You have a new poetry anthology out called On Calico Wings; tell us a bit about it:
On Calico Wings is a collection of poetry I have written over the past five years, growing as my poetry developed, allowing my feelings and insight to be expressed. Something I was a little scared of initially, and without the encouragement of close friends, it may have continued to lie dormant. Emotions can be raw to uncover, especially one’s own, but this does not mean they should be avoided – hence the myriad of emotions life brings are brought together in On Calico wings.
I had initially planned two separate books – one on emotions and one on conflict poetry, to complete the trilogy, following on from my first book, Words In Imagination – poetry for all the family.
However, on giving it some thought, and by talking to Helen at SilverWood books, I decided to combine them into one volume, for the two are inexplicably intertwined.
For every man, woman and child have their own journey to make, riding a sea of emotions, of; love, loss, life – dreams – war – hope and inspiration.
To keep a softer approach to the layout of the book, the five sections follow through, broken only by italicised headings.
In Conflict in Emotion I have included footnotes or introductions, I want the reader to know ‘where the poems are coming from’ my poems are never meant to be obscure and this is especially emphasised in this section.
I am honoured to have the foreword written by A J Lewis, a veteran of WW2 and a fellow nature lover, he has become a good friend and inspiration and an extract from his own writing is included in On Calico Wings.
A vital part of any book is its jacket and I am delighted with the design from Adrian Hart depicting the ‘wing like’ sails against the purest blue, a perfect backdrop for on Calico Wings, the title taken from Calico, the first poem in the book.
On Calico Wings, is not a book to be afraid of, the poetry is real, honest and spoken from the heart.
£1 from every book sold is to be donated to Gardening Leave – horticultural therapy for ex military personnel suffering for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/mental illness – affiliated to Combat Stress.
What do you enjoy writing about and where do you find your inspiration from?
My poetry is eclectic, like my musical taste! I enjoy writing from dancing trees, and rabbits in cars, to the power and pull of the sea. I started with a small ditty for children, with ‘The Stars That Shine – at Night, Night, Night’ and it then seemed natural to combine this with my love of Nature, which feeds my inspiration, and this is poetry I truly enjoy writing. I can get quite lost in it and feel miles away from reality. I am ‘The Flower on the Mountain’.
The reality poetry I write, I feel is difficult to say, I enjoy writing it. It is more a feeling of satisfaction, to feel I am reaching out and encompassing others feelings, of pain, loss and at times questioning anger. I can only visit this poetry when I feel its strength and I am often drained emotionally myself upon completing it. I feel the feelings so intensely within myself, as if I were that person/s. It can be very scary.
Empty Teacups and Absolution were two such poems; I felt the pain of a mother losing her child, and a man – a prisoner, as a child crying out for his mama, as clear as if I were in their shoes myself.
With all of my poetry, I have strong visual images and I try to relay this in the way I write, so the reader can also see a picture unfold, which can bring both laughter and tears.
Have you always had an interest in writing poetry?
No not consciously, but when my mother died, amongst her treasured memento’s, I found a tattered letter from Blue Peter awarding me a silver badge for my poem The Swimmer! I had always escaped, in childhood with books and my rather vivid imagination! So perhaps the seed was sown then.
I think any love I may have had then was subdued by the poetry I had to study in my first years at senior school. It was rather a depressing picture of nuclear war and the people flocking to see the last rabbit.
It was only a couple of years after starting to write poetry myself ten years ago, that I thought ‘well if I am going to write it, I had better read it!’
I now have a growing collection of poetry books, past and present which I thoroughly enjoy dipping into, from the war poetry of Wilfred Owen to the children’s and adult’s poetry of John Agard.
Yes, indeed I do! It is a genre that people seem to be fearful of, with no real need to be. There is such a wide range of poetry available, I feel there is something, somewhere that anyone can relate too. It is bringing the two together that is the barrier and overcoming that initial fear.
I do think, however the tide is shifting. With the growth of Literature Festivals, featuring poetry high on their agenda, they are reaching out to the wider public. The Swindon Literature Festival, for example, takes poetry out on the streets, making it fun and accessible!
Schools have a role to play too and by getting youngsters into poetry at an early age, hopefully it will be something that will stay with them. Many schools are achieving this, with great success.
Writing, can be very cathartic, especially the ease of writing poetry. A lot of troubled thoughts can be expressed, released from the mind, where left to fester they can do a lot of damage. Putting words into some form of structure helps put structure back into a seemingly shattered life.
It is one of the things we encourage at FLOW for ALL (Forces Poetry), a not for profit organisation for anyone affected by conflict and its consequences.
It is my motto that ‘poetry should be accessible to all’!
When you aren’t writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Performing my poetry and sharing the word! My husband Nigel and I do occasional entertainment as the Poet and The Piano Player, mostly for nursing and residential care homes. We throw in a bit of Music Hall for good measure, the speaking ‘songs’ as I can’t sing, but love doing it!
I have enjoyed all the arts from an early age, music, theatre and the golden age of Hollywood! This continues to be influence and I love lyric writers! Don Black being a favourite.
From the hub of theatre, my other escape is the great outdoors. A good country walk, the tranquillity of a woodland, the wind of the sea and a stroll along the river bank, I love it all! Very Wordsworthian!
I also enjoy learning about and studying the wildlife we are blessed with on our earth. When I write poetry about any creature, I like it to be authentic and as factually correct as I can be – with just the occasional poetic licence of ‘rabbits on scooters’!
So, what’s next?
Having nearly exhausted my portfolio, in the publication of two books, I need to write! The arrival of Summer will hopefully be the inspiration I need!
I am, of course planning future events to promote On Calico Wings, including a ‘poetry duet’ in Oswestry on the 24th April with Lcpl Alex Roissetter, author of A Poet Soldier – a junior soldier on tour.
Maybe next year, I would like to do an illustrated publication of Words In Imagination, getting my local school/college for learning disabilities on board and raising money for autism.
Any future book I do will have to be written for specifically, something I haven’t done before. So that is another challenge!
On Calico Wings by Jan Hedger, published February 2010 by SilverWood Books. £1 from the sale of this book goes to the horticultural therapy charity Gardening Leave.
More info: SilverWood Books