EMC Question Words with... Sarah Wallis, author of "How To Love The Hat Thrower"
The poems in 'How to Love the Hat Thrower' are full of lyrical playfulness and virtuosity. Wallis has an eye for the natural world that is fresh and engaging but, more importantly, she makes you wish that you could see the world the way that she does, even for just a day.
Colin Bancroft, editor Nine Pens Press, founder of The Poets' Directory, and author of Impermanence (2020) MaytreePoetry, Knife Edge (2022) Broken Sleep.
'Sarah Wallis' poetry snaps and creates patterns on the page; just like the natural world sings, as does her hold over language. A joyful collection that sees delicate beauty in the world around us'
Isabelle Kenyon, MD Fly on the Wall Press, The Town Talks, Wild Pressed Books, Growing Pains, Indigo Dreams.
WHO is Sarah Wallis?
Sarah Wallis is a poet and playwright based in Scotland, since moving from Yorkshire three years ago, where she was involved with Leeds Fringe & Pub Theatre. A National tour of her play Laridae was cancelled due to Covid in 2020 but the team hope to return to production soon. She has an MA from UEA in Creative Writing and an Mphil in Playwriting from Birmingham U and has pursued publication and staging of her work ever since. Published highlights include The Bellymen of Wakefield Town in the Yorkshire Poetry Anthology 2017, alongside the then Poet Laureate, The World Stands Still to Weep in the Eyewear Best British & Irish Poets Eyewear April 2018, Poet & Fox & More Birdhouse Than Living Room published in the Ways to Peace Anthology 2019 for the United Nations Day of Peace Celebrations, her first poem film Orpheus as a Fish, available on the @fly_press YouTube Channel, and Birdgirl, a microfiction, published by The Birdseed being nominated for a Best Microfiction Award and publication in The Broken Spine Artist's Collective Issue 4. She has two other chapbooks out in the world, Medusa Retold, from @fly_press and Quietus Makes an Eerie from @dancinggrlpress, with How to Love the Hat Thrower due May 2022 from @SelcouthStation. She tweets @wordweave and you can find out more at sarahwallis.net.
WHAT do you write? Poetry and stageplays, when I want even more variety I have written the odd flash fiction, often starring goats, and the occasional short story - there are a lot of animals in those. I like to play around with myth and fairytale retellings - my first chapbook Medusa Retold was a retelling from a teenage Medusa’s point of view, published Dec 2020 by Fly on the Wall Press. But I am also compelled to write from nature, often the sea –Medusa was called by one reviewer ‘a love letter to the sea’ – but this one is more of a woodsy moonlit glade of a book, although the water still flows in a couple of times, but it was a conscious effort to try and keep Hat Thrower green not blue, in the woods, fields and gardens with the mushrooms and the field hares but the water keeps rising and I’m sure there will be other water-based books but it is good to experiment and question and in particular to ask myself why am I always writing about the ocean. WHY did you write How to Love the Hat Thrower?
I was writing a series of mushroom poems and I became very interested in these strange bodies and wanted to learn more about them, going out on walks to the woods to find them and identify them (I'm still bad at this!) fittingly enough the collection just started to grow quite organically. From angry poems about trees being cut down, to poems full of a hare’s harnessed energy and witnessing a forest’s transpiration. I realised I had quite a few poems about wildlife - birds, rabbits, geese and bats with a dark heart, that inhabit green spaces and that they would make a good home together - luckily Selcouth Station thought so too!
HOW did the idea for How to Love the Hat Thrower come about? The Hat Thrower is the name of a mushroom, not the only name it takes but this is the best one! And I just thought what a great name, sounds like a party animal... of course, such a mushroom would throw wonderful parties and birthday bashes, what fantastic celebratory events and everyone would wear such magnificent hats! The main idea grew from looking at the kinds of poems I had already and seeing where strands could be expanded on and made into a coherent whole, not using poems I had already allocated a direction or grouping for, so a lot of poems that were already out on submission elsewhere were not suitable (I tend to have around x40 or so out on submission at any one time) and then I kept on writing more mushroom poems and had even more to choose from so that was a good position to be in having lots of poems floating around that could be included or swapped with others where they made a better fit, so it was quite an involved and enjoyable process putting the book together. When I was looking through for a title poem this one jumped out and so I went with it.
WHEN did you write [BOOK TITLE]/ WHEN do you usually write? I write wherever and whenever I can, in little moments, in the in between moments and in great big chunks of time too and I write a lot. When I'm not writing I'm thinking about writing. I carry notebooks as standard heading out of the door kit, there are notebooks upstairs, downstairs and in various bags so I can just break off whatever I'm doing to catch enough of something of an idea to work out later. Sometimes these snippets don't come to anything but I am always ready to catch hold of an idea in this way, it might be something as simple as trying to pin down the exact shade someone is wearing, and that word might suggest something about an unusual character to write about or by word association sends you off into a spiral to explore later - antique gold to antique shop to watch to clock to someone's late, to white rabbit, to Alice in Wonderland, to Oh Mum called about Grandma, to what happened when Alice got older, to old lady, hmmm wearing antique gold, to unusual location to writing about gardens, no, wait, better, allotment... and then in the end you get an old lady with dementia looking for her lost white rabbit in the strawberry patch on an allotment in a poem called Out of This World, which you can read in How to Love the Hat Thrower... The working things out later bit is whenever I can escape to my study and if I put it off too long, that whenever usually becomes when I am drifting off to sleep and then an opening line or line of dialogue that's too juicy to ignore will pop into my mind and I will have to get up and go to my desk and start working that line through and get back to bed at around 2 am, this is such a pattern that I did try keeping a light up pen by my bedside for a while and try to not wake up too much but it doesn't work - I have to get up and get the wordweaving done before my mind will allow me to sleep, it'll just worry at me if I don't, so I wouldn't sleep anyway. WHERE can readers find your book? How to Love the Hat Thrower will be available from Selcouth Station online shop.
Disclaimer: Every EMC interview series seeks to promote the artist and their featured writing and is in no way an endorsement of any of said artist's services, opinions or other work outside of this feature.