Friday, July 19, 2019

Interview with poet STEVEN MICHAEL PAPE (fourth interview) by Dave Wolff


You have a new anthology planned for release this month. What is the common theme?
The poems in “Inner Voices: 3AM Poems” are about me rather than society, like “Spring Sun on a Sick Face” and “I Got the Mechanism in Me”. This is a first as I’ve always tended to write about my observations and how things affect me.

How does “Inner Voices” reflect your older writings, and how does it differ from them?
I always try to write about what is happening in my community and in the UK. There are poems about knife crimes (“Area Code”), homelessness (“Eighteen and Homeless”, “Death of a Homeless Man”) and poverty and neglect in certain areas (“Decayed”, “This Road”). I’ve touched on drug addiction as this, as in a lot of countries, is a huge epidemic. “Junkie Parents” and “Devil” relate to it. There are poems that aim to explain why I still feel the need to write and the confusion that can sometimes follow (“You Can Be a Writer”, “Us Poets are Crazy”). It's an eclectic collection, with darkness and light, beauty and ugliness, hopelessness yet hope. And I’m happy with it. The poems were welcomed on social media. I tend to post them to gauge reactions, to see if the work is strong enough to warrant being in print.

How has social media response been since you started plugging “Inner Voices”? How much of an effort are you making to reach more readers?
The reaction on social media has been good. I sometimes get messages from people who work in the local newspaper trade or people who are compiling anthologies asking if they can use them in their publications, which I always agree to.

How much new material was penned for “Inner Voices”, and how much time was needed?
Inner Voices has about seventy poems in it; all of them are new. It started with five poems and over the next sixteen months I just kept writing and adding to it. The book is complete now. My editor Rose Terranova Cirigliano has done several edits, as I often take some poems out to replace them with stronger ones. “Inner Voices” will be published and available via Amazon on July 25. I'll have physical copies a week after to sell privately.

What made you decide to write from a personal standpoint?
It wasn't a conscious effort really; it just happened. None of the poems were planned. I was at first going to leave them out of the book, but I thought it through and realized people might like to see a deeper, more personal side to me.

How do you account for the sudden surge in creativity? Did it happen when you compiled past anthologies or did you have more inspiration than usual?
I've always written a lot. I’ve found when I’m working on a book I’m in a creative zone and my mind set is just to write. After 'A weapon called the word' was published my plan was to have six months off, but two weeks after its release I just continued writing.

Explain how introspective “Spring Sun on a Sick Face” and “I Got the Mechanism in Me” are, and what inspired them.
Both poems detail a period I went through at the start of the year. It was a particularly dark time and my way of coping with it was to write. Again my intention was to drop these poems from the book, but during production I decided maybe they would be understood by people who maybe were going through stressful times, so I left them in. With my previous books a lot has been about society and where I live and these sort of poems are still in this book alongside these more personal ones, it's something I’ve not done before but I thought it would give the reader a slight insight into my world.

Was writing all those poems of a more personal nature cathartic?
Writing poetry is always cathartic to me; it's a release. If I have words or ideas in my head I have to write them down. Most ideas arrive in the early hours, hence the title of this particular book. But some of the personal poems were more of a release than the nature themed poems or those of an observational manner.

Did you think it would be a risk to reveal your personal side to such an extent?
I wouldn't say it was a risk, but it was slightly out of my comfort zone, it was a ‘should I or shouldn't I’. I’ve no idea as of yet if it was a good idea.

How many edits did Rose Cirigliano made when working on “Inner Voices”?
Rose has made probably thirty-plus edits. It might be a small issue like a poem being two lines down from its title as opposed to one line. It's always minor things, but each edit has to be approved by me. Then I’ll probably notice other things so it's been a long process. Luckily the proof copy arrived and I’m happy with everything. Rose is a great editor. She adds her own touches. This always helps set the tone and tie in with the title and cover.

How many copies of “Inner Voices” will you be sent to sell? Will it strictly be in print or will it be available in downloadable formats?
Being the author I can order as many copies as I might need. I tend to order twenty or more copies to sell privately. I'm hoping to get copies into local libraries, and there's a shop in my town that stocks my last book, so I’ll keep a few for that. I tend to see how the book is received before I order more copies. I might publish via Kindle but I do prefer printed copies. I don't own or use a Kindle; I personally feel they're quite impersonal unlike a book. So it's doubtful I will publish this way.

Are attention spans becoming more brief due to the increase in reading on Kindle, as opposed to sitting down with a physical book or magazine?
For some. Again I’m not a fan of the Kindle but I understand why people could find the concept appealing. If you travel and can store countless books instead of bulky paperbacks, obviously it's more convenient. Also there's the environmental side; fewer trees cut down, less waste; and I’m all for doing my bit to help. But I don't think you get the same experience as you do with a book. It's just my preference and I know a lot of people who love them.

Who designed the cover artwork for “Inner Voices”? Is it the same artist who did the cover for your past anthologies or someone new?
The cover is by a friend of mine, Mark Tizard. He has a group highlighting his work on Facebook called The Hidden Gallery. I've liked his work for a long time and once I saw the artwork I wanted for the cover I just knew it would fit into the theme. Mark tends to do dark, pagan themed art that appeals to me. The theme of trees and forests runs through the book, with tree images on certain pages my editor had the idea of including. It's a dark, mysterious and, I suppose to some, disturbing piece of art. Some would say it’s a strange idea for a cover but I’m happy with it. The cover in glossy finish looks excellent. If people go to his Hidden Gallery group, all Mark’s work is there. He also has a Redbubble shop page. His art is available to buy as prints or as shirt designs. There's a wide variety of art and different styles there.

How many themes of Tizard’s are featured on his page, besides the pagan theme you chose to feature on the cover?
Tizard has loads of themes. He does industrial-like machinery art and photos but he also does nature art. He will add his unique twist by adding colour or text. He's done a few pieces with famous people in them like Hendrix, Burroughs and Strummer and added his own style for the piece.

Will you hire Mark Tizard again, and possibly base poems on his artwork for a new project?
It’s a possibility for some time in the future. It all depends what I’m working on at the time. I saw a photo today that a friend had taken and knew it would make a good cover. It got my mind thinking of titles and possible poems straight away. Mark’s artwork is very visual and changes over time as he works on it so I’m sure we will work together on another project.

Along with the poems you discussed before, which ones do you consider the most personal?
In the collection I wrote one for my Mum, one for my Dad and one for my Daughter (She Melts My Heart). These are very personal pieces and close to my heart. There's also one titled, 'My Heart’s Not In It', one of the poems that describes how writing poetry can sometimes be confusing and self-consuming.

What sort of confusion do you sometimes experience while writing poems? What do you do to work through it when it happens?
Most poems I write arrive in the early hours, so there's confusion of where they have materialized from, the idea might be something I’ve not previously thought of. I've written two to three poems sometimes during these times. Artists are their worst critics so there's always that doubt that maybe it’s not good enough. I’ve altered poems so many times taking whole sections out and re-writing them. Some I’ve just erased.

Were there times when you were so inspired while writing you nailed a poem in its first draft?
I've written several poems automatically and left them as I wrote them, apart from making very slight changes. 'Decayed' and 'This Road' from this collection were written straight out as they came to me. There were several others that didn't need many alterations. It's sometimes the best way to write, obviously some poems take longer to compile. I tend to leave them and go back to complete when I’ve had time to digest or think about the content I want to add.

Will the poems you omitted from “Inner Voices” appear in another anthology or possibly your Facebook community page?
I’m sure once I’ve worked on the poems a little I’ll possibly put them aside for another book if I do one. After each book I always say I’m not going to work on another then a certain piece of artwork or photo will inspire me and I will think of using it for a cover. I saw a great photo the other day that a friend had shot that got my mind thinking of a possible cover/book so who knows a year or so down the line I may work on another.

Do you find you’re still writing now that “Inner Voices” is completed? How many poems do you think will be in your next collection?
My plan after a book is to have a few months off just to rest and try not to think too much, but I find on the back of any book release I tend to carry on writing. I've wrote a couple since the completion of this book and saw a really impressive photo that Alan Davidson had taken that got me thinking about it being a possible cover so that set my mind off again with themes and ideas. I can never say how many poems; I tend to aim for sixty-plus if I can.

Are the poems you’re writing after the release of “Inner Voices” likewise personal? How long do you expect to continue in this vein?
I've written three so far which are slightly different, one is complete the other two are in their early stages. One is called 'Dark Energy' which is about the forests at Night and the ambience it creates, another is called 'Poets create alone' which explains itself really with the title and the third is 'Automation' about how computers are slowly being introduced into mainstream society, self-service tills, depositing money into your bank account etc. It's a small poem so far so I’m not sure if I will leave it as it is or add to it. I need to research it more if I choose to extend it. I plan with the next book if I do one to maybe do less rhyming poems and to maybe write less about society’s issues just to alter my work slightly to see how it is received.

Are you still seeking to be published outside the UK? Do you know of independent publishing companies in other countries that would be interested in publishing your work?
For now I’m happy being independent and working with Rose, I enjoy the freedom of picking the cover, the poems and not working toward a deadline. Plus she understands how I work and my strange ways and takes it all in stride. Her company Rose Books is producing some nice pieces of poetry and literature. As writers know she will give 100% and see the project through from its infancy up to its publication. There's a saying that goes, 'If it isn't broke, don't fix it' so I stick with what I know.

Where can Rose Books be found on the internet and who else is the company supporting through distribution?
At present Rose uses Facebook as her platform, but she is working on a website to highlight and promote the authors she has worked with. This book is published by her through Amazon’s new service KDP. This enables independent writers the chance to publish and provides a free ISBN for the book it also gives the writer the freedom on pricing to a certain extent. I like to keep the prices of my books as low as possible. It's all down to page counts and artwork, so this book is priced slightly higher at £6.99 which is the lowest KDP and I could do, taking into account printing costs etc.

How long have you made an effort to keep your prices down? Does it help your readership to consistently sell at affordable prices?
I always try to keep my prices reasonable for “Inner Voices”. I put the cover artwork and another one of Tizard’s pieces in the front of the book and I wanted them in colour but that made the price rise significantly so I opted for black and white to keep the price down and they do look effective like this. Most of my books retail at £6, and slightly more on Amazon. Keeping the price low does help with sales especially private sales, I could put the price higher but it’s not in my nature to mislead the reader or for the reader to feel victimized by a sudden price hike.

Did you ever consider compiling audiobook versions of any of your anthologies? Or a compilation of your poems from all of them? If you decided to release one, who would you want to recite your work?
It's not something I’ve given much thought to, but I know many people enjoy that format. I’m not sure if I’d feel comfortable reading them out loud; it's something I don't really like to do. But spoken word does add a lot to a poem so who knows, one day I might look into that.

Steven Michael Pape on Facebook 

-Dave Wolff

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