Jamie McGarry is a Scarborough-based poet who recently had an
excerpt of a poem that had been inspired by Hannah Hauxwell published in
The Dalesman magazine. He has been writing poetry for years, with his
confidence having been bolstered by a poetry competition that he entered
and won at the age of thirteen.
Jamie doesn't confine his writing talents to poetry either, as he has also
written a novel. Not one to rest on his laurels, he is currently hard at work
on a new collection of poetry, which is to be entitled Autopilot, along with
a second novel.
Photo courtesy James Knapper
Here, in an exclusive interview with Steve Rudd, he chats candidly about
his love of poetry, the fickle world of publishing, and his admiration for
fellow Yorkshire poet Tony Harrison.
Hi Jamie, how are things? Did you have a good New Year?
I did, thanks! I am tempted to spin you some Byron-esque tale of wild excess, to boost my reputation a bit, but for the night itself I just went round to a friend's house. We watched that terrible programme BBC1 always put on - but I would still class that as good. There are certainly a lot worse places to be, and a lot worse things to be doing.
You recently had a Poem about Hannah Hauxwell published in The Dalesman magazine. How did that come about?
Originally I contacted them in the summer, with the hope of promoting the performance of the poem at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre in October. (I read the narrator's lines, and 'Hannah' was played by Rita Sherriff-Hammond.) They were pretty full for the autumn issues, but they mentioned they were doing a 'Hannah Hauxwell Special' later in the year, and said they'd save my piece for that. But it got me a little more public attention - and best of all, they included my web address - so I'm very happy with how it turned out.
What is it about Hannah and her life in The Dales that so inspired you to pen Solitary?
I actually hadn't heard of Hannah until June of last year. By chance, I read an article in the 'Yorkshire Post' about her life, in support of her latest book, and I was immediately fascinated. There was something about Hannah's solitary existence that I really identified with at the time. I was going through a bit of a quiet period myself, and though unlike Hannah I could pop to the 24-hour 'Tesco' any time I liked, there was still something.
I watched a few clips about Hannah on 'YouTube,' and immediately realised that everything she said was a sort of poetry. So I started working on the poem. Originally I intended it to be quite short, but the more footage I saw, the more she said, and it ended up being a thousand-word epic!
You have been writing poetry for quite some time and have already released a couple of comilations of your work. What has the response been to such work?
It definitely has been a while - I have copies of poems going back to when I was 9, and I'm sure there were a few before that too. As far as I know, the response has been positive... no-one has ever come up to me and said 'oh, I read your poem Jamie, and it was rubbish.' But then, I like to think they wouldn't do that anyway.
I don't think any of us would do anything without a bit of encouragement, to start us on the path.
For me it started when I won the 'East Riding Poetry Competition' in 2001 (the 13-18 category...when I was 13, by the way!) And what really pushed me into bringing out the compilations was in April, when I won the 'Poetry Slam' at the Scarborough Literature Festival. That made me think: 'hang on, I should be doing more with this stuff.' And so I did.
What first got you interested in poetry as an art form?
I can't remember what started me off when I was really young, but I started writing poetry seriously when I first went to university (in 2006.) I was exposed to a lot of brilliant poets in my English Literature modules, and I realised that it could be more than the silly or incomprehensible stuff I had been exposed to at secondary school. So my love for it was rekindled - and I've never stopped since.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
I am working on a new collection called 'Autopilot.' It comes from people saying 'I was on autopilot today,' and generally being switched off from life, and their emotions. My thinking is that it's something we're all guilty of at one time or another - and sure enough, since I started working on it, the word has been said to me almost daily.
It is proving a bit tricky though. In my head, I know exactly what I want the collection to be, but I also know that whatever I actually produce can never match up to those expectations. But it's getting closer.
Did a publisher approach you about your poetry, or did you decide to self-publish your work?
I do self-publish. I still send out the odd pamphlet or manuscript to publishers, but I think the market is saturated at the moment. The world just doesn't NEED another writer. So I decided to do it myself, putting a bit of my student loan towards the first print run, money which I have now (thankfully!) made back.
I would recommend self-publishing to anyone, actually. It took me a while to figure out all the jargon, and to understand the finer points of putting a book together, but it also gave me complete control over how I was presented. Oh, and it gives you short-term rewards, which can be quite rare for a writer.
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