time on Hawaii (several islands really) I wonder if you ever feel a bit claustrophobic living in such a place where the sea is close on all four sides. Is this fine with you, or do you find yourself often wanting to take flight to somewhere else just to leave the confines of the 'small space'? I wonder also if you you grew up on Guernsey or if you just began to live there as an adult. Is agriculture the main occupation, or....? I do understand so well the beauty of Guernsey - from your poetry & from your photos. I am so glad you found Poets United. Sherry, again a wonderful interview!

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    1. Hello Mary, no I don't suffer from feeling claustrophobic, alot of that has to do with the fact that, and to coin a phrase "home is where the heart is" I've been here for 29 years and love it. Finance is now our main industry, followed by tourism running a close 2nd.

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    2. I once lived in a small remote place by the sea and adored it. Not for city people, but lovely for those who love the small friendliness of villages.

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    3. I grew up on an island (Tasmania) so I know one does not feel claustrophobic. On the contrary, all that ocean has a lovely vastness – a gateway to the world. And then, at the same time, one has a familiar, scenically beautiful environment, small enough to be so well-known that the place itself feels like 'family'.

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  6. Much music in that first poem...I feel the muse always been there, waiting for you to open....Thanks for sharing your peaceful world.

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  7. What a wonderful and creative person. Happy to meet you.
    Good work Sherry!
    ZQ

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  8. This interview is a treat - I actually read a few passages aloud to my husband who loves to learn about new places (well, new to him, smiles). I have been following Julian's blog for awhile now and I think that he is an incredible poet - I love the myth and whimsy that he, often, sprinkles through his work "passing through worlds of magic and men". I also enjoyed the artwork and photography. You are very talented, Julian. Another outstanding piece, Sherry!

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  9. Music, art and poetry...quite a combination of talents Julian. And your island home looks lovely. Thanks for a very interesting interview Sherry.

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  10. Wonderful treat to read this.. I always love to learn more about a poet entering our circles..

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    1. Been made most welcome to poets united and so big thanks

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  11. Guernsey looks lovely. Thank you for your visits. I enjoy your poems.

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  12. A week-end retreat all the year round.Life is less stressful given the low speed limit. Welcome to the club! Thanks Sherry and Julian!

    Hank

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  13. Great interview and a fascinating read. Julian is a man of many talents!

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  14. Good to know more about you, Julian, and the place you lived in. I always thought Guernsey is a part of the U.K., but it's interesting to learn that it is self-governing.
    I see that most of the poets/writers in this community are also artists/photographers. You are no exception too. :)

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  15. You are most welcome, my friends. It is truly my pleasure to being these features to you..........the lovely poets make them interesting, with their unique lives....I just put the material together. Fascinating, every single time.

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  16. Lovely and enjoyable to read about you, Julian. What a charming place from which to write. You also seem to be a fine artist, and I can see where the inspiration comes from. Glad to welcome you as a new member.

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  17. Thank you Sherry for the introduction to Julian's blog and wonderful poetry....what an absolutely fabulous place to live there in Guernsey, Julian....an inspiring spot!

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  18. I shall certainly be on the lookout for your poetry when you post it Julian it has a great naturalist style that the reader really feels comfortable in. I never made it to Guernsey when I lived in England 50+ years ago except for a port of call coming back via ferry from St. Helier when all flights were cancelled due to bad weather...the sea was very rough!

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  19. It's so wonderful to get to know you a bit more Julian and thanks for this glimpse into your fascinating world...an amazing chat Sherry...

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  20. I am a little late to comment on this feature, as I was away for a few days when it appeared, and only just spotted it.

    I've enjoyed Julian's presence in our community, as both writer and commenter, and am delighted to learn more.

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  21. Thank you Sherry and Julian for a lovely post! Yes, Julian it looks like you live in a beautiful place!

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