Lynn Gerrard was born in St Helens, Merseyside, where she now lives with her husband Michael and their Jack Russell, Ralph. Having studied psychology, psychoanalysis, sociology and criminal law, Lynn finds it easy to observe the darker side of human nature and this is reflected in her writing. Lynn is a keen activist for mental health awareness and has performed as part of the Stand Up To Stigma campaign.
Thanks for coming!
I can’t have my guests parched now, can I 😉
Can you describe your poetic style for us and bit about how you’ve developed your written voice?
My poetic style is hard to define, really, because I do not see myself as adhering to any of the conventionally recognised principles of poetry and if I do, it’s quite by accident. Therefore, I think ‘freestyle’ would best describe my approach.
You see, for me, writing poetry to formula would be disturbingly restricting and as deflating a notion as asking an artist to paint by numbers! I personally feel that in order for my words to communicate with others they have to flow without restraint, without borders or limits because the moment strategy is applied the piece is in danger of becoming manufactured, the pure essence of its truth tainted … and, ultimately, its impact reduced … and we can’t be having that can we?
As for my written voice, well, I think it’s fair to say that it mostly manages itself and develops according to my observations on life. It’s my opinion that from the moment we are born and are exposed and subjected to the ways of the world, our life experiences cling to us like pet hair to a jacket, not always comfortably so. And as we proceed to roll along the path of life, accumulating the effects of circumstance, the heavier that emotional jacket becomes and the more we are weighed down by it.
I use my written voice as a kind of lint roller to gradually tease away the residue of those emotions which govern behaviour in the actions of others, in myself and in society in general until, once gathered, those shreds of existence are released and expressed upon the page in the form of a poem. Consequently, my written voice does not limit itself to a particular genre, preferring to be as diverse as the human state is itself, incorporating social commentary, humour, poignancy and all things dark. Oh yes, I do so love to dawdle and dwell upon the dark side of mankind’s psyche, as is evident through a lot of my work.
What is your favourite poem from this collection? Can you tell us a bit about why it strikes such a chord with you?
Whilst I feel awkward referring to any of my own work as ‘favourite’ there does happen to be a piece, in my Darkness & Decadence collection, which I am quite fond of. It’s called ‘Oh For Those Days’ and I wrote this after watching a documentary highlighting the lives of patients, in the 1800’s, who had been committed to the mental asylum, Bedlam.
One such resident was a woman who had been placed there by her husband because, despite his trying, he could not cope with her mental instability. The gentleman kept a journal and in that journal he lamented for the loss of what he and his wife once were together in better times and he reflected upon this, writing “Oh for those days”. The pain in those words struck a chord with me and the poem followed.
Now, as it happens, my poem makes no reference to an asylum but it is about loss and reflection. In my poem we meet a man who is looking at a photograph, soulfully missing the person whose image rests within the palm of his hand and from there he begins his wistful narrative “I stepped inside an old photograph and sat with you a while ….” His pain is as tangible as the pain we are privy to in the writings of the gentleman with the journal.
Similarly, I’m certain many of us have looked upon a photograph of a someone who is no longer with us to find ourselves transported back to happier moments in time, when life’s energies still pulsed with the promise of tomorrow. It’s that bittersweet feeling of longing and that pining for the past which I hope to convey through my poem.
Which poem was the most difficult for you to bring to fruition and why?
The most difficult poem for me to bring to fruition in this collection would have to be ‘Dark Skies’ but difficult only from the perspective of it consuming my thoughts at the cost of other writing commitments being left on a slow burner.
Dark Skies tells the story of Arthur and Mary, two sweethearts locked in love just prior to the outbreak of the First World War. I wrote this poem to commemorate the centenary of that war in the hope of bringing to light the very individual sufferings of families torn apart by such conflict.
In order to do so it was important to me that the reader grew to connect emotionally with the young couple, so as to allow the unfolding hardships of the period to be truly appreciated. I wanted to integrate the turbulent flavours of that era with the buoyant colours of Arthur’s and Mary’s characters and subsequently I became completely absorbed with their development.
In keeping with the personalities of the two characters, a soft layer of humour is present throughout the piece. Nothing overly rib tickling, because I didn’t want to detract from the serious side of this dark chapter in our history but just enough to add to the honesty and credibility of the couple as real people.
I can remember the very moment the idea for poem was conceived in my head. I was in the local cemetery walking my dog and thunderous clouds were brewing above when suddenly, the first line jumped in to say: “Dark Skies hung as heavy as a fat dog’s sweaty belly, when Arthur took her hand outside the abattoir.”
I feel the need to add at this point that my dog does not have a fat sweaty belly, so there was no prompt from that side of things but I’m not sure there wasn’t some strange, dark, subliminal connection between my being near the crematorium at the time the word ‘abattoir’ popped into my mind!
So, yes, this poem did consume me and that did make things difficult for me in other areas but I feel it was worth the disturbance at the time because whenever I perform that piece, some people cry and as awful as my next words may seem, that warms me because then I know that I really have succeeded in bringing Arthur and Mary’s story to life.
Can you describe for us your writing process? How do you know when you’ve got a keeper?
My writing process is peppered with temper tantrums due to my being my own worst critic! Scraps of scrunched up paper lie scattered across my desk, never quite making it to the waste paper basket because the thought of throwing words away disturbs me. I am also as disorganised as the words which whoosh around my head, vying for the attention of a twitching typing finger to release them upon the page!
You see, I am a creature prone to the distraction of tangent thought. Even now, inexplicably, out of the ether, the word ‘squirrel’ is threatening to overtake our chat as images of this fluffy rodent boing across my brain. Why? I have no idea and that’s the problem.
I begin each day with the best of intentions and sit at my desk with several projects in line, waiting to be tended to. Everything usually starts off well but after a while, as I’m concentrating on a particular piece, an idea for another poem or story will bungee jump into my head, springing up and down upon the pressure pad of my concentration, and there it will dangle until I acknowledge its presence.
Once reluctantly acknowledged, I make a note of the idea for future reference, which is all very well in principle but the practicality of it means I usually get locked into the idea of THAT piece thereby unintentionally abandoning the other, albeit temporarily. Of course, I do eventually manage to finish a piece in full but it’s very rare that fruition is reached all in one sitting, as you can imagine.
On the whole, my writing day is a long one and also involves lots of scribbled notes and lots of recorded notes on my phone. This can sometimes earn me troubled looks when out in public, especially if I’m killing a character off and in the middle of a lengthy queue in a busy supermarket I suddenly whip my mobile out to record a grizzly menu of gruesome ways to see a person off!
Regarding my work and my knowing when I have a keeper well, that’s not as easy a consideration as it may seem. I question my work all the time. I am never completely happy with a piece I have written and I genuinely believe there is always room for improvement. However, the impracticality of constantly revisiting one’s work to adjust it, prevents me from becoming even more finicky than I already am. At the end of the day, given my nature to constantly self criticise, were I to change anything, I still wouldn’t be satisfied!
In essence, the true measure of my having a keeper is my reader’s reaction to my work. If my words have managed to evoke an emotional connection and if that connection reveals itself through laughter or tears, then I am happy to consider that poem/story, whatever form my writings may manifest themselves, as a ‘keeper’. I think it is fair to say that, in many cases, I trust the reader’s opinion of my work more than my own.
What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of publicizing yourself and your work?
The most challenging aspect of publicising myself and my work was in my actually believing that I was good enough TO be published! Thankfully any doubts I harboured along those lines were laid to rest when Wallace Publishings offered me a four book contract for my poetry.
My publisher, myself and most definitely my husband, Michael, (who is my agent/promoter/manager and my personal chef, I’m happy to say) work hard to promote and advertise my books through whichever medium is available and Social media plays a strong part in this. Indeed, it was through Twitter I first encountered Wallace Publishings.
For some time I had been tweeting my micro-poems alongside links to my blog, The Grumbling Gargoyle, where my lengthier poems resided. One day I was approached by Wallace Publishings, whom I had been recommended to through a third party, and was delighted beyond words, poetic or otherwise, when their initial interest in my writings blossomed into the contract they were soon to offer.
Of course, promoting one’s work still remains a challenge because it is vital not only to encourage new interest but to maintain the interest of existing readers and so it’s advantageous to explore different ways to do this. In my case, I have recently stepped into the world of performance poetry and have performed at numerous venues where, I am relieved and most pleased to say, my show, my poems and myself, were very well received and my books eagerly purchased.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give a poet considering publication?
It’s times like this you think to yourself, “Now, what would Yoda say?” Given that I have, myself, only relatively recently joined the ranks of the published author I’m afraid I do not have any mind blowing words of wisdom to offer but I do know that when submitting work to a publisher, it needs to be presented in a professional manner.
Publishers are faced with vast amounts of submissions each week and many will not give a piece a second glance if it looks as if the author has casually thrown together a letter of enquiry. You can’t expect a third party to take your work seriously if you’re not demonstrating that you do so yourself.
I think it’s also advisable to seek out publishers who are ‘poetry friendly’ as it were. Some publishing houses exclude works of poetry from their itinerary so it’s worth investigating properly to save yourself valuable time. Also, it could be advantageous to find out as much as you can about any prospective publishers before submitting your work to them, just to get a feel of how they work as a business and if their business acumen would suit you.
Of course, self publishing is also an option and should this be of interest there is a plethora of information on the internet that could prove helpful. However, once again, it important to deliberate carefully before making any decisions.
Essentially, when everything is taken into consideration, if a person has a burning desire to write and to be read, determination and passion are the keys to success alongside patience … lots and lots of patience! I struggle with the last one.
What projects are you currently working on and can you reveal or give any juicy hints?
Currently, I am in the middle of writing a play. The play came about due to my being involved in the ‘Stand Up To Stigma’ project last year, a campaign which used comedy to encourage an awareness and a better understanding of mental health issues with the ultimate aim of reducing discrimination and stigma in society.
Essentially, the whole purpose of my writing this play is to help perpetuate the aims of that project and I’m attempting to do so by combining the reality of mental health issues with dark humour.
As for ‘juicy bits’ well, I’m also desperate to get my hands on the novel I’m in the process of writing but other writing commitments keep shunting it out of the way! I made the mistake of detailing some aspects of the novel to certain family members who were so enthused by the idea of it that now when I see them all I hear is, “well, have you finished it yet?” followed by exasperated sighs when I shake my head and tell them “no!” through clenched teeth and with a twitch! There will be lots of juice indeed, within the pages of this, mostly from the decomposition of certain characters I’m toying with at the moment. Oh the fun!
March of next year, or thereabouts, sees the launch of my second poetry book. I haven’t a title for that one yet, truth is I am absolutely hopeless at thinking up a title for anything! I’m surprised I managed to name my four children instead of numbering them!
Of course, poems still make their presence known in my head and in the new year I shall be attending venues where I’ll be performing some of those poems and in between all of this writing … I may even take the odd pause for a quick shower … who knows? Yes, busy times ahead, particularly for my mood swing, methinks.
It’s been a pleasure chatting with you today. Thank you again for stopping by and sharing your experiences, poetry, and stories with us.
I’ve had a lovely time chatting to you! Great choice in coffee, by the way, thanks for that too.
You can find Lynn lurking various places online …
Darkness & Decadence
Lynn Gerrard presents her first collection of poems, Darkness and Decadence – the Grumblings of a Gargoyle. Taking you on a trip through the dark and the humorous sides of reality and fantasy alike, this book makes an excellent read for poetry and dark humour fans. Inspiring, unique, and insightful – Lynn Gerrard perfectly captures the darkness that lurks in our society and peppers it with humour along the way. The gargoyle has grumbled and it is definitely well worth listening to what it has to say!
Check it out on