Rebecca Tamás is a London-born poet who lives, studies, works and writes in Norwich, where she is studying for a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at University of East Anglia. Her first poetry pamphlet, The Ophelia Letters, was published by Salt in 2013, and she has most recently been published in The White Review and Best British Poetry 2015.
This interview concludes her residency at The Suburban Review, and what a month it has been! Magic, beauty, beautiful nature, beautiful humans, and all the fear and joy that runs with those things. Her poetry feels reckless and naked and scared by all the possibility of life, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, do! We asked Rebecca about the process behind her writing, because who doesn’t want to know the stories behind the spells…
We imagine you writing on a hilltop, facing into a bracing wind—Where do you actually work?
At my desk, looking out of my window onto Norwich’s roofs and church spires or on my bed, looking out onto overstuffed bookshelves and photographs of some of my gurus (Werner Herzog and Ana Mendieta).
How do you get started?
Getting started, for me, mainly depends on whether I have enough time to work my way into writing—time to read poetry for an hour or so, then put that away and start thinking about my own ideas and projects. Then when an idea or thought actually catches fire I begin writing as quickly as possible, before my own insecurities or doubts can catch up with me.
What kind of headspace do you need to be in in order to write?
Well, as I mentioned before, having time is the most helpful thing of all, more helpful than being in any particular mood, because given enough time you can usually (gently and slowly) draw yourself into the right frame of mind to write.
However, the perfect headspace for me to be able to write in would have to be: calm, full of energy, in love with someone really excellent, in a new season, aware of a blue/grass green aura, engaged, selenic, friendly, open, citrus-fresh.
Do you have a daily routine?
I would love to have a daily writing routine, but at the moment all of my time is spent working on my PhD critical thesis (hi Adorno!). Because of this any organised poetry-writing routine has, temporarily I hope, gone out of the window.
What do you write with?
I pretty much only write directly on my laptop now. I make notes by hand sometimes, but I’m actually quicker at typing, and so it helps me keep up with my own thoughts.
What does it feel like when you are on a roll and things are flowing nicely?
A very interesting and hard to answer question. I think it feels a little bit mystic, in the sense that I feel like ‘I’ somehow leave the room. Not that anything or anyone else is being channelled, but perhaps simply that a very different part of my consciousness comes forward. The normal me that people interact with on a daily basis is replaced by a space of furious energy and focus and quiet that I can’t fully access when I’m not writing. It’s a floating, distant, electrical kind of a feeling. Or something like that.
Whose work have you been influenced by?
Unsurprisingly the true list of my influences would be brutally long and boring, so I’ll just give a list of some of the writers and people who have particularly influenced my work over the last six months: Dorothea Lasky, Bhanu Kapil, Lucy Ives, Ariana Reines, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Kate Bush, Denise Riley, Julianna Spahr, Teju Cole, Maggie Nelson, Emily Toder, and always and forever, Anne Carson.
Where does your writing come from?
Another tricky one. Clearly it comes in large part from reading all of the above, as well as many more. It also comes from the philosophical and spiritual wrangling that goes on between my head and the world, from all of my questions, from wanting to know about things. But I couldn’t tell you why those things come out in poetry rather than in, say, pottery, or standing as a local councillor for the Green party, or starting a band. I suppose it’s mainly because I’d be bad at all of those things, but it’s also because poetry feels like home to me, the right place for thinking to happen. My writing comes from everything that takes place in my relationship with the universe, and/or my small witness of the universe; poetry can handle all of that. It can handle absolutely anything. That’s why I like it.