Smorgasbord 2020 | Jon Miller

From 2015 – 2018 an eclectic feast of authors, poets, songwriters, artists, bloggers, journalists and stand-up comedians shared their tales of dedication, inspiration, frustration, laughter, failures and successes on the Thrillers with Attitude Literary Smorgasbord. Five years on, I’m delighted to publish five new interviews. My third guest on Smorgasbord 2020 is the witty, warm, and wonderfully talented Jon Miller. Jon previously appeared on the Smorgasbord in December 2015.

Whats changed writing-wise for you in the five years since your Smorgasbord interview in 2015?

I’ve packed in full-time teaching which has given me more time for writing and other nefarious habits*. I have also been going down to Sheffield every few weeks or so to participate in an Advanced Writers Poetry Course run by Peter and Ann Sansom of The Poetry Business which has helped tremendously in having different perspectives offered on what I’m writing and how I’m writing. Whether this has made me better or more pompous is open to debate.

What themes get you fired up as a writer?

I don’t know if I’d be as explicit as saying I write to ‘themes’. I count myself lucky if an idea for a poem actually makes it out of my head onto the page and runs off by itself with all its limbs intact and speaking intelligently and which strikes others as somehow worth spending some time with. Like a thoughtful stranger you meet on a train. I only notice ‘themes’ – maybe ‘preoccupations’ might be a better word – with hindsight. And these preoccupations might change with time. They do tend to circle round ideas about the bewilderment of existing. Which includes almost everything. Which leaves neither of us any the wiser. Which is how it should be.

What does literary success look like to you?

A poem that I have forgotten I’d written which on re-reading years later makes me think ‘That’s good’. Or to somehow know there will be another poem.

If you could spend a day in the company of any writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why? How would you spend the day?

Probably Samuel Beckett or Don De Lillo – each for the same reason: the breathtaking construction of their sentences and paragraphs. I would like to ask them about how they do this. With Sam, the day would consist of sitting at some Parisian cafe with coffee and brandy in silence for hours with the occasional existential gasp escaping from our lips. With Don de Lillo I would stand on top of the non-existent World Trade Tower and listen to him predict the future as we stare out over the ruins of Manhattan.

How was your lockdown experience?

Generally fine. I read somewhere that lockdown suited people who were relatively content on their own, so I didn’t mind it too much and found the lack of choice, fuss and pressing necessity quite calming. Life is often better when a lot of the world’s stupidity stays well down over the horizon. You notice and appreciate what is right in front of you more. There was a pattern to moods though – there would be a period of time when everything was fine followed by some time when you sunk into weariness and melancholy….then felt better again and so on…..… Talking to people, this seemed quite common.

A few short questions to finish.

Recently read and enjoyed?

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

Recently watched and enjoyed?

I May Destroy You (BBC iPlayer)

What was your go-to food during lockdown?

Didn’t really have one – but noticed I swore violently when there weren’t any biscuits in the cupboard.

Whats on your current playlist?

Joy by Idles.

*One of Jon’s nefarious habits is his presence in the The Experiment. The Experiment on Facebook. Jon Miller on Twitter.

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

Jon’s 2015 Smorgasbord interview.

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