Today we have an interview with Patrick to give readers a flavour of the poet before he joins us in Galway. We will run a similar interview with Mary next week.
Patrick Chapman's latest poetry collection is The Darwin Vampires (Salmon, 2010), the title poem of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His earlier collections are Jazztown, The New Pornography, Breaking Hearts and Traffic Lights and A Shopping Mall on Mars. He has also written a book of stories, The Wow Signal; an award-winning film, Burning the Bed; episodes of the children’s TV series Garth & Bev; and an audio play, Doctor Who: Fear of the Daleks. He lives in Dublin
Patrick, tell us a little about your new poetry collection The Darwin Vampires.
The Darwin Vampires is partly a book about growing older – they were the last poems of my thirties and the first of my forties – but it also contains non-sepia snapshots of childhood, fictional-but-true love stories, disturbed reactions to the state of the world, and a romantic notion of drifting in space with only one last breath for company. It wasn’t obvious when I was writing the book but there seems to be a trajectory there, in the progression of the poems, from the beginning of life to the end of it. The book grew organically, without ever quite telling me what it was up to, the work arriving quickly, sometimes when I wasn’t looking. That’s probably a good sign. I think it’s a slightly dark book, maybe even twisted at times, but also quite funny.
Why do you write?
It’s a compulsion and a pleasure and it’s who I am. Without writing, I’m not quite myself.
What’s your writing process? Morning or night? Longhand or laptop? etc.
My process is simple and complicated at the same time. I write when I have to, and keep going until I can’t. It’s a luxury, of course, to have the time to do this – and one for which I’m very grateful. I don’t have a set routine. Sometimes I stop writing altogether until something nags me enough to write it down. I don’t keep notebooks, I believe in the restorative powers of procrastination, and I sometimes enjoy meeting the dawn with some new words under my belt. I generally write on a Mac, and once composed a poem on an iPod. Sometimes I use a pen and paper.
Who is the writer that you most admire?
J.G. Ballard, probably, but there are so many writers whose work I love. If forced to choose one book for that desert island, it’d most likely be Ballard’s immense Complete Stories, a thousand pages and fifty years of wry genius. Even when he fails, he’s very interesting.
Which poet/poem would you like to see on the Leaving Cert course?
Philip Casey. He’s quietly brilliant. A few years ago, we set up the Irish Literary Revival website together – declaration noted – but I’ve admired his poems for decades. His collection After Thunder is a classic.
What is your favourite bookshop?
Books Upstairs, in College Green, Dublin. It’s a small independent shop that has loads of character and tons of books. In fact, it’s a treasure trove, full of surprises. You get the sense, going in there, that the people who run it are in love with books and reading.
What one piece of advice would you offer to beginner writers?
If you’re having difficulty with a piece of work, don’t kill yourself trying to solve it there and then. Walk away. Let it fester. When you return, your brain will most likely have come up with a solution while you weren’t thinking.