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Creativity in Lockdown: In Conversation with Claire Walker

What I am Doing in Lockdown

I’ve two school-age daughters, so most of lockdown is focused on home schooling. We’re going on some nice walks, eating lots of nice food, and generally trying to stay sane!

Thinking back to the first lockdown how did it affect you and your writing?

When home schooling kicked in with the first lockdown, my immediate thought was that I couldn’t fit in home schooling, day job, editing, housework and writing – either mentally or time-wise, so I chose to stop writing for a while. Something had to give, and as the other jobs all involved deadlines and commitments to other people, it was the writing that had to go! In time, I got my act together and started writing again and, thankfully, it proved fruitful – my friend and poetry-collaborator Charley Barnes and I wrote the bulk of a second collaborative poetry pamphlet (Myth|Woman – published later this year by BLER Press) during the first lockdown. We also launched our first collaborative pamphlet (Hierarchy of Needs, V. Press), which was wonderful.

claire

Have you found it easier to motivate yourself as an editor or a poet?

I’m definitely finding it easier to motivate myself as an editor. Part of the reason for this is because there are lots of little deadlines along the way – I know things have to be done by certain times (poems have to be drafted and ready for our Tuesday and Friday publication days, submissions have to be replied to within one month, and so on). On a similar note, while the workload for Atrium is higher than the writing goals I set myself, there are lots of little discreet end points within the work, so I can more easily set myself a manageable task that I know I’ll be able to complete within a given time-frame.

Also, it’s lovely to have someone to work with. I enjoy the solitary nature of writing – that headspace to just go with your imagination – but working closely with Holly Magill is a joy, and our regular (virtual, at the moment!) editorial meetings are always something to look forward to!

Have you noticed a change in submissions to Atrium Poetry since lockdown?

I think we received more submissions in 2020 than in previous years, and I’m sure a good chunk of that was lockdown-related. Some people commented in their cover email or bio that they’d been inspired to start writing/return to writing when lockdown began. We have had a lot of poems about Covid (see next question!).

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 If poets are considering sending work to you should they send poems about Covid or are you saturated by them?

We don’t have any set themes at Atrium, so poets are free to send us work on whatever subjects they wish. Having said that, we have been (understandably) sent a lot of Covid-related poems, and I would make the point that the only ones we’ve gone on to accept for publication have been ones that look at the pandemic in a fresh and original light (though the same applies to any subject, really!). We’ve received many poems that essentially say the same sorts of things as each other (‘it’s hard not seeing family and friends/ I’m worried about older relatives/ I’m washing my hands a lot’!). It’s not eye-catching or ‘different’ enough to simply state the more obvious aspects, relatable though they are.

How will you focus on your writing during this current lockdown and do you have any tips for other poets?

I’d just made my ‘Writing Projects for 2021’ list when lockdown was announced, and my initial feeling was ‘just carry on regardless’, despite the restrictions on time.

The reality, though, is that I’ve not been able to keep up with things – daytime is taken up by home school and other work, and I’m too old now to have any energy left to write in the evenings! But my experience of the first lockdown reassures me that writing will pick back up again in time, and I’m trying to be relaxed about it! Needs must, and it’s not forever.

I suppose, with that in mind, my tip for other poets would be don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get much writing done during lockdown – for some it’s a very productive time, but for others (most?) there are too many other things going on to focus properly on writing, whether that be because of other commitments or just because you can’t find the oomph to do it in amongst the general worry! The urge/time/brain-space to write will return – you’ve not written your last poem. Trying to follow my own advice there…

claire

Claire Walker’s poetry has been published in journals and anthologies including Poetry Birmingham Literary JournalThe Interpreter’s House, Prole, Marble, The Poetry Shed and The Chronicles of Eve, and has been shortlisted in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Festival Competition. Her most recent solo publication is Collision (Against the Grain Poetry Press, 2019). Her pamphlet Somewhere Between Rose and Black (V. Press, 2017) was shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet in the 2018 Saboteur Awards. In August 2020, V. Press published Hierarchy of Needs: A Retelling – a co-authored pamphlet with Charley Barnes.

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