Thursday, September 06, 2007

Writer's Corner

Miles J. Bell

There were two words that instantly came to mind when I first starting reading through the work of Miles J. Bell, wit and honesty. The remarkable thing about this English poet is that he combines the two with ease and with clarity. To put it simply, he can make you smile and make you think in the same line. This is an ability that will allow Miles to communicate to a variety of audience's and on any number of topics.

It has only been a few years since Miles decided shift his writing over to poetry, but it has been a very productive few years. Miles will run down the specifics in his interview, but I will say that he has released three chapbooks in the last three years, and is preparing to release his fourth with fellow Englishman Ed Churchouse. His most recent release, currently available through Verve Bath Press is entitled "Murder the darkness w/ laughter & stories". The cover was designed by Amanda Oaks.

Recently, Miles took some time out to answer a few of our questions.

Orange Alert (OA): I am amazed that you have only been writing for two or three years and already have three chapbooks and many other published pieces. What made you decide to start writing? How long did it take to get published once you started submitting your work?
Miles J. Bell (MJB): The 3 years has to be qualified, I guess. I wrote my first poem when I was 9 or 10, called “The Shark”, after watching the whole of Jaws, without sound, through the window of a electrical goods shop while my grandparents were off buying whatever grandparents buy. And I wrote songs between 16 and 32. But as it was difficult to get band members to play my stuff, I thought I’d return to poetry, as firstly I didn’t need anyone else’s help, and secondly as not having to fit the words to music gave me more freedom to write exactly as I liked. It wasn’t exactly a moment of clarity, just a new avenue to explore that I wandered into as a natural progression, out of a need to express myself.
I started writing in March 2004, and at first it was quite strictly iambic and rhyming, maybe due to all those years writing lyrics. I had my first poem accepted only 6 weeks after starting poetry as a “grown-up”, then I only had a couple more accepted in the next 18 months, maybe due to sending to the wrong places, maybe as I was learning how to do it and finding my own voice. Then I accidentally bumped into C. Allen Rearick on MySpace, who gave me several leads on the kind of e-zines and magazines who published the sort of stuff I was writing, and a whole new world seemed to open up to me. Since September 2005 I’ve done pretty well. I’m pretty good at keeping track of my poems, and I figure I’ve written about 210, submitted about 160, and I just had my 100th poem published. Silly to read too much into the figures, but I allowed myself the indulgence of a little pride at that landmark.

As for the chapbooks, I published the first on a friend’s record label, the second I made myself, and the third was done by Amanda Oaks, to whom I’m very grateful. Nobody’s accepted a manuscript of mine who I wasn’t already friends with. But getting them out there is the important thing, for me.

OA: Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
MJB: I used far too many words to answer the last questions, so I’ll make this short.
Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Raymond Carver, Jack Kerouac, Jack Micheline, Carson McCullers, John Steinbeck, Frank O’Hara, S.A. Griffin, Todd Moore’s longer poems, Sylvia Plath, and it would be wrong to omit Bukowski – it’s become very fashionable to say how you don’t rate the old goat, but it was his writing more than any other that showed me poetry doesn’t have to be dusty and dry - plus a lot of the poets I’ve met online in the last couple of years.

OA: How did it feel to be invited to participate in the Guerrilla Poetics Project? What type of feedback have you received from your broadside, "Unlucky"?
MJB: It was an honour to have a poem of mine made into a broadside, especially as it was chosen by some fine poets. I have had little-to-no feedback about it, however. Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal told me he enjoyed sticking that particular broadside in books, but it seems it’s not done to be a thing too full of praise for the other poets swimming the same waters. We’re all ego-maniacs with low self-esteem, don’t you know. But in the end it’s just me against the poem, endlessly.

OA: I noticed that you have had other writer's ( S.A. Griffin and Amanda Oaks) create very nice covers for your recent chapbooks. How important is the presentation of your poetry to you?
MJB: I’ve seen many chapbooks with really disappointing presentation and more-than-questionable punctuation. Obviously it’s important the poetry is good, but spending 6 months assembling a collection only to spend half an hour proof-reading and designing a cover can make it seem like the poetry was produced with a similar lack of care. Like dressing a newborn baby in a bin liner. I asked S.A. as I knew he would do something interesting having seen some of his collage stuff, and Amanda just did what she always does with her Words Dance magazine; she put a lot of love and care into the chap’s final look.

OA: What is your opinion of the current state of poetry? Is it thriving in an internet era? Is it being watered down by an overabundance of outlets ( i.e. blogs/myspace/lit zines, etc)? Is there an audience for the modern poet?
MJB: I have no solid opinion on the current state of poetry. There’s some good stuff, and a lot of crap. Both kinds are easier to find due to the web. You just have to sift through it. I suspect it was ever thus. Obviously the internet makes it easier to publish for any editor who wants to start a zine, and easier for the poets. It’s certainly nice to get acceptances or rejections quickly, and I’d probably never have got very far without the wonders of e-mail, MySpace, and so on. 99% of the poets I’ve met I’ll most likely never meet in person.

As for the overabundance of outlets, I don’t think so. What I write, I can’t send to many places. There have been times I’ve had poems to submit but nowhere to send them to.
Audience for modern poets? Not sure there’s ever been much of an audience for poets in any era. Maybe the 60s. But personally, an audience is nice but almost irrelevant. Once the poem’s out there, it’s gone and doesn’t really feel like mine any more. Posting poems on MySpace is slightly different, in that I get a little feedback. But I quite like the idea I’m never going to know what most people think of what I write.

OA: What is next for Miles J. Bell?
MJB: Poetry-wise, a split chap with Ed Churchouse, a fellow Englishman whose writing is as good as anything in the small press but who is widely unknown. The chap’s being released in the next month or so on The Audacious Art Experiment record label, who did my first chap, and it’s called “Everyone knows this is nowhere”. I also have a couple of other manuscripts to tout around, and I’m submitting a big collection for the Jack Micheline Memorial Book Contest through the Guild of Outsider Writers.

As for me personally, I’m planning a wonderful life with my girl and her little boy, and trying to get a job not involving fish – difficult for this area.


Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
MJB: Coffee, yes yes yes. Nescafe, 2 spoons of coffee with milk & 3 sugars. At home, in front of the PC, in fine company. The outside world is overrated.

OA: Who are some of your favorite musicians currently? Does their music ever affect your work in anyway?
MJB: I do tend to buy books rather than records, but I listened to Tom Waits’ “Orphans” a lot when I bought it, and the last Dizzee Rascal album is good. I seem to have a record collection that’s been constant for years which I listen to cyclically. The Pixies, Blur, New Order, Daft Punk, Underworld, Dinosaur Jr, and Mr. Waits are among my faves. If I’m influenced at all by music it’s not in an obvious way, more being aware of what art at its best can evoke. I’d love to write a poem as atmospheric and indefinable as a Sigur Ros song. And if that’s too pretentious an answer, c’est la vie, mes petits papillons.

For more information Miles J. Bell visit his myspace page.


christopher cunningham said...

good interview. that poem is one of my favorites from the GPP. I thought it a vast meditation in a very small space. fine work.

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