A Conversation with Chris Gill

One of the first things that drew me to poetry was how hard it is to actually define. To me, poetry is a way of seeing the world far beyond its literal form. It is a form of art, in the sense that it comments on the world and provokes emotions from within that help us to connect with one another. It is this connection – writer to reader, songwriter to listener, painter to viewer – that excites me the most. In a world where all connection is made through screens and wires, I think it is essential that literary arts are resurrected and kept alive.

We are all touched by poetry at one stage in our lives; whether it is as obvious as studying prose in our English Literature classes at school, or through the plays we see at the theatre, or even verses sung by our favourite singers; but it is only once we become aware of poetry’s metaphysical presence that we begin to notice it everywhere. The graffiti on a bus stop. The conversations we have with interesting strangers. The dreams we have that we try to unravel but simply do not understand. Poetry is everywhere. It is in the very air.

Putting together and producing this book felt like it had been a very long time coming for me. It is my deeply personal, ambiguous yet unabashedly open, fragile yet unafraid letter to the world. It is a collection of poetry, lyrics and stream-of-conscious psychobabble dispensed from the corners of my heart and soul over the past four years. It journeys back in time to my earliest memories and moves through the many different chapters of my life so far, right up to present day. It touches on my family life and significant moments in my youth. It expresses the feeling of being an outsider in the town I resided as a teenager. It paints a picture of my university life and all of the highs and lows that came with it. It then comes right up to date and expresses some of the lessons I have learnt through moving to London to chase my many dreams.

The book opens with a section and poem titled Catacombs. Sounding like a direct letter of confession to God, the poem sets the tone for the whole book with its promise to reveal all skeletons and ghosts, “Through every cataclysmic betrayal / that has torn my delicate world apart / I present myself to you fully / I give you the catacombs of my heart.” Creases uses the symbol of wrinkled clothing to represent defiance against the corporate machine that tries to straighten out the curves that make us interesting and unique. Here I figuratively quote a figure high upon his or her “corporate throne” who questions the marketability of my writing, a consistent paradox I have been faced with upon reaching the city as an adult. It became blindingly obvious to me when writing this poem how the parasitic world of marketing and advertising feeds from art and expression.

The second section is titled Escape to the Docks. This focuses on my life as a student and the lessons learnt through leaving home and shedding many skins. Undoubtedly the darkest section of the book,

it opens with the heart-rending Trapdoor Moon that speaks of a friend’s suicide and the impact it had on the house he left behind. This was by far the hardest poem I have ever written for I could barely see my journal through the tears shed. I will never forget the experience of writing Trapdoor Moon; it was as if the words spiritually channelled through me. Era of Hades continues where Catacombs left off with its confessional tone and religious references. The poem is about the moment when you catch a glimpse of your reflection in a hedonistic haze and cannot recognise yourself. I was compelled by the image of a wild party juxtaposed with the Apocalypse and wanted to experiment with a haunting, Sylvia Plath inspired feel.

The third section of the book, Home, is an exploration of my earliest memories and relationships with my family. In many ways this section feels like the ‘heart’ or ‘core’ of the book as it touches on some of my most personal and treasured memories. Kicking off with Rotary Washing Line, I set the scene in the back garden of my childhood home. Here I explore the innocence and naïvety of childhood; we escape reality by climbing into our heads and getting lost in our imagination. I contrasted this with the harshness of growing up and facing adult pressures and responsibilities, “If only I could / climb back into my mind / the way I would do as a child / block out all the billboards / banners / and skyscrapers / all the advertisements / halfs and quarters.”

The final section of the book, and perhaps the one I am most proud of, is titled Wires. I decided to finish Verses on a less personal note, choosing to turn outwards by writing about a mixture of global issues and concerns. The main theme of this section is how technology and social media is damaging human interaction; it also investigates the omnipresence of the government and how it is consistently looking over and controlling us. Although this part of the book has the least amount of poems, it manages to keep its length with the exceptionally epic Wires. Wires is an ambitious closure to the book that I wrote over a couple of weeks; I found myself continually revisiting the poem right up until just before going to print as it’s a compelling subject on which I could write indefinitely.

In exploring my past and present, I wanted to address issues that feel very much a part of the future for my whole generation. As we move forward into the digital age and spend most of our time staring into pixels, a beautiful vision came to me of everyone coming together and suddenly disconnecting from “the machine and the machines.” I delve into exploration with the pressures of being “remade right” and “gaffertaped” by youth culture and the media, “Every hipster fashion magazine / wants me hysterical and hexagon / wants me polished dazed and confused / ready to fold up and reuse.” I felt an enormous sense of release being able to put the feelings I have about these subcultures into words. In writing this verse I began to realise how growing older has altered my perception of self-identity and how less willing I am to let mine be assembled by others.

Being my debut publication, it was important for me to take the design and production into just as much consideration as the poems themselves. This included avoiding the clutch of a big literary power-house and publishing the book independently. I photographed the landmarks I notice on my every day journey from Camden Road to Mornington Crescent. I then used these images to accompany and illustrate my words. From the ugly communal décor in my block of flats to the grand design of Greater London House – I felt that such contrasting settings would somehow represent the highs and lows expressed in the poems I have pieced together for this collection.

As I shape shift through each section of this book and journey from childhood to manhood, it is so gratifying to finally have a place for all of these weather-worn poems to exist beside one another. Whatever you take from my memoirs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed freeing them. These are my treasures. These are my scars. These are my verses.

Limited editions of Verses are available to pre-order now @ chrisgillverses.info

Published by PRNTD © 2011 All rights reserved


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Categories: Read

Author:Tall Dark Roast

Creator & Editor of Tall Dark Roast, an Online Magazine focused on art, design, architecture and lifestyle.


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