[Interview_4] Alice Lenkiewicz

Alice Lenkiewicz is an artist and a writer. She lives in Liverpool in the United Kingdom.

Her books include the novella, Maxine (bluechrome Publishing, 2005) and the collection of poems, Men Hate Blondes (original plus, 2009).

She also publishes and edits Neon Highway, a poetry magazine that supports emerging and established poets.

In this interview, Alice Lenkiewicz talks about her concerns as a writer:

Do you write everyday?

I go through phases of writing and then not writing.

At the moment I am trying to write a little each day. I like to research.

My session usually begins with brainstorming, so I jot ideas down quite quickly. I have an idea about what I would like to write and then I set about deciding which technique I will use. What kind of format will suit the work I am writing? This usually develops after working with free verse for a while and then once I get the feel of what I am going to do I decide how structured I am going to be. It could develop in many ways.

I have just started writing a book of poems about my father and my memories of him, combining personal memories of my own and that of others. so it is kind of a memoir and poems combined.

At present there are just fleeting thoughts. You are welcome to look at my blog.

As I start to write, after a while I will begin to research certain poetry techniques and look at ways of editing my work to make it more significant. I usually continue on until I feel the piece is finished. I usually don’t plan how I will end until I have a lot more work. It’s quite a long process and takes me a while before I am satisfied with the final result.

How many books have you written so far?

I’ve had poems published in magazines and two books published.

My first book, Maxine, is a postmodern novella about a woman who slips in and out of the present and the past. Her encounters with artists and poets helps her to assess her own life and her failing marriage. The book is illustrated by myself.

My first collection of poems, Men Hate Blondes was published recently by Sam Smith from Original Plus. The book is a collection of prose and poems that revolve around memories and influences from my past.

I’ve written and illustrated a book of short fairytales, Shadows and Furore which I am now in the process of editing. I will be seeking a publisher for these stories.

I have also written and illustrated a children’s story called The Moon Angel.

I am currently developing and writing a series of poems based on a short story, "Journey of the Bride", a story exhibition that I will be exhibiting in September here in Liverpool. I will also be organising a poetry reading for the event. You can find the ongoing poems on the blog above and the images on YouTube.

I have written two complete plays: St Catherine, a play about the life of St Catherine of Alexandria and, Wrappers, a play about a middleclass couple who end up losing all their money and then are living on a council estate.

How long did it take you to write Men Hate Blondes?

It took me about a year to write Men Hate Blondes and another two years to finally get round to publishing.

The book was published in 2009 by Sam Smith from Original Plus.

Why I chose Sam Smith was based around what I had explored in terms of publishers of poetry. I had a list of publishers that I had written to in the past and who said they would look at my work at some point and this was what happened with Sam. I finally sent him my work and he said he liked it and would publish it.

It’s not easy to choose a publisher for poetry. I would possibly have looked further afield but I think if you have someone who is bothered to take time to read and discuss your entire collection then that should never be undermined. It is not easy to turn this kind of offer down especially if you are not paying a penny.

The disadvantages are that many small presses are not doing well on the financial front and mass distribution is not on the cards, more likely books are printed when ordered to avoid publishers being lumbered with a large bill due to lack of large sales. For instance, my first novella, Maxine, is now out of print due to financial problems of the publisher. This can be very time consuming and also it is not what you need but you have to accept that these things happen.

Another disadvantage is that you sometimes don’t get a commission on each book you sell. The publisher sells directly from them and gets the buying price from the customer. So, basically to get any profit off it yourself you would need to buy your books at a discount price from the publisher and then sell them as signed copies to customers for the standard price in order to receive your commission. I just have no time to do this although you do have to remember that there is very little money involved with poetry publishing anyway.

The advantages are that you are working with familiar territory, one poet to another poet/publisher and also someone you may have heard read in the past and someone who has read your work and knows of you, someone who you trust. This helps with communication and makes the ride a lot less stressful.

Another advantage is that when you read the contract you may want to consider how easily you can pull out. If this is a simple process that also takes a big burden away.

Just remember, if you are not paying any money then you are not being ripped off. Don’t ever mistake small press publishing for vanity publishing. It is not the same thing in any way at all and you should never pay to have your work published. If they want you to pay to be published then they basically don’t appreciate your work.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into Men Hate Blondes?

You have to take care and make sure you edit well although some poets see editing as destroying their work. It is all what you are trying to achieve. You have to remember that once it is in print, it is difficult to go back and correct those mistakes, so, a lot of thought and consideration should go into your final piece.

The main thing, I feel, is to find the incentive to let go of your work and seek a publisher. I personally can’t see the point in keeping your poetry hidden away but some do disagree.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

Sound and imagery are very important for me in my work as well as overall composition, so, I spent much time working on my sound combinations in certain poems. If I was to perform these how would they sound?

I read my poems out loud to get an idea on how they come across and if this is not the way I want it then it has to change. Sometimes a poem will be more visual so it is important that it looks right on the page. It is such fun to combine a variety of sounds together.

Here is an example of a sound poem from Men Hate Blondes. This is a poem that is designed to be read out loud. It is called "Blacestonia" and is a chant where I play and experiment as well as create my own language..

A Chant For the Abused Woman
(Text in bold to be read by two people at the same time)

Glances reserved sequined wings span centuries
Orion’s tilted belt
Soft grey light Infirm of purpose
Swift lute

Demalian interdem
Kalera demeto kachina ingletterra
Glamus Autocumulus

Mask of cloud and chaser
Droplets descending
Oration gathered to city levellers
Spiritualised desire acts

Demalian interdem
Kalera demeto kachina ingletterra
Glamus Autocumulus
An earth ressurrection

Does it come from the centre
State of shock

Shooting live subjects in pictures
They intersect in chaos
Lest our old robes turned wild
To those who appear the born

Demalian interdem
Kalera demeto kachina ingletterra
Glamus Autocumulus
Children of darkness

She weeps, she bleeds and each new day
A gash is added to her wounds
For this wild rage and furious cruelty

Demalian interdem
Kalera demeto kachina ingletterra
Glamus Autocumulus
You lack the season of all natures sleep

Plercution whatever the subject
Tidal sister
An indecisive flutter
When moon began to flow
I dream half a dream
Ragling nightling cloudling

Demalian interdem
Kalera demeto kachina ingletterra
Glamus Autocumulus
Saveel blacestonia

Absorbing shapes of rain and shine
Between here and the blue folder
Sometimes I like to write very simple poems based around incidents that have hidden meanings as in this poem about a vampire.
maybe it’s true

a child wanted to know
why it kept him away so
we tied some together
hung it over the door…
but nothing happened.

i saw nothing but she did
she said it was him so i clutched
her to me tightly and we both
stared out the window
at the invisible bat.
What sets Men Hate Blondes apart from other things you've written?

It is a visionary and diverse collection of works that I feel probably sums up my best writing to date, not discounting St Catherine, which I enjoyed writing.

Men Hate Blondes is a poetry collection while Maxine is a novella and a story with a plot. I am pleased with Maxine as it was my final MA Creative Writing thesis that I managed to get published as a book in its own right. I put two years of hard work into that book, much study and learning. If I could edit it again, I would probably make a few more changes but overall I am proud of that book.

The only similarities between the two books are that each book contains my illustrations and artwork.

This next book is quite straight forward and could possibly develop into a children’s book.

I am writing a short book of poems, ‘Journey of the Bride’ based on a woman who runs away on her wedding day, travels abroad and has an adventure. She bumps into a fairy prince who takes her to his kingdom of peace and beauty. She eventually returns home and reunites with her jilted bridegroom and they do get married only she wakes up to discover it was all just a dream. The story developed from a series of twenty drawings. The drawings have now been accepted to be exhibited in Liverpool in September so I am now thinking of writing poems to go with the drawings and organising a poetry reading about journeys for the private view.

After that I will work on the poems about my father that I feel I need to complete.

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

At the end of the day I am happy about Neon Highway and offering poets a chance for publication.

I am happy that I have had my work published, that I curate events and that I have produced my first full poetry collection. This was always an ambition of mine and it has now been achieved. I just keep going.

The mystery of it all keeps me inspired.

This article is based on an email interview with Alice Lenkiewicz which took place in January 2010

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