This week, Write On’s Eithne Cullen chats to poet and Artistic Director of Boathouse Creative Studios, Carole Pluckrose. Eithne ‘met’ Carole while taking part in ‘Love Letters To The World’ online during lockdown. She begins by asking about her life as a writer.
CP: Writing has always been an intrinsic part of my life. I started writing in my Lett’s Brownie Diary when I was six and never stopped. A significant moment came for me when I was nine and won the Brooke Bond poetry award for a poem called Pain! The journaling throughout my life has been private but also the starting point for much of my writing.
I have worked in the theatre for over 30 years, was the co-founder of Arc Theatre in Barking and set up the Boathouse Creative Studios in 2014.
EC: How would you describe your writing/work to someone new to it?
CP: The two main forms I work in are poetry and writing for theatre. Most of my writing responds directly to what’s going on around me. This might be political, social, or something in my personal life. For me, writing poetry is a place to retreat, play with form and relish the playfulness of words and metaphor.
I love Greek and Roman mythology; stories and characters that resonate through archetypes into the present.
With words, I want to paint a vivid picture, inviting the reader to bring their imagination and emotions into its world.
With a background as an actor and director, creating original theatre is a natural home for me. I enjoy the collaborative nature of a group of actors working together with a writer and director to experiment and devise work that leads to a final piece of theatre.
EC: Can you tell us a bit about your latest project?
CP: I began to write Notes From Dad’s Room in 2017, a few months after my father’s death. It’s a story in fragments that speaks of a father/daughter relationship spanning five decades. The narrative spine carries the piece through the final 18 months of my father’s life, with frequent prompts to re-inhabit reveries and memories.
Death is universal and, simultaneously, a unique and personal experience for each individual and the people they love. It’s a subject we often shy away from, finding words difficult and emotions overwhelming. This piece is a lament, an epitaph and a joyful evocation of times past and present and the power of love, in life and beyond. Autobiographical material is often a writer’s starting point. While I have worked as a theatre maker for over 30 years, this is my first work drawing directly on personal experience.
EC: What inspired you to write in the first place and what inspires you now?
CP: Mr Ingle, my primary school teacher, first picked up on my passion for writing when I was nine. In the sixties, there was no National Curriculum and teachers tended to focus on what they loved. It was an immersive experience. I had a natural leaning towards writing and Mr Ingle actively encouraged me to write, and acted as a critical friend, taking my work seriously and believing in me as a writer. Most of my early work was poetry but I wrote my first play when I was 11 and, thanks to another inspiring teacher, I was allowed to mount a full production with my classmates in my primary school hall!
I am inspired by people and life and am fascinated by stories: those of individuals and communities. Real-life stories and incidents are a great stimulus to get me going with new ideas for a piece of writing.
EC: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of ‘A Kaleidoscope Of Colours’. The idea is that life at the moment is like looking through a kaleidoscope: ever-changing, ever-swirling patterns we must interpret and adapt to. Can you tell us a bit about how you have been adapting to the shifting landscape of this fairly challenging present?
CP: COVID-19 has brought with it a huge shift. I have found it to be an extremely challenging time, requiring resilience and an ability to adapt and learn new ways of doing things. Artists have always responded to crises; often inspired to make new work that expresses collective and individual feelings and imagery about their impact. My imagination and creativity have been a sanctuary, as has connecting with others through online creative writing – in particular our ‘Love Letters’ writing project, supported by Pen to Print.
Notes From Dad’s Room was due to go into production in September. This has now been postponed, which is disappointing. However, it has given me the opportunity to explore ways in which the piece can be performed with social distancing. I have run some rehearsals to experiment with this as a key criterion, revealing a number of new insights to the material. This has lead to further development.
EC: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?
CP: Make the work that you feel compelled to make and keep diving deeper into it to allow your unconscious mind to teach and surprise you. Find your own voice. Attend to it with love. Authenticity is key. Don’t worry about the end product too early and establish a daily practice where you write something and exercise your ‘writing muscle’. Choose somewhere to write where you feel comfortable and won’t be distracted by emails and social media. I write in a notebook, as I find this gives me the space to write without judgement. I use my laptop to transcribe, edit and re-edit.
EC: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
CP: No, I am afraid not at the moment. I am still immersed in Notes From Dad’s Room.
EC: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional character to be a companion, who would it be and why?
CP: Persephone. I feel an affinity with this mythical woman and return to her frequently. I like the story of her six months in the underworld as Hades’ Wife and six with her mother on Olympus. I find this a great metaphor for writing: time to go within to explore themes and time to share this work with a wider audience.
You can find out more about Carole Pluckrose here and connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carole.pluckrose
There’s also a Facebook page for ‘Love Letters To The World’: https://www.facebook.com/Love-Letters-to-the-World-Creative-Writing-107258757649305
For me, writing poetry is a place to retreat, play with form and relish the playfulness of words and metaphor.