We love hearing from Madeleine. As the founding Editor of Write On! magazine, published by Pen to Print, she’s always got great things to chat about. And when that chat is about her new books, we can’t wait to hear more.
We caught up with her to talk about her latest poetry collection, The Horse and the Girl to find out what it’s all about, how her writing adventures are going and what’s next for this fab writer.
What is The Horse and the Girl about?
The Horse And The Girl is a series of thirty linked narrative poems, conversations between the ‘Horse And The Girl,’ looking at issues such as relationships, climate change, growing older, life, death and change in general. It offers a wry, poignant look at the world around us, with a strong environmental slant.
The collection has been written from the perspective of a woman in middle age and the relationship she has with her horse and is based along the coast and marshlands of east Kent. Although not strictly ‘ballad’ form, they form a ‘contemporary ballad.’ I live in Broadstairs, and last April, I moved my mare Lucie from St Nicholas to the coast because her farmland has been ear-marked for houses. I think this has been the main inspiration behind writing these poems.
Why the change from prose to poetry?
Two things… Poetry has immediacy; that sense of transporting you beyond yourself, both as a writer and a reader, and poetry is the most concentrated form of writing; like cordial, before it is diluted.
This quality means poetry also lends itself to co-creation. Because the concepts and ideas are so concentrated, and so much is being conveyed in very few lines, the reader has more freedom to use their imagination to shape meaning alongside the poet.
I hope readers will see or hear things in my words that work as their own personal reference points which will allow them to start on a journey of discovery, moving far beyond what I have put on the page. In other words, the meaning I have created is just the starting point of the reader journey.
Poetry has a wider toolkit for reader engagement than other forms of writing. Rhythm and rhyme, for example, can allow you to shape reader or listener experience. I like rhyme, but not necessarily within a formal shape. In The Horse and the Girl, I wanted people to hear the underlying beat of the hooves, linked to the beat of the heart – of the ‘Girl’ and the countryside.
Award winning environmental poet Anna Orrige shared that she found the supple use of rhyme helped evoke a landscape in flux.
The other thing is that I launched my first novel, Mother of Floods, at the start of lockdown in April 2020. So, all the launch events and distribution that has been planned dried up and of course, bookshops closed. This meant Mother Of Floods never reached the audience that had been planned for it. That still hurts. Having said that, I know people are still reading and engaging with this speculative, spiritual debut that ultimately became the manifesto for the work I am doing now.
However, that sense of failure has lingered, and sometimes is still difficult to digest, which is what has maybe what pushed me into doing something with my poetry; writing a coherent collection round something that mattered to me.
And finally, Mother Of Floods is littered with poetry, including the Song Of Sh’ler, which is what I used as my submissions synopsis to secure that all-important publishing deal with US Canadian publisher Crowsnest. And of course, in terms of changing genre, I wrote the audio play based on MOF, commissioned by Alternative Stories Podcast, which reached the top 50 in the Apple Podcast charts.
So, poetry, prose, audio drama, journalism. They’re all forms of writing and that’s what I do. I will always find ways to say what I need to through words
How did it feel when BBC Radio Kent asked to serialise your collection?
That was a wonderful moment. The beauty of audio is that it doesn’t infringe on print publishing deals. This meant when I realised it was being really well received – to the point both Leo Ulph and I were getting emailed compliments and comments on social media – I started submitting to publishers again. Without BBC Radio Kent, I wouldn’t have had the impetus to do so, after receiving numerous rejections last summer, when I’d first written them. Someone came to my launch who said he was borderline dyslexic and didn’t generally read. He’d first heard the collection on Radio Kent, though, and loved it, so wanted to buy a copy for his girlfriend.
I do believe audio and performance are important avenues for a poet to explore. Poetry has a different feel to prose, and the auditory experience can bring tremendous value to the audience.
Because The Horse And The Girl has been accepted by a number of bookshops across the country, in particular the publisher’s home city of Belfast, I will be doing some readings and travelling. If anyone is interested in coming to my digital launch and hearing me read, Pen to Print publishers of the suite of publications I edit, Write On, are holding a digital launch for me on Teams on 2nd August between 6-7pm (see the Pen To Print website to book and further details).
I’m also still working on Sister of Storms, a companion novel to Mother Of Floods, but with the demands of the other work I am doing – workshops and magazines, its taking a bit more of a back seat than I would like.
Where can we find your books?
They are available in bookshops in Kent, the South East and other parts of the country.
The purchase e-link on Esty is now also working.
Praise for The Horse And The Girl:
‘The Horse and the Girl is a beautiful collection of poetry, highlighting the connection between the equine and human world. The first poem, The Girl and The Horse, perfectly demonstrates the connection between animals, humans and the earth; things we can all relate to, even those of us who don’t ride. The collection explores many of the environmental issues we face today and also the joy and tranquility of wandering through the wild places that remain. Uplifting, joyful, thought-provoking. Wonderful!’
Mary Walsh, poet and leader of the ‘Barking Foxes’ Poetry Stanza
‘The poems in this collection provide the reader with a very compelling and timely opportunity to contemplate the relationship between humans and animals. Individually, they have tremendous charm, collectively they form an extended contemporary ballad. The rhyming schemes feel like the rhythm of riding, and as such offer an exhilarating sense of freedom. This is an original and heartfelt collection in which we are invited into a tender, wild world woven with the feminine experience and the intimate, powerful and healing relationships that a woman might make with the natural world.’
Claire Steele, Writer and Poet Activist.