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  • Writer's pictureBelle Kenyon

The People Who Shaped My Writing: Simon Corble

Besides being co-creator of The 39 Steps stage show, Simon Corble is best known in the North of England for his daring work in wild places throughout the 1990’s with Midsommer Actors’ Company.His First World War adaptation of the Of Mice and Men story, set on an English working farm, won a Manchester Evening News Theatre Award. Simon collaborated with the Library Theatre, Manchester in 1994 to write and direct The Wonderland Adventures of Alice, which toured Victorian parks all over the country.

His most recent poetry commission was for AirSpace gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, where he came up with a small collection on the subject of brownfield sites around the city. He helped start an online magazine for the Peak District, “Frim” in 2014 and contributed very many pieces of both verse and prose to this, along with photographs. He also writes and photographs trails for the Royal Geographical Society, The Peak District National Park and The National Trust – many of these are as audio work.

Isabelle: Do you feel your work has been inspired by your influences in any way? To what extent do writers inspire your own stories/poetry?

Simon: It is a really interesting question.  In my earliest years I actually found it impossible to continue writing poetry, because I felt I could not escape from my influences.  For a long time, everything I put down on paper read back as T.S. Eliot, on a bad day.   What I had not done, way back then, was to read more widely and discover other voices - and, ultimately, through this process, discover my own.

I could put the question the other way round: Do I feel my work has been influenced by those who inspire me.  Quite often, no.  I am re-reading Sylvia Plath's Ariel poems this week and, apart from thinking, "Why didn't someone phone Social Services?" I find myself deeply inspired all over again, though I don't think I am going to suddenly find my world-view warped in that unique way.  But, wow, was there someone who had 'found their voice'!  It makes me want to strive harder to find more of my own.

I am always on watch against repeating myself - and this includes watching out for the trap of getting stuck in the same kind of tone.  I know this might be happening when, if we are out on a walk together, my daughter, (now fifteen) launches into a parody of poem I might write on the scene before us.  We'll actually have a really good laugh over it and even start improvising alternate lines.  When I sense I am "stuck", I will often go to other poets to get a different feel into my head. 

With most of my output being of a lyrical nature, it is not surprising that it is, literally, lyrics, song lyrics, to which I sometimes turn to help me out.  With them, of course, comes the whole back-up of the beat and tunes from other musicians. One such voice - so far away from me in terms of background and tone you could not wish to get - is, (now sadly was) Mark E. Smith, lead "singer" of The Fall.  The hypnotic backing, the bizarre, in-your-face delivery, the semi-surreal and constantly morphing word-scape, rooted in a gritty reality, is enough to thump anyone out of their comfort zone. 

I'd say, at the moment, I am being more inspired by philosophies than by other writers - which means I am being inspired by philosophical writers, of course.  Buddhism has been a long-term influence on how I see the world and continues to be.  I am also wading through the writings of Carlo Rovelli, (the writing is beautiful, it is the theoretical physics which can be tough going!).  The review on the front cover of his latest simply says, "Physics has found its poet".  I'd love a review saying, "Poetry has found its physicist".  But that is not going to happen, I don't think I am ever going to be that deep. 

Biocentrism by Bob Berman Robert Lanza, has been another very recent influence; as with Rovelli's work, it is shot through with personal stories and insights that make the messages involved all the more meaningful.   And I like it that these writers don't claim to have discovered the ultimate truth of everything...just hints along the road of exploration.  Bloody hell, that returns us to Mr. "Toilet backwards"...

'White Light White Peak' by Simon Corble, A journey through the seasons of the Peak. Poems and photography, is available in paperback here

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