Smorgasbord 2020 | Aoife Lyall

From 2015 – 2018 an eclectic feast of authors, poets, songwriters, artists, bloggers, journalists and stand-up comedians shared their tales of dedication and inspiration, frustration and laughter on the Thrillers with Attitude Literary Smorgasbord. Five years on, I have five fantastic new interviews to share on Smorgasbord 2020, the second of which is with the exceptionally talented Aoife Lyall, first interviewed in September 2015.

Hi Aoife, life has changed dramatically for you since your last Smorgasbord interview in 2015. You are now a mother and a published poet.  Congratulations on both counts. In what ways has one influenced or impacted the other?

Thank you so much! In truth, being a poet and being a mother are inseparable for me: I started writing my upcoming collection Mother, Nature (Bloodaxe Books, 2021) during my first pregnancy in 2015 and finished it a few weeks ago, shortly after my youngest turned one.

Becoming a mother has given a focus to my writing I previously lacked: it presents me with an inescapable, emotionally charged experience that is both singular and universal, infinitely slow and disconcertingly brief. It lets me capture small moments that could easily be lost in the milieu of the day and hang onto a sense of almost journalistic integrity in moments that threaten to overwhelm me. Becoming a new mother also meant I had much less time to write and edit, so both processes became much more succinct and purposeful: often I only had the time it took for a bottle to cool to write a first draft; other times I had to hold the entire poem in my head while one of the babies was asleep in my lap.

You said then that your writing was about making sense of what was around you. How would you describe your writing now?

It is important to me not to capture a significant moment, but to capture the significance of a moment. Poetry gives me a medium through which I can attempt to observe, record, and understand my children: by extension, my relationship to them is revealed to me, which causes me to consider how that is influenced by my relationship to the culture, society, and religion I was raised in and by which I am now surrounded.

You were working on a collection based on your experiences of being a teacher. How has that progressed?

In short, it hasn’t. The poems for that collection were very much exercises in observation, in as all-consuming an environment as I had known. Being pregnant and becoming a mother brought a whole new level of intensity and focus to my life, and they quickly became my grounding narrative.

What does literary success look like to you?

Being able to get up and fill the day, every day, with writing, reading, teaching, editing and reviewing. Being able to totally immerse myself in a world built on a love of language.

How was your lockdown experience?

I don’t know yet: I don’t feel it’s run its course yet. I was on maternity leave when All This started so I had the benefit of being used to being at home a lot, but also the disadvantage of having been at home so much before lockdown started. I was able to review and edit but did not write anything beyond a first draft for about four and half months. Overall, we have been very lucky, and have been able to enjoy the time we have had together as a family.

A few short questions to finish:

Recently read and enjoyed?

I decided to read Hamnet (Maggie O’Farrell) while doing the final edits to my manuscript. The writing is so gentle and so achingly precise I wept through most of it.

Recently watched and enjoyed?

O Brother Where Art Thou– I enjoy films that ‘tell it slant’ and I liked its’ take on the Odyssey very much.

What was your go-to food during lockdown?

Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate- especially with marmalade on toast and coffee.

What’s on your current playlist?

Nature sounds- the days are so full of music and singing with the children that, at night, I plug in and listen to the wind through trees, or a thunderstorm or rain on windows, all of which create nice atmospheres and pleasant associations for whatever I happen to be working on at the time.

Aoife’s debut poetry collection Mother, Nature will be published by Bloodaxe on 25 Feb 2021. Find out more about Aoife at her website and at the Scottish Book Trust.

Books by LG Thomson are available online and from bookshops in the Highlands. Writing as Lorraine Thomson: The New Dark dystopian trilogy, published by Bastei Entertainment, is available online. More info at thrillerswithattitude.co.uk

Aoife’s Smorgasbord interview 2015.

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