Lemn Sissay, reputable and inspirational poet and teacher, recently had his collection of poetry, Gold From The Stone, published by Canongate, and has been seen and heard across the country whether it be at Hay Festival or on BBC World radio.
Lemn took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with The Fountain about working as a teacher in children’s care homes, the significance of reading for any writer and the importance of the publisher to any writer.
TF: I recently saw you preform at Hay, which was amazing, how has the reception to your Gold From The Stone collection been?
It’s been a wonderful experience. I just did BBC World HARDtalk, which is interview-based radio, talking about Gold From The Stone. It’s very much testament to my life. It’s a year to the month that Gold From The Stone came out in England. However I launched it in Ethiopia four days ago. It’s very live in my hand, it means great things to me. I am proud to be with Canongate – we are on the same page. Your publisher is a part of the story. What they are about is important to the journey. People tend to think we work alone, we work with others. That connection is important. Some people think that an introvert is an extrovert trying to prove that they are not. I think a writer is both.
TF: You also mentioned that you work to encourage poetry in children’s care homes, which is commendable, how has that experience been?
I teach poetry, the best thing I did for this area of my work is that I am specialized. Teaching can become quite a thankless task, inspire them and then they move in. I needed to take control of what I was doing and who I was doing it for and the impact that it had. I also work with people who work in care myself. If you go into schools into a regular basis and not personally invested in the change you are making, it will become a gravy train. I want to do something that means a lot to me. Look at Michael Rosen, he cares about education.
TF: Your work is remarkable, evocative and affecting, your talent is clear, but how has this been nurtured?
The best way to write is read.
TF: And what is a day in the life of Lemn Sissay like, how do you discipline yourself to work and set to achieve on a daily basis?
I just write. The ideal is that you write everyday but you don’t, as other things get in the way.
TF: When can we look forward to a gig from you in Scotland? We would love to hear you perform up here.
I would love to be there to be honest. But it ain’t happening to be honest.
Photos courtesy of Hamish Brown.
Gold From The Stone was published by Canongate Books in August 2016.