South West Reading Passport 2016: Book to the Future

Miriam Nash

Miriam-Nash_portraitMiriam Nash is a poet, performer, workshop leader and youth arts producer. She recently graduated from the Sarah Lawrence College in New York with an MFA in poetry. In 2012, she organised the biggest youth poetry slam in England, Shake the Dust. One of her particular areas of interest is working in schools to set up poetry workshops. Her work has been published in a number of poetry publications and her first pamphlet, Small Change was published by Flipped Eye in 2013.

A poet interested in the ways in which poetry connects to and can be enhanced by performance, Miriam Nash is a future voice in the promotion of an interdisciplinary approach to literature and the arts.

Suggested book:

Small Change (2013)

Literature Works caught up with Miriam to discuss interdisciplinary approaches to literature as well as her love of reading.

The Reading Passport project is exploring ways to bring literature to our audience in new ways. Your work is based in both poetry and performance. Can you say, how do the two disciplines work together and in what ways can a multi-disciplinary approach impact on audience experience?

I aim to write poems that work in the immediacy of performance and hold their own in the quiet of the page (a high and difficult goal!). Not every poem will work in both contexts, but I think many really good poems do, because they are both complex and immediate. Although performance and writing are different practices, for me poetry sits between them, because it is based in sound. The task is to make sure the performance doesn’t take over the poem and that the poem is not reliant on the performance. I hope this approach leads to poems that can move reading and watching/listening audiences.

Your book Small Change is concerned with the idea of transitions. Can you say, why was this theme particularly important to you?

I spent my early years living on an island off the West Coast of Scotland. Moving away from that island and later living in cities was a strange experience. I also experienced a big shift in my childhood with my parents’ divorce and moving from the Scottish Highlands to South Devon. The title poem, ‘Small Change’, is about a time in which physical money no longer exists. Grappling with things that only remain in memory (which is a kind of imagination) is something that makes me want to write.

The Reading Passport is a project based in libraries. Do you have a memory of a book you discovered at the library?

I remember the excitement of mobile libraries – both on the Isle of Mull and in the Devon villages. I remember being particularly enthralled by The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allen Ahlberg with the letters you could open!

Can you say, to what extent reading played a role in your decision to become a writer?

I was very lucky to grow up in a family where reading and making up poems and stories was just something you did, and the two activities were entirely connected. I didn’t really think about becoming a ‘writer’ until I went to university in London and started to meet writers. It was a revelation to me that there was support for young writers and a whole world of people writing and performing poetry. Part of what made it possible to start writing seriously was access to The Poetry Library at Southbank Centre, as well as the support of organisations like Spread the Word.

You’ve just been Writer-In- Residence at Agatha Christie’s holiday home, Greenway. How did writing where she wrote impact upon your own work and has it informed what you will work on next?

Agatha Christie didn’t actually write at Greenway because she took her holidaying seriously! But the place definitely had an impact on her work and she set three of her novels there (I recommend Three Little Pigs). Being in that beautiful setting and having time and head-space to write had a big impact on me too. I found I could write and rewrite poems that had been nagging at me for ages. There is a feeling of well-being and escape from the outside world at Greenway that meant I could fully focus on writing. My writing is often concerned with the sea and its people and creatures, so being on the Dart estuary so close to Dartmouth was ideal. I also read a lot of Christie novels, which I think has helped me (unexpectedly) to explore some darker themes in my writing like jealously and revenge. My next book of poems, All the Prayers in the House (due out with Bloodaxe in June 2017) owes a big debt to Greenway.

Thank you Miriam!


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