Our art editor Emma Jensen asks resident #1 Ellen Cregan about her suite of four poems.
You wrote this series while you were travelling last year. Was there anything you saw while you away that you found effecting but haven’t been able to put into your writing?
While travelling I saw some really beautiful and unusual things, and those are the things I’ve been able to write about so far. The things that I would like to write about but have struggled to put into words are the negative and unsavoury things I witnessed overseas. One thing that had quite a significant impact on me was De Wallen (the red light district) in Amsterdam. It wasn’t the girls working there that shocked me, but the behaviour of the tourists who would walk through the red light district and act like they were in some sort of zoo. I haven’t been able to approach this topic in my writing yet because it made me quite angry, and I find it really difficult to write with raw emotion.
The Suburban Review is something that came from the awareness of how much of the place you are from is a part of you. In your writing, do you find you identify more with the natural or (sub)urban landscape?
While I am frequently inspired by the natural world, I am definitely not a pastoral poet. I find it far more difficult to write about nature than anything else. Because I am a creature of suburbia, nature can seem daunting at times. This series was inspired by the countryside and coast of Kent, and I think the only way I was able to tackle writing about nature was to focus on smaller, somewhat humanised details, like rabbit warrens under gravestones or rusted World War Two artillery embedded into the White Cliffs of Dover.
What was the first thing you wrote about when you got back?
Since I’ve been home I’ve been writing poems that will eventually form part of a poetic biography of English artist and designer May Morris (daughter of William Morris). This project will eventually be included in my honours thesis, so it’s really all I’ve been thinking about for the past month. Writing from the archives rather than the imagination has been quite a challenge so far, but learning about how poetry and biography can intersect and reading the work of poets who have used this form in the past has been totally fascinating.
You can read Ellen’s suite of poetry here.