jill-munro-2In my twenty-sixth interview for In the Booklight, I talk to Jill Munro about her poetry pamphlet The Quilted Multiverse (Fairacre Press)…

I love the title ‘The Quilted Multiverse’. Not only does this reference one of the poems but it also encapsulates the whole pamphlet’s wonderful quirkiness and mix of the everyday with concerns from the much wider cosmos. What was your process for bringing together, ordering and titling the pamphlet?

Thanks – glad you like it. I’ve always been interested in the idea of parallel universes – and how we all live in versions of our own universe. The poem ‘The Quilted Multiverse of Gardens’ was written before I extracted part of the title of the poem for the whole pamphlet title. The poem considers how we can sometimes get small glimpses into others’ worlds when passing through – but probably never totally understand them. I think that premise sets up the various strands which run throughout, as you say – the everyday as part of the wider cosmos, the patchwork quilt that holds us all together.
The poems were written over a relatively short period of time as I had just brought out my first collection ‘Man from La Paz’ (Green Bottle Press, July 2015) and the Fair Acre Pamphlet prize was judged in November 2015, so there wasn’t much time between. Luckily, Nadia from Fair Acre was very helpful with the editing and ordering (though the first 4 poems remained in position as the judge, Jonathan Edwards, was particularly complimentary about the opening four, so I didn’t want to rock the boat!).

A lego fan, a riff on the song ‘She sells seashells’, a poem featuring Woolf’s purple ink…and these are just the three opening poems. How and where do you find such a breadth of subject matter? (Does inspiration arise by itself, do you have to coax it out or do you actively look for new areas to write about?)

Well, as you’ve referenced those particular poems, I’ll try to explain their provenance. The first one came about following a direct statement from a friend regarding her son – ‘I’ve got the b****y Sydney Opera house in my living room!’ – her son being an avid Lego fan. I held this image/thought in my ‘Book of quotations/titles that need a home’ until I read about AFOLs (adult fans of Lego); then the poem fermented and was born.

The seashells poem came about as I’m part of a poets’/artists’/photographers’ collective in Tunbridge Wells called ‘Fractals’ who each ‘riff’ (to borrow your phrase) off each other’s work. This poem was in response to a photograph of some ‘wet-glazed whorls/like Chelsea buns’. I’ve found this collective a tremendous source of inspiration taking me to places outside of my normal writing; indeed, three other poems in the pamphlet are also from the same source. We are having an exhibition of much of our work this June at the Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells, which is exciting.

The Woolf poem followed my immersion in ‘Orlando’ for an OU English Lit Degree I was doing (the start of my poetry career!) and was a ‘whoosh’ poem – rare, but lovely when they arrive. A thought in the middle of the night had to be written down and appeared fully formed – and I do write in purple ink too!

So, to answer your question, ideas come from just about anywhere…

jill-munro-1I’ve mentioned quirkiness already, by which I mean both a lightness of tone and outlook in the poems but also their uniqueness. There’s a lovely flow and exuberance that runs through your writing, even those poems spare in form or featuring more ‘serious’ topics. Is this something that is a natural part of your approach to life generally, something that reveals itself through the editing process or an aspect that you consciously try to create in your writing?

I think you’d have to ask friends and family about whether it is part of my approach to life generally, but I think it probably is. I love enthusiasm and exuberance as a trait in other people (Nadia of Fair Acre being a great example!) and I try to bring that into my poetry, albeit it does occur naturally rather than being an edited afterthought. I try to write ‘accessible’ (how I hate that word!) poetry that people who don’t really ‘do’ poetry enjoy. I think my poems can appear outwardly light but, if you examine them carefully, there is often a darker centre to them if you care to find it.

“all mushroom memories turn butterfly” [from ‘Girl in a Bright Blue Dress’]

Memories feature throughout the pamphlet, as well as the general lightness of touch and butterflies/wings as a motif and even a form in itself (in ‘Butterflies’). I wanted to ask about the importance of memories and how solid or ephemeral both memory and poetry are for you? (Perhaps also what/how you consider a poem’s ideal role – is it a way of fixing things/memories so that they can’t be lost, a means of temporarily catching a passing moment as a snapshot in words, a mixture of these depending on the poem or something else entirely different?)

I think both memory and poetry are ephemeral (as is life, the cosmos) and poetry that can successfully capture a snapshot of a moment in time has done its job, especially if it sparks some kind of recognition in the reader. I think memories in the hands of a poet are particularly ephemeral as they have often been altered or adapted to be either more beautiful/dramatic/ sad/surprising to evoke a particular emotion in the reader – butterfly moments indeed. I think that reader empathy or emotion is the most important thing for a poet to strive for and if this can be done through an evocative description of a particular memory, then that’s job done. The poem ‘Five Stars’ illustrates my quite recent memory of a particular B&B stay in a Midlands town (which shall be nameless) and nearly every detail is accurate (apart from the poetic, butterfly flight of fancy in the last stanza …).

Which is your favourite poem in the pamphlet and why? (And can you give us a short taster extract from it, please.)

Ooo, that’s a hard one? Am I allowed two favourites?

‘Linda’s Bedroom’ is one – my sister died when she was 31 (and I was pregnant with my first son) and this poem is a snapshot of a memory of her when we were young, her environment and the early seventies. I recently got back in touch with her named boyfriend in the poem (her first love) who didn’t know she had died. He was in floods of tears at both the fact of her death over 30 years ago and the poem. This poem is therefore particularly emotional for me, especially following this contact, and I guess also relates to your last question.

‘Photo-me fours of you laughing with a blue-eyed
boy fall from scribbled pages. I spot a secret –
the day-marked silver foil of The Pill –
and all the bedroom’s eyes widen’.

On a lighter note ‘Missing’ is another favourite – one I can remember to recite aloud! It is also my husband’s favourite poem of mine and my extended family all read one line each to me at a dinner following the launch of my first book, so I have a particular fondest for it. I don’t often write rhyming poetry, and hopefully this one works.

What question haven’t I asked about ‘The Quilted Multiverse’ that you would have liked me to ask?

‘The Quilted Multiverse’ was produced as a result of you winning the inaugural Fair Acre Press Pamphlet competition; do you think this is a good way for poets to get their work published?

Yes, I think it is a brilliant way for poets to have their work exposed to a wider audience. The anticipation and excitement of a long-listing or short-listing in a competition are wonderful, and to actually win is extremely exciting. To then be involved in the editorial process and meeting the judge etc and, in my case, reading at Wenlock was all a fabulous experience, so I can thoroughly recommend poets take the chance and enter. In fact, I am judging a pamphlet competition for Paper Swans Press which has recently been announced and entries are now open. Go to the Paper Swans website for details – roll up, roll up!

jill-munro-2Where can people get a copy of ‘The Quilted Multiverse’?
You can buy it from the Fair Acre Press bookshop (£4.99): link below.

Thank you, Jill, for these fascinating insights into ‘The Quilted Multiverse’ and your writing and editing processes and inspiration.

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

Anyone interested in being interviewed for In the Booklight about a new poetry project or book can email Sarah on lifeislikeacherrytreeATyahooDOTcom. Thank you.