Today, fellow poetry lovers, we are flying across the Pond to England, to chat with Kim Russell, who blogs at WRITING IN NORTH NORFOLK, in England. I am so looking forward to this chat! Let's pour ourselves a cup of tea, as it is teatime, and settle in for a lovely visit.
Sherry: Kim, tell us a bit about life in North Norfolk. Is it a rural or urban existence? What do you love about it?
Kim: North Norfolk is the top bit of the bulge on the eastern side of England that juts out into the North Sea. It’s not a place you would pass through as there is only one motorway that leads up to it, which then becomes the A11 and ends in Norwich, ‘a fine city’. Norwich was once the second city of England and is very beautiful, with many old buildings, and has been used as the setting for a large number of films.
Windmill on the Norfolk Broads
It is also on the edge of the Norfolk Broads, man-made lakes and rivers that are joined together, where anglers, boat enthusiasts and nature lovers enjoy the scenery, complete with windmills, bridges and quaint villages along the way. We live in one of those quaint villages. We are closer to the coast than to Norwich, a wild coast that is sadly eroding, where we can see colonies of seals and the most amazing skies. These are some of the things I love to write about.
Sherry: What an enchanting place to live! You are surrounded by natural beauty - and history!
Kim: I moved up here from London twenty six years ago after visiting with my daughter – I couldn’t afford extravagant holidays as a single mum, so we used to rent a caravan up here. I loved it so much that, when I had to move away from London for personal reasons, it seemed the best place to go.
I share my life with my husband and best friend, David, who I went to school with in South London all those years ago. I had already moved to Norfolk when we got together again after almost twenty years, after I wrote to a newspaper ‘looking for an old friend’. We have two cats, Luna and Mojo, as well as a variety of wild animals that inhabit our equally wild garden, such as deer, owls, pheasants, robins, field mice, moles, hedgehogs… I could go on all day about our garden.
Luna and Mojo
Sherry: Oh, I love stories like this! How wonderful to reunite with your old friend. A happy ending / beginning. I love that you live surrounded by nature. And your cats are lovely!
I have learned you were a teacher, who inspired a love of poetry in your students. Now that you are no longer teaching, I understand this has carried over into your life today. Tell us a bit about your life as a volunteer, encouraging a love of literacy in children.
Kim: I would have loved to have gone on teaching English – it was my passion – but health and sanity were more important at the time. I planned to focus on writing in retirement, but after several months I felt that something was missing, so I volunteered at local libraries.
Having spent so much time with teenagers, I needed to experience the other end of the spectrum and use rhyme and song, so ‘Bounce and Rhyme’ with babies, toddlers and their parents and carers seemed to be the way to go. We sing and perform actions to nursery rhymes and read stories, accompanied by a small collection of puppets, the main one being Otis the orangutan – the children love him! Several months after starting ‘Bounce and Rhyme’ I discovered the Norwich Reading Project and now also listen to children aged five to seven read three days a week.
Sherry: It sounds like such rewarding work, Kim! It’s wonderful you are doing that.
When did your love affair with poetry begin? When did you start writing poems? Was there someone who encouraged you?
Kim: I’ve loved poetry since I was a child, beginning with nursery rhymes, which my grandmother taught me. At junior school we had a wonderful teacher with whom we learned poetry by heart.
One of my favourite poems was ‘The Lady of Shallot’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, of which I can still remember lines. I also learned for a Christmas performance a poem by Thomas Hardy, ‘The Oxen’, which I can recite in full. When I was studying German A-level, before I went to live and study there, I discovered Rainer Maria Rilke. I entered a competition, in which I translated some of his poetry and wrote about his life, and won! His poem ‘The Panther’ will always be one of my favourites.
I continued to write through teenagehood and into early adulthood but motherhood got in the way for a while, not that I’m complaining – I have a beautiful daughter and a grandson I adore.
Sherry: I am happy that we can be away from poetry for a time, yet it is right there waiting for us when we return. The same thing happened with me. What do you love about poetry?
Kim: I love the way that huge and complex ideas can be distilled into poems, and that poems can equally tell whole stories or describe single moments.
Sherry: So well said. Do you prefer form poetry or free verse, and why?
Kim: I’m not sure I have a preference. There was a time when I wrote mostly sonnets, perhaps because I’m a massive Shakespeare fan. It depends on the topic and the way I’m feeling. I do enjoy warming up with a haiku in the morning – it’s a bit like that first cup of tea, stimulating. I also like the quadrille, the form introduced by the dVerse Poets Pub, for its freedom of form and restriction of number of words. I am quite economical with words, which was once commented on in a letter from Zoe Fairbairns (which I still have somewhere!) when she was editor for Spare Rib magazine.
Sherry: It is a good trait to have in writing! Do you have a favourite poet?
Kim: Too many to mention, although, as I said before, I love Shakespeare. I have always enjoyed anything by Dylan Thomas and Seamus Heaney, and my favourite live poet is Carol Ann Duffy.
Sherry: Do you write prose as well? Stories, fiction, nonfiction?
Kim: I have had several short stories and some flash fiction published, have completed a novella for children, Joe and Nelly - a World War Two ghost story, which has been entered into several competitions - and have a young adult novel to complete next year, entitled The Haunted Tide, which is set on the North Norfolk coast.
Sherry: I see that you have listed the publications your work is in on your About page. It is impressive.
Are there three poems of yours you would like to share with us? I especially admire "Seizing the day night moon stars cloud" – I would love to include it, and would you explain the line “in daring to live, I’m learning to die”?
Kim: Please feel free to include ‘seizing the day night moon stars cloud’, which arrived almost complete in the early hours as I was waking from a dream, which seems to happen quite regularly. The line “in daring to live, I’m learning to die” came from something I read but I can’t remember what it was or where I read it. It expresses the feeling I get in autumn when I see everything around me dying in a blaze of colour, which reminds me that It will all come back again and not to give up in my autumn years.
Mojo and the Sunflowers
seizing day night moon stars cloud
with the arrival of frosts and rains
a wintry light
smears the sky
I crunch leaves defiantly underfoot
and breathe in sweet decay
in daring to live I’m learning to die
leafless oaks mock me, feigning death,
the colour of blood
all the while I tramp through autumn mud
seizing day night moon stars cloud
singing out LOUD
on the journey towards my blazing sunset
Sherry: I love the loud, lusty courage in this poem, and your approach to living fully. Yay!
Not Just a Holiday Romance
and dog walkers,
recognise its profile like a lover’s
outline, blemished and creased.
We respond to its familiar voice,
gush of each breaking
breath, grunt and groan
in its restless sleep,
powerful rolling of its waking
and saltiness of morning kisses.
We long for sharp prick of marram grass
as we swim, fly and stumble past
its wavering, whistling tunes
and contours of shifting dunes.
Late Afternoon on a Norfolk Wherry
His face is traced and creased by Norfolk gales,
His skin tanned Van Dyke brown as wherry sails,
The wherryman sits on the tiller aft,
With steady hand he guides his graceful craft.
A waterfowl with broad vermillion hatch,
The wherry glides through reed and willow thatch,
Its sail cuts dark into the sparkling light
And startles long-necked cormorants into flight;
The wherryman observes the soaring birds
Scatter feathers in the sky like words.
As sundown is announced in gold and red
And other folk prepare themselves for bed,
The wherryman moors close to windswept beach
To watch the sun slip slowly out of reach.
Sherry: Thank you for these, Kim. I especially love the poem about the wherryman! A wonderful sonnet!
What other activities do you enjoy when you aren’t writing?
Kim: Mostly reading, when I have the time, which is usually last thing at night or on a long train journey. I love music and, of course, nature and my cats.
Sherry: Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?
Kim: Thank you so much for the opportunity to read and enjoy the poetry and fellowship of poets around the world, and share my own poetry.
Sherry: Thank you, Kim, for this lovely chat. We are happy you made your way to Poets United and look forward to reading your poetry in the months and years to come.
Wasn't this an interesting visit, my friends? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!