1. When did you start writing?
“I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing in one form or another. Before I could physically write, I used to spend a lot of time in the garden, walking around in circles and making up stories under my breath; my granny recently told me that her neighbors used to love listening to them, which is both embarrassing and flattering! My dream was always to be a writer. It just felt like something I needed to do. I remember finishing my 'first book' when I was seven and being really paranoid about losing it. It lived next to my bed, so I could grab it quickly if there was an emergency. I also used to write a lot of scripts, and I would periodically get my classmates to audition for roles and start a grueling five-day-a-week rehearsal regimen.”
2. What is your method of writing? Notebooks, computer?
“I rarely use notebooks anymore. I prefer the computer, as I can get my ideas down fast that way, plus it’s helpful if I need to google anything. I do sometimes use the notes app on my phone though, as I seem to feel inspired in inconvenient places, like on the bus. For me, quiet is the most important thing. Low-volume music is acceptable, but silence is what works best for me. It’s strange, because I can’t stand silence the rest of the time, but it doesn’t bother me when I’m writing.”
3. What drew you to writing poetry?
“I’ve always loved poetry, and I used to write it a lot when I was younger, particularly in my early teens. I was drawn back to it in 2020 when I came across confessional poetry. At the time, I was recovering from mental illness, I had just been discharged from the eating disorder service, and I was discovering myself as a functioning adult, rather than a teenage patient. Poets like Melissa Lee Houghton and Elisabeth Horan really spoke to me because their work talked about chaos and sanity in a way that was fresh and raw and genuine. I think the poetry community is fantastic because it loves flawed voices! You can be authentic and messy and unlikeable. I also love poetry as a celebration of language.”
4. Where do you draw inspiration?
“I am inspired by other poets, particularly those who write in the confessional tradition. I love Olivia Tuck, Hala Alyan, Sophie Robinson, Gaia Rajan, Kaveh Akbar and many other incredible poets. I have discovered a lot of great writing through reading magazines and journals: Perhappened is one of my favourites, and Modern Poetry in Translation is brilliant, because it lets you find voices you would never come across otherwise. A lot of my poetry is based on personal experience, so memory is a constant source of intrigue and inspiration for me. I’m autistic, so I often find myself writing to resolve a conflict in my head, to work out what emotions I’m feeling and why. Nature inspires me, though I find it difficult to separate external and internal landscapes. Almost all of my work has an emotional component. Most of all, I am inspired to write about the strangeness of life, with all its contradictions.”
5. Are you ever afraid to write?
“Yes. When I first started writing poetry again, I wasn’t so scared, because I had zero expectations. I sent poems to magazines expecting a unanimous chorus of ‘no!’ so it was quite shocking to find out people liked reading my work! It does complicate matters slightly because when I’m writing a poem, I’m now aware that people will probably read it at some point; it’s difficult to not let that interfere with your level of honestly, particularly when you’re writing about topics that are so taboo. I try to mentally separate the writing process from anything that comes later. The poem needs to say what it needs to say, and I can decide how vulnerable I’m willing to be in terms of publishing once it’s finished. One thing I read was ‘write as though no one will read it, edit as though everyone will.’ That’s something I try to live by, and I remind myself that bad poems happen, but they go towards learning and improving.”
6. Congrats on your debut pamphlet! How did After the Flood Comes the Apologies come about? When did you realize you had material for a book?
“Thank you! I started writing poems for After the Flood Comes the Apologies in August 2020, during an especially creative and productive period of my life. I finally had the energy and spark to think again, and my emotions returned in full force, which translated into a massive outpouring of poetry. I think I started compiling poems for the pamphlet in October, and I sent it to Nine Pens in November. It all happened really fast! Most of the time I still can’t believe it.”
7. What other project(s) do you hope to take on someday?
“There are so many things I want to do! I’d love to write a TV script one day, as that’s an area I haven’t really explored as an adult. Another dream is to translate a poetry collection into English; I study Modern Languages at university (Spanish, Italian and Arabic), and literary translation is definitely something that interests me. I’m currently working on my second poetry book, which focuses on love, neurodivergence and grief, so getting that published is the next thing on my to-do list!”
8. What do you hope people take away from your work?
“That’s a tricky question! I like to think about my readers stepping inside my skin, living with my brain for a few minutes. I’ve been told my writing is dark, gritty, ominous... I love those comments, but I also know that the topics I address in my poems are realities for so many people. If my poetry is challenging, then it needs to be. I hope people walk away with a renewed sense of what it is to be young, messy, and mentally ill. And I hope that the people who already know what it’s like read my poetry and think, ‘I know that feeling!” Maybe that’s how we feel less alone.”
9. What’s your favorite writing advice you’ve been told or happened to overhear? Or what writing advice would you offer?
“I can’t remember the exact words, but it was that good writing describes the abstract in a tangible way, rather than the tangible in an abstract way. I don’t think any rule works all the time, but I do find this advice helpful, particularly when I’m trying to talk about emotions without falling into cliches. It’s magical how much power lies in sensory description.”
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
“My first thought was poetry, but I talk about that whenever I find anyone who’ll listen! My other main hobbies are baking and singing, but university is keeping me very busy at the moment. One thing I love doing is making excel spreadsheets. I know that it’s not the most creative hobby, but it keeps my whole life in order; every week I write a to-do list and figure out how many hours of work I’ve got to do, and every night I write a timetable for the following day. My life is planned out is half-hour chunks! I’m fanatical about it, but if you tell people in real life, they think you’re putting yourself under too much pressure, whereas I find it makes me less stressed, as it means I don’t have to remember anything. Saying that, I’ve always loved a good timetable. If I had to guess why I like two things that seem so different (spreadsheets and poetry), I’d say that it’s because they both create sense and order from a world that seems frighteningly chaotic.”
Hear Naoise read her poem “Memory.”
Naoise Gale is a poet from West Yorkshire whose first pamphlet, ‘After the Flood Comes the Apologies’, was published with Nine Pens in October 2021. She has been shortlisted in the Creative Futures Writers Award 2021 and longlisted in the Fish Poetry Prize 2021, as well as various other poetry and flash fiction competitions. Her work focuses on mental health, identity and addiction; it has been widely published in magazines such as Anti Heroin Chic, Versification and Opia Lit. She regularly attends Todmorden Writers’ Collective open mic nights. You can find her on twitter as @Naoisegale13.
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