Monday 28 December 2015

Marianne Eloise, interviewed by Jonathan Taylor

Marianne Eloise is a Brighton-based MA Film Studies graduate with a BA in Creative Writing and Film Studies. She is a writer with a focus in film criticism and taste cultures who currently works in the media but has been a poet for several years. She also runs and and writes across a few mediums, including academic, poetry, prose, and journalism. Her work can be found across several websites and publications. When Marianne is not working she can be found reading, watching films, or by the sea. Her recently-published poetry collection is called Cactus.

JT: Given that your collection, Cactus, is subtitled "a collection of poems about place," I was wondering What, in particular, draws you to write about places and the idea of place?

ME: I think that I have always recognised a correlation between my environment and wellbeing. I grew up believing that the reason for my unhappiness was where I lived, and that were I to get out I would be happier. I was also fascinated by the detail in every new place I went, and became obsessed with moving to Brighton and visiting California. After I have been somewhere I feel the need to commit the experience to paper so I can’t forget it. When I moved away I started to really think about the details of my hometown and that this might be interesting to a reader, no matter how mundane or grim. I also think that our environment has a monumental effect on our wellbeing in any case, and every new place I visit is representative to me of just how far I have come from my hometown and my own misery.

JT: In one of your poems you write that "I have never truly left anywhere." Could you say a bit more about this?

ME: The poem is in part inspired by this line from a Lemony Snicket book: "What happens in a certain place can stain your feelings for that location, just as ink can stain a white sheet.” So in that poem and that line I was saying that I am so affected by place and what has happened somewhere that it always stays with me – wherever I go I carry the weight of what happened there, and no matter how long I have been gone my presence there is never completely erased. Even though I am in Brighton now, I am thinking constantly of the people I left behind at home and looking for new ways to get out and head back to California. 

JT: What kinds of poetry and poets most inspire or engage you?

ME: This is hard because while I do try to read poetry and have some poets I enjoy, such as Walt Whitman and Sylvia Plath, I take the majority of my inspiration from music and literature. With regards to my writing on place, I take a lot from Pulp and the way Jarvis Cocker writes about his hometown in Sheffield – he has said that he couldn’t really see it until he left. His commitment to writing about the smallest, darkest detail of his life in Sheffield is something that I aspire to. I also love the way that music makes words much more accessible in a way that poetry never can.

JT: Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? Who is the book for?

ME: I try to write in a way that is accessible even for readers who don’t usually enjoy poetry – I want to reach people who have felt the way that I have, but who might not want to read more convoluted works. I also write for people I know, in the hope that they will understand me a little more and perhaps resent me a little less for leaving the way that I did. I dedicated my book to my friends all over the world and I mean that – I would not be where I am without their support. However as I have had a poetry blog for 3 years, I would say the book is for my readers – that they can have something of mine to hold and enjoy.

JT: In the wonderful title poem called "Cactus," you write "I couldn't call myself a flower / nor a tree, yet I am so inextricably / linked to my environment / affected by the sun I receive." How do you conceptualise the relationship, in your poetry, between the narrator ("I") and the environment?

ME: I have found that as well as my relationship to a place being dictated by the people and my experiences there, I also struggle greatly with the cold and dark. As the months get warmer I am a lot happier and I find living in my own skin much easier. I thrive in a California heat, a dry environment with little rain and a lot of sunshine – hence, I see myself as a cactus. I named the book Cactus after this idea, that the narrator is a cactus and the relationship to place depends directly on how much sun and rain they receive. A cactus would not suit a wet, England winter and nor do I a lot of the time!

JT: What's your intention with the poetry collection? What are your longer term aims for your poetry?

ME: I have been writing poetry for years and have literally hundreds of poems backlogged. Some of them have been published, but I wanted to put them in a collection that I and my readers could hold, while having complete creative control over the editing and artwork. I would like to continue publishing poetry and ultimately I want to reach a wider audience, publish a larger collection, and possibly work with other writers in the future.

JT: What does poetry mean to you? Why do you write it?

ME: Poetry for me is as much a coping mechanism as anything else – I write poetry because it’s a way of expressing myself without being entirely straightforward. I like how I don’t have to be as honest as I do in diary entries or memoir but I can still say what I want to. It helps me to work through what I am thinking or feeling on my own without talking to anyone. I have always loved writing but I enjoy poetry over other forms because it is so lyrical and often easy to write and read. 

About the reviewer
Jonathan Taylor is an author, lecturer, critic and editor. His books include the novels Melissa (Salt, 2015) and Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). He is Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. His website is