From D.H. Lawrence to Alan Sillitoe, John Harvey to the Sleaford Mods, the fair city of Nottingham - my home on and off (more on than off) for the last 35 years - has produced a wealth of writers whose genius is recognised way beyond the county border. That's right, even as far as Derby...and beyond.
And that (very) long list of extraordinarily gifted writers with an NG postcode is growing all the time: I wrote about (or should I say abaht) one of Nottingham's up and coming young writers when I saw her perform last year at a poetry workshop. An event - a festival, even - that she had helped both organise and host. Georgina Wilding is an amazing raw talent, a writer who, even for one so young, is steeped in everything both culturally and artistically that makes Nottingham the greatest city, I think, in the country; though I may be biased!
Georgina very kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the blog, and for that I can't thank her enough.
When did you first realise you could write poetry?
I think I was 20. I’d just dropped out of a Forensic Science degree at Liverpool John Moores University wishing I’d pursued English after a love of creative writing followed me all my life. I’d moved back to Nottingham and got lucky discovering a poetry collective called the Mouthy Poets. Of course, I immediately fell in love. It was the perfect mix of rules and art and rule breaking. After a year or so in the group, I decided to apply to Nottingham University’s Creative and Professional Writing course to further my poetic education, and upon arrival I finally felt like I’d found ‘it’, you know, the thing that sets you off. Saying that, I visited my Grandma recently and she’d found a scrap of old wallpaper I’d written a poem on at about 5 or 6 years old so, maybe I was ‘a poet and didn’t know it’ for a long time before it came into my consciousness.
Your job often takes you out of the country - does your writing style change depending on your location?
I haven’t found that to be true, not yet anyway. For me, travelling really opens up WHAT you write about, and makes you explore yourself through the medium of something new. Travelling with my poetry has been a real source of growth for me personally because of this. For example, in Krakow last year I discovered the most mind blowing botanical gardens; they had ladders and platforms in a tonne of their greenhouses that let you get right up into the tropical canopies. Whilst up there it felt like I’d taken breathing for granted until then, and I had this weird sense of awakening and power that had me in a writing daze crossed between a forest nymph and a Disney Villain. That’s stayed with me, and I’m really enjoying using that lens as a tool to look at life and write.
I’m guessing you get homesick when you’re away; describe Nottingham in three words.
A patchwork city.
Here's Georgina on the BBC a couple of years ago talking about her love of Nottingham's Goose Fair:
Just how big a deal was it when you were made the city’s first young Poet Laureate?
Honestly, even I struggle to compute how I survived that winning call from Sandeep Mahal. I could not believe it. It’s probably the proudest moment of my career to date, and it has changed my life in more ways than I could have ever guessed. That title has opened so many doors for me, in both my professional and personal life, and I’ve seen so much more than I think I would have done without it. It’s hard to express, really. All I can say is "thank you, thank you, thank you" to the forces that made it be.
Who are your poetry heroes and heroines?
I’ve been so lucky to be mentored by the likes of Caroline Bird, Andrew McMillan and Roger Robinson. Their work makes me want to fight; for poetry, to write stronger poems personally, and to get every single person reading their stuff and seeing the world through their eyes, even if just for the length of a poem. As well as those, I love to read Sharon Olds, Kate Clanchy, Mona Arshi, Fatimah Asghar, Norman McCaig, Sean Hewitt…the list goes on and on, but if you can read a sample from all of the above I’d bet you my favourite boots that you’ll fall in love with at least one of them.
Do you buy into the ‘songs are just poems with music’ i.e. when people talk about Bob Dylan? Or are song lyrics and poetry two parallel lines that never meet?
I think in its simplest form, yes, maybe. The thing I love about poetry is that it doesn’t have to have a beginning, middle, or end. It’s really more like photography to me; it’s a snapshot of a moment or a feeling that doesn’t have to come full circle, or to some extent, even make rational sense. It’s about moving people, allowing space for their interpretation of the world as you’ve seen it in that poem.
Tell me about Mud Press (Georgina's own compact and bijou publishing house)
Ah, Mud Press, my little love. In 2015 I graduated from uni and decided I’d set up a poetry publishing house to provide a print platform for todays contemporary writers. It’s been such a joy to run, but since I got the poet laureate role Mud has been on a bit of an informal hiatus as it’s just me running the show. I do all the social media, set all the competitions and read all the entries, format all the books and do all the taxes and admin and… it’s a lot. So, when I took on the laureate role as well as my freelance Learning Design (to keep the wolves from the door) I just couldn’t manage publishing as well. However, that said, there are plans for a few small publications to come out in 2020, and in 2021, I’m hoping to get some funding together to acquire a small team and really get that publishing engine going again.
And finally… Curry or pizza?
Curry all day every day - especially from Tamatanga!
Beer or wine?
Beer, all the beer! (Wine sometimes.)
Party animal, or stay in with friends?
I’m both! Though life these days definitely sees me in with friends more so than out - the hangovers are coming to get me.
Upstairs on the bus, or down?
Upstairs. And, if I'm lucky, right at the front!
Brown sauce or ketchup?
Brown for sausage cobs (yes, COBS, none of this ‘roll’ malarky) and red for nuggets!