The Poetry Kit
David Farmington talks to David Martin
(DM) In July I was visiting a publisher in Bristol and bumped into David Farmington who I had seen two months earlier reading his poems at Chichester. I have admired David's poetry for some years often finding it popping up in small press editions and magazines. He was very busy and had to catch a train home, but he was happy to chat for the few minutes we had as we waited for our trains. I managed to put some questions to him about his work and his forthcoming collection of poems.
(DM) Can you tell me a little about yourself?
(DF)I was born in Cheltenham in Gloucestershire and have lived there all my life. I live with my life partner and two dogs in a cottage and am very happy, for the first time, but unfortunately the poetry has dried up a little of late. My income generating work is as a freelance journalist.
(DM) Your first major collection, Evolving into Me will be published soon. (pub. Starwood 2003) It covers 40 years of writing, so how difficult was it to select the poems to be included?
(DF) I think that if I had brought this collection together a year earlier or next year I would have ended up making different decisions. I had not realized this before and when I read other peoples collections I was always under the impression that they would be pretty definitive, having now done my own I realize that it is more of a psychological snapshot reflecting my feelings now rather than a definitive collection. I think many poems were selected for political reasons, I mean political with a small p. Political in respect that all we do is in some way political. Perhaps as I am a queer cripple the political aspect is even more important to me.
(DM) Do you mean by way of making a statement?
(DF) Well yes but that is only part of it. I want readers to see the joy of life that I have despite all the things that have happened and which I have illustrated in my poems. I think it is about tenacity and not giving up, wining through in the end in spite of the National Health Service who go into experimental mode whenever they see me coming and the Social Services who think they know what is best for me, and the Benefits Agency who try their best to make life impossible, and the local council and my family. Well you get the picture but it is not about doom and gloom it is about overcoming and surviving on my terms, and that is something all of us must try to achieve or go down fighting.
(DM) I heard you read your poetry in Chichester and I was struck by the personal quality of the images and events. Are all your poems autobiographical? Is there much invention for effect?
(DF) Chichester was a good gig. I enjoyed it very much. None of my poems are invented really. It is all true after a fashion. I play round with the chronology a little to make them work effectively. In the collection I am getting ready at the moment are poems which set out to be truthful even if they do not tell the absolute truth - assuming that such a thing as absolute truth could exist.
The suicides, the descriptions of sex and attempting suicide, where all from my own experience. I lost a lot of friends through the years some to AIDS some to illness others decided to end their lives for one reason or another. And I can understand that if I ever get to a point where I am unable to live an independent life I think I would see what I could do about it. I donít fancy living when everything that makes life worth living has gone. I was brought up a Catholic so those ideas and I suppose my lifestyle are all in conflict with that programming and it creates an interesting tension from which I find I can write.
(DM) You indicate that your happy domestic background is responsible for you not writing at the moment. If so are you saying that your poetry flows from unhappiness?
(DF) In my case I would have to say that. Yes, I think thatís the case. I am not sure really if my lack of new writing comes from having to read all my old pieces in order to get them together for the collection or my understanding that I am living happily at the moment, which also comes from reviewing the record of past unhappiness. It is one or the other I think, being absorbed in the already recorded past or a lack of imperative brought on by bliss. (laughs)
Certainly the graphic descriptions of the many and varied forms of sexual acts are indicative of my own preferences, but in most cases I have to rely on an unreliable memory of events many years ago which have blended to myth. But I do have an active imagination and imaging system to help recall the events I want to write about.
(DM) Who do you consider to be your influences?.
(DF) I like language which is both active and physical. I prefare that to the slow narrative. So my three big influences are John Fante and his novels about the character Arturo Bandini, who I think had a lot of Fante in him. Allen Ginsberg for his ability to identify that which in important. I find his writing very spiritual and for me he is a guru, although his style and arguments are a little dated I think he still speaks to this generation in a very direct way. The third and probably the greatest influence on me is Charles Bukowski. I think that Bukowski will eventually be seen as one of the towering figures of 20th Century literature. Remember that Fante who was writing in the 1930ís was well ahead of his time and was virtually forgotten, it was only Bukowski talking about the great influence Fante had on him that caused Fanteís writing to be reassessed.
(DM) At Chichester and you got a very strong positive audience reaction.
(DF) Yes it was very good but with all readings I worry that it is perhaps the "right on" reaction, I want people to react to a poem because it means something to them not because they should be seen to simply because it is the right thing to do this week. I get this particularly with my poems about disability or poems with a twist that reveal something about life as a gay man. I do enjoy reading though I know I don't perform the poems very well, so I stick to a straightforward reading, I find this places the focus on the words which is after all the main instrument of poetry. In many ways although I like reading I prefer people to read my poems for themselves, that way they don't have to react to the gay guy in the wheel chair so their response is more honest I think.
(DM) What about the future any projects or plans?
(DF) Well I would like to write more but I often feel that process is not one I can control. I want to get the collection out and then I will be doing some readings over the winter I am looking forward to that. I will be doing a new course over the winter I'm preparing it now about poetry in New York, punk and hip hop. Other than that I think my main plan is to be happy and have my living room redecorated.
A selection of David Farmington's poetry from his new collection will appear together with a review in the next edition of POETRY KIT MAGAZINE.