MARK CONNORS: To the left of Larkin
Mark Connors is an award winning writer from Leeds, UK. His poetry has appeared in many anthologies and magazines, and his poems ‘The Money Dude’ and ‘Final Reminder’ are published in Issue 6 of Confluence. Sam McCabe asked Mark to tell us a bit more about himself and his writing.
What inspired you to become a writer/musician and poet, and where did you get your inspiration from?
Mark: I started off writing song lyrics at 16 when I was a singer for a heavy metal band back in the ’80s. The guitarist came up to me one day, gave me a of book of Auden’s and said: ‘Your lyrics are crap. Read this.’ So I did. I came across a poem called ‘But I can’t’ and I’ve loved and written poetry ever since.
Could you tell us a bit more about your writing background or general background that led you on the path of delving into writing and music?
Mark: From song writing and getting into Auden, I started reading more widely and when I was 18 started writing poetry for my first love. I’m still very good friends with her and she has some terrible skeletons of mine in her closet, believe me! I started writing about other stuff and had my first poem published at about 27. After a long gap and completing an MA in Literature and Creative Writing in York in 2008, I started writing more seriously. I’ve had over 120 poems published in magazines and anthologies since then. My debut poetry pamphlet came out in 2015, my debut poetry collection followed in 2017 and I’ve also had two novels published with a third on the way.
Do you have an author or poet that inspires you and who is your favourite?
Mark: The poet I return to again and again is Philip Larkin. When I first started reading poetry, he was the first poet I really related to and I’ve been relating to him ever since. My latest poetry project is called Left of Larkin where I re-visit some of his work, turning Larkin into a raging lefty along the way. It’s a lot of fun! ‘The Money Dude’ in the last issue of Confluence was taken from this work. I’m probably turning it into a book of some description.
I also love Simon Armitage, Helen Mort and Antony Dunn and a host of other contemporary poets. As I host literary events and run a poetry night in Leeds, I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with some of my poetry heroes.
Do you get more motivation out of performing publicly or by publishing your work in print? Is there perhaps a difference?
Mark: I get different things from each, I guess. I’d call myself a page poet first and foremost but because I tend to recite rather than read from a book, I’ve also been labelled a ‘performance poet’ and won the prestigious open mic at Ilkley Literature Festival two years running in 2014 and 2015. But there’s nothing like seeing your poetry in print. I have to admit, I don’t get the same thrill seeing my work on a website but when I get a book or magazine through the post where my work sits alongside poems by heroes and other poetry friends and others I have discovered, then I am a happy man indeed.
What is the first written piece you remember creating?
Mark: I used write songs when I was little. I’ve always loved words. My first poem was pretty terrible but I can still remember every word of it and performed it recently just to show how far I’d come!
I’ll give you a taster:
“I held her hand momentarily but the vision slipped away
And what I though a satin sheet was just a simple duvet.”
Actually I quite like that! Ha ha! Written aged 18, when I was writing poems for no other reason than to make it easier to get girlfriends. It worked for me!
Are you active on social media and do you have any projects that you’re currently working on at the moment?
Mark: I am currently organising Poetry at the Parsonage Festival with the Bronte Society, a festival I’ve been involved with since its inception in 2016. I am involved with Words in the City and Love Arts Festival in Leeds later in the year. I am also a managing director and contents editor for Half Moon Books, a poetry press based in Otley West Yorkshire and we have several books coming out over the next year. I also have my second novel coming out soon and I’ll be running workshops and doing readings to promote that. My first poetry collection, Nothing is meant to be Broken, is also being read by a local book group so I’ll be reading for them too. I am also working with other publishers and festivals on other projects, running workshops and other related stuff.
The famous question… Are you a dog or cat person?
Mark: Neither, to be honest. I like certain cats and dogs and am indifferent to many others. I do love my partner’s daughter’s dog, Milo, a black lab and Gill’s cat, Billy. I like animals with personality, pretty much how I like my people. I shared a cat with my ex-wife and do have occasional visiting rites. His name is Sparky. He never really liked me that much and likes me even less now!
Apart from being a writer, what other projects are you involved in. Where did your inspiration come from while creating those projects.
Mark: I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember and have been in bands since I was 16. I am currently writing and recording songs with my friend, Neil Atkinson. We are still dreaming of taking the country world by storm.
For those aspiring writers and poets, do you have any advice you’d like to share with them?
Mark: Read, read, read, and read some more. I have no time for poets who don’t read poetry. I’m met a few, believe me, and some quite high profile performance poets who have no interest in poetry on the page. And they would be so much more interesting and engaging if they did. It’s good to go to open mics and hear other poets but for me, you can’t beat close reading of poems on the page. That’s where you really get to see what great poets can do with words.
Find out more about Mark’s work: www.markconnors.co.uk