Saturday, November 14, 2009

Poet Interview: Russell Thomas

Today's interview is with Russell D. Thomas, whose poem "larynx, head, neck, stomach, bladder, kidney, oesophagus and pancreas" appears in the anthology Never Hit by Lightning.

Jennifer Walker: Tell me about the poem you have in Never Hit by Lightning. What is it about, and what inspired it?

Russell D. Thomas
: The poem is inspired by a housemate of mine last year who as part of her radiography or radiology degree, had to spend a lot of time in Southampton hospital, on the ward where people basically went to either get cancer therapy or to die from cancer there and then. Some of the stuff she would say was very gritty and hard to take, though she spoke about them as commonplace things. Most of the poem is imagination, what horrors you can dream up about a hospital, but it began rooted in reality. I just think the tone of the poem fits with the actual chaos and emotion of patients/doctors suffering from and treating cancer respectively, or rather, probably how I would feel in both positions.

Jennifer Walker: Did you have any misgivings about submitting your work? How did you get over them?

Russell D. Thomas
: No, never. Submit anything at anytime. There's never anything to lose.

Jennifer Walker: How did you learn about this anthology, and what made you submit?

Russell D. Thomas
: Well at the University of Portsmouth there was supposed to be the 3rd volume of a Portsmouth-based anthology, however, funding fell through, and all the contributors and people involved began to email each other, and Tucker sort of held a hand out to everyone that wanted to come aboard this new ship, now that the old one had broken up, and that was that really. What made me submit? A desire for my work to be read by a wider audience.

Jennifer Walker: Tell me about other writing projects you have--past, present and future.

Russell D. Thomas
: Project is not really the word I would use. I'd say obsessions. When I write poems I tend to put them in a list and imagine them as a collection. This is more of a past thing though. My laziness and business tends to put these lists on hold for months and years, however. I'd love for them to be published. At present I always have a head full of ideas that drive me insane. Ideas and no time for an outlet. It's sad really. Future? I want to write about 30 novels, all of them connected to each other either majorly or minorly. I love the feeling you get when you recognize someone or something as a reference, or something that explains something that you thought you'd forgotten about. It's why people love J.J. Abrams' Lost, and Stephen King books.

I had to write a play for a unit on the creative writing course at Portsmouth, and I really loved playing around with the extra dimensions of sound & spectacle, aside from speech. It was in the shortlist of six out of 40 or so I would guess that were vying to be performed. They used one that had Jesus in it or something, and sex, and paedophiles and things, which is just so passe in the world of theatre these days and it bugged me. I'd also like to continue writing poetry. But I hate that word, 'poetry', it just conjures images of older generations with too much free time on their hands & nothing better to do, who have a warped belief that poetry either must be laughably minimalistic or vomit-inducingly over-the-top and flowery. I think it should be changed. We should just call it nothing.

I would like to write a film, and I have had ideas, but I am unsure about how to start things. Starting anything is horridly nerve wracking.

Jennifer Walker: What is your educational background and writing experience?

Russell D. Thomas
: I left sixth form with fairly decent grades (A, B, C, C). I graduated from university this year, where I had been doing a BA(Hons) in English Literature & Creative Writing. It makes me cringe to say that.

Writing experience is a little more thin on the ground. I have won a semi-local poetry competition, won a very local one & come runner-up in the same one the next year, which is sponsored by a local charity: the RC Sherriff Trust.

Jennifer Walker: What do you do for a living?

Russell D. Thomas
: I am a writing intern at a place called THECUBE in London, which is a space for creative companies to work + make connections. In partnership with the same place I am beginning to write for website CREATIVE BOOM, which documents all things creative based in London. From my work at THECUBE I hope to begin freelancing as a copywriter/proofreader/creative writer.

Jennifer Walker: To what do you attribute your success as a writer so far?

Russell D. Thomas
1) Studying Latin
3) being good at writing
2) believing what I write is good (self-confidence)
3) loving language
4) thinking too often and too deeply

Jennifer Walker: Tell me about your family. Are they supportive of your writing?

Russell D. Thomas
: There's not much to say really. I have a mum & dad, and two younger brother. I think my brothers like the fact that I can write - help with English homework and that. They are supportive, though at times I think my parents understate their happiness. They're very much 'oh that's nice!' kind of people, I would say.

Jennifer Walker: What was the last movie you saw?

Russell D. Thomas
: Zombieland. I enjoyed it. Funny bits. Zombie films these days, though always post-apocalyptic, don't utilize the opportunities for humour and are always very serious (I AM LEGEND, 28 DAYS LATER, etc.). So yeah, it was a nice change to see that a character-based comedy can exist within the realm of a zombie-filled land of the unliving, where too often the plot hijacks the characters for the worst. Chase/action sequence in the theme park at the end was a bit of a plateau, kind of boring. It was definitely strongest when there was dialogue.

Jennifer Walker: Tell me one thing about yourself that you think most people don't know.

Russell D. Thomas
: I stole a tomato from a supermarket because I wanted to shoplift and I was so unbelievably scared. I was also with my mum at the time.

Thanks to Russell for stopping by! Be sure to read my review and pick up your copy of Never Hit by Lightning today!

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