EDP: What is your first memory of encountering poetry?
I think the first poem that I remember enjoying was probably something by either A.A.Milne or Lewis Carroll. It was the rhythm of things like Milne’s “Disobedience” that I responded to and the sheer absurdity of Lewis Carroll.
And, thanks to school English lessons, I can still recite the opening of Macaulay’s “Horatius”. Deep breath: LarsPorsenaofClusiumBytheNineGodshesworeThatthegreathouseofTarquinShouldsufferwrongnomore. Etc.
EDP: Tell us a bit about the how, when and why you started to write poetry.
Up until a couple of years ago, you could count the number of poems that I’d written on the fingers of one hand. Actually, make that one hand that’s been mangled in some kind of ghastly industrial accident. Very few, anyway.
Then I joined a writing site called SlingInk where one of the regular activities is a monthly poetry challenge. I started to go in for this, and was surprised to find that my entries were occasionally voted for by the real poets in the group. That gave me the confidence to write more, although it wasn’t until about a year ago that I actually submitted anything for publication. The first piece that you published, “School Uniform”, was in fact only my second ever poetry acceptance.
I write poetry because I love writing and I love the feeling of having assembled some words that seem to work well together. And poetry gives you a quicker hit than a short story. It’s essentially the crack cocaine of literature, and it’s about as addictive as well.
EDP: When and where do you write and where do you find your inspiration?
The great thing about poetry is that it doesn’t take very long to write down, although it can be a long time in development. So I can be writing a poem in my head as I’m walking to the station in the morning, mowing the lawn, brushing the cat, anything. Some of my best ideas have come to me just as I’m dropping off to sleep, which can be inconvenient.
EDP: Which poet/s do you particularly admire and why?
I have pretty low-brow tastes. I like a poet who has a sense of humour, but can turn on the pathos when required: people like Roger McGough, Spike Milligan, Ivor Cutler, John Hegley and Benjamin Zephaniah. I’m not entirely sure whether he counts as a poet, but I also admire the work of Peter Blegvad. I’m a big fan of the way that songwriters like Jake Thackray, Victoria Wood and Vivian Stanshall use words, too.
EDP: What for you constitutes a ‘good poem’? Have you an outright favourite?
(If you have a favourite EDP poem, mention that too.)
A good poem is one where every word is earning its keep and one that actually adds some kind of value to those words by being something other than a very short story.
Favourites vary from day to day, from anything by one of the above, to something like Joni Mitchell’s “Last Time I Saw Richard” (not really a poem, I guess, but some of the saddest words ever written) or epics like “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. I love the variety of the poems that EDP publishes, and the fact that you can never predict what’s going to turn up in your inbox every day.
EDP: Tell us about your ‘most read’ poem specifically. How did it come into being and take shape and what does it mean to you personally? Did the views or our readers make you see it in a new light?
“Professionalism” arose out of a weekly challenge on another writing site that I hang out on, Café Doom, where you have to come up with a short piece of dark fiction or poetry in response to a one-word prompt. The word for this particular week was “Silence”, which led to the image of the librarian running through her domain, desperate to avoid committing the ultimate sin against her profession. From then, it was just a matter of turning that image into words as succinctly as possible.
EDP: What are you working on now and what are your future plans?
I’m still finding my feet as a writer of poetry, so I’m still experimenting. I have absolutely no idea where it’s going! Obviously, I’d love to have my own slim volume published one day. But in the meantime, there’s a novel that I really should be finishing.
EDP: Thank you for such an enlightening and entertaining set of answers. We look forward to seeing more of your work in our in-box – that’s for certain.
Jonathan Pinnock is married with two children, several cats and a 1961 Ami Continental jukebox. He doesn’t know a lot about poetry, but he seems to have had a few pieces published recently at places like this one and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and he’s even made it onto a couple of competition shortlists. His unimaginatively-titled yet moderately interesting website can be found at www.jonathanpinnock.com, and you can follow him on Twitter as @jonpinnock.