Peter will be launching his debut pamphlet Art Of Insomnia
So we can all get to know Peter a little better we asked him some questions:
What was the inspiration for Art of Insomnia?
To answer that in plain terms would be to wish I had never written the damn thing. Art of Insomnia is, you see, an attempt to document some of the ways I attempted to cope in the first nine months after my wife’s unexpected death; it was written in real time during that period. My state of mind was such that the poems in this chapbook arrived without prompting. Finding a means of expressing my emotions in this form probably helped me process the enormity of the loss. Though the inspiration for the book is sad the writing is not consistently so. There are positives within it which I hope shine through like golden threads. Firstly, I think it shows progress and maps the beginning of a way forward. Secondly, it recognises the significant input of those around you in dealing with loss. Thirdly, it touches upon the power of art – including poetry – to heal the soul. Fourthly and finally, it highlights the perpetual nature of love, which sustains beyond death, and is not entirely without humour in its continuing conversations. Art of Insomnia is the most personal thing I have written.
What is your top tip for editing poetry?
My top tip is something I hardly ever do – let a poet you admire read it and listen carefully to their feedback before editing the poem. I did do it eventually for this chapbook but the manuscript was at a fairly late draft stage before anyone saw it. My usual practice would be to put away the first draft for a few days, then take it out, read it out loud two or three times. Flaws will become apparent during this process. Through all this, you should be reading good poetry by others you admire. Then keep returning to your work to finesse it.
What’s the best prose book you’ve read lately?
Lanny by Max Porter.
What three other poets (present company excepted) would you want with you on that dreaded desert island?
Limiting to three makes this impossible…but, assuming the answer may include those no longer with us, I’ll go old-school with T.S. Eliot, Ted Hughes and Emily Dickinson.
What’s your cure for a missing muse?
My first response would be to refer you to my answer to question 1.
If your question relates to writer’s block, it is something I have never experienced. In any case, an industry now seems to have been built around the daily provision of visual and other prompts for those who do face such a challenge, so I guess that’s a potential ‘cure’. Finally, I do attend classes and workshops from time to time and recommend this. While I am seldom short of a writing idea, these events have inspired subject matter and writing forms I should not otherwise have tackled.
When sleeplessness is not a medical condition or symptom but a lifestyle choice one cultivates, then it becomes a kind of skill, an art if you will. It was my preferred option for the best part of the period of nine months touched on by the twenty two poems in this debut small collection. I had to find a way to cope and work through the unexpected loss of my wife, my life partner. I decided the most positive way to do that was to devote as much time as possible to being creative in various ways. As well as trying to personalise loss and the incomprehensibility of grief I wrote of learning new skills and finding ways to escape the comfort of loved ones, in an effort to cope without people feeling obliged to hold me up. I also had to find ways to justify still being alive though alone.
As Anna Saunders, poet, writes:
An orchestral collection of many parts, it is enriching in its diversity, a sustained song of grief which is compelling and affecting. Art of Insomnia is a moving conversation with a loved wife, and more broadly with anyone who has suffered a loss. It is a eulogy for that which is lost and yet equally a brave celebration of the solaces to be found in life – friendship, community and, as this vital and potent collection proves, in poetry itself.
A Little Night Music
Of course there are the sounds of nature,
The other night was torrential rain,
Every morning the dawn chorus.
The sounds that were always there for us
even if we did not notice
when tv and radio and chatter filled the brain.
But in the silence of your passing
there comes previously unheard noise.
The minor and normally ignored sounds,
The creaks of movement in our house,
The whirring of the shower room fan,
All convert to music and voice to fill the void.
Peter A is Scottish by birth and residence, both within the county of Lanarkshire. He is also proud to hold Irish citizenship. He won first prize in the 2016 Paisley Spree Fringe Poetry Competition. Since 2017 his poetry has been published online (zines and journals such as I am not a silent poet and Pendemic), in film poems and paper publications including Laldy, Spindrift, Poems for Grenfell Tower, and both Dove Tales Scotland anthologies, A Kind of Stupidity and Bridges or Walls?. His work appeared in a number of anthologies in 2020, including poetry contributions to Words from Battlefield, A Kist of Thistles and Poets Against Trump, a short story in the Federation of Writers (Scotland) anthology Surfing, a poem in The Angry Manifesto (Thatcher volume) and another in Black Lives Matter – Poems for a New World. In the first three months of 2021, his creative non-fiction piece What doesn’t go in the letter was included in Dove Tales Scotland’s first pamphlet, the question in a poppy, and a number of his poems have been anthologised in two publications from Dreich (Hybrid Press) Things To Do With Love and Art. More poems will be published later in the year in three other Dreich (Hybrid Press) publications. All of this in the same year as his debut chapbook Art of Insomnia is released by Hedgehog Poetry Press (April 2021).