Today we introduce a new feature: our Question and Answer with writers who have been published in Confluence, or are coming up in a future issue. The first writer to answer our questions is poet Setareh Ebrahimi, whose poem ‘Conversation with a portrait’ will be published in Issue 4.
Setareh says ‘I recently read at an open mic night in Faversham for Burns Night (which was where editor BFH first heard her poetry), and also attended the last Roundabout Nights evening, where I read two poems, ‘The White Witch’ and ‘Reckless’. I have published twenty four poems in total so far, in various zines, such as Brittle Star, and through various competitions.
Tell us about your writing background…
Well I started writing from a very young age, I suppose a lot of people do, I remember thinking I was composing poems at six years old. I’ve always loved books and literature and that’s what lead me to my English degree, and then my Masters, where I got to practice writing a lot. I suppose I’ve always needed a hobby as otherwise I would tend towards depression and destruction, and writing is the cheapest and most secret (these factors seem important to me) thing to do.
Why do you write?
Writing is about re-imagining the world around you. That’s where the idea of life imitating art – which I love – comes from. If you re-imagine your environment through your medium it could be that way. To write is to argue back, but in shades and nuances. I like the idea of constructing a false self, which is truer than the ‘real’ or initial self precisely because it is intentionally constructed. It’s so hard, and arguably pointless to hold onto things in life, especially material possessions, but I think writing is an exception to this, I think you can not only hold onto crafts that you love, but share them with others.
Advice for people wanting to start?
Do it because you love to do it, and do not expect to get anything back from it, but certainly consistently try. Read as much as you can, and study. I write notes on things that interest me, and essays to make my ideas clearer to myself, just for fun. Travel. Give yourself time to do nothing for your ideas to ferment. Be a little reckless. Don’t be arrogant or too pleased, if only because it’ll make you a terrible writer (and person). Remember that you can, and must try, to always write a better poem.
Do you think about the audience when you write?
My intended audience is the page, probably because I like the idea of someone picking me up and reading me in their own time. Poems written to be performed can be different from poems written to be read, or written to be read and performed. A performance is a poet physically in front of you, reading in their voice, so it’s harder for their words to be open to interpretation, which I prefer. Also I’m slightly introverted, so I’m very sorry to say that I’m very suspicious of performing! Although I’m trying to get better…
What writers do you admire?
There’s so many! I vividly remember bunking class in year eight and a friend showing me ‘Onion’ by Carol Ann Duffy and Auden’s ‘Stop all the Clocks’, and I thought, “Oh, so things can matter in this cruel, pointless world.” And I sort of decided there and then that that’s what I would do. Of course Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, and Lyn Hejinian, Andrew McMillan and Nick Laird. But I listen to music every day for at least an hour or two, and that influenced me greatly as well – female musicians like Courtney Love and Lana del Rey. They’re poets too. I can find it hard to find writing that I love. I think that’s another motivation to write; to write what you would want to read.
And do you have a favourite?
I think it’s got to be Andrew McMillan! I remember reading his collection, Physical, and just being absolutely blown away. It’s stunning, but also to my tastes subject wise; it’s about physicality and sex and the body and the way we see ourselves – the ways in which we communicate.
I like the compactness of it. To compact something is to make it beautiful, like carbon into diamond.
What was the first thing that you remember writing?
I remember something I wrote in primary school about being small and being in a doll’s house. Amusingly, I remember my teacher being impressed with it. Analytically I was still stuck on the same stuff even back then, like personal dimensions, physicality, femininity, the body… but maybe I just really liked my doll’s house. Who knows?
Cats or dogs?
I love both cats and dogs :), but if I had to pick it would be cats. People don’t realise the physical and emotional responsibility of having a dog – it’s like having a baby!
“Cut by the corn
I make a line
for the tombs like teeth,
leaning towards each other
like tired lovers,
like my own damaged
through satanic dreams.
The angels meditate
mostly without witness,
still mustering some holiness and awe.
There is an unquietness
to their pupil-less eyes
that make the gaze stubborn
in case they fit
when one looks away."
(Extract from ‘Graveyard Girl’, by Setareh Ebrahimi, Confluence 6)
You can buy Setareh's pamphlet (2018) In my arms from Bad Betty Press.