Q and A: Rosie Johnston, poet and writer

By Beth Allcock on October 16, 2012 10:34 AM |

CS29994366_JMP1299.jpgPoet and author Rosie Johnston, 57, lives in Island Gardens.

She saw her second poetry collection performed by a member of the Live Canon group for the first time on Friday, just across the Thames in Greenwich.

When did you start writing poetry?

I did some writing at school and did quite well at that but then the usual embarrassment set in.

There was a long time when I didn't write poetry, I wrote lots of other things instead.

I was brought up to be incredibly useful and it wasn't until I was 40 I allowed myself to do something as, not frivolous exactly, something as creative as writing.

I was a city lawyer before then but after my children were born, I realised I always wanted to write.

My first novel was published in 2005, called What You See Is What You Get and then in 2009, The Most Intimate Place was released.

How did you come to write your first poetry collection, Sweet Seventeens?

These poems just sort of happened.

Nobody seems to know how poems get written. They know how poems are honed but when a poem arrives on the page is a subject of academic research.

I was asked by a Doctor of Creative Writing at Cambridge how I did it and she found the same answer from everyone - they haven't a clue.

Poetry is different from all other creative writing.

In writing this undefinable thing, when a vision first arrives on the page is something that is unique to poetry.

Who was your target audience for the first collection?

My poems are accessible to anyone and being short, they're perfect for busy lives. My first collection is much loved by people who wouldn't normally read poetry but keep Sweet Seventeens by their bedside.

The rise of the E-book

I'm a huge fan of proper, old-fashioned publishing and editing, they give you the sense of working with a professional that is committed to your work, and that is wonderful.

But the E-book gives us all the potential for a longer life in our books.

What is your new poetry collection, Orion, about?

It is a love poem. It is not based on my life or based on people I know.

I was aiming for something more global than that. People do read into it various things and what suits them - I love that about it.

There are about 80 poems and they are all 17-syllable verses.

What has been the reaction?

The reaction has been very, very favourable I must say.

Women see Orion as a love rat but the men say they see him going off out while she stays at home and they see that as heroic.

When was it presented in Greenwich and by whom?

It was a first for me - one of the Live Canon group read from Orion at the launch on Friday.

I was very impressed by them and thought how marvellous, so asked if they would be interested in reading my poems.

What advice would you give to budding poets?

I would always say to people just have a go at any sort of writing you want to do.

Don't be too perfectionist and have a crack at it, then you have got something to work with.

People are often put off by perfectionism but just keep pushing on.

Who are the poets that inspire you?

I'm a Belfast girl and I do like Irish poets like W. B Yeats and Michael Longley.

>Rosie has also launched a new, Sunday afternoon writing class in Waterstone's, Greenwich.

It will run until November 18, from 2.30pm until 4.45pm.

Sessions cost £20 each and include a £5 Waterstone's gift voucher.

Rosie's new poetry collection, Orion, will soon fill the shelves of the high-street book store in its shops in both Greenwich and Canary Wharf.