Interview _ Andrew Button

Andrew Button is from Market Bosworth and has had poems published in various magazines including Orbis, Staple, The Interpreter’s House, Iota and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

His pamphlet, Dry Days in Wet Towns, was published in 2016 and a first full collection, Melted Cheese on the Cosmic Pizza in 2017 by erbacce press.

In this interview, Andrew talks about his writing:

When did you start writing?

From the age of fourteen I always wanted to be a writer. The late Liverpool poet, Adrian Henri, was an early inspiration. He was invited to my school to encourage pupils to write and perform their poetry. From the ensuing workshop sessions, an anthology of our poems was published and presented at a performance evening for parents. I suppose I started writing seriously for magazine publication in my early twenties.

Adrian Henri and a very supportive English teacher convinced me that I had a talent for writing poetry and it progressed from there. This is going to sound like the stereotypical writers struggle, but from my early twenties I worked at my poems diligently, sent them off to magazines and got the majority of them back with a polite no thank you. Undeterred and buoyed on by minor successes, I persevered.

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

I aim to write poetry that is both amusing and thought-provoking. My poetry is observational, anecdotal and ironic and mostly drawn from the world around me. I like to see myself as a poetic eavesdropper! My sources of inspiration range from quirky news stories and themes (woodlice, horses in McDonalds, a man obsessed with roundabouts), popular culture and occasionally my own life experiences.

My target audience are adults who want their sense of wonder and amusement to be engaged. To write poems that are stepping stones for adult lives and experiences often drawing on common cultural reference points. Subconsciously, I have always written for an adult audience.

In the writing you are doing, which authors influenced you most? Why did they have this influence?

There are so many poets I admire. I love the imagery of Keats, the evocations and language used by Larkin. The humour of Roger McGough, Adrian Henri, Ian McMillan and Simon Armitage. The wit and poignancy of the Scottish poet, Liz Lochhead. I like Paul Farley (The Boy From the Chemist is Here to See You is a marvellous collection). I know a lot of local poets that deserve greater attention like Maria Taylor, Geraldine Clarkson, Jayne Stanton and Roy Marshall, all of whom I would recommend. When I attend an Open Mic event, I am one of those people who always buys somebody’s new book!!

The irony is that Ray Bradbury’s descriptive prose has been the biggest influence on my development as a writer. Appropriately, one critic described his work as the ‘poetry of the ordinary’. Another element of his writing that has inspired me is his ability to communicate a sense of wonder. That sense of wonder that children have and many lose in adulthood. I read somewhere that to be considered a well-rounded adult you need to retain a slice of that sense of wonder. Ray Bradbury captured it, bottled it and released it through his writing to millions of people all over the world. I tried my hand at writing short stories when I was younger but quickly began to realise that the poem was my chosen form of literary expression – or rather, it chose me!

How have your own personal experiences influenced your writing?

For a long time I wrote poems that were mainly observational and not about me. However, even in these poems I have realised that some of the aspects of my life and experience has seeped into them unconsciously. Recently, however, I have been drawing on personal experiences and in some cases, events that happened a long time ago. For example, there is a poem in my first full collection about a bicycle accident when I was seventeen! I think that as a writer, ideas for poems or stories often float to the surface many years later.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

As I have stated before, in my writing I am striving to make people laugh and ponder. I tend to be preoccupied with the themes of obsession, eccentricity, the minutiae of life, nostalgia and popular culture (especially music, art, literature and cinema).

I believe that as a poet of one my greatest challenges is to convince people that poetry is for sharing. Poetry should be given out with prescriptions, by the milkman, with school dinners. Poets should be parachuted into offices and shops, banks and supermarkets because there are still masses of people who think poetry is a foreign language and not for them. For me, getting out and reading my poems in as many public venues as possible is the way to meet this challenge.

Do you write everyday?

I think it is very important to get into a ‘writing routine’. I am fortunate in that I work part time. So, I set aside every Tuesday and Thursday morning for writing. Setting aside time regularly on a weekly basis is crucial. It is vital to keep the ‘writing muscle’ working. The very act of getting something down on paper helps the creative process. It is like a potter shaping his piece of clay. Even if inspiration is deserting me, I will revisit a poem that I am unhappy with or research a subject that is currently preoccupying me. That helps to kick-start the poetry brain. Reading a book and listening to music often lead me somewhere with a phrase or a lyric that catches my imagination. As my greatest influence, Ray Bradbury said, ‘Keep writing. Don’t stop.’

How many books have you written so far? And how did you find a publisher for them?

Dry Days in Wet Towns (a poetry pamphlet), erbacce press, Liverpool, 2016.

Melted Cheese on the Cosmic Pizza (first full poetry collection), erbacce press, Liverpool, 2017.

In 2016, I entered the erbacce poetry competition and my runners up prize was to have a pamphlet published (Dry Days in Wet Towns, erbacce , Liverpool, UK, 2016).

Melted Cheese on the Cosmic Pizza was published in Liverpool in November, 2017. Well, in truth, some of the poems were originally hatched back in my late twenties, but many have evolved into what you see in the book.

How would you describe Melted Cheese on the Cosmic Pizza?

The best way to describe what the book is about is to use quotes from the back cover:
As Siobhan Logan (another Leicestershire poet) wrote on the back of my book:
Like a poetry jukebox, quirky titles invite you to spin their tracks. Button's poems swerve from the apocalyptic to the domestic, from cosmic to comic, on the flip of a coin; rhymes pinging with wit and sudden pathos. Clocks, bereavement, mislaid love, B-sides, a rent-collecting Lowry and star-hopping Elvis, all jostle to leave you humming their tune, thumbing a knock-out phrase long after they're played out. Stack up those dimes and settle in; you won't be short-changed here.
Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

To be honest, I did not find any part of the process difficult. I submitted a batch of poems to my publisher who then made the final selection of titles to be included. The editing was minimal and in fact the front cover design and quotes for the back cover took the longest time to organise.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

Seeing the final front cover and the arrangement of my poems was the biggest thrill. It still is. The dream becomes a reality.

What sets Melted Cheese on the Cosmic Pizza apart from other things you've written?

It was my first full collection and for that reason it will always be a special moment in my writing career.

In what way is it similar to the others?

It has established the themes, style and voice introduced in my fledgling pamphlet.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

To date my most significant achievement as a poet has been to have my first full collection published and to take it out on the road at various poetry open mics throughout 2018 and into 2019. As a poet you have to be visible. From a young age I always wanted to make people laugh. It’s a drug but a very desirable addiction. Writing anything humorous is a challenge and precarious. It is so easy to overdo it. One conclusion I have come to is that there is a lot of humour to extract from real life situations. I hope that comes across in my poetry. My raison d’etre as a poet is to write poems that make people laugh and think, and often at the same time.

What will your next book be about?

I am currently working towards my second poetry collection and am aiming to submit a manuscript towards the end of 2019 / early 2020.

Details of Andrew Button’s books can be found on the erbacce press website.


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