Hi Francis. Tell us about launching Wordjar and the stages of its development.
What I love about Wordjar is how organic it has been from its inception to where it is now. Most people don’t know this but Wordjar began as a blog. Back in 2010 I started a poetry blog, where I posted my poems and the work of people that I admired. Eventually people started to ask to feature on my blog and that is when I had my Eureka moment. I thought why not put all these poems together in an anthology, which led to the birth of ‘Write to inspire publishing’. The name was soon changed due to an unfortunate occurrence, which turned out to be a blessing. I couldn’t give you a step by step development, as a lot of what we have done has been without a business plan. To this day I feel as if we have been guided by an overwhelming purpose, which has allowed us to publish the 9 anthologies so far. However now is the time where you will see us implementing a more concrete strategy to take Wordjar forward.
When it comes to poetry, my inspiration comes from the life experiences that I feel are the most vivid. I am the type of person who usually doesn’t marinate in moments for too long, and therefore I am always moving to the next thing, almost afraid that I will die if I stopped. However there are a few moments that make me pause momentarily, while sustaining that feeling of life, those are the moments that inspire me. An example of this would be the birth of my daughter, a moment that showed me how powerful we can be as human beings, and simultaneously how fragile life is. Let that sink into your mind for a moment, it is a beautiful image.
I definitely would like to publish a book or series of books in the future that tells a story using poetry, page poetry is definitely the way forward for me.
I used to perform spoken word for about two years, but then I stopped doing that. I realised that when it comes to poetry, I preferred page to stage. My reason for this is the page has many voices. Each reader reads poetry in a different way and takes something different from what they read. In comparison when performing on stage, your voice is the voice of the piece. I realised that I fell in love with poetry because of the multiple interpretations that it provokes, the different images that it paints, this is what I want to do, paint on the canvas of the mind.
What do you think is interesting about poetry at the moment?
I think poetry in the UK is changing, or perhaps growing new branches. Spoken word is becoming more and more popular to the point that it seems that almost everyone can call themselves a poet. In the last 3 years I have seen poetry becoming so popular, which I love, because it is such a beautiful medium of expression. However what worries me is that I have also read and heard a lot of work that I cannot classify as poetry. I see people creating things purely for comedic value and giving it an ‘A,B’ rhyming scheme, and then call it poetry, that is something I am not too comfortable with. I feel on an urban level, comedic poetry is more championed than the beautiful art that I grew up with; it will be interesting to see what the future holds.
I suppose like music, easy listening is more popular but hopefully there'll always be a thriving alternative. Do you feel the internet has given page poetry a chance to change it's image - reach an audience it wouldn't reach otherwise?
Of course. Through the use of blogs, poets are now able to build a worldwide audience for their work. This is further enabled by social media, a poet's readership can be increased exponentially if they leverage the internet in the right way. Another advantage of the internet, is that poetry is a click away. Less thought has to be put into clicking a link than it does to picking up a book, and this is where eBooks come in. All you have to do to access an eBook is click a link, and then you can download it to your tablet/smart phone, and then you have it with you wherever you go. At Wordjar we have noticed that through our eBook's we have managed to 'persuade' people to read poetry, who may have otherwise labelled poetry uncool, simply by making it more convenient for them to read it.
What do you do to get a break from the world of literature?
At the moment I hardly get to break away for long, simply because there is so much going on at Wordjar. So most of the time I am deep into my work, then I stick my head out of my hole just to try and take in what is going on in the world. However when I do get some time on my hands, I try to spend time with family and friends as much as I can. I also try to make time for football, the gym, music and business interests, as these are some of my passions. However a lot of what I do requires that I read quite a bit, so every day I am reading some sort of literature.
What is the future for WordJar? Will you branch out into other forms of prose?
It is funny that you ask, because we are currently working on our first non-poetry publication. I can’t give too much a way, but it will touch on Generation Y, the generation that I belong to. As for the future of Wordjar, I do not want to over promise, but there is a lot on the way. We will continue to offer opportunities for writers to be involved with us, through anthologies, books, blogs and other mediums. We are undergoing a moment of transition, where we are trying to escape that association in people’s mind that goes “Wordjar, poetry”. We are fine with “Poetry, Wordjar”. However we want people to think “Wordjar, poetry, short stories, x, y and z.” There are exciting times ahead, we are relatively new to what we do, but we believe that we can make a positive impact.
Your mention of Generation Y is intriguing. I will look forward to seeing what that's about. Your last anthology, Haiku, focused on a specific kind of poetry and coupled each haiku with an image. I thought that was really original. Will we see more mixing of artistic forms from Wordjar?
In my opinion, Haikus and images were meant to be together. Haikus, though short are known to paint powerful images. Similarly pictures, as the famous saying goes, 'say a thousand words'. What we did with Haiku was try to couple poetry and images that were sending out the same message, I would like to think that we achieved that. At Wordjar, we will try to mix art forms in the future, however they must have a workable chemistry.
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I think Wordjar is doing something original and it will be exciting to see what you produce in the future. Thanks for the chat, Francis, and best of luck with it!