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Roger Craik Interview - Cyber Smut

Roger's poem 'In the Machine (2004)' is in our Cyber Smut anthology. And you're in for a treat — Roger has recorded himself reading this poem, which you can listen to right now. The interview is below the video. Enjoy.



You’ve worked in a lot of universities in different countries. How did you decide to travel for your work?

It was rather that the deciding was done for me. After getting a Ph.D. in Renaissance Prose Translation, in the Margaret Thatcher period, it was evident that I couldn’t get a university teaching job in Britain—I barely got near a job. So I went to Turkey and things moved from there. But even after I got “settled” in America I still very much enjoyed traveling, and still do.


Have you experienced cultural shock anywhere?

Very much so. The most striking example was on leaving Izmir, in Turkey, for New Haven, Connecticut. And, basically, living in America after living in Turkey. Things were so easy in America, by contrast, and so absolutely rich. Supermarkets with whole aisles full of cereals! And I remember being astonished by the fact that the mailman not only delivered your mail, but picked it up as well, so you didn’t have to walk to any postbox. I also think there is a culture shock when one returns to one’s home country after a spell abroad. America seems fresh, and different, each time I return to it, wherever I have been.


Your bio says you were born in England. What’s it like living in America?

That’s too big a question for here, Julianne. Yes, I was born in Leicester, and lived in England until I was 30, and it’s been America after that, with two spells of teaching in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria and Romania), and one in Leicester, where I was born. I am very happy here. There is lots of space, open space, and there is a great joy in the natural world.. One can be as eccentric as one likes, what’s more.


Tell us about your poetry books. Do you associate them with any specific time or place?

Three books came out in Canberra, and they all came from a great wodge of efforts that had accumulated over the years: I had been concentrating on writing scholarly articles to get academic tenure, and the poetry writing was a kind of relaxation, that came to assume more and more importance, and pleasure, to the point that I gave up academic writing altogether. In 2014 In Stranger Roads came out, when I was working in Romania, and I have the manuscripts for two further full-length books. I’ve been in print with two chapbooks, one about England (Of England Still), and one about a love-affair-gone-wrong (don’t they all?)—(Those Years). Maxine Kumin was kind enough to write a blurb for it. I also wrote a tiny book of six poems about Amsterdam, which is a city of which I am very fond, and also a book of just one poem (In Memory of Wendy Ann Craik). Obviously the Amsterdam poems are about that city, and in the main were written there, but the bulk of my work is done in Ashtabula, Ohio, the small town where I live.


Can you tell us how you arrive at a poem?

Normally what happens is that a line speaks itself into my head somehow, and that’s a starting point. After that, something else will come, with luck. I don’t have any particular subjects, or at least I don’t think I do. What is of great help, I find, is to record what I’ve written, as it goes along, on a pocket recorder, and play myself to myself, if I can put it that way. Thus I don’t find myself sitting and staring at a page, but just listen, and fairly often the next line, or lines, comes of its own accord. I also have the strange habit of, before I start, covering the page in soft lead, and coloured pencils, and always using my left hand to do it. This stops one “drawing,” consciously or otherwise, and just has the effect of getting me relaxed, or receptive. (A British painter whose paintings and whose observations about art I enjoy and greatly admire, Frank Auerbach, uses a similar method. He also frets at, jabs at, and interrogates his work as he works on it, to be sure it’s “true.” Sly and The Family Stone have a line that goes “It’s the truth that the truth makes it so alive.“ That sounds glib but it’s true.) Then I write things out again and again, in numbered sheets, with a Lamy fountain pen. I’d add that it’s not always easy to know when the end is arrived at. Perhaps one of the most liberating things is when one realizes that one can make a poem shorter, in some cases a lot shorter, to its betterment.


What are you working on?

I have new poems on the go, and am revising old ones.


Describe yourself in three words.

Sustained by poetry.


* * *


Roger Craik was born in Leicester and has worked in universities in Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and America. He has written four full-length books of poetry, of which the latest is Down Stranger Roads (Blazevox, 2014). He lives in Ashtabula, Ohio.


Our Cyber Smut anthology will be released on 15 Sept 2020. To pre-order your copy visit: gutspublishing.com/books



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