I'm so excited to be sharing another installment of my Creative Chat series! Today I'm talking with UK based poet & performer El Gruer about her journey and creative process. El is originally from Scotland but our paths crossed several years ago in Canada and I've been following her work at a distance ever since. Her book The Paper Sky made my list of Best Books I read in 2015 and is a collection of her poems exploring a wide range of topics and voices. As a closet poet myself for years, I've always found the writing processes of others fascinating and I'm sure you'll enjoy this interview as much as I have!
You can find out more about El on her website, or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter. Now, grab yourself a cuppa and let's dive in, shall we?
1. If we were able to have this conversation in person in a cafe, what would you be drinking? Are you a coffee or tea person?
Hmm, that would depend on the day. If it was cold outside, I’d have a Green Tea. Green Tea with jasmine if I had an array of choices. If it was warm outside, I’d go for a green juice, lots of spinach, apple and a kick of ginger!
2. Tell us a little bit about what you create/do. What led you to choose this path?
I am fascinated by the nutrition of words. The connection between spoken and written words and the impact they have on us is what feeds my writing. I studied Creative Writing at University and then went on to do a Masters in Poetry. However, throughout all of this I felt something was missing. The emphasis was on technical structures, origins of words, the great writers of the past and clinical analysis. But to me, words have a spiritual quality. They have the power to heal, to reach our souls and line by line redeem us in some unknown way. So I set my heart to be opened, broken, to allow words to be shaped and freed to reach. That is the pulse behind my poems, come, read, cry, laugh, let the words do what they will, be whole.
3. Can you describe for us your creative process? Do you have any writing routines or rituals?
I don’t really have any writing routines. I have a notebook with me all the time that I jot down any words, lines or concepts that come to me. If any really grab me then I will work on them, otherwise they will just marinade in the notebook until their purpose becomes clear, or they die away!
4. Where do you typically like to write?
I think I write best when I am alone, though I do like a little buzz around me every now and again. Coffee shops are good locations or being outside. If I have an idea that feels like it will develop quickly then I usually go for a run. I find doing something physical frees my mind to spiral. I probably look a bit ridiculous out for a jog with a notebook up my sleeve!
5. In addition to writing a book of poetry, I know you also perform. How has your writing process been affected by these two different mediums? Do you have a favorite?
One reason I chose to perform my poems (learn them off by heart and share them from a stage) was initially to gauge how well these words were serving ordinary people. Poetry can become quite a cliquing thing within literary worlds. If you go to listen to a poet do a reading then it is generally because you already like poetry. Whereas I wanted to reach ordinary people. So I decided to take poetry to where the people would be. I started performing at pubs, hospitals, schools, festivals, people’s homes etc and it snowballed! I travelled the UK doing that full time for 2 years. My policy was if someone invited me and they could put me up for the night then I would go and share for free. Pretty crazy when I look back on it now! Some poems lend themselves to the stage, some are more beneficial left on the page, others are a mixture of both. Poems that tend to speak powerfully to my heart are ones that have only a few lines.6. Who are some poets & writers that you admire/are inspired by?
You, the ordinary person are the poet who inspires me. Your life is a poem. That fuels me. I usually like poets that no one has ever heard of, I like some Haiku writers and at the moment I am reading a collection called ‘Women Poets of Pakistan’ which I am loving.
7. What are you currently working on? Anything exciting coming up?
Truthfully, I am currently in a bit of a searching ground at the moment. After doing lots of touring around and releasing the book, I felt pretty burnt out and needed a break. I decided to get a normal job and live a quiet life for a bit to gain some perspective and community. That is where you find me right now. Ideas welcomed!
Also, if you're interested in purchasing your own copy of The Paper Sky you can do so here.
Note: all photos courtesy of El Gruer Poetry
This interview is part of my Creative Chat series, where I sit down for a virtual coffee or tea date with makers and creatives to talk about their creative processes, journeys and the inspiration behind their work. You can read other posts in the series here.