If you want to become a better writer/poet, you must read good poets. Miles Bell is one of those poets. I can’t even tell you how I discovered Miles Bell. I figure it was from William Taylor or another poet I was reading at the time. Google brought up some work. I liked it. One thing leads to another, just like everything else in this world. The interview is below and I will review a couple of his chaps very soon. Miles is another good one to add to the short list. Everyone needs a book or two of his to add to their collection. My name is Scot Young and I support this message.
Scot Young: What has been the most rewarding event in your writing?
Miles Bell: I would have to say there are two events, impossible to separate. The first was getting into the car of the of the guy who gave me a lift to work to work every day with a fistful of letters I’d picked off the doormat on the way out, opening one and finding my poem “Family gathering” had been accepted for publication by Coffee House Poetry. In the back seat of a clapped-out motor than stank of angling equipment and early-morning blues I very nearly burst into tears. It was only 6 weeks after I’d begun writing and maybe the 5th poem I’d ever sent anyone.
The second was getting a call from my pal Luke saying the chapbooks we’d combined to produce had arrived at his record shop, biking down there straight away and holding one in my hands. I wouldn’t say I’ve been blasé about the subsequent 100-odd publications and 5 chapbooks but I’ve taken it all in my stride a little more. Maybe I’ve learned to be a little cooler.
Scot Young: Who were the writers that influenced your poetry?
Mile Bell: 2 people above all others, really, Bukowski for showing you didn’t have to be impenetrable to write poetry, and my friend Tim Neave, also a poet, and who although different in style and ethos to me has encouraged and advised from the beginning. I owe him a lot, although I suspect neither of us would be comfortable with me telling him so. After that, there’s a whole host of writers…I like to think I change styles depending on what I’m trying to do in a poem, so sometimes I’m in a Ray Carver mood, sometimes a Todd Moore approach works better. I suspect it’s a cliché of sorts but most things I read, see, like, or have an effect on me will influence the writing that falls onto he page, even if it’s invisible to anyone but me.
Scot Young: I have been told the poetry scene is strong in the UK?
Mile Bell: Have you? That may well be, but I’m afraid I don’t really keep up to date. I just write stuff, irrespective of what’s happening elsewhere. I’m by nature wary of scenes, gangs, movements. There’s nobody’s banner I’m comfortable trundling under, not even mine sometimes.
Scot Young: Is online publication as noteworthy as print?
Miles Bell: I think it’s becoming more accepted. Of course there’s nothing better than having a magazine like Remark or Words Dance that you feature in, that you can hold in your hands and read, for giving you a warm poetry-slathered glow, but people are getting round to the idea that in the technologically-aware zeros (I will NOT say “noughties”) online publication is as valid. It’s easier for editors, quicker for writers, and much less work for the dear old postman.
Scot Young: What does Miles Bell do for entertainment?
Miles Bell: Well, I’m a reclusive family man. I build Lego skyscrapers and trucks with the boy, walk around the garden barefoot with the wife, and Nintendo figures large. I surf the net, looking at stuff. So much interests me and I never get tired of reading, whether it’s Philip Roth or Wikipedia. I did venture to a couple of pubs today with my old friends Ju and Brian, where we drank cocktails and discovered it’s easy to write Tom Waits songs. All you have to do is imitate his growl and sing stuff like “I got a pocketful of dreams and strawberry bootlaces/looking for somewhere to lay my head, a fifth of whisky and some sausages/Saw Ramone at the corner, he was sailing today/for tomorrow, dear boys, and that broken shore”. Try it, it’s fun.
Scot Young: If you could sit down with a famous person from history, who would you choose and why?
Miles Bell: This is so difficult, for the same reason I never got a tattoo. I change my mind with the weather. Too many to narrow down to just one. I believe the standard “dinner party” question involves 6, doesn’t it? But as far as today goes, I’ll say Jack Kerouac, to talk about loss, and love.
Scot Young: What current poets do you read?
Miles Bell: Very few. I don’t really read poetry. I know the argument goes that I should, given that I write it myself and all, but so little of it interests me. I look out for anything blogged or published by S.A. Griffin, John Dorsey, William Taylor Jr, Ed Churchouse, Aleathia Drehmer, Todd Moore, Pris Campbell, Wayne Mason, a few others. Some “names” in the very small circle I’m aware of just confuse me with how ordinary their writing is in compared to the relative success of their scrawlings. Oh, and I read Rob Plath’s 5 poems a day, for the same reason people watch Road Wars.
Scot Young: Pie or cake? Why?
Miles Bell: Again, depends on the day. Pie is good for dessert, cake is good with coffee. Splinters in my lily-white ass from sitting on the fence, I’m afraid.
Scot Young: What one question would you like to be asked?
Miles Bell: How’s your Clyde?
Scot Young: We have lost some great poets in the last 20 years, Who do you see on the horizon as the next big poet?
Miles Bell: “Big” poet…that’s a little oxymoronic, if you’re talking about the poetry I like and read and deal with. Even the big names like Heaney and Duffy sell very little compared to novels or travel guides or books about farting. But if there’s anyone I know writing today that someone who knows nothing of poetry, yet has half an ounce of literacy in them could pick up and appreciate, it’s William Taylor Jr. He’s a friend of mine, so I don’t want to go overboard for fear of embarrassing him, but nobody writes a sadder line. He has 2 PM stillness in an old man’s pub and 2 AM in an upstairs room with a bottle of good red and the stereo on low, the slow hours, the crushing roll of time, absolutely nailed to the page. Honestly, the man is so fucking good it makes me want to give up writing and collect stamps, sometimes, until I remind myself that the only thing to measure yourself against as a writer is yourself, and the tyranny of the blank page.
Scot Young: Does poetry really matter?
Miles Bell: Matters to me.
Scot Young: Any advice for beginning poets?
Miles Bell: Keep yours eyes open, and it’s all about the little things.
Scot Young: How does one crack into publishing?
Miles Bell: Perseverance, and a little luck. Unsure if you’re talking about chapbooks or poems in magazines…I was lucky in that I had 3 or 4 poems published really quickly so I never got down about rejection. They don’t mean anything, just that your poem isn’t going to be in that mag that month or quarter for any number of reasons. Just keep reading zines to see where your stuff might best fit. No point me sending stuff to the Paris Review or The North. As for chapbooks, again, see what sort of thing the publisher produces, get your manuscript neat and proofread it 19 times, and always start your email as if you’ve just met the editor in the street.
Scot Young: How many books do you have out and where can they be purchased?
Miles Bell: Ok, the first chap I did was “The finite beat”, published by The Audacious Art Experiment. All sold out, I think. Then I did “Icarus Rex” myself, only 25 copies and they’re all gone.
Chaps still available:
“Murder the darkness w/ laughter & stories” (Verve bath Press) http://www.wordsdance.com/vervebathpress/milesjbell1.html
“Let’s get visible” (Blackheath Books)
“Propaganda for an ego” (Scintillating Publications)
and coming soon, I have a chap “Everyone knows this is nowhere”, published by the fine people who bring us Zygote in my Coffee. Other than that, there’s a big book in the pipeline, can’t say too much about it because not much is finalised, but it’s going to be a book of about 22 old poems and 28 new ones, plus the whole of “Icarus Rex”, my epic poem.
Scot Young: What do you do to market your work and /or yourself?
Miles Bell: Very little. I’m terrible at it, and need help. I think of myself as just the writer, and maybe I could do a little more flag-waving, but I think it has to be primarily the job of the publisher to get the word out. Aside from that, I do interviews.
Scot Young: Who are your heroes?
Miles Bell: Don’t really believe in the concept. My grandpa, maybe, for teaching me how beauty is everywhere if you look. And my friends, for reminding me life should be a fucking hoot.
Scot Young: What do you strive for as a poet?
Miles Bell: Just to write one good line after another.
Scot Young:. Do you belong to a community of writers?
Miles Bell: I’ve made many friends through the interwhatnot, there’s a sense of community in that there’s a bunch of people who message each other now and again, but I wouldn’t be comfortable with being part of a movement of any kind.
Scot Young: It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon in England, what would Miles Bell be doing?
Miles Bell: Reading the paper, eating toast, kissing the wife, playing on the N64, Gamecube or Wii, and teaching the boy about volcanos, all at the same time.