Cover_little_def_1024x1024In my sixth interview for In the Booklight, I talk to Jack Little about his poetry pamphlet Elsewhere from Eyewear…

The poems in ‘Elsewhere’ are rich with many things, including vivid descriptions, the music of exotic names and a sense of what it is to “crave new experiences”. How long have you lived in Mexico and what effect has the place, language and people had on your poetry?

I have lived in Mexico since 2010 having left the UK when I was 22. When I arrived, I spoke no Spanish and really didn’t have much of an idea about Mexico apart from that I thought it would be hot, that Mexico City would be very busy and that I was looking forward to eating tacos. It turns out that the city is very busy, that tacos are indeed delicious and that this is a very surprising place to live.

Apart from Mexico City being really quite cold at times, there are some many wonderfully surreal things to explore and experience here whether they may be men sleeping in hammocks hanging from the back of bin lorries, houses half built with stairs leading to nowhere, or statues of La Santa Muerte carved into a tree beneath the video store at the end of the road. Mexico City is a buzzing metropolis that, for better or worse, will never cease to amaze.

I’m very proud that in November last year I became a naturalized Mexican citizen. I’m Mexican now although of course I remain British, a foreigner here for the way I look and for my accent… and for the fact that I always talk about the weather. I’m a fluent Spanish speaker and many Spanish words or the rhythm of the Spanish language sneak into my poems. When I am back in the UK, my brother gets slightly annoyed with me as everything I say now, to him at least, seems to be a question due to the new upward inflection that creeps into the end of pretty much all of my spoken sentences.

Could you talk about the relevance and influence of memories, in terms of your own, family and fictional pasts?

Looking back at ‘Elsewhere’ a year on from publication, this is a rather nostalgic book exploring my childhood and in many instances, what may have been had I stayed and made a life in the UK. Various poems explore my relationship to family members whom I have never met or whom I have not seen for a very long time.

I like that, through writing, I can explore the what might have been in order to make sense of the present and also look for ways forward.

Reading the pamphlet, I have a sense that time of day is quite important in many of the poems, be that explicit in the title, through descriptions of the sky, the last train or other time-anchoring references. Do you have a favourite writing/poetic time of day and, if so, when and why?

Since moving to Mexico, I have enjoyed immensely the sunshine and longer days. Feeling the sun on one’s neck and shoulders on the way to and back from work is an extraordinary sensation that I rarely felt when back in Northumberland. My favourite time of the day is the five to ten minute period just before dusk as the sun is about to go down and there’s a last feeling of sticky warmth in the air. The sky goes a purple fire-like colour due to the pollution. This magical time is my favourite moment to consider the day just gone by and to begin looking forward to tomorrow.

Jack Little PictureThere are a number of goodbyes and old friends in ‘Elsewhere’. What has been the hardest goodbye for you to write about and how did you overcome any difficulties?

I have always missed my family since leaving for Mexico. We skype each week and poetry has been a great way to stay close to my mum and dad. I have never really felt it to be too emotionally difficult to write about goodbyes, it always leads to a more bittersweet, sickly feeling.

The characters that can be found in these poems range from Batman to Ponciano Díaz (in a poem after Federico Lorca). Whose work has most influenced you as a poet and who, or what, has most inspired you in terms of subject matter for a poem/poems?

My mum has been a massive influence. I love her calm and welcoming poems that, to me, feel like a bed time story. S.J. Fowler has also been a big influence and an inspiration, firstly by selecting my first ever published poem at 3:AM Magazine and also by opening my eyes up to a world of contemporary avant-garde poetry. I love to experiment, mix words and images and he opened my eyes to the possibilities in writing beyond the traditional.

Of course the people of Mexico City enter into my work too, as do the imagined Englishmen of my other home.

You’re also editor of The Ofi Press Literary Magazine. How has this role affected your own poetry process?

My favourite thing about editing The Ofi Press is having had the opportunity to make friends with so many other writers from all around the world. Feeling this connection to other continents, people and their stories really has made me feel part of something bigger and something truly wonderful. After five years of editing the site, it sends a tingle up my spine more than ever to see posts on facebook from poets whom I really love sharing their good news that their work will be in a future edition of the Ofi. That people trust me to share their writing with the world has provided me with a strong sense of purpose and self in life.

On another note, editing an ezine has helped me not to take rejection personally! I think that I appreciate more the time, passion and dedication that other editors spend in running their own publications.

Cover_little_def_1024x1024Where can people get a copy of ‘Elsewhere’?

‘Elsewhere’ is available to buy online from Eyewear Publishers at:

Thank you, Jack, for sharing these thoughts on the inspiration, influences and background to ‘Elsewhere’.