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Fiona Dignan, LISP 2023 Poetry Finalist, Relic

LISP 2023 Poetry Finalist Relic by Fiona Dignan



-Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?

I’m a stay-at-home mum of four, so my life is as glamorous as it sounds! Daily

life generally involves dealing with teenage to toddler tantrums and cleaning

up various species’ poo (I also have cats and am a dog walker). When I’m not

looking after children and animals, I write, read, wild swim and can be heard

as a regular guest on BBC Radio Berkshire.

 

- When and how did you get into writing?

I’ve always been a reader but gave up creative writing after A-level. I came

back to writing poetry during lockdown as I needed to find some mental space

to escape the chaos that was homeschool. Unlike jogging and bread-baking,

once the pandemic eased, I continued wanting to write. It gives me the ability

to live inside different worlds and to connect to people, place and time. I now

write poetry, short stories, flash and microfiction. 

I have been published in numerous publications, including Mslexia and

Popshot and won the 2023 London Society Poetry Prize and the Plaza Prize

for Sudden Fiction.


- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires

you to write?

I write in sporadic spurts. I am an early riser and will often write around 5am

before the children wake up. I have begun writing in tune with my menstrual

cycle. I tend to be more energetic and creative in the first two weeks of my

cycle so I cram my writing into these weeks and read/edit during the later part

of my cycle, when I’m grumpier and more likely to read my work with a critical

eye. I appreciate this method of writing is not applicable to lots of people, but I

believe everyone has natural body rhythms that we should tap into.

I take my inspiration wherever I can find it. It can be an overheard snippet of

conversation, a newstory or a piece of art, graffiti, advert etc. Writing helps me

see the world, even the mundane, as a place of enchantment.

 

- How does it feel to have your work recognised?

It feels amazing to have your writing read by others and for people to connect

to it. It gives me the sense of being heard and validated. However, I think

writers don’t talk about rejection enough. With the success comes many more

rejections and it’s important to remember your worth (and your writing) is not

tied to winning or publication. 


- What's the best and most challenging thing about writing a Poetry? 

The best and worst part of writing is the blank sheet. It holds a myriad of

possibilities. Beginning to set down the shape of your poem, feels an act of

creation, bringing forth something from nothing. However, the blank page can

also be intimidating, especially when you’re low on creativity. I try to get

something down, even just a series of words to mark the blankness. At least

you then have a first draft to begin to knead into form.

It’s also hard to know when a poem is finished (is it ever?) I could endlessly

rework my poems and perhaps continually editing and adapting old work as

you grow is part of being a writer.


-How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected poem? Is there a story

behind your poem? And, how long have you been working on it?

My poem comes from stumbling across a black and white photo of my mum

from the 1960s. She was photographed on a rock on the sea in Cornwall by

her then boyfriend. She is wearing a pink and white polka dot towel dress that

I now own and hangs in my closet. The poem is an exploration of what it

means to look back at a photo of heritage that is beyond our own lifespan. We

can look back at our relatives with the knowledge they lack; what comes in

their futures, all the love and losses they will experience that in turn becomes

our inheritance. I also wanted to weave in the idea that our futures are

contained within the past in a biological way. Women are born with all the

eggs they will ever produce in their ovaries. Grandmothers will therefore have

the eggs that will become their grandchildren in their wombs when they are

pregnant. This concept of women being like Russian dolls formed the last part

of my poem.

I worked on this poem throughout the summer of 2022, after I discovered the

picture. However, I have been tinkering with it ever since. I’ve never shown it

to my mum but I’ll give her a copy of the anthology as a birthday present!


- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Poetry?

Write what you love and how you love to write. Nobody else has your voice

and experiences, so develop your own particular style and write about the

topics you want to. Authenticity is a kind of magic.

Look for inspiration everywhere. Seek out new experiences. If you are open,

stories will find you.

Carry a writers’ notepad everywhere so when you do stumble across

inspiration, you can pop it down. This doesn’t need to be a beautiful leather-

bound notepad, I use the note section on my phone. Far less arty, far more

convenient!

I love looking through disparate notes and noticing what themes and images

I’m drawn to.

Join a writing network to support you and offer constructive feedback. There

are many local and online groups.


- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions? 

The best thing about entering competitions is it forces you to work to a

deadline. It’s easy to procrastinate and put off writing and editing but a

deadline focuses your mind. The worst thing for me is the sense of

vulnerability it gives you. You are sharing your work, often personal, for

judgement. However, the very act of being vulnerable and doing it anyway is a

great achievement, regardless of the outcome.

 

- Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit to LISP?

Absolutely. To use a sporting cliche, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t

take.



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