illustration: Ian Carrington
How would you describe your poems?
I’m interested in the extraordinariness of the ordinary. I like stories. I think my work is very English – restrained, oblique, quite funny. At the moment I’m interested in rhyme in all its forms.
Why do you feel inspired to write about Nottingham?
I was born in Radford, between Players and the Forest Rec. The last place I lived in Nottingham was on Western Boulevard, watching the [Goose] Fair arrive and leave. I left for university, and then on to London where I still live. But that first eighteen years lays the groundwork for who you are. Nottingham is both place and family for me. I write about Nottingham to unpick who we are.
You’ve had an interesting career…
I started out in residential social work and went on to community activism, living in Covent Garden when it was threatened with demolition. This gave me the skills to do project management pretty much anywhere. At the moment, I’m writing a lot about ownership of place, which links in with my work for the Seven Dials Trust.
Tell us about your writing journey…
I loved playing with rhyme and rhythm, as most children do. I read and wrote poetry constantly until I was about 21. Then the need to make a living took over and I lost the habit. Over the years I had a couple of poems published, but really got going again when I had more slack in my life. I went to classes, and started getting published in magazines like Magma, Brittlestar, The North and in several anthologies.
You published your first poetry pamphlet in 2016…
I submitted work to open calls from two publishers, and when The Emma Press said they wanted to publish what became Goose Fair Night, I was so excited. I admired their diligence and flair. The launch reading at Five Leaves was scary because I was bringing Nottingham poems to Nottingham – was I a presumptuous outsider? But the event was a very warm and friendly occasion with fellow poet Jo Dixon and lots of family.
Favourite poems in the collection?
The first and last. You Bring Out the Nottingham in Me came tumbling out, inspired by a poem by Sandra Cisneros, full of exotic references to her Mexican heritage. It made me want to fly the flag for Nottingham. Five Unusual Things is a thank you to my late father.
What do you do when you aren't writing?
At work I’m organising street history plaques, two websites and consultation on public realm improvements. We have allotments, so it’s jamming and pickling season. This morning I cleaned the kitchen floor to avoid editing a sonnet sequence.
I’ve got a poem in Magma’s next issue and I’ll be reading at Poetry at the Room in North London in November. I’m working on what may be the next pamphlet – a sort of ‘state of the nation’ through the prism of tales from the allotments and Seven Dials.
Where will you be on National Poetry Day?
I’ll be at the Royal Festival Hall listening to a literary heroine, Margaret Atwood.
Will we see you at Goose Fair?
I haven’t decided. I went last year with my family who live in Nottingham and the mushy peas were rubbish. It’s hard, when your memories are so vivid, not to be a nostalgic killjoy. Mushy peas should be served on odd saucers with tin teaspoons, not in polystyrene cups, and should only cost sixpence. I miss Mousetown and the Boxing Booth and all the other inappropriate sideshows. But mostly I miss the specific, dangerous excitement that only happened once a year for two and half days.
You Bring Out the Nottingham in Me
by Kathy Pimlott
after Sandra Cisneros
You bring out the Hyson Green and Forest Fields
of me, Saturday night and Sunday morning love
bite signalled by a chiffon scarf.
My scent is Dangerous October, hot engine oil,
hot sugar, Mouse Town must. In electric dark
beyond the caravans, I take on all just
for the glory and floor them tenderly to rock ‘n’ roll,
chain and lever growl and lovely screams.
I am all these: china saucers of acetic
mushy peas, pomegranate pips eased
out with pins, bows and arrows, bouncing
fairy dolls and cocks on sticks.
Lace cuffs and stockings catch and run as Ludd
spills out of me. Only with you I’m dun sandstone,
tunnels undermine me secretly.
You bring it out of me, me duck, you do, that mardy
Lawrence fuck. With you I’m Clough-strut right, so say it,
say I walk in beauty like a Goose Fair night.
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