Exploring experimental poetry

Sunset by Nikki DudleyIn today’s guest post, author, poet and editor Nikki Dudley talks us through how her new collection Hope Alt Delete came about, why she loves to write experimental poetry, and how her words became part of the Blackpool Illuminations 2016.

I’m generally fascinated by language: how people received it; how the words we use can change how people perceive us; misunderstandings and errors, and the crossovers between languages and different sounds. I particularly like to use a kind of homophone style and break up words to make the readers think about how easily words can be misconstrued and how the individual syllables can be separated and made into something else.

I hope different readers let their minds drift in different ways, and take an active approach to reading my poems. There’s no right answer about where your mind is supposed to go.

Blackpool Illuminations 2016Let your themes choose you

When I was putting Hope Alt Delete together, I pulled together a lot of work – some old and some new. I noticed some themes running through a lot of the poems: hope, home and a sense of misunderstanding. It was kind of reassuring to see that I’m the same person I was when I wrote the older poems as some of the essential themes have stuck in there but I think I’ve changed too, so some edits were necessary.

Sometimes the misunderstanding stems from me, hence the playing around with words and sounds, yet other times, it’s the confusions and frustrations that occur in everyday communication with others.

As for the idea of home, I think it’s something I’ve always been fascinated by; your roots, where you identify as your home, whether you can have different homes and whether you class somewhere as home for a particular reason.

Lastly, in relation to hope, I’ve always been a realistic but hopeful person. That’s where the title came from. Instead of pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete to terminate something and start again, I wanted to put some hope in there too – even if you do have to start again, all is not necessarily lost.

Submergence4

Identify your poetic intentions

I really like experimental poetry and sometimes the nature of it is that it’s more random. However, usually there are hidden themes as well. I think themes are good if they are more naturally occurring but the poet can obviously dictate them too by constraining themselves with certain devices to dictate how they write, for example only writing at night or writing in a certain location.

Sometimes I think themes tend to shine through no matter what you do, unless a writer is deliberately trying to edit themselves out of the writing process. So, is it important? Yes and no. I think it depends on the writer’s intention and how they want the audience to receive their work.

For me, of all my themes and despite all the terrible things that happen to us personally or that happen all around us on a daily basis, the main thing I wanted to put out there was hope.

Submergence5

Understand what works for you

I wish I could say I was really organised and had a routine for writing but creativity comes to me in waves. Sometimes I can’t stop writing things down and other times I can’t put two words together it seems.

I usually get an idea stuck in my head and just have to write it down and then once I start going, it just flows out of me. I’ve been writing some found poetry lately though so that’s been good in terms of having a starting point. In the past, I’ve also used different methods to help me write, such as writing whilst doing another action (inspired by the Fluxus movement of artists, composers and poets), waking myself up at night and other silly things like that.

I also like to put tragedy and comedy side by side, which hopefully can be reassuring in a sense for readers, as it kind of reassures me! Another thing I like to do is to break up the flow of sentences sometimes, as life is never completely flowing and I quite enjoy the natural connections your brain makes and then contradicting them.

Keep an eye on what’s out there

I had a chapbook published by Knives Forks and Spoons Press previously in 2010. At the time I believe they were looking for submissions. I keep an eye on experimental publishers as I work on an online magazine, streetcake, myself. It’s good to keep the links updated on our site and see what else is out there. Also, I enjoy reading KFS’s other publications.

I sent my Hope Alt Delete poetry collection to Alec Newman, the editor, a while ago and he said he wanted to publish it. In the end, he actually featured my poem Ctrl+Z – along with nine poems by other poets – as part of the 2016 Blackpool Illuminations. He is subsequently publishing the collections of all ten poets.

KFS are one of the best experimental poetry presses around and Alec is also a lovely guy. He really helped me with the formatting of my poems for my chapbook in the past. What’s great about KFS is that they obviously love what they do – they work hard at getting experimental stuff out there. There are more experimental poetry outlets nowadays but that wasn’t always the case.

Hope Alt Delete coverCelebrate being seen

Hope Alt Delete is supported by Arts Council England, which gives a kind of seal of approval to the writing. Funding like this is absolutely essential to poetry. Although there are poets, editors and publishers working hard all over the shop to get writing out, it’s still a tough medium to sell and get people reading.

Council England fund various projects that present poetry in new and innovative ways. For instance, featuring poetry as part of the Blackpool Illuminations was fantastic because lots of people who don’t tend to read poetry read some as they walked past, therefore new audiences were reached.

Getting people to see things in a new way is one of the best things about life and writing, so anything that helps with that is vital in my view.

Nikki DudleyAbout the author

Nikki Dudley has published two novels, Ellipsis (Sparkling Books) and Semblance (CreateSpace). Her chapbook, exits/origins, and her first collection, Hope Alt Delete, are both available from Knives Forks and Spoons Press. She has been published widely online and one of her poems was featured in the Blackpool Illuminations 2016. She co-edits streetcake magazine, which publishes experimental writing bi-monthly. Find out more about what Nikki’s writing.

Read my review of Hope Alt Delete by Nikki Dudley.

Got some writing insights to share? I’m always happy to receive feature pitches on writing genres and writing tools. Send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Poetry review – Hope Alt Delete by Nikki Dudley

HopeAlitDelete CoverPoet and author Nikki Dudley’s first full length collection is small, spiky and full of attitude. Rolling out and tuning into a multitude of voices, it feels like a conversation only half-overheard. Tantalising segments glimmer on the page, inviting us to move closer, listening harder, and maybe pocket a shining phrase or two to carry home and examine at our leisure.

Nikki’s energy rustles behind each line, as she plays with familiar words and makes them at once more explicit and more unknown. Sentences stretch in strange, beguiling directions, or curl up tight, and words skip defiantly into slots that seem meant for something else, or break up entirely in ways that insist we regard them anew.

“Can you under-stand me?
Can you over-stand me?”

In other spaces, words are superseded by font, punctuation and blank lines that express everything you need to know. Continue reading

Mermaid in print

Sea cr Judy DarleyThis week my poem Mermaid was published by Streetcake magazine issue 37.

The poem explores ideas of old age, and begins with the lines

I used to hold it on my tongue, my lips, like salt from the sea,
his land language ready to be spoken at will.

It was prompted in part by my husband’s Dutch grandmother, who slowly lost her English as dementia took hold, and by my own father’s encroaching semantic dementia. In a way it seems to me that the world becomes an unfamiliar and less welcoming place as we age. This poem was my way of examining these thoughts and making them more manageable.

I’ve been following the work of Streetcake duo Nikki and Trini for many years, and am always impressed by the words they serve up in their “online magazine for innovative, experimental and visual writing”. They’re always on the lookout for intriguing, original work, so why not submit?