In Conversation with Chaucer Cameron

First published on the Against the Grain Press blog….

What was the initial concept and how did it develop?

Several years ago, I wrote a monologue called ‘The Raid’, which was staged as part of New Writers programme at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. ‘The Raid’ was based on the 1978 police raid of the brothel in Streatham, hosted by former madam, Cynthia Payne. (Cynthia’s life was also depicted in a film called Personal Services with Julie Walters.) 

I followed this in 2016 with ‘Brothel Keeping in Suburbia’ which I read at an International Women’s Day event. The development of the concept took time because traumatic experiences are often received in delay – it took over thirty years to achieve the emotional distance that was needed to be able to reflect through these events in my poetry.

I then attended a writing group in London and took some of my new poems there. It was not unsurprising that the group I had joined was based near my old haunts and my old flat where I’d lived in London: Farleigh Road, Clissold Park, Kings Cross – which are mentioned in the poems. This geographical space triggered many more poems. I felt at home and I was able to start writing what is now In an Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered.  

Can you tell me how In an Ideal World I’d Not be Murdered came into being? 

I laid all the poems out on the floor to see how they spoke to each other. As I was going through them my biggest surprise was that the bulk of the collection was written using a very different voice to the one that I am most familiar with. I am a lyric poet by default. I tend towards the experimental, cross genre, free verse. I also approach subjects by going in slant. But this writing was radically different, it was narrative, direct, it employed characters and had a plot. Through the characters not only was I able to re-enact the past, but also to understand what happened and speak about it – although in these poems the boundaries between reality and fiction are blurred!

Crystal was one of the first characters on the scene and she was fierce and feisty! She had her own voice and demanded she be featured in her own book. The title In an Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered is taken from the title of the penultimate poem in the publication, where Crystal sets out her own manifesto for an ideal world – full of contradiction and ambiguity:

Crystal knew what she wanted and that was somewhere quiet, but not so quiet I get

Other characters trauma-wounds are experienced and displayed through the body, but are also expressions of fragmented memory, such as:      

Ash held off the stab wound
through her laugh. 

in an

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Chaucer Cameron is a poet and poetry filmmaker. Her poems have been published in various journals, magazines & online, including Under the Radar, Poetry Salzburg, The North, Blue Nib, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Shed, Ink Sweat & Tears. Chaucer’s poetry-films have been screen-published in some of the growing number of journals and sites that are now accepting mixed media, such as Atticus Review.

She has performed at Ledbury Poetry Festival as part of a live performance combining British Sign Language poetry and video poetry (2017), Bath Fringe Festival Still Points Moving World performance writing exhibition (2014), and her poetry and monologues have been performed at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham.

She has co-edited three poetry anthologies: Salt on the Wind – poetry in response to Ruth Stone (Elephant’s Footprint, 2015) The Museum of Light (Yew Tree Press, 2014), Nothing in the Garden, (Elephant’s Footprint, 2014).

Praise for In An Ideal World I’d Not be Murdered

“These poems ring out like gunshots in the night; they will wake you from your sleep. Yet despite its distilled directness, this book is lifted by both mystery and surprise. Listen for the songs emerging from the dark centre of this transformative work of experience and survival.’  Jacqueline Saphra.

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