Who Are You?
The Poetry Can Questionnaire
Name: Deborah Harvey
Year of Birth: 1961
Place of Birth: The Salvation Army Hospital for Unmarried* Mothers on Ashley Hill, Bristol. It later became a Witts Wonderloaf factory, for a different sort of bun in the oven.
*My mother will kill me if I don’t add that actually, she was married.
In no more than six lines please describe what you do in “the poetry world.”
I write poems, and sometimes inflict them on listeners and readers. I’ve been fortunate enough to have three collections of poetry – Communion (2011); Map Reading for Beginners (2014) and Breadcrumbs (2016) – published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, and a historical novel, Dart, which appeared under their Tamar Books imprint in 2013.
I’m also a trustee of Poetry Can, the Poetry Development Agency for the South-West, whose blog you’re currently reading.
Where do you live now?
What puts a genuine smile on your face?
Lacing up my walking boots.
What keeps you awake at night?
Terror. I’ve recently learnt to bore myself to sleep, however.
Which living poet do you most admire?
I think Alice Oswald is extraordinary.
Which dead poet do you most admire?
Any poet who kept writing despite the threat to their life. Pablo Neruda … Federico Garcia Lorca … Anna Akhmatova, to name a few.
What irritates you most about yourself?
A lack of energy. I’m also pretty avoidant.
What irritates you most about others?
When people dismiss poetry because they think there’s something about it you need to ‘get’ in order to read it. They don’t realise all you have to do is walk into a poem and make yourself at home.
What has been your finest hour?
More moments, really – when something I’ve written really connects with someone and they are kind enough to come up to me and tell me.
At the moment I’m spending a lot of time driving around in a blur of tears listening to Leonard Cohen. (If you see me coming, best jump out of the way.) I also especially love ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie. (Frankly, 2016 has been devastating.)
What’s your favourite indulgence?
Books. And bookcases.
What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
Um …. I think it was a livestream of Hamlet starring Maxine Peake which wasn’t live and wasn’t really a film but I did see it in the cinema.
Politically, do you swing to the Left or to the Right?
I am very definitely on the left – always have been, always will be.
What is your favourite poem?
Right now, today, it’s ‘Yesterday Lost’ by Ivor Gurney. More generally, ‘Meeting the British’ by Paul Muldoon and ‘Lightenings viii’ by Seamus Heaney. And then there’s ‘Rain-Charm for the Duchy’ by Ted Hughes because that’s my landscape. Oh, and T S Eliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’. But ask me tomorrow and it might well be ‘The Wild Braid’ by Stanley Kunitz, or U A Fanthorpe’s ‘Earthed’, or ‘Morning Song’ by Sylvia Plath. (In short, this is an impossible question.)
Where would you most like to go on holiday?
Anywhere that’s an island. (It needs to be dog-friendly too.)
Get up, make myself a cup of tea, read a few pages of poetry and then try to drop off again, thinking soothing thoughts.
Do you like shopping in malls?
My younger son drags me to Cribbs Causeway once a year to buy his Christmas present. I acquiesce because I love him THAT MUCH.
Least favourite kind of art event to go and see?
Opera. It actually hurts my ears. I think I must be half-dog with super-sensitive hearing.
How often do you write poetry?
When I can. When I can’t not. I don’t get to dictate.
How often do you read poetry?
I dip into at least one or two poetry books a day, and generally have a few on the go at any one time. Less often, I’ll read a collection right through, especially ones written around a theme or story.
Not needing to do the day job.
Where do you want to be this time next year?
Writing my way into a new collection instead of just pottering around the edges.
Do you believe in life after a bad gig?
Still ’ere, me babber.
Do you believe in life after death?
Lots of lives, lots of deaths.
How would you like to be remembered by the poetry world?
Not fussed, really. I’d like my kids to remember me relatively fondly, though.
You can read Deborah’s blog here: The Red Dress of Poetry