Fiona Curran is a poet, sonic artist and filmmaker, and also a lecturer in filmmaking. Her first poetry collection, The Hail Mary Pass, was published by Wrecking Ball Press in 2006. Wilton Carhoot, editor of The Slab, said: “Fiona Curran is a bright and feisty northern voice. She treads the landscape of the urban and the domestic, from the smokey fug of the betting shop to the lavender scent of the bathroom. I like Fiona’s poems because she writes about real people who truly exist and whose lives and wine-fuelled loves I can believe in. The Hail Mary Pass is spunky, sexy and brash. This is a belter of a debut and I very very much look forward to the next verse.” Wrecking Ball Press will publish Fiona’s new collection, Never Try to Outswim a Bear, on October 26. We spoke to Fiona to find out more about the collection.
You’ve got a new collection on the way – Never Try to Outswim a Bear – great title, by the way. What can readers expect?
Hummmmm, it’s a real mix to be honest, black humour, grief, period pieces, nature, reflections on art, examinations of the language of flowers, lost lovers, found lovers, the poetry of place, The Postcard Series, Poetry as Script, The Scientist Series…
Can you tell us something about where this collection came from, when you started work on the pieces within, why you wrote it, how it developed?
It’s such a mixed bag, and frankly was written over quite a long time, but I think the underlying theme is one of loss in many forms. Also I was trying to capture some fleeting moments, the things (sometimes quite momentous) just caught in the corner of the eye.
Some of the poems are presented in the form of postcards, what is the reason for this?
I always loved the way that postcards “limit” what you can say, that you have to be succinct, and yet, no matter the picture, they always seem to me to be a joyful and unexpected thing, and I always loved receiving them. They deserve to be celebrated as a writing form. Angela Carter, for instance, was brilliant at them.
How does your work as a lecturer, sonic artist, filmmaker and poet intersect?
It intersects completely. Eventually I gave up trying to reconcile all of the practices and just decided to call myself an artist and be done with it. Nothing I do really stands alone, it’s all water from the same well.
You’re creating films to accompany the collection, can you let us know what to expect?
Some are already in the bag. For instance, The Scientist Series (where a lone female scientist tries to distill and understand grief) gave birth to four experimental films. These are pretty diverse and include a process documentary with a twist, set in a coffin factory, a dancer coming to terms with the lid of the final box, and the escape from purgatory of the dead (me, in fact), making my way back to the land of the living – in this case arriving finally in Ridley Road Market – God Bless Hackney!
Who are you writing for?
That is a very good question! Curious women who are shot through with their own burning experiences.
What experience do you want your readers to have with your work?
I’m just vain enough to hope that a single poem catches a reader and echoes in their mind – perhaps enough to lead them to explore a subject personally.
When you’re embarking on a new piece of work, whether a poem or a piece of visual or sonic art, what approach do you take?
I used to be a big over-thinker. I almost had it done in my mind long before I committed to paper. I’ve stopped doing that now. It kills it. I’ve learned, too, that if I am collaborating, to give the other people succinct direction, but also a lot of freedom – there’s got to be something in it for them. It pays to be surprised when you are making work. I like the feeling of “Good grief, where did that come from and what am I going to do with it?”
Tell us more about your process?
I used to be very much a morning person, but now I take it when it comes! Nothing is ever wasted. It’s all in there somewhere, so I work when I can and when I feel I’ve got something worth saying/showing. I am quicker to spot what won’t work now, before I’ve written myself into a corner and destroyed what was just about flowing. But I’ve also learned that even seemingly insurmountable problems are best addressed by temporarily walking away. Sleeping on it will often give you the solution, or the clarity, you need. And sometimes you just have to abandon ship.
Do you do a lot of planning or procrastinating before you sit down and get writing?
No – there is a Zen saying “We are wrong if we think there is time…” Procrastination doesn’t really exist if you have something driving you to examine your own humanity.
Do you have any thoughts about your experience of independent publishers?
Frankly, they have never been anything but good to me. I’ve had some wonderful relationships with publishers of small presses and magazines over the years, and I very much include Wrecking Ball here! It’s great to see some of the small presses managing to grow and being recognised as part of the reading culture, simply through their own publishing discernment.
The Hail Mary Pass was published 15 years ago. Looking back, what are your thoughts on the collection and the response to it?
My God, 15 years! It was such an urgent thing getting that first collection published, I wish I had just enjoyed it more! Some of the writing still stands up but in some other poems, it’s like meeting a stranger.
What else are you working on now?
Ahh, well it was going to be a new, much bigger film! I have a re-occurring image, but no detail I can share! But we will have to see what happens in a (hopefully) post Covid-19 world. I think all writers and artists will be reexamining their ideas in what could be a post capitalist world. Whatever we do next has to be relevant, and address that world, not be just more of the same schtick.
So what’s the future hold for Fiona Curran?
For the moment crossed fingers. And I’d like to go back to Rome very soon…