Poet Gillie Robic talks to intern Alex DiMarco about her experience as a writer, specifically following the release of ‘Open Skies,’ her third poetry collection published by Live Canon. The pamphlet was written to raise money for the Ukrainian Institute, all the proceeds of which will fund English lessons for Ukrainians who have been displaced by the war.
AD: What is your poetry writing process like?
GR: I’d love to tell you but it has its own process, bubbles up when it feels like it, often inappropriately. I have no set times to write, it’s scattershot across everything else!
AD: What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
GR: Finding the time to write.
AD: Does that process change when writing a single poem versus a collection?
AD: Where did inspiration for your collection, ‘Open Skies,’ come from?
GR: Well, obviously the war in Ukraine. It preyed on my mind and I found myself writing poems to keep anxiety at bay, it helps when you look at details rather than the whole horrifying mass. Poetry can clarify the questions, not the answers, but that’s already a big plus for me.
AD: When did you first start writing poetry?
GR: At school, I suppose, I even won some school prizes! But then life intervened and the little poetry writing I did I never considered submitting anywhere. It was only really when I started to retire from my work that poetry erupted again and took over...
AD: What advice do you have for writers?
GR: None. I don’t like giving advice, what do I know? I suppose I would say write for yourself, for your pleasure, because it’s essential to you. And eventually - recognize your voice and have trust in your choices. Ha! That’s a hard one. And that all sounds like advice which I don’t give. Hmm.
AD: Which part of ‘Open Skies’ did you have the hardest time writing, if there was one?
GR: Well, really it was choosing existing poems that seemed appropriate to the subject. I never feel that writing gives me a hard time, I love it and find it almost necessary for my sanity. The poems I wrote in immediate response came very quickly, but I am usually a fast writer anyway.
AD: How long did it take to come up with the title of your book, and do you ever have difficulty titling your poems?
GR: Titling is almost always a problem, it can make a huge difference to the poem. But sometimes the current vogue for long and complicated titles (which I like) doesn’t help the reader. Open Skies presented itself effortlessly because of the whole farce of the Open Skies Treaty, and the unwillingness of Ukraine’s allies to “provoke” Putin by using the skies.
AD: Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
GR: I was always a voracious reader, and I think generally words on a page sink into your consciousness of wanting to be a writer. There are so many who inspired me, both Poets and Non-Poets. Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy had an abiding influence on my thinking; Graham Greene made me think about the parts of life that are not black and white; R. K. Narayan made simplicity a beautifully complex thing; Ruth Prabher Jabwalla made me love the India, the complicated country of my birth, even more; I could go on and on. English language Poets who have influenced me would include Milton, Keats, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, Dorothy Parker, Imtiaz Dharker - again, too many to mention, and the list keeps getting longer.
AD: Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself?
GR: I think so, because it gives a sort of credibility to calling oneself a “Poet”, which always feels a bit fraudulent/precious/pompous. When I won my first tiny prize for poetry I floated for 2 days. I felt genuine! What a gift!
Gillie Robic was born in India, an abiding love and influence, and lives in London. She attended the Sorbonne and UCAD in Paris, and the Central School of Art in London. She is a poet, voice artist, puppeteer, director and designer. Her poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK and the US. She has two collections published by Live Canon - ‘Swimming Through Marble’ and ‘Lightfalls’.
To order the pamphlet: https://www.livecanon.co.uk/store/product/open-skies-gillie-robic