SAD  CoverIn my fourteenth interview for In the Booklight, I talk to Kirstin Maguire (poet) and Jane Moore (artist) about their poetry/art collaboration and book ‘Sketch a Day Poetry’ (Alba Publishing)…

Could you say a little about the impetus behind your online ‘Sketch a Day Poetry’ project, how it came about and how easy it was to meet and keep going with the need to create a new poem or drawing every day for a year?

Jane: The Sketch A Day Project was the product of a New Year’s resolution I set myself in January 2014, to draw a sketch every day. Every year I make a New Year’s Resolution and I usually stick to them until about March. They normally consist of giving up chocolate or starting a new sport! I decided to make a New Year’s Resolution that I knew I would be dedicated to. One that I knew I would love and throw myself into, and that was to keep a Sketch A Day journal. It wasn’t easy keeping it going but I had plenty of ideas and by posting on social media I began to get many followers, which gave me encouragement to keep drawing. The Sketch A Day Poetry book came a year later when my good friend and poet Kirstin Maguire started her Sketch A Day Poetry project. We decided to bring the two projects together to create the Sketch A Day Poetry book.

Kirstin: I was blown away by Jane’s collection of a year’s worth of daily sketches, how they evolved and how the process enabled creativity. I was curious how that might translate in poetry. I liked the idea of exploring the spontaneity of getting a piece out daily, not necessarily polished and final, but a contribution to an overall work in progress.

Early on, I noticed writing a poem a day created a real shift in my day to day living. Everything I came across seemed to be fresh content. I started noticing small things more. I even started having more vivid dreams, memories surfaced, the whole experience was really powerful. Then, a few months in, that all subsided big time, I hit a wall, it seemed a tall order, I drew a blank, it felt like something extra on the To-Do List and I wasn’t too satisfied with the poems I was writing either. At that point, it became more an act of discipline than anything to keep going writing a poem each day. Then, something would happen, a huge global issue would hit, or a personal experience, or a theme would come to mind and there would be endless ideas. I couldn’t get them out quick enough. This became a cyclical process throughout the year. Altogether, it increased my discipline in writing and allowed me to experiment with different writing styles in a way I don’t think I would have tried otherwise.

Kirstin Maguire

Kirstin Maguire

Did you always intend to bring the poems and art together in a book at the end? If not, where and how did that idea spark? Also how did you select which pieces should be included in the printed version? And are they all still in their original ‘sketch’ (not necessarily entirely finished, as you explain in the book’s introduction) form or were some edited and polished further first?

Kirstin: The idea for a book came up about half-way through 2015 when we started to see a synchronicity in the collections we had each created. We are delighted that Alba decided to publish the book. Kim Richardson at Alba was really supportive and also allowed us a lot of autonomy over the selection and editing process too, which was amazing. We each individually selected favourite pieces and then came together to look at key themes in the selection. We drank a lot of coffee coming up with it!
Designer and Curator of Poetry Brothel, Jeyda Yagiz worked with us on the final book. She put in endless hours designing, formatting and matching individual pieces. The connections she made between sketches were really quite something. We so appreciate all the work she put in and her keen eye, it really made the final book.

The published pieces; both poems and artwork, are in their original form. We thought it was important to not edit or polish further and to print them in their raw format.

Jane: We decided about halfway through Kirstin’s Sketch A Day Poetry project to bring the two together and produce a book. We started looking for a publisher and found Alba Publishing, who were incredibly supportive from the initial concept to the final product. Selecting the sketches took quite a bit of time beginning with Kirstin and I selecting our individual choices and then editing together. We then brought in a book designer and friend Jeyda Yagiz to help with the final edit. It was great to get an outside eye and she paired the poems and sketches beautifully. The sketches are kept in their original form as they were drawn in 2014.

Jane Moore

Jane Moore

I’m struck right from opening the book about how well the poems and illustrations seem to go together. How did the collaboration work in practical terms? Did you have set themes, respond to each other’s work or craft your pieces entirely individually and separately, with common themes and links later emerging as if serendipitously?

Kirstin: Early on, we decided to explore the project independently. Otherwise, it ran the risk of becoming a bit contrived or forced. Common themes naturally emerged. There were also coincidences in our personal lives e.g. we each travelled in Europe during our year of creating a sketch a day, as well as our common experiences in London.

The idea in the final collection is that art can really capture a moment in time unlike any other.
The sketches; both in art and poetry, reflect the spontaneous images we constantly encounter. Some seem disparate, others even jarring and then moments of complete synchronicity that cumulatively create a constantly evolving picture.

Jane: It is quite magical how they do pair together as I started the Sketch A Day Project in 2014 with Kirstin taking it into a literary form in 2015. There are common themes in both projects, for example we both spent time in France and Spain and both live permanently in London so naturally similar works were created. We also took inspiration from similar subjects such as family, nature, politics and public figures. The two projects were independent of one another, however both captured similar thoughts and moments in time.

Dapper Duck by Jane Moore

Dapper Duck by Jane Moore

It feels to me that the process of creation can be very different when a sharing outcome is already defined ie when one knows right from the very start that a piece will go up on a blog, as opposed to working from an initial spark of inspiration that might or might not become something, which may or may not then later be published. Did you feel this, and was it pressure or motivation? Also, when you were creating, who were you creating for, yourself, each other or your blog audiences?

Kirstin: I think working from the stance of knowing it was a sharing outcome created a sense of urgency I hadn’t previously encountered. It reduced inhibitions because it meant I didn’t really have time to be self-conscious or to write in a way that aimed to be perceived by the reader in a certain way, or even to really target who it was aimed at. In many ways therefore, it led to more authenticity and a genuineness in the pieces. It meant there was continuous momentum which was incredibly motivating.

Jane: For me it was a completely free project in that it was solely for myself and I didn’t know what shape it would take and how big it would become. The Sketch A Day Project was a daily drawing challenge to help improve my skill and allow myself creative freedom, drawing whatever I wanted and not adhering to client briefs etc. I was very motivated and excited to see what path it would take as the year went on. The Sketch A Day Project 2014 ended with an exhibition of all 365 sketches funded by a Kickstarter campaign, through which the original drawings were sold.

What were the triumphs and challenges, or restrictions and freedoms, for you of ‘Sketch a Day Poetry’ itself?

Kirstin: The challenges were in balancing writing a poem a day in the context of wider work. I particularly enjoyed the times where I could invest longer periods in writing. I found it really was a case of the more you put in, the more you get out of it. The freedoms of the project had a deeper effect than I anticipated. My writing style has changed since it, because I’m now more excited by playing around with the parameters of poetry and exploring language than necessarily having one distinct tone. A triumph for me personally, was that it resulted in our book being published (my debut collection) and I couldn’t think of a better partner for that than Jane. I was also delighted that an excerpt from my Grandad’s memoirs made it into the final cut at the start of the book.

Jane: Challenges were coming up with a sketch every day and finding time when working on other projects and earning a living. It was also a challenge when I was feeling poorly or travelling to another country. However, it was fantastic to have that creative freedom for 30 min or sometimes 4 hours every day. The triumphs were running a successful Kickstarter Campaign, having my first solo exhibition in London of the 365 drawings and of course collaborating with the talented Kirstin Maguire and producing our first published book.

And what were the highlights, and the more tricky things to handle, in the collaborative nature of this project?

Kirstin: The Sketch A Day Project really allowed the best of both of worlds in working through a process under my own steam and coming together to share and explore ideas with Jane. The collaboration element with Jane was really the reason it all came about, and working together was an endless, energising source of support and motivation. The final book reflects this collaboration in that it isn’t a conventional illustrated poetry book. It’s two art forms coming together equally to explore key experiences and themes.

Jane: It was great to have a partner to help with all the practicalities of finding a publisher, producing and launching a book. We were able to bounce ideas off one another when editing and of course celebrate together when it all came together! Kirstin is a dream to work with so luckily we didn’t face any tricky situations.

SAD  CoverWhere can people get a copy of ‘Sketch a Day Poetry’?

The book is available to purchase on the publisher’s website at http://www.albapublishing.com/.

Jane’s links
www.sketchadayproject.com
www.janemooreart.com

Kirstin’s links
http://www.kmaguirepoetry.com/
http://inspiredbysketch-a-day.blogspot.co.uk/

Thank you, Kirstin and Jane, for these interesting insights into the Sketch a Day Poetry project and book – the highlights, the challenges and the other elements in between.

To read more In the Booklight interviews with authors, please click on this link.