Five Minutes With…Kathryn Maris


Our next 5 Minute Interview with Festival poet Kathryn Maris, interviewed by our Young Blogger-in-Residence Hannah Hodgson


Kathryn Maris has two collections published. Her most recent collection God Loves You was published by Seren in 2013. A selection of her poetry will appear alongside the work of Frederick Seidel and Sam Riviere in Penguin Modern Poets 5 (July 2017).  Her third collection, The House with Only an Attic and a Basement, will be published by Penguin UK in 2018.  Kathryn will be running a workshop on the Saturday morning of the festival exploring ‘The New Fragment’ (only 6 places left!). She will also be reading alongside Tim Liardet in the Saturday night Main Reading.

How do you get yourself into the right place or ‘zone’ to write in?

The ‘zone’ gets into me, not vice versa, so I don’t have an exciting answer to that question. Potentially I can write anywhere, but equally I can be at a residency or artists’ colony with ‘ideal’ conditions and not be able to write. Lately, for whatever reason, I’ve had some luck on trains.

What is the last collection of poetry that you read and what did you think of it?

I have just finished Widening Income Inequality by Frederick Seidel. I love the ugly and almost vaudevillian performativity of his work, and the offensiveness that is simultaneously gratuitous, meaningful, political and self-aware.

Do you have any writing essentials e.g. a posh pen/notebook?

I haven’t used a posh notebook since the 1980s or 90s when, thankfully, word processing and personal computers were invented. Derek Walcott, my professor at Boston University, was against typing one’s poem in the first instance because he believed you weren’t truly ‘writing’ if you were using a keyboard. I’m not saying he was wrong, but—at least for me—typing is a way to access my imagination. As Nietzsche said, ‘Our writing tools are working on our thoughts.’

What is the strangest place you have ever written a poem?

Once at a social event with a lot of bankers, I locked myself in the public loo and wrote ‘Gangster’ (using paper and pen on that occasion). My exit from the party wasn’t a gesture of protest or boredom, I just had an idea and a ‘music’ I didn’t want to lose.

 What tips would you give to someone who is new to writing poetry?

Assuming you want to be published in conventional platforms, find a way to be able to absorb and manage the copious rejections you will receive, in various forms, for as long as you continue in poetry; and, though sometimes bad things will happen through unfair circumstances, don’t fall into the trap of believing you are special or singled out when you don’t get that thing you wanted (and the opposite is true, too, because there is arbitrariness also involved in ‘success’). With this in mind, read as though your life depended on it, and prioritize your actual writing over and above the life you think you want your writing to have in the world.


Darling, Would You Please Pick Up Those Books?
Kathryn Maris

How many times do I have to say
get rid of the books off the goddamn floor
do you have any idea how it feels
to step over books you wrote about her
bloody hell you sadist what kind of man
are you all day long those fecking books

in my way for 3 years your acclaimed books
tell me now what do you have to say
for yourself you think you’re such a man
silent brooding pondering at the floor
pretending you’re bored when I mention her
fine change the subject ask “Do I feel

like I need more medication” NO I don’t feel
like I need more medication
 it’s the books
don’t you see don’t you see it’s her
why don’t you listen to anything I say
and for god’s sake books on the floor
are a safety hazard remember that man

from Cork who nearly died fine that man
fell over a hurley not a book but I don’t feel
you’re getting the point the point is that a floor
is not an intelligent place for books
books I have to see and books that say
exactly where and how you shagged her

what shirt she wore before you shagged her
I can write a book too about some man
better still about you I can say
something to demonize you how would you feel
about that ha ha why don’t I write a book
about how I hoover your sodding floor

and how you’ve never once hoovered your floor
why can’t I be a muse why can’t I be a “her”
what does one have to do to be in a book
around here do I have to be dead for a man
to write me a poem how do you think it feels
to be non muse material can’t you say

you feel for me what you felt for her
can’t you say I’m better than that woman
can’t you get those books off the floor?


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