by Amee Nassrene Broumand
Hello Laura, thank you for taking the time to speak with me here on Burning House Press! I love the complex music of your work. What’s your relationship to sound and the oral tradition of poetry?
Always, in testament to its fundamentally oral heritage, sound has stood at the forefront of my work: that is, I have always tried to pay homage to the ancient verbal roots of poetry with an acute focus on just how moving sound can be. It is probably, in the words of Harold Bloom, my own anxiety of influence: the writers that haunt me the most are those who expand the malleable state of sound. There is no single prescriptive path which sound can take in poetry, and I think that appeals to the rebel in me. And I’ve studied it quite intensely really: I often apply scansion to Latin poetry to see the specific moments of gravity and levity which bring a line alive. And, of course, I always read my work out loud as I write: it may have one life on the page but it has another one aloud.
“the writers that haunt me the most are those who expand the malleable state of sound”
You had the chance to work at Dylan Thomas’s birthplace in Swansea. What was that like?
My summer there was the single most academic season of my young life. At first I’d planned to stay for a week or so, but that soon turned into a couple of months and I’m sure I learnt the equivalent of a whole degree in that time. I travelled from a small village in Carmarthen to Swansea each day, where I walked up the old hill of Cwmdonkin Drive and through the small black gate of number five which Dylan had pushed so many times. My time was largely spent reading, writing and researching his work. I wrote essays for The Dylan Thomas Society and saw a performance of Under Milk Wood. I drank in the pubs he drank in. I slept in his bedroom a night or two, with the old gas lamp still burning. I visited the boathouse in Laugharne which he shared with his wife, and even interviewed an old neighbour once. Yes, my broken old bookcase still models three rows of Dylan and always will. It was the summer to always remember.
As a poet, what haunts you? Are there any themes you keep returning to in your work?
Of course. Loss returns much more often than I’d like. Loss of a bond or belonging, or the grief of an absence. Those are my hauntings. They appear in different guises, and sometimes only faintly, but you’ll find them in there somewhere. Yeats once called this the ‘chaos’ of a writer, without which the work is just stillborn. But it seems these ones are here to stay and, honestly, I’m often more at ease with them than with any kind of joy at all.
“Composed by one voice but read by many, I can be heard without having to speak.”
What are you striving for when you write? What’s your personal vision?
If anything, my ‘personal’ vision is ultimately a communal one. I’ve never been particularly at ease in the social world, finding inconsequential talk unnecessary and not something I tend to enter into. Language is used on a functional basis, and I guess I’ve always used poetry to communicate with a wider world I’ve felt uncomfortable inside: the staring blank page, endlessly open and non-judgmental, will always be a comfortable medium between the private and the public spheres. Composed by one voice but read by many, I can be heard without having to speak. Yes, it may seem a sad reality for some; but the joy this liminality gives can’t be put into words. Or maybe it can. And in my case on the page alone.
Do you have any advice for young readers who feel called to write?
Yes. Read! It seems simple, but I’ve always believed the best writers are also the best readers. That doesn’t mean go devour the whole ‘classics’ section in your local bookshop; quantity will never conquer quality here. I mean read critically: read with a mind open to questioning the words that lie front of you. However much I may disagree with TS Eliot, I believe he is right in one place: that a writer will find their own voice by positioning themselves somewhere along the line of the Great Tradition. It is a simple process of converging with and diverging from certain authors: in my case, I converge with Dylan Thomas but diverge from Jane Austen. You’ll get to know where you stand. And picking up a book is the best place to start.
What’s the inevitable line or stanza that haunts you as a reader?
“I was much too far out all my life / And not waving but drowning.”
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“Madonnas kneeling with a screaming in our skirts.”
—Read Three Poems by Laura Potts on Burning House Press
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Laura Potts is twenty-two years old and lives in West Yorkshire, England. Twice-named a Foyle Young Poet of the Year and Lieder Poet at The University of Leeds, her work has appeared in Ezra Pound’s Agenda, Poetry Salzburg Review and The Interpreter’s House. Having worked at The Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea, Laura was last year shortlisted in The Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She also became one of The Poetry Business’ New Poets and a BBC New Voice for 2017. Laura’s first BBC radio drama Sweet The Mourning Dew aired at Christmas, and she received a commendation from The Poetry Society in 2018.