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Interview with Andy N

Andy N

The Streets Were All We Could See

He is the author of four full-length poetry collections. The most recent being ‘the streets were all we could see’ and several other poetry books were co-written with other people as well as the fantasy poetry series Barbarians of the Wall.

He is also the co-host of a Literature open mic night called SpeakEasy and runs/co-runs Podcasts as varied as Spoken Label, Reading in Bed, Comics Unity, Koll, Andy and Amanda, and Wrestle Up. He also does ambient music under the name of Ocean in a Bottle.


Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?

A. I have not had a television in years. I would rather be writing/podcasting and doing music when not working in the day job.

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?

A. My next book will likely be called Underground. I suspect this will be out by summer 2021. This is a book of haiku, all set in an underground train station. The idea for this book came from a writing workshop I was running recently where I was set with a title called Underground, and the only Underground I could think of was the Underground tube (light train) system in London. I started writing a short poem about this, but it became apparent after three lines this was going to be a series of haikus, and I wrote three during this exercise and I knew I wanted to write a book about it there and then.

I have also just started work on my third book with my partner Amanda Steel called Run away with me again in eight words. This is a sequel to a book we did last year called Run away with me in seven words. This was a book that was a series of 7 words, and I have a longer book in mind probably for 2022 called Changing carriages at Birmingham New Street.

Q.3 When did you decide to write The Streets were All We Could See? What sparked your initial love of poetry?

A. It was very much an accidental book really which was in contrast to both of my previous books The End of Summer and The Birth of Autumn which took them around 8 years to write.

The Streets were All We Could See was began on a train journey home after work where I wrote a fragment of a poem on the back of a small piece of paper and when I got home I liked it realizing I had started a book in a very different style and over the next few months slowly wrote a full book in this style.

I first started writing poetry when I was 10. The first poets I can remember reading were a few years later namely Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning (My work is nothing like them thou). I wasn’t terrific when I was 10, but I like to think I have improved as I have got older.

Q.4 How do your poems develop? Please guide us through the stages of a poem.

A. No poem I create or write is developed the same, and since the UK went into lockdown, my routine has changed again. The Streets were all I could see was wrote on train journeys and revised/finished at home in complete contrast both The End of Summer and The Birth of Autumn which were written at home, in work, traveling, at poetry nights, and walking through nature.  


Underground my next poetry book has been written mostly at home and reflects much deeper isolation than any of my previous books sat at home, not really able to travel, something that I think a lot of us are encountering at the moment.

Q.5 What is the state of contemporary poetry in the UK?

A. Until lockdown, I think the UK had been going through a golden age of contemporary poetry over the past ten years. However, over lockdown, I know of many writers/poets who have stopped writing altogether and others whose work has been changed likely forever because of the virus/lockdown.

All venues were poets have read/performed have being shut, and all readings have now been forced onto Zoom which while some writers have enjoyed; others have hated so very mixed really.  

Q.6 What do you see as the role of the poet in modern-day society?

A. This depends on the poet really. I am a storyteller really who likes to tell stories that people can relate to. My partner Amanda Steel who is also a poet talks more directly about her inner feelings. We both also know poets who are very, very comical in contrast and other poets who are very, very political in contrast to both of us.

In short, there is no right or wrong way for the poet in modern-day society apart from making people react whether laughing or indeed thinking.

Q.7 How does one even begin to judge poetry? Are there some yardsticks that help you define a “good” poem from a not so great one?

A. That is quite a difficult question to answer. I learned to become a better poet over the years by studying other poets, trying out other styles constantly, and listening to other writers. Great poems as I said above make people react the most with clever use of words whether performed or on the page.

Q.8 Do you have any particular audience in mind when you write, an ideal reader?

A. Not really. When I write a poem, I write for me always first. I know of some poets who aim for a specific audience, but I try to be honest to myself and that comes first. I love it when people say they can relate to my poetry. 

Q.9 What is your stand on translating poetry? Can a translated work truly do justice to the original poem?

A. Not tried it before, but I have a friend who writes poetry in four different languages. I won’t name her, but she tells me writing poetry in so many languages are difficult, and she has found translating them again difficult.

Q.10 In what important ways does poetry differ from fiction?

A. I’ve not written a novel, but I personally believe a poem is restricted to just one feeling or a single impression. My next book Underground as well as The Streets were All We Could See is like this in the sense of they are often snapshots of emotion or feeling, a novel is a longer process perhaps a series of emotions or feelings which takes the reader on a long journey.

Q.11 What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

A. Listen, listen, listen, and don’t give up.

Q.12 What role should a title play for a poem? For beginning writers, what’s important to consider when titling a poem?

A. It’s as important as the poem itself, but it also can be the hardest thing to do with a poem. A great title is like a great newspaper headline which makes me want to read or hear the poem ever since.

Q.13 Has your idea of what poetry been changed since you began writing poems?

A. Yes, it has. I used to write light or comedy poems only when I first became involved with poetry on a professional basis. Sadly, two of my best friends who were poets died within three months of each other, and I struggled to write comedy after that.

Q.14 Can you work anywhere or is there a certain space and quietude required to write?

A. I write everywhere and anywhere. I know some people who need silence or quietude. That doesn’t affect me.

Q.15 How does your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?

A. They love it and know it is a part of me. It took a long time for me to show my parents, however.

Q.16 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good and bad ones?

A. It doesn’t bother me either way, to be honest. As an independent writer and artist, you will get good and bad comments, I’ve found the more I do it, and keep working on my art, the less negative comments I get and more just good/great.

Q.17 Can you give any advice to someone wanting to write and publish poetry?

A. Be honest with yourself and your work. I helped somebody with the selection process for a charity book recently, and we received a short story in submission which we rejected as the writer hadn’t thought or researched what they were writing. The content was great, but we didn’t buy what they were saying.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

A. Oscar Wilde. I would love to talk to him about the poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, in fact about his full writing career as he really had a fascinating life too.

Q.19 What books/poets have most influenced your life?

A. Lots I could talk about here, but two I always remember to again and again is Paul Auster, author of novels such as 4321, the New York Trilogy and and Book of Illusions, and Hugo Williams, most famous for Billy’s Rain.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?

A. I’ve been writing for nearly 40 years now, and feel like that I’ve barely began.

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