Gerard Woodward’s poetry has long been admired for its sharp and unflinching eye, its fearless surrealism, its blacker-than-black humour, and its ability to find a little abyss in any detail, no matter how innocuous or domestic. Here, he explains the astrological reasons behind the increasing space between his poetry books.
The space between my poetry books is increasing. Like particles in the hyperinflationary phase of the early universe, they are accelerating away from each other at an ever increasing rate. There were three years between my first two collections, and since then the gap has opened up to five, six and now seven years. Whilst I am hopeful that this process has reached a moment of maximum expansion and, to pursue the cosmological analogy, the space between my books will start contracting until, sometimes in the 2030s I will publish an infinite number of poems at once, I feel I should account for that current empty space. Well, I have been writing a lot of novels recently, in fact I’ve written four over the last ten years, along with a book of short stories. To write anything well you have to devote a lot of time to it - all the time you have available, in fact. Not just the time spent sitting at a desk, but the thinking time that opens up whenever you happen to be alone. And novels are very thirsty for this time, they suck it up like black holes so that nothing can escape.
Well, almost. I think the black hole analogy applies to any form of writing, actually. Poetry can be as demanding, in it’s own way, it’s just that when the two are competing with each other, side by side, like hungry dogs wanting to be fed, the great big Borzoi of the novel tends to win out over the clipped little poodle of the poem. Well, sorry, poets, for likening your craft to the topiaried excesses of French canine coiffeuse, but now that I’ve moved on from cosmological to doggish metaphors, I’m reminded of a poem in The Seacunny that perhaps brings the two together. A Poodle Symposium plays with the idea that a poodle is such an astonishing thing that its very existence has to be doubted – nothing in the natural or the man made world could account for it. Yet there it is. Rather like the universe itself. Or poetry.