An Interview with Holly Hopkins

Holly Hopkins is an award winning poet, having won the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition for her debut collection, Soon Every House will have One, as well as the Eric Gregory Award, and the Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice amongst others.

  • Your debut pamphlet, Soon Every House Will Have One, won a few awards. What was your experience of publishing in a pamphlet form?

One big change was working with an editor, someone who was not only giving feedback but was (quite literally) invested in the outcome. I’m hugely grateful for Ann Sansom’s well-tuned ear. She gave me some really good advice and she also respected my choices on the rare occasions we didn’t agree. Once Soon Every House Will Have One was out in the world, I was surprised by how strange it felt when people started to buy it. I enjoy performing my work and was expecting to sell pamphlets through readings. Seeing orders come in from parts of the UK I’d never performed in, and even from the USA, felt unreal. The thought that people who I have never met are out there reading my work, that’s amazing.

  • Why did you choose poetry as your medium?

I enjoy it. There’s something about using words as physical objects with which to build. I think about language in a very tactile way, words are chewy and you can feel the shapes they make when they rub alongside each other. I sometimes wonder if it’s because I had a lot of speech therapy (I had hearing problems when I was little and had to be taught how to make a lot of the basic sounds we use in speech). It means I’m always aware of speech as physical effort. That it requires being able to make very complicated movements as if they’re no effort at all.

  • Do you have a writing schedule or system that you work to?

I’m always envious of writers who have a fixed schedule. The ones who say, ‘Yes, I get up at 6am every day and get two hours in before breakfast’. I was up at 6am this morning but it was to feed my baby and we were also up together at 4am and 2am and 12pm and I certainly didn’t get two hours of writing done then either. Rather than setting a daily routine I’ve found it’s important to set time aside to develop new material. To ring fence a morning or a weekend or, better still, save your holidays and give yourself a set period dedicated to starting new things. If you start something good enough, you’ll find it easier to make time to redraft it.

  • What has been your experience of publishing poetry in magazines? And how did you start doing it?

I’m lucky in that I’ve had experience both sides of the fence, publishing in journals but also editing magazines like The Rialto. I wasn’t great when I started submitting to magazines. There’s lots of advice online about not being disheartened if you get a rejection but it’s very hard not to be. When I came to edit I learned that when someone writes a note saying ‘please do submit again’ – they really mean it. When I first started submitting I was so shy I just thought they were being nice. I’ve since learned that with piles and piles of poems coming in, no one has time to be that nice!

  • What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently developing my first collection. A lot of the poems are influenced by the time I spent on archaeology digs as a teenager. There’s lots of taking today’s problems and showing them against historical precedents. I’ve also found myself writing lots of mini utopias (or dystopias). Each one takes an idea or trend and shows how it plays out; either by imaging how it would work projected into the future, or by showing how it has already worked out in the past.

by Lucy Thorneycroft

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