Kershia Field is a twenty-one-year-old contemporary poet from Leicester currently working on her first poetry collection based on Mental Health and the stigma surrounding it. You can find her poems on her blog kershiadoespoems.blogspot.com. She also blogs at http://itsonlykershia.blogspot.co.uk.
JT: Why do you write poetry? What, for you, is poetry for?
KF: For me, poetry began as a way of venting my feelings in a way that I could understand. I never used to talk all that much about my feelings, it made me feel uncomfortable so poetry became my own private way of letting off steam. It was never meant to be for the public and I never considered it to be anything other than a private thing. Now it's become integrated into everything I do. I see something on the news, I write a poem. I see a stranger, they inspire a poem. It's my way of appreciating the tiny details of life that to so many people seem like nothing.
JT: When did you start writing poetry? Tell us a bit about how you got into it, and why.
KF: I started writing poetry when I was around eleven or twelve. I loved English at school and I loved reading and getting lost in the worlds of other authors. When I was eleven I was entered into a young writers competition where students had to write a 50-word story, and the best ones from the school would be sent off and published in a collection. I wrote my story about deforestation and a small girl whose best friend was a tree. I never thought I'd get in but somehow mine was one of the select few that got chosen and published. It gave me the confidence boost to keep writing. I never wrote anything again publicly for a long time, but in private I had something that I felt I was good at and that was amazing.
JT: You run two very popular blogs: a personal blog and a poetry blog. What is the relationship between the two forms of writing for you? Are they totally separate, or do they overlap in various ways?
KF: My personal blog and my poetry blog arguably do crossover in places; however, I never intended for that to be the case. My personal blog was my way of talking about issues and sharing my experiences with things like Mental Health and University AFTER I had come to terms with the experience and felt I could provide advice and support where I could. I started my poetry blog in 2015 to publish work that I did as part of my creative writing course, since it'd already been graded and if someone else said it was okay then I felt comfortable posting it. I didn't consider putting anything else on there at first, but my personal life took a turn for the worse and I found myself writing more and more poetry as a way of dealing with the change. In the same way that my personal blog was intended to reach out to people, my poetry became something people cold relate to so I took the plunge and started posting and I never looked back.
JT: Talk us through the process of writing a poem: how do you start? How do you conceive the relationship between form and content?
KF: I've never been able to just sit and write a poem about something I don't find interesting, and often the things I find interesting are things that other people wouldn't even notice. So I suppose the first thing I would do is to find something that intrigues me. I don't really have a fixed way of writing poetry, I've never been the kind of person who can sit and follow a strict set of rules when writing, which is why most of my work is free verse. If I do have an idea I jot it down and then I find that word association provides me with a grounding to work from; writing an emotional response to something also helps me get to grips with an idea. Some of my best work has been shortened from longer pieces of emotive prose that I've changed into poetry. Sometimes I'll have an image and if I can't explain it immediately I use a metaphor and that becomes the poem. People have said to me that even though my work is free verse, it still has a distinct style that makes it obvious it's mine and I can sort of see that.
JT: Which other writers and poets have most informed your notions of poetry?
KF: I was fascinated with the work of Angela Carter growing up. I loved the dark, gritty tone to her writing and have always been amazed by how quickly she captivates an audience. Whether you like her work or not, you will almost definitely be drawn in by her style and her story telling and that is something I aspire to be able to do as a writer. I also love the style of Rosemary Tonks; her collection Beduoin of the London Evening holds some of my favourite poems, and I love the way she can romanticise even the bleakest situations. I also love the work of Mitch Albom, who always a new perspective on the simplest of ideas.
JT: Given the emotive nature of your poetry, how do you understand the relationship between emotion and poetry?
KF: A lot of my poetry is based on real experiences, and the smallest of significant moments. It's a means of closure for me: turning something negative into something positive, or writing down something I'm not sure of so that I can understand it better. Everything I write is a little piece of myself that I share with people, so I think for my poetry to be successful, I have to be comfortable with my own emotions. If I'm not, it can frequently sound like jibberish. A lot of people find my work relatable, so I absolutely have to understand myself, what I'm trying to put across and why so that if I am giving mixed images or ideas then it's clear that this was deliberately done.
JT: What are your longer term aims for your poetry and writing?
KF: I'm currently working on putting together a collection of poems related to mental illness, an issue that very close to my heart. I'm hoping to get this published at some point within the next two years. I'm also hoping that one day I can write and publish a collection of poetry in an autobiographical style, sort of like a photo album of moments in my life, but with poetry instead. I'm continuing to update my poetry blog regularly in the hopes that I'll build up a bigger readership and I'm already considering starting a public website where I publish the work and reviews of other people as well as myself.
About the interviewer
Jonathan Taylor's books include the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.