Poets in Lockdown 2: Heidi Williamson

Our second poet is Heidi Williamson who is based in Wymondham, Norfolk.  Legend has it I met Heidi 20 years ago in a ladies loo, which is true, but it was actually a very civilized queue at the Wells-next-to-Sea Poetry Festival.  We came across each other a few more times at poetry workshops and became firm friends.

So, Heidi, what’s it been like for you?

Have you been able to write? And if so, has your writing focus changed? Did you surprise yourself?

I haven’t been able to write because of home schooling and feeling like my brain is on intermittent signal. It takes me a long time to process things.

I’m in awe of poets who can respond so quickly to what’s happening, and have been loving the poems at Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Write Where We Are Now’ project on the MMU website: https://www2.mmu.ac.uk/write/

I did end up writing one lockdown poem, about how I couldn’t write a lockdown poem. That’s poets for you!

Any lockdown cravings?

I hadn’t realised how much I walked in one day. Even just to and from school, nipping into the library or shop, posting a letter. Being able to stride out at will is my current craving. Yesterday we had our first proper walk in the countryside, a ten-minute drive away. It was wonderful to stroll along the riverbank through the grasses. We saw a deer and even a biplane! We all slept much better last night because of our long walk.

Have you discovered any good lockdown poetry events on-line you would recommend?

One of the best things about lockdown has been how powerfully, quickly and generously the literary world has responded. There are so many wonderful readings online. I loved the Stay at Home Festival https://stayathomelitfest.co.uk/ and BookBound 2020 https://www.bookbound2020.co.uk/ – I really hope they continue each year.

Also the Poetry Business Virtual Workshops https://poetrybusiness.co.uk/2020/03/24/writing-together/ are a godsend for a rapid-fire poetry boost – highly recommended.

And it’s been wonderful to see magazines like Poetry Review, Poetry London, Magma and Ambit hosting Zoom launches. I really hope they carry on doing those forever, as well as live launches, so those of us outside London can continue to get a taste of their wonderful wares.

What have you been buying which you don't usually?

I’ve always been quite a tea fanatic and have been splashing out on organic leaves to make big fresh pots of ginger root tea, rooibos or lavender earl grey. It feels like such a treat. Also, Prosecco!

Greatest lockdown achievement/new skill?

Managing to give my son a fun lockdown birthday. Instead of the planned party shared with his best friend, we had a Zoom chat with family and friends, complete with ‘Cat-Cam’ starring Jazz who floated in space and sat on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was so nice to hear the boys laughing. And his new electric guitar has been keeping us entertained!  

Heidi Williamson is an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund and teaches for the Poetry School, Poetry Society, National Centre for Writing and Writing Coach. Her first collection, Electric Shadow, was a PBS Recommendation and shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize. The Print Museum won the East Anglian Book Award for Poetry. Return by Minor Road (Bloodaxe, April 2020) revisits her time living in Dunblane at the time of the Primary School shooting.  

@heidiwilliamson www.heidiwilliamsonpoet.com