Author Spotlight: Stuart Buck
'Become Something Frail ' by Stuart Buck will be published in March by the lovely publisher, Selcouth Station Press. I'm really excited for this one and wanted to give you some insight into the upcoming book by interviewing Stuart!
Stuart Buck is an award-winning poet living in North Wales. After spending a decade as a chef, he began writing Haiku and Tanka and after moderate success decided to branch out in to longer-form, freestyle poetry. His first collection, Casually Discussing the Infinite, was described as 'a visceral experience...of poetic sucker-punches' and broke in to the top 100 on Amazons World Poetry Chart. In 'Become Something Frail' he describes the dark and mystical, the humane and the fantastical.
Now I've seen a sneak peak, but can you tell me 3 main themes which run through this collection?
Sure. Become Something Frail is split into 3 sections. These focus on ‘dreams, ‘sex’ and ‘trauma’. The final poem is separate, an ode to a singer called Scott Hutchinson who committed suicide last year. The book as a whole is about embracing who you are, even if who you are is a weak, scared person. I have become a lot more aware in the last few years that I am not the strong, masculine person that it is required to be nowadays (I think in a lot of areas you are learning but where I live it is still very much an alpha male space). The book is trying to tell people that it is OK to become something frail every now and then, to accept yourself and come to the realisation that, deep down, everyone is scared. So while the book is split into 3, they are only loose thematic parts, not specific topics. For example, the final section, ‘trauma’, can be seen more as the places we go to in our minds when trauma comes about, both as an adult and, in my case, as a child. It is about escapism which can also apply to dreams and sexuality, which the book covers in the first two parts. I am rambling a bit but I guess what I am trying to say is that it is OK to be a flawed human being. Social Media projects this idea that everyone has their lives where they want them to be, because that’s how you have to be on Social Media. But really, most people are struggling and that is just fine. In fact, I believe the strongest people are the ones that admit they are afraid.
There is a haunting line which alludes to family trauma. How personal is this collection?
Extremely personal. I don’t know how to write any other way. Childhood was a jumble of various types of grief and chaos. I am learning now that the idea I had back when I was a child, that adults were infallible beings who had no right to make mistakes, was wrong. If you think I am any closer to knowing what the hell is going on than when I was a teenager well I am not. I wear my heart on my sleeve at all times, both in my writing and in real life. I have no filter between my brain and my mouth and the same goes for my brain and my pen. It all comes back to not being afraid of who you are. I have been through some rough things and they have shaped who I am. I want to try to relate that to people. The bad shapes you just as much as the good. When I perform live, I let go as much as possible. I made three people cry once at a poetry reading and it was one of my proudest moments as a poet. I want people to feel something when they read my poems otherwise, given the emotiveness of the topics, I have failed.
I’m painting this as all doom and gloom. It’s not. I approach the themes in a very surreal way at times. A lot of the poems are influenced by childhood and that is when your mind is most vibrant but also most dreamlike. So these are not word for word recollections of bad things. The poems take you places that you may feel uncomfortable being, but you won’t recognise where you are. The book does touch on dark subjects, but I have tried to approach them with levity and grace. It also gets darker the further along you go, I have curated it in a way that if you want to just dip in towards the beginning you can take an entirely separate set of feelings away with you. Someone once asked me why I put the darker poems towards the back of the book and in all honesty it’s because I know my mum won’t read that far.
Name two of your favourite writers. At least 1 has to be alive!
Well, my all-time favourite poet is probably E.E. Cummings. For me, he revolutionised white space in poetry and his use of line breaks, punctuation and capitalisation was inspired. But that wasn’t all there was to Cummings. He wrote about brutal things at times, about deeply personal things. He wrote some stunning love poetry, some beautiful odes to people in his life. I could read him for the rest of my life and not get bored.
In terms of someone who is alive, I would say Andrew McMillan. He is a Yorkshire born poet whose work focuses on masculinity, sexuality and adolescent confusion. His poetry is just phenomenal, the two books he has released, ‘physical’ and ‘playtime’, are two of my favourite books of poetry ever, and I was lucky enough to see him perform last year. I don’t think he is massively well known other than in the UK where he has won endless awards for being brilliant, but whoever I talk to about poetry I always recommend him as his work is near transcendental. Every single man should have to read ‘physical’ and ‘playtime’.
Is writing therapeutic for you?
Yes. It used to be a lot more cathartic, but my writing process has changed somewhat in the last two years (Become Something Frail is the culmination of these two years). I used to write at least a poem a day and they used to be a lot more confessional than they are now. It was like I was writing out all my dirty secrets and letting people know what I was. I used to be a very closed person (I am dyspraxic so I struggle a lot with basic things and that used to scare me a lot more than it does now) so poetry was a way of telling people what I was thinking. I started writing properly at a very low point in my life, I had just left my job after a nervous breakdown and when I read the poetry I wrote in those couple of years (over a thousand poems) they were extremely bleak and nihilistic. Now I write a lot less but the poetry is a lot better, a lot less self-pitying. I still love writing and it still helps me empty my mind, but I take it a lot more seriously now. It has taken five years or so but I finally feel I am worth reading!
How do you edit your poems?
Rather controversially, I don’t. Well, almost never. Most of my poems are scenes that I create in my mind, a time, a place, a colour, a noise. I then try to get that idea out of my brain and on to the paper as quickly as possible. My poetry tends to flow as if it has just tumbled out of my mind and that is because it has. I feel like editing the work lessens the emotional impact. I want you to see what’s in my mind. I write one long sentence then add line breaks and that is it. I may walk away from it for ten minutes to make a coffee then come back and see some glaring error but that is as far as my editing goes. I am going to annoy a lot of people I am sure but that’s my feelings on the matter. It may change later in my career but for now it works for me so I am sticking with it.
What did you find most challenging about putting together this collection?
I find the whole process can be rather draining mentally. Because of the personal themes in the book, it is a lot like a therapy session when I read back through the poems. Thankfully, the process was fairly organic, the poems fell nicely into the 3 sections and the last poem summed the whole book up so there was not a massive amount of shifting around of pieces etc. I sometimes struggle with objectifying the work as well. I read the poems as the guy that wrote them, with all the emotional baggage, memories and imagery that goes with that. So I can sometimes be overly subjective and that is maybe the hardest part of writing poetry. Learning to read it from another’s perspective. Detach yourself from these words that mean so much so that you can make sure they will make sense to someone other than you.
When and where can we buy it?!
My favourite question! Well, you can buy it from the publisher directly which is Selcouth Station or by contacting me on my twitter (which is where I live) @stuartmbuck. It will be out in March and I can tell you that, having seen a proof copy, it looks and feels beautiful. I would just like to say thank you to the publisher who have r eally been amazing, handled my words with all the care in the world and have made me feel like I have a story worth telling. Which is priceless to me.