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Poets who do art: interview with J.S. Watts

A chicken or the egg question, were you a poet first and an artist next, or vice versa?

I wrote my first poem before I took my first photograph (at 4 and 6, respectively), but then I wasn't permitted to have a camera until I was 6. So, in effect, it was my parents who determined the order of chicken and egg. Then again, I'm not sure my 4 year old self had the manual dexterity to take proper photos.

How do you work with both? Do you allocate specific time or do you find they manifest themselves to you?

At the moment I'n taking daily photographs because of lockdown. Under more normal circumstances (whatever normal now means, but certainly historically) the poem and or the photograph manifest themselves as and when they choose. Sometimes they even influence one another.

Who are your influences today, have they radically changed over time?

I guess I'm influenced by life and I think I always have been. My photography captures the landscapes around me (or the landscapes I'm passing through, if I'm not at home). My poetry is triggered by what I experience, whether by living it, seeing it, reading it or thinking it. Without wishing to sound too "pseudy", I internalise what surrounds me and what I absorb on a daily basis and then externalise it in my photography or my poetry

Let's talk about the, for want of a better term, "covid era". It seems to have made some people super creative & productive and others less so - how has it impacted on your own work?

I've probably written fewer poems, but I am still writing them and mostly, in my written work, I am currently focusing on my fifth novel. Originally I hoped to complete it by the end of the first UK lockdown. Now I'm hoping to finish editing it by the the end of the third UK lockdown. Photographically, I'm super creative. I set myself a task, back in March 2020 (i.e. lockdown 1) to photograph my daily walks and record them on my photoblog. I posted daily until midsummer (my last daily post was the rising of the solstice sun over my corner of South Cambridgeshire) and then moved to posting two or three times a month (but still taking photos daily). I'm committed (health and lockdown restrictions permitting) to continue photographing these daily walks until the middle of March 2021, by which time I will have photographed my local countryside for an entire year, in all weathers, seasons and time of day.

Do you listen to music when you create? Which type?

No. I can't. I find it way too distracting. It's possibly because I am also a musician (strictly amateur, though), but I find myself really listening to the music and not focusing on what I am writing or photographing. If I'm writing, the music stops me from hearing myself think. If I'm out taking photographs, I need to hear the world around me. Not least, if I'm trying to capture some shots of the local wildlife.

What can you tell me about the artwork you shared - how did it come about?

I'm fascinated by the local buzzards. Maybe it's because I'm originally a city girl (born and brought up in London), but to live so close to birds of prey is special and never gets stale. I photograph them. I write poems about them. Fortunately there is a breeding pair a couple of fields away, so I do get to see them regularly. This photo was, I think, taken late one afternoon, hence the glow to the light

What are you working on next?

For the time being, it's a case of continuing and finishing: continuing my project of daily photo walks and finishing (hopefully) the never ending edits of the fifth novel. I'm also hoping that my fourth novel is published soon (it was to have been the conclusion of my "Witchlight" series of novels), but the publication date has been put back uncertainly because of Covid. I shall also continue writing individual poems when they permit me to.

About J.S Watts

J.S.Watts is a British poet and novelist who weaves the fantastical and the literary with other vibrant strands to create glowing, multi-faceted writing. Her poetry, short stories and non-fiction appear in a wide variety of publications in Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the States and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio. She has edited various magazines and anthologies and performed her poetry across England, Scotland and Wales, but not yet in Ireland (should anyone from Ireland be reading this). J.S.’s two full poetry collections, 'Cats and Other Myths' and 'Years Ago You Coloured Me', are published by Lapwing Publications, as is her multi-award nominated SF poetry pamphlet, 'Songs of Steelyard Sue'. Her latest poetry pamphlet, 'The Submerged Sea', is published by Dempsey & Windle. Her novels, 'A Darker Moon' – dark fiction, 'Witchlight' and 'Old Light' - paranormal, are published in the US and UK by Vagabondage Press.

For further details see her website, Facebook, Photoblog.

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