LISP 2023 Poetry Finalist, Timewardens by Mark Fiddes
Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I try to swim every morning before the desert city I live in has woken up. I then spend at least one hour writing or editing. Work as a creative director then takes up most of the day, collaborating with designers and strategists on everything from an Expo pavilion to a new cruise liner,
When and how did you get into writing?
My Dad is a painter, so I grew up with the idea that making ideas real is the only suitable work for an adult. When I got to college, I asked the Professor of Poetry if I could switch to English. He remarked that the very last thing I should do - if I wanted to write - was study English at Oxford. So, I stuck to Philosophy.
My first job was writing journalism/propaganda in Washington, D.C. where I was headhunted to work in Congress. I only returned to poetry in my early fifties to make sense of a world that appeared to be spinning out of control.
Since then, I have released two collections ‘Other Saints Are Available’ (Live Canon) and ‘The Rainbow Factory’ (Templar). It all kicked off with an award-winning pamphlet ‘The Chelsea Flower Show Massacre’ (Templar). I’m a winner of the Oxford Brookes University International Poetry Prize and the Ruskin Prize and runner up in the Bridport
and Robert Graves Prizes. I also came third in the UK National Poetry Competition with a poem about toxic masculinity called ‘Polite Safety Notice.’
How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?
I write every day for at least an hour in the morning and inspiration has many sources.
Reading is one of them but so is the sheer dailiness of life. The minute observation of what makes us – and keeps us – human, from going to work to having kids. If I write about politics, it often comes over as a rageful dirge. It’s more of a pressure valve.
How does it feel to have your work recognised?
Great. It’s validation that someone gets it and possibly feels the same way. Unless you’re performing regularly, that’s hard to find.
What's the best and most challenging thing about writing Poetry?
As a medium, poetry was described by John Burnside as “the science of belonging.”
For me writing it is evidence of our connectedness. In an era when social media thrives on division, poetry is more necessary than ever.
I also like the format. Poetry requires compression of meaning. The biggest challenge is the sprawl of an idea, or worse, falling in love with clever wordplay that obscures truthfulness.
How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?
I wrote the poem sitting beside three old boys on a bench. They go there every day.
Ignored, they watch the world go by. I knew there was more to it than that. In other words, the bench became the front row to the Universe.
Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Story?
Find some poets you love and read everything by them. Read indie magazines.
Keep a notebook and use it to edit out the world around you.
What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?
Finding yourself in wonderful company.
Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit to LISP?
I’m still in the discovery phase but it looks to me like the kind of community in which you can grow as a writer from interactions with those in different disciplines. I often see a poem as cinematography which is where conversations with filmmakers, in particular, are always fruitful.