What advice was most helpful to you when you first started writing poetry?

I think the best advice I ever had was to try and make your weaknesses your strengths. And that was particularly relevant when I was starting out because - I'm sure many young poets feel like this - that my work felt different from the work of the writers that I admired. And I couldn't see a way that I could ever put myself in their shoes for all kinds of reasons, not least the reason of gender. So it took a while to find my confidence in my own aesthetic and to understand that what I did was not like what other people did but that that was a positive, that things that I might have perceived as weaknesses - for example not having a particular region of the country that I related to, that my work came out of - I mean a good example of someone who does have that is Seamus Heaney who connects language and landscape so strongly that he even talks of "vowel meadows". Now I grew up in a new town where there were certainly no "vowel meadows" and no one way of speaking at all and no connection between language and landscape but what I came to discover was something I now feel is very contemporary - and that is a kind of aesthetic that demands travel, it demands, in a sense, rootlessness and even exile.


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