Smith Browne Interview
Posted on 10 April 2007. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to Smith Browne, poet and editor of Strix Varia magazine
Tell us something about your background.
I started as a screenwriter. Film writing was my first form of creative writing. I wrote my first screenplay at fifteen and edited some home movies -- nothing earth shattering, but enough to start a portfolio for film school. I attended the Columbia Film Division in New York, where I continued to develop as a writer and director. Professionally, one of my scripts was purchased by a producer, who promptly disappeared into the proverbial woodwork, after which I went on to do script reading/story analysis for the likes of New Line Cinema and Fine Line Features. I also began to teach courses in film and literature, which eventually led me back to university to study for a doctorate in British literature. Today, I edit the Strix Varia, write poetry and children stories, and freelance as a film and literary reviewer for venues such as BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 and the Times.
My other work is being a mother. Like many creative people, I could write volumes on the tug of war a stay-at-home parent -- woman or man -- faces trying to keep a writing life alive and vibrant (and profitable) while caring for a child. I have been lucky that poems forged in the milieu of parenthood have found publication and some recognition. But writers in my position are vigilant not to be pigeonholed or sidelined. You want to be seen in the full light of your talents; you do not want to be stereotyped or wedged into a ghetto of parent-themed writing. Editing the Strix Varia helps me achieve a balance between my home-work, my freelance writing and my poetry. It's a robust way to keep me engaged with the broader world of poetry, particularly in Britain.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
I could name a litany of poets who are favourites or influences, but I shall settle on a tight, neat list of those who are foremost in my mind these past few years: Ruth Padel, Sharon Olds, Catherine Smith, W. H. Auden.
Most of my poetic influences are alive and British. Because of the route my writing life has taken, I came to writing poetry late, at 35 years old, just about the time I came to live in the UK. In that sense Britain herself can be said to be my greatest poetic influence, for it is here that I came to take poetry seriously and to develop as both a reader and a writer of poems.
What's the worst thing about writing?
And the best?
Quite simple really: seeing your work in print. Is there anything else?!
Do you have a writing routine? A place that’s special?
No time for a routine. I snatch as I can and sleep little. My computer screen is quite special, and it is always on. I am one of those odd writers who actually finds it inspirational to compose directly onto the screen. I am very precious about my Iiyama 45.7cm TFT LCD Monitor and find it hard to "see" my way to the page with anything else. I often sleep next to it, to the chagrin of my husband.
Tell us all about the Strix Varia
The Strix Varia is an online magazine dedicated to reading
"Living Poetry" - poetry written and published by writers who,
to put no finer point on it, are alive.
We feature close-readings of poems, self-reflections by poets on their own work, book reviews and interviews with poets with upcoming or recently published collections, as well as articles on various aspects of the contemporary poetry scene.
The project is inspired by Ruth Padel's 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem and by the scandalous statistic that scores more people write poetry today than read it. We're developing an online magazine that helps redress that imbalance. No one needs be put off by our near-missionary zeal, for we aim to provide solid enjoyment and a good bit of fun. In addition to close-readings of a variety of poems, some of our submissions are rather quirky, eccentric, fresh; some even defying neat description. We aim for variety of visions and perspectives.
We are very strict about the "alive" qualification for submissions, though. We have nothing against the mighty, mighty dead; the classic, the great and the good. We simply choose to highlight poetry written in our time, for us.
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