Writing poems and fiction has always had the highest priority for me and the criticism
I’ve written has been shaped by my preoccupations as a poet.
Dramatic monologue has been a key starting-point for my poems – but tweaked to draw
attention to the everyday strangeness that happens when one person is thinking about
what is going on in someone else’s mind. The first version of this was in my poem
‘The Great Escape’, whose setting in an old people’s home originated in lines I wrote
while I was still at school. That developed through drafts in which an old man was
digging his way out of the home, but which didn’t work because they were too simple-mindedly
surreal. I was sure I’d solved that problem when I reconfigured the poem by shaping
it around the point of view of the old man’s grandson (by analogy with ‘coloured
narrative’) so that ‘the great escape’ imagery was now, by implication, in the schoolboy’s
mind – not explained away but given a new dimension which was explanatory but also
a source of more meanings to do with the boy’s understanding of his grandfather.
Explained like that it sounds complex but the basic idea is simple while, at the
same time, opening a great range of possibilities. An expansion of the same idea
is behind the title sequence of my 2008 book How We Met, which is based on the feature
that used to appear in The Independent on Sunday in which pairs of celebrities described
their initial encounters and the friendships etc which emerged from them. In my sequence
six pairs of invented celebrities tell stories which interlock, overlap and contradict
each other, as it emerges that they all know each other, and their points of view
(involving power struggles and all kinds of personal spin) are placed in dialogue.
My first novel, “Not Tonight, Neil” was published in 2011.
“darkly comic psychothriller set on a Manchester Council estate in 1969.”