Meet Neil Elder:
Neil Elder is winner of the Cinnamon Press Debut Collection prize with Us . This collection builds on the success of his 2017 chapbook, Being Present (The Black Light Engine Room Press) and his award winning pamphlet (Cinnamon Press), which introduced readers to the much-loved character of Henderson. Neil lives and works in NW London.
Do you find that themes reoccur in your work naturally? If so, what would these be?
In broad terms my interest is in writing about the gap between what we think we know about each other and what we actually know about each other. In The Space Between Us, written over quite a long period of time, I didn’t consciously write with a theme in mind, however I now see there are a number of ideas shared between some of the poems. I am in the phase of giving readings from the book and when I plan which poems to read I like to create a fluent running order; to get from poem A to B in a natural fashion. Thus I have been thinking about the poems carefully, and in a way that you don’t when writing them, and some poems sit quite naturally alongside each other. For instance, I’ve realised a few deal with the idea of life happening beyond your immediate view – things going on that you are not witness to, one poem ends “good things happen out of sight”.
In the main, apart from the great universal themes of love and death, I look at the way we interact with each other and make sense of our environment and relationships. However, I have also deliberately set out to explore themes in two other works. In my pamphlet Codes of Conduct I explore that gap between the known and unkown by setting a sequence of poems in an office – where people play a particular role, but that role is only one dimension of their life.
If you had to describe your writing style in a sentence, what would you say?
To describe my writing style I would use the words economic, wry and accessible.
Can you give us some insight into the title of 'The Space Between Us'- how did you go about choosing this title?
The title The Space Between Us stems from this idea I have about the gap between what’s known and unknown – about each other, the world around us, and even about ourselves. Subsequently a poem in the collection (What We Could Not Give) has come to take on greater importance than I had known it had, and that poem has a line about “the space that stands between us” and so I perhaps had some subconscious realisation that the title of the collection should relate to that poem. The composer Debussy said, “Music is the space between the notes”, and I think that is often very true.
Who have been some of your inspirations growing up - and have they influenced your work in any way?
I remember being struck by Ted Hughes at school. However, I don’t recall any special inspirations beyond him, because I wasn’t reading widely enough. More recent influences and inspirations are Edward Thomas, Andrew motion, Lorraine mariner and Paul Farley.
At times tender and at times laugh-out-loud funny, Elder seamlessly negotiates anything
from the terrors of a BBC fact file to an ancient jeep in Mombasa.
The poems explore domestic life, fatherhood and nature with great tenderness but often
framed by an unease with the world, and a sense of important things being said, but being
The Space Between Us mines the gap between aspiration and reality, appearance and truth, the said and the unsaid, but never takes itself too seriously. With wit and tenderness, Neil Elder explores love, loss and the absurdities of life on earth, bridging the chasm between disappointment and hope.
Watch the promo video for the book here.
And visit Neil Elder's website here.