TWO RIVERS PRESS POET OF THE WEEK – 3: CLAIRE DYER
Claire Dyer’s grandmother wanted her to be a BBC newsreader when she grew up. Clearly this did not come to pass. Born in Guildford, Claire has lived in Bedfordshire, Birmingham, South Wales and Berkshire (not necessarily in that order), has a BA in English & History from the University of Birmingham, an MA in Victorian Literature & Culture from the University of Reading and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London.
Her poetry collections, Eleven Rooms (2013) and Interference Effects (2016) appeared from Two Rivers Press, and she has another, Yield, forthcoming in February 2021. Quercus and The Dome Press have published her novels. She is represented by Broo Doherty at DHH Literary Agency.
Having formerly been the Clerk of the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants in the City of London, and worked for an HR research forum in Mayfair, she now teaches creative writing at Bracknell & Wokingham College, runs Fresh Eyes – an editorial and critiquing service – and curates Poets’ Café, Reading’s longest-running poetry platform on behalf of The Poetry Society’s Reading Stanza. She is also a regular Radio Reads contributor on BBC Radio Berkshire.
She has been chairman of Reading Writers and is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, The Poetry Society, The Poetry Book Society, The Society of Women Writers and Journalists and The Society of Authors. Her website is www.clairedyer.com
Claire Dyer writes:
“Being a poet and novelist, I am often asked which I prefer, writing poetry or prose. My answer is always the same: I enjoy them both equally because, to me, they are two sides of the same coin. Both involve scene setting, characterisation, storytelling, word choice; both condense the human condition in an attempt to capture and explain it.
Obviously there is more scope in a novel to tease out the themes that preoccupy me, whilst in poetry the key is to distil these themes and let the specific speak for the universal. In both disciplines, however, the need to engage the reader is a driving force. I therefore put the reader in the centre of my line of sight in my novels and when compiling my poetry collections in the hope of providing them with a narrative experience.
Eleven Rooms, my first collection with Two Rivers Press was published in 2013 and was the summation of ten years of writing poetry, in which I hope I found a voice and a way into the subject that intrigued me at the time, namely the delicate balance between permanence and impermanence. The poems in this book therefore concern themselves with those things we believe can be permanent: love, life, buildings, the memories of experiences lived or imagined but which are, by their very nature, transient.
My second collection, Interference Effects, published by Two Rivers Press in 2016, takes these preoccupations one step further and, whilst dealing with many of the same themes, concentrates on how, by looking at lived or imagined experience through a variety of lenses, their meanings and significances alter. Much of the book was written during my MA at Royal Holloway under the tutelage of Andrew Motion and Jo Shapcott, and my studies into the poet who dominated my time there, Elizabeth Bishop. In Bishop’s precise bravura, her attention to ‘no detail too small’ (‘Sandpiper’) and her technical astuteness, I found a route into corralling my own work. My admiration for her instilled a new discipline in me when approaching the topics that continued to absorb me. The title is taken from the effect of light on a butterfly’s wing, some of the poems reference the Morpho butterfly, which fascinated Bishop, and all the poems contain a reference to the colour blue in some oblique, or not so oblique, way.
If these two books act as markers on my poetic journey, my third collection, Yield, due for publication in 2021 represents a much more personal odyssey. Compiled over the five year period during which my younger child has been transitioning from boy to girl, the poems in this book tell the story from a mother’s viewpoint. Predicated by the three definitions of the word, yield: to give forth by a natural process; to give up, as in defeat, surrender or submit, and to supply or produce something positive, the poems are mostly (I hope) a letter of love to my child as well as a manifesto for inclusivity and personal determination. The poetry I enjoy most is generous, open hearted and well crafted. I hope the poems in my three books go some way to living up to this.”
THE MEMORY CAKE
When I was seven my mother baked a memory cake.
First into the bowl was the ribbed white blanket from her hospital bed.
Next, her final journey home.
Then she blended my forget-me-not dress and its smocking and pockets
with the snip-snackle-crack of the windbreak that day on the sands,
and how she said Here comes the cavalry at the end of films,
and I’d see horses tossing their heads, desert dust rising in clouds.
Next she added story times, the ice-cream van’s jingle-twang,
sunshine that fell slow on my back
the morning we got up early to check if the fledglings had flown.
I watched her beat the mix, fold in her smile,
her hands moving all the while like mine and, when it was done
she left it to cool on the counter top, said Make sure you eat it slowly,
crumb by crumb as, outside the window, some rain began to fall.
[from Interference Effects, 2016]
CALL AND RESPONSE
Then there was the time
when the grief was tremendous
and she stopped in a Devon lane,
left the car and stood instead
at a gate looking out onto the glittering
fields – the late summer fields –
at the inexplicable ruins
of farms – ancient walls beginning
and ending without reason –
some distant sheep,
and listened to nothing more than
the pulse in her ears,
the rolling wind, a kestrel’s call,
its mate’s answering cry.
[from Yield, forthcoming]