Monday, February 18, 2013

Life of a Poet ~ N.D.Mitchell

Kids, I'm sure you've noticed this young Scottish poet posting at Poets United. N.D. Mitchell writes at The ND's Nigh. He is a lovely soul, and lives in the most spectacularly beautiful landscape. Come along, as we zip across the Atlantic (brrrrr, it's cold in the East), and shuttle from Glasgow to David's village. With luck, we'll be in time for tea.

Poets United: David, so cool to talk to a poet in Scotland! First, a goofy question: your blog title - a spoof on the Mayan prophecy? Now that we survived 2012, does it require a disclaimer?

David: That’s a good point. Maybe I should work on that. (Ha ha) I guess the blog title is a play on that well-known phrase, but it’s really a rather unimaginative way of using my initials. I didn’t actually go for any of that end of the world stuff, just in case there’s any doubt!

P.U.: Would you like to set the scene for us, tell us a bit about where you live in the UK (a romantic landscape for those of us in North America), and who you share your life with?

David: Ok. I live in Scotland, in a new town called East Kilbride, not far from Glasgow. Fifty or sixty years ago it would have been mostly countryside, but a town has grown out of a small village during that time. We have a large shopping mall but also some lovely rural getaways like the James Hamilton Heritage Park. 

James Hamilton Heritage Park, East Kilbride

It’s only a three minute cycle before I can hit some fields and be part of the countryside, so maybe it’s the best of both worlds. I live with my wife, daughter and son. It’s a busy life we lead, but also great fun having young children. I’m blessed to have such a great family.

Troon Beach

P.U.: Your park is beautiful! And it's a wonderful time, when kids are young. Enjoy every moment, kiddo. I see you are a teacher. Your Z-A Rebel-Teacher Manifesto is an amazing piece of work. I wish every teacher could read it. What do you love about teaching? What saddens you?

David: Thanks for that. I’ve worked in the same school for fourteen years as an English teacher and I guess that poem has a lot of the experiences of that time poured into it. I teach a mixture of age groups-twelve year olds up to sixteen or sometimes seventeen year olds. I love the chance to impact some lives at an age when a lot need a bit of  grace because they’re finding their way, trying out versions of who they will become as an adult. Sometimes that means I’m on the receiving end of bad behavior and that can be frustrating but I try to remember the bottom line is that they’re a work in progress, just like us all! It saddens me to see students who have not been nurtured well, can barely read, and you know they will struggle in life. It’s like the cards have been stacked against them from the start. It seems so unfair.

James Hamilton Heritage Park

P.U.: It is unfair, and, sadly, a world-wide problem. Do you still live where you grew up? I gather from some of your writing, Shadowing the Verge in particular, that, like all of us, your life has had its share of challenges. You are still very young, and seem wise beyond your years. Is there anything you’d like to say about your journey that might help others? 

David: Actually, I’m four weeks away from forty, which strikes me as getting on a wee bit

P.U.: Not when you're my age, kiddo!

Our back garden in winter

David: It’s definitely a time when you start to evaluate your journey. My biggest struggle in life has been a battle to maintain good mental health. Recently I’ve had to take time off work with depression and stress, although I‘m back working a reduced four day week again. It’s only about now (i.e. age 40) that I can begin to be more open about it, so I welcome the chance to talk about it here. 

James Hamilton Park

I’ve written about it in a couple of poems (Shadowing the Verge; Interconnect)  and a prose piece (Daylight Saving Time or A Walk in the Forest). Writing has been a tremendous help to me in beginning to assimilate how I feel about myself and life and has been a saving grace in some darker times. If anyone reading this has similar struggles, my main advice would be please don’t give up hope. There can be better days ahead. It can be hard to see them but they are definitely around the bend. Talking about how you feel is so important. Or try writing about if you can’t talk. 

P.U.: Good advice, David. I especially love A Walk in the Forest. You never know who may read your words and take some hope and inspiration from them.

David: I started blogging late in 2011 and have been encouraged so much by the kindness of so many fantastic writers from around the world. I’ve also started taking exercise a bit more seriously-it really helps. Jumping on the bike and getting outside (when the Scottish weather allows!) is a great way to deal with poor mental health. Give it a try and it might just put a smile on your face.

James Hamilton Park

P.U.: Great advice. When did you begin to write, David? In school? How did the other kids react to your writing poetry?

David: You know, I must confess I was a bit embarrassed about writing poetry when I was younger and I don’t think I showed any poems to any of my teachers. I certainly wouldn’t have shown them to classmates at school. I remember at University, a tutor gave us a poetry competition to write in a form called a sestina (I think!) I spent ages writing one, but was too scared to enter it into the competition! A lot of early poems were pretty angst-ridden and dark and  I’m glad I kept them secret. It’s a luxury youngsters today don’t have. All their lives are right here on the internet!

James Hamilton Heritage Park, East Kilbride

P.U.: Has there been one person in particular you feel has had a significant impact on your writing? Have you had, or do you have a mentor? 

David: I suppose that the teachers and tutors I had at school and University influenced me through bringing great writers to my attention, but I can honestly say that I wasn’t strongly influenced to write by any one individual. Only recently, as I’ve shared more of my work, have I been encouraged to continue by some very kind comments. (It’s amazing that we can share writing so easily these days!)  It’s been a slow process for me to believe that I’ve got something to say through my writing. If anyone out there wants to mentor me in my writing, be my guest.

James Hamilton Park

P.U.: Form a line to the left, kids. No pushing! You write prose as well as poetry? In fact, your Hallowe'en story, Wonderful, is one of the best pieces of short fiction I think I've ever read. (Check it out, kids!) Which flows more easily for you?

David: It’s funny because I started out my blog writing prose and only gradually started to throw some more poetry in. Just now I’m on full-scale poetry mode but I’ve got to say that I love writing short stories. I find them really satisfying to complete. I’ve got a few on my blog which I’d welcome any feedback on. I’ve also dipped into a bit of flash fiction and I’ve got this series called “A Day in…” which I plan to keep adding to. It’s basically a non-fiction descriptive piece of a day from each holiday I take.

P.U.: I have discovered you also write songs. Tell us about your music.

David: I suppose writing grew out of music for me. I wanted to write music before I wanted to write poems or prose. But, as band-mates got responsibilities or left the country, I was left trying to pick up the muse in some other format.  I’ve been in a couple of bands, and now have my own solo project called sciencekings. 

(Please check out his link, kids. He is really really good. The darned video would not cooperate, but I haven't given up yet!)

P.U.: David! You are so GOOD! I love your voice, your 'presence' as you sing, the melody, and your very beautiful and poetic lyrics. Wow. I hope you still sing when you get the chance, as your music should be heard.

David: You can download any of my music for free at, and the fact that it’s free reveals my conviction that no one in their right minds would pay for it ! Recording music is a hobby but it sometimes becomes a bit too intense for me. I can spend far too much time on it. 

Left Discarded - an old music cover

I prefer writing now because it doesn’t mess with my head so much! However, I released an e.p. in November called Endgame and played a gig recently at a local coffee shop. My old buddy Gordon, who I played in a band with as a teenager, played keyboards for me, and it was great reliving some past glories (at least in our minds).

P.U.: I cant think of anything more fun, or more satisfying, than creating and playing music. A lifelong dream of mine. Keep playing, David! Do you have any goals for your writing? Any books in the works?

David: I would definitely like to compile some short stories and poetry into books in the future. The idea of a novel is enticing but I’m not sure if it’s worth it or not. I have to confess I’m slightly confused about what I should be aiming for. An e-book? An actual book made out of  paper? What is the done thing these days? Any ideas are welcomed!

Contrasting weather shots of James Hamilton Park,
where I like to go walking

P.U.: You live in a spectacularly beautiful spot! Many of us self-publish, which is an easy and affordable way to see copies of our books on the shelves. Poets United put out an anthology a couple of years back through Have you ever lived a great adventure?

David: You know, I’m not the most adventurous person. I took my class on an Outward Bound trip to the Highlands of Scotland a few years back and I was probably more challenged than most of them-climbing trees and jumping off telegraph poles was not really my thing, but it was exciting! One of my old band-mates has moved to Australia and he’s been jumping out of planes and doing bungee-jumps, and I’m like, are you out of your mind? If you had to pin me down, I’d say that spending life with my wife is my greatest adventure!

P.U.: Ahhhhhh, that is the best answer! What is the wildest thing you ever did? Do you remember some childhood shenanigans that might be a humorous story?

Strathclyde Park, near work, where I walk at lunch

David: I wasn’t the most rebellious of kids. My biggest act of defiance was probably getting my ear pierced! I had a wild moment thrust upon me on my Stag Night by a “good” mate (also called David). He made me dress in a French Maid’s outfit on a busy Saturday night in the middle of Glasgow and then had me hand-cuffed to a provocatively dressed girl. My “mates” then left me and I had to wander around the streets with her for ages, picking up all sorts of comments from folk coming out of bars and such like. Turns out she was David’s girlfriend’s sister from Ireland and because she didn’t know the place, she got us lost for quite a while. Prolonging the embarrassing agony for me even more .  

Strathclyde Park

P.U.: OMG! Do you have a photo? (smiles) Anything else you’d like to tell Poets United? (Now that you've told your most shameful secret? LOL)

David: I’d like to thank you for reading this. Thanks for all the encouragement of being part of this community of writers. Keep writing. Keep expressing yourself and remember to never give up. Good things are ahead. God bless.

P.U.: Good things are ahead for you, and your family, too, David. Thank you for this interview. I feel like I've had the most wonderful trip to Scotland. And thanks for being part of Poets United. Keep shining!

Isn't he lovely, kids? It is so uplifting to meet a talented young man and find him so humble and wonderful. It is so beautiful in Scotland. But we must catch our red-eye home. Sigh. Come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! I've heard rumors about India..........


  1. It's wonderful to get to know more about you David. I really enjoy your work! I'm so glad to have 'met' you in the blogosphere. Thanks for this interview Sherry!

  2. I have enjoyed David's writings for some time ~ He is very adept in poetry and prose as well ~

    Great pictures and background to share ~

    Thanks Sherry ~ More power to writing ~

  3. Thanks Jennifer and Grace! Sherry-you're far too kind. It was great doing the interview! (For some reason the video doesn't work, but that may be for the best :)

  4. Sherry, what a wonderful interview.(No surprise!) David, I always enjoy your writing. And now I know I will enjoy them more. I spent time some time in your area (mostly Strathaven) and the Wick area in north. Beautiful country you live in!

    The music video DOES work, and I enjoyed it. Hope you continue to write music and sing and play. Teaching young people 12 - 17 years old is definitely a special calling, and I am sure you are good at this calling! I chuckled over your wild moment. You will enjoy sharing that story with your children some year!! Definitely looking forward to reading more of your poetry!

  5. Nice to meet David! I love what you shared. I do think creative types are prone to the highs n' lows. Keep writing and playing your wonderful music! So fun to learn more about you and your world!
    Wonderful interview you two! :D

  6. great to get to know you a bit more david...i have some roots in music as well...and we share the profession of teaching as well...just not english...ha...i enjoy your writing man

  7. Really nice learning more about you David. Keep writing, your prose and poetry are keep me reading and thinking.

  8. Thanks for bringing more of David to us, Sherry.
    David, your students are so lucky to have you--with all of your personal experience. I also became anxious and depressed with teaching, but with all of these writing and music outlets --I listened to ALL of it--you have a much better chance for survival. I love that your big adventure is marriage and family. Do you follow Clare Askew at One Night Stanzas? Or Helen Sedgwick in Glasgow? I know it's a big world and all, but I still wonder.

    1. I think "community service" is becoming a favorite from the sciencekings site.

    2. Hi Susan-thanks so much for that. I don't know either of those people, but I'll look out for them :)

  9. For me David's work is a fairly recent discovery, so it's very timely to see this interview! I was lucky enough to visit Scotland some years ago, and agree that it is very beautiful.

  10. So nice to get to no more about David - and I did wonder about the blog title! David - your music is great. Looking forward to more poems and music!

    1. Since you are a teacher, I guess I should correct my mistake of no to "know"!

  11. Darn! I was out of town yesterday so didnt know the video didnt work until this morning. It worked when I included it. I will poke around and see what I can do, as it is a very lovely video. Glad you all got to know David a little better. Thanks, kiddo, for being part of Poets United.

  12. Thanks very much Sherry! And thanks to everyone for all those encouraging comments :)

  13. I am exceedingly grateful for this interview, as it lifted my spirits today. Thank you for that. After getting to know him better through your Q & A, Sherry, I am certain that David is a beautiful soul living in a beautiful place.

  14. Enjoyed this interview with David. While I have never visited Scotland, I did make to Ireland a few times. Your photos are great but going there is truly poetic. Write ON!


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