Possibilities Loom Everywhere: Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton, with John Skoyles

Paul HETHERINGTON, Cassandra Atherton, John Skoyles

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Cassandra Atherton: How do writing and teaching intersect for you? Clearly with The Nut File,1 work and writing on some level have a lovely symbiosis for you. Do you think teaching and writing influence one another as a two-way process?
John Skoyles: It’s a two-edged sword. If you hadn’t brought up the subject of prose poems prior to this interview you would never know that I had picked two books — one good, one bad — in order to show a student: he’s coming here at 3:35 pm. In doing that, I had to decide what I am going to say about each of them. I wouldn’t otherwise have done that. I wasn’t rehearsing it when I said to you, all the gestures of Russell Edson without any of the intelligence, soul or emotion are in the weak one. The other is Jason Whitmarsh’s The Histories.2 It’s all discovery, and it’s funny and it’s doing something new.

If I wasn’t going to meet that student, I would have had that in the back of my mind but it’s helpful to me when I’m at my own desk to think: is this just a gesture you’re using or are you after something more? So it is a check all the time when you have to verbalise something — even when I’m walking the dog I may be talking to myself but I wouldn’t have the audience I have as a teacher; not that it’s only an audience. But I think it’s helpful to me, and the ambition in my own work — I’m trying to get my students to be ambitious with their work and it boosts me – that’s the positive part.
The other part is, while on my way in to work I’m not daydreaming, and lines are not occurring to me in the same way that they are when I am off work (and most of my writing is done when school is over). When I’m away from work I’m hearing those voices and taking dictation, and when I’m driving I’m thinking of something. But when I’m thinking of the students’ work — and I’m meeting them today and talking about poetry — although one couldn’t have a better job, it does distract. But I think it’s a trade-off. And, as the adage goes, ‘the pen is lighter than the shovel’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalAxon: Creative Explorations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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