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Emma Hammond on Poetry and The Story of No

Emma Hammond, author of The Story of No from Penned in the Margins, recently wrote a piece on the poetry collection for the Penned in the Margins blog. Read on and keep your eyes peeled for more from our authors and publishers! 

It was my intention to write a book that got away from the confessional, to be one of those poets that does interesting work around data and process. In the initial meeting with Tom (Chivers) I spoke about wanting to transcend my kookiness- whatever that means. Why should people care about all that? Personality driven art is hard to get right I think. There will always be someone hating it, which is good too.

When I watch other poets, or read their work it is always the bits that are sort of personal and hurty that appeal to me the most. I read this poem by Huw Lawrence recently calledBypassed and these lines sum up what I mean:

You get there through St. Clairs
where my father gives me crisps
and leaves me standing too long
outside the pub

I want to know the secret things, but I know a lot of people don’t. My attempts at using language in a new way went astray when my Mum died while I was writing the book. But really, the book is not all about that. I think it is about modern life in general, and how it bullies you. Mum was bullied her whole life by convention, status and expectation.

In some ways this makes it a political book. Being a woman, being a person. Trying to do the things that you’re supposed to do, on a larger level than just getting married and having kids- though that is in there too. Is it even possible to be ‘bohemian’ anymore? I don’t have a mortgage or a ‘real job’ and I am a single mum but I still have to fight different types of conformity- having an identity on the internet for instance, the constructs put forward by the media, being a ‘poet’. Even by writing this I am policing myself, trying to call myself or my work something.

It would be nice to think you can get away from these things. By being honest I think you can get some of the way there. In The Story of No, the poem ‘End’ for example is a sort of anti-status- the opposite of what I would post about myself on Facebook. Depression, or however you think of it, the reality of the everyday, my failures.

Perhaps it is unwise to think you can attain a state of Zen through exploration of difficult subjects, using something as useless and slippery as language, but I still think the best way to silence something is to expose it for what it is. There are many different ways of doing this with poetry which is why I like it so much. And although I set out to write a different type of book, I am glad this one got written. I am also the boy eating crisps outside that pub, and I would like Huw Lawrence to know it. Love and common experience are the things that will save us- they exist outside any kind of regulated space.

Emma Hammond's The Story of No is available to order on our website.