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Literary Prestidigitations on Display

15 Questions: An Interview with Paul Sutton

In fifteen questions we hope to introduce you to our authors and poets. Each writer has a story that brought him or her to write a book. Through in-depth interviews with detailed questions and searching topics being covered as writers from all walks of life talk about the highs and lows in their writing. 

 

Author: Paul Sutton

 

BlazeVOX Book: Brain Screams at Night

 

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Bio: Paul Sutton was born in London, 1964, but brought up in Hertfordshire and Wiltshire. He graduated from Jesus College, Oxford, worked in industry until 2004, then left to travel, and now teaches English at a secondary school. He finds this environment stimulating – the joys, rages and stresses are exactly the spurs needed for writing. And the insight gained is revealing; of how dull and pointless most “mainstream” poetry seems, to those who don’t have to feign interest. 

A related inspiration is the liberal intelligentsia’s stranglehold on poetry – the absurd perfection and self-appointed moral guardianship, of language and much else, that they seek. Poetically, this is manifested in the domination (particularly in Britain) of the low-voltage faux-modest lyrical anecdote. 

His work has been widely published in UK and US journals. His collection Broadsheet Asphyxia (Original Plus 2003) attempts to explore instability, corruption and repulsion, using twisted narratives and voices, as does the sequence “The Chronicles of Dave Turnip” (Original Plus 2009), which concludes Brains Scream at Night. Two longer sequences of polemical work are available in a Salt anthology of poetry manifestos, Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh (2009).   


 

 
 
Tell me about your book.
 
“Brains Scream at Night” uses deranged narratives, with fictive and often repulsive speakers, exploring the anger, and disturbed psyches, produced by our times. It makes no attempt to put me (the “poet”) above these, instead I’m participating, allowing all my demons free reign.
 
I’m so bored of the normalising poetic voice, with its assumed superiority.
 
 
What influenced this book?
 
There are so many "unsaids" nowadays, and I’ve always felt compelled to say them. I also like attacking myself in writing. However, I always try to get an element of release into the poems - especially in the most extreme stuff. Moments of stillness.  
 
So I'm trying to use the current discourse, including those things political correctness/the liberal intelligentsia try to hide, in a reactive but creative way. Surfing the energies, allowing the monsters (on all sides) to surface. I’ve no interest in provoking political responses though, other than feelings of unease. I also couldn’t care less whether people “agree” with me. That’s meaningless, in creative work. 
 
I'm also using humour - but not in a surrealist way, rather through grotesque satire or hyperrealism - moving through exaggeration, into possible delirium. The febrile state I like is most often initiated by anger; but I hope it is then cooled enough, transformed enough, to be readable.
 
A major influence is Louis-Ferdinand Celine. Not for his views, but for the hyperrealism and anger. And the merging of inner and outer states.
 
 
Where does this book fit into your career as a writer?
 
It collects published work from all over the place, but we (myself and Geoffrey Gatza) planned the sequencing - the way it’s arranged in seven sections based on forms and themes - as carefully as possible. It’s very sequence and character driven - I love narrative poetry - but meant to show a transition. The last part (The Chronicles of Dave Turnip) is not monologue based, but inspired by different types of syllable/stress counts and elliptical forms. Written to be as cold and image based as possible. Throughout, my underlying concepts are as discussed above.
 
My first collection Broadsheet Asphyxia (Original Plus, 2003) uses less sequences but still covers this territory. I guess we all have our obsessions; I certainly see it all as a project. 
 
 
If you had to convince a friend or colleague to read this book, what might you tell them?
 
It’s confrontational and attacks the reader (and the writer). So it shouldn’t feel like some collections - where the poet is some kind of superior seer, sharing their (often blindingly obvious) perspectives or anecdotes. That means many people won’t like it. Here’s a good review though:
 
 
 
Tell me about the last literary reading you attended.
 
A launch for my new collection, “Cabin Fever”  (The Knives, Forks and Spoons Press), in Liverpool. It was in a brilliant real ale pub - the city is packed with them. Good fun - just down the road from Everton’s ground. Went up with some friends and stayed for the weekend - it’s a superb city for wandering - almost like going abroad.
 
Knives, Forks and Spoons are a very good English experimental press, totally open to stuff from the non-mainstream and interested in extreme voices. Soon to be in America, too.
 
 
When did you realize you were a writer?
 
I’ve always constructed mad narratives, outbursts, monologues - from a very young age. I remember doing it in the bath, as a kid. And my 3-year old daughter does the same!
 
 
Tell us about your process: Pen and Paper, computer, notebooks ... how do you write?
 
Always on computer and only when I feel sort of pressured, almost on the run. I always do sequences, so often start from an idea. A recent one uses my obsessive collecting of gemstones and links these, via imagined crimes.
 
 
How do you handle a bad review of your work?
 
Depends: as long as the review engages with the text, then I’m happy. But if it uses very few quotes and just generalises, it’s a pain. No problem with the negative reaction, but any review should quote extensively.
 
 
Which writer would you most like to have a drink with, and why?
 
Orwell.. Asking him what he makes of political correctness and how the Left have become so intolerant - especially through their assumed ownership of language and the moral high-ground. Problems he noted early on.
 
 
What's the biggest mistake you've made as a writer?
 
Worried about all the boring rubbish that wins prizes (in this country anyway). And got wound up by the absurd poetry careerists.
 
 
What's the worst advice you hear authors give writers?
 
Most advice never stresses that you must enjoy it. I hate all that crap about perfectionism. And it never talks about energy and getting swept along - not knowing what you’re doing. 
 
 
What scares you the most?
 
Anything happening to my family.
 
In the writing world, ideology and utopianism, leading to censorship. Basically restrictions of freedom of thought and expression, always justified via the “greater good for the greater number”. In Britain, we face the nightmare of statutory regulation of the press, argued for by supposed liberals, to silence what they call the “right wing press”. So, we lose hundreds of years of liberties - for which people died - because these people can’t bear to read views they disagree with. 
 
 
Where do you buy your books?
 
Either in Blackwells (Oxford) or online.
 
 
Who are you reading now?
 
Musil‘s “The Man Without Qualities”. But I’m always re-reading - the Sherlock Holmes stories, Orwell and Maugham, etc. I also obsessively read guidebooks, for some reason.
 
 
What is your favorite TV show at the moment?
 
“Breaking Bad” (on DVD). Just brilliant.
 
A recent English thing you may get over there is also good: “Ripper Street”.
 
 
Bonus Round: 
What do you want the world to know about you? Make it juicy ....
 
My father (as a pathologist, at University College Hospital, London) did the post mortem on Silvia Plath, after she gassed herself.