An Interview with Grant Tarbard

GRANT TARBARD is a poet and artist, former editor of The Screech Owl, co-founder of Resurgant Press, a reviewer, and an editorial assistant for Three Drops From A Cauldron. Previously, he was the first runner-up (at the age of sixteen) in Ottakar’s / Faber National Poetry Competition. He is the author of As I Was Pulled Under the Earth (Lapwing Publications), Yellow Wolf (Writing Knights Press), Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World (Platypus Press) and his latest, Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams).


Editor-In-Chief Kanika Lawton sat down with Grant Tarbard recently, whose latest collection, Rosary of Ghosts, is now available from Indigo Dreams. The author of four poetry collections, Kanika and Grant discussed thematic explorations, notable small presses, and how to get your own manuscript out into the world.

KANIKA LAWTON: Hi Grant! Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us to chat today.

GRANT TARBARD: Not at all, thank you for your time. I’m honoured to be here.

Let's talk a little bit about your newest collection, Rosary of Ghosts(Indigo Dreams, September 2017). What themes does the collection explore, what was the writing process like, and how does it differ from your other books?

Really, it’s about my stroke in December 2012. Let me take you through a brief history of my time—I had dialysis at 19; my nerves were shot and my bones were almost crumbling, sticking to a faulty atom and I had to use a wheelchair throughout all of my twenties. I had a badly needed transplant at 33 and then—miraculous hallelujah—I was walking. Then I had the stroke two months later, as God is cruel, and it was back into the wheelchair. I think I haven’t come to terms with it still, and this book is me trying to make amends with my situation. We find comfort in little places. It’s about this and my wife too; she was the baffled king composing hallelujah.

Rosary of Ghosts, Indigo Dreams, September 2017

Rosary of Ghosts, Indigo Dreams, September 2017

Could you tell us a bit about your other books As I Was Pulled Under the EarthYellow Wolf, and Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World?

As I Was Pulled Under the Earth was an attempt at a Persephone story although it didn’t quite work out. Really, I’m sick of collections having to be about a theme. What ever happened to 18 Poems? I thank Dennis Greig for believing in me. Yellow Wolf was my first book, an experiment, a book of solely 5 by 5’s (Bethany Pope’s creation) setting up a rhythm of fairy tales. Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World is the first book I felt like me. I was suicidal then; I attempted suicide twice and was so down and had to document it. Melissa Lee Houghton called the ambulance and saved my life, and even though she wasn’t there, she could hear it in my voice that morning when she phoned me. It’s a very personal situation that I tried to put into words. Is it correct? Is it true? I don’t know, the devil makes snap judgements and so do poets.

You have quite an impressive number of published poetry collections under your belt; what was the initial publishing process like for your first collection, and how has it differ from book to book?

Ah, well I loved working with Lapwing; Dennis was so kind and generous with his time. I regret now that I made him publish the poems in the centre of the page, how cheesy! All you can ask from an editor really is he or she be generous with their time. I welcome suggestions on edits because normally it’ll lead to a better book. Michelle from Platypus Press was like that. Ronnie and Dawn from Indigo Dreams are definitely hands on; they make you feel wanted, and that’s important because writing poetry is a lonely job and you have to have a family to publish it with a decorum of love for the work.

Do you have any advice for young or emerging poets who are looking to publish their first chapbook or full-length manuscript?

Everyone will say it: read modern poetry, and don’t be afraid to edit yourself. If you see a sentence that troubles you just cut it. Don’t be arrogant because the editors you send possible chapbooks to are experienced. Oh, and go to YouTube and follow the Yale Courses about poetry if you’re new, that’ll give you a deeper understanding.

Enjoy the work, even though it often bites you on the hand as you look pitifully down at the blank page. Don’t get caught up in one style early on, don’t be afraid to use the cut up method—you can get apps now for this—and don’t hope for success without working hard to get better.

What are some of your favourite small presses, especially presses that promote diverse and emerging voices?

Apart from the publishers I’m with, I admire Cinnamon Press, Mother's Milk Books, Knives Forks and Spoons Press, Gatehouse Press, The Emma Press... I could go on. They all do the Lord’s work giving a voice to talented writers, both newer and older voices.

What recurring themes do you find yourself exploring through your work, and lastly, why do you write in the first place?

We all have masks. You present your framework to me and I present my framework to you. I find this fascinating. I think that’s an undercurrent of my poetry, a face within a face, a body within a body, I have the tendency to write some body horror poems and then tone it down for general consumption.

Thank you for speaking with us today, and if you could, please let us know where we can buy your books. Have a lovely day!

Thank you for your time, you’re very kind. You can buy my books from Amazon, bookshops or, even better, from the publishers' websites. You can buy Rosary of Ghosts here and Loneliness Is the Machine that Drives the World here