13 Questions with Craig Podmore

by HST UK on September 6, 2011

Craig Podmore is a writer, photographer, filmmaker and director from Manchester, UK. He is the author of I am a Gun and The Abattoir Heavens and The Holy Ghost. His work has appeared in various journals and e-zines including Gloom Cupboard, The Plebian Rag, The Scottish Poetry Review, Epic Rites, Ditch, Poetry, Danse Macabre, Calliope Nerve, Horror, Sleaze, Trash, Sein Und Worden, Sex and Murder Magazine, Gutter Eloquence and Fashion for Collapse. Craig kindly took some time to answer our 13 Questions.

HST: You’ve written a lot about violence. What are your thoughts about the recent riots that have blighted broken Britain?

Britain is a very ignorant place I find. It shovels its troubles under a carpet and hopes for them to go away. We’re more interested in making a brew than actually taking any action. I’ve written an immense amount about violence because I have witnessed a lot of it first hand. I have been a victim of it also. Under the surface, I know how unstable this country is. I think these riots were inevitable, I have felt unrest since the first stages of recession. Massive job losses, an expensive cost of living and the inauguration of the Tory party are the three factors / motives of these riots. Then again, it is debatable, that in a whole, the riots are meaningless and that they are doing it just because they can! ‘Feed the rich and eat the poor’ is very much what it is right now. The children are bored so destruction and thievery sounds good. They all represent the bleak future and the hopelessness of Britain. It’s barbaric and shameful but out of every tragic consequence comes a listening ear and a mass awareness.

HST: Love Notes from a Soldier’s Diary, published by Neopoiesis Press is your latest book, talk to us about the genesis of this collection, and how you came to get the work published by Neopoiesis?

Well, I was at the time, in a very poignant sense of place. I knew I had to write something different. I had just finished writing ‘The Abattoir Heavens and The Holy Ghost’ and it was time to go in a different direction. ‘The Abattoir Heavens…’ strangely ended as a love story and so from there, I knew it was time to write something about romance. However, I was very aware of the topic being easily scrutinised as something tacky or kitsch (especially in poetry). So I was eager to keep a certain intensity to it and so I began to think about characters, backgrounds etc; the news was all about Iraq and Afghanistan, I was going to keep it as a modern fable but thought it would be more interesting if it was set in the second world war. It felt more relative, the tone of it fit with what I wanted to say within the story.

I have known Dale for sometime (since the early MySpace days), so when she formed her press I was aching to get some material submitted but I waited until I had something strong enough and luckily I finally got there. It’s a great press and I’m overwhelmed that I’m now apart of it.

HST: Were any particular writers influential to you when writing the book?

Dante was a strong influence. I had not long finished reading his first epic poem, New Life; it moved me so much, I relate to a vast amount of his work especially when it comes to the idea of love. The whole ‘war’ background of my book is very much that of the hell from The Divine Comedy, in fact, it’s progression and story has near enough the same formula.

Other influences however have been mainly of a cinematic form. Many who have already read the book have noticed it’s cinematic influence. Films like Come and See, Atonement (the book also by Ian McEwan) and The Thin Red Line had inspired me a great deal. Most of my work is predominantly influenced by cinema, if not all of it.

HST: Modern warfare has been fetishized to the point of parody, thanks to ‘Call of Duty’ and other such shoot em’ ups, Hollywood action blockbusters and fly on the wall documentaries that get down and dirty with the troops we’ve created a strange relationship with our Armed Forces, what is it about a man in a uniform?

I don’t think it’s the representation of the uniform but the exploration of violence, something man has always been interested in. I find it intrinsic to our nature; it’s the animal in us that embraces it.

However, the parody of this is just a barrier. It’s quite dangerous in fact how people are gorged into such a violent, interactive world. The terrible aspect is, we all love it. We then stop to recognise it’s negativity and is then glamorised to the point of being at the forefront of our popular culture.

Perhaps it’s the banality of our lives and that all of us have this under-gnawing anxiety about it, which is inevitably relieved by the destruction and chaos of wars and riots, it is a social matter we should all take into account.

HST: Death is hidden well in British Society. Funerals are private affairs, caskets are mostly closed, and mourning is predominantly quiet and dignified. Do you believe that the current generation of soldiers going out to Afghanistan are less aware of their mortality than the servicemen and women of the past?

I don’t know whether it’s because we are ‘hiding’ it but I think it’s more about the respect of the dead. I think that we are also afraid of it to a certain extent because the topic of death is not culturally a spiritual thing here. It’s very much frowned upon if you were to talk about it in public. It’s a very serious matter but when a death of soldier occurs, the country comes together for it. The respect is heightened to something of a martyr in a very patriotic fashion. The country merely promotes a notion that dying in a war is somewhat a heroic thing and therefore death is nothing to be afraid of. So most soldiers must go to war with a sentiment/ façade of immortality.

HST: Was there a particular poem in the collection that you were unsure about including?

Yes, there’s a piece I wrote about one of my favourite directors, Pier Paulo Passolini. It’s included in the ‘Other Journal Entries’ section of the book. I was reluctant of its inclusion because I was unsure of it fitting in, material and content wise but, it was also important of me to have it in the book because it’s an important piece to me, personally. It’s a personal book so idealistically it was perfect. The piece explores his death, sexuality and politics. It also depicts his outlook on life, specifically the poorer status of Italian city folk. It’s a shame because it was this part of the world that murdered him. It’s debatable that it was a political killing. Many people from the higher authorities despised what he represented which was the Marxist/communist movement. He was murdered not long after the release of his controversial ‘Salo’ which was loosely based on ‘The 120 Days of Sodom’ by the Marquis De Sade. The film attacks the bourgeois/fascist regimes that once dominated Italy. It also comments vastly on the consumerist states of our world. I believe it to be a masterpiece. In the end, I was very glad that I had included it.

HST: I read an interview you did a while back when you mentioned a love for the music of Joy Division. The great Tony Wilson once said of the band that “every other band was on stage because they wanted to be rock stars; this band was on stage because they had no fucking choice”. For what reasons do you create?

There’s just an impulse to be creative. It’s quite mystic really, I have thought many times on the reason why I do create. There’s no clarity. However, without sounding preachy, I do feel that I do need to say things about the world. It’s like a release to me but I’d like readers / viewers to take my work in any way they feel.

HST: Being from Manchester, do you believe the city has more of a cultural identity than other cities in the UK?

It is more ‘open’ than most I find, however, my experience with other cities are somewhat at a low level. Although, I’m confident enough to say that Manchester does have one of the greatest, if not exhilarant past of music. The Hacienda days, Happy Mondays, Joy Division, Stone Roses – these bands represent strong foundations of its cultural significance, the rephrasing of the city’s name ‘Madchester’ gives it a whole new picture. The music scene is still vast today. Manchester has a growing cultural identity; the art scene is also growing too having recently the great Icelandic singer Bjork at the MIF (Manchester International Festival). Writers, artists, filmmakers and photographers are growing in numbers, embracing new exhibitions and independent films. To me, it always has that promising, creative aspect flowing throughout the city; its vigorous energy is pervasive and contagious.

HST: Our paths have inadvertently crossed several times on the tangled literary web. Both of us have had work published by Erbacce Press, and when I was editor of Gloom Cupboard I featured some of your work. Has the rise of social networking and online publishing either helped or hindered your writing?

It has helped a great deal I think. If you’re a writer, artist etc, social networking is a necessary evil. You gather contacts and explore blogs, e-zines and online journals. To start out as a writer I think it’s imperative that most writers (most notably those who are interested in getting published) submit their work as mush as possible. It takes some time to conjure some confidence in your work but that’s the reason why you should (as a writer) post your work on a blog to see other writers/readers comment/criticise the material. It’s important to see other opinions and reviews, it’s the only way you can improve your work.

I don’t think it has ever hindered my work to be extremely honest, I think it has improved it! Erbacce have been wonderful in helping me publish my first two chapbooks and Gloom Cupboard was a great site to be involved in.

HST: When people say that they like your poems, does that unnerve you?

It’s doesn’t unnerve me, no, it makes me content. I’m happy that most readers understand my work. Most readers note and understand that the work is of a sociological concern regarding war crimes, inhumanity, socio-commentary, class systems, impoverishment, politics, communism, consumerism, ignorance, criminology, suburbia, moral, ethos etc…

I guess liking my material is more to do with its aestheticism (I’d like to think), although, some readers may enjoy the work just purely for its exploitative aspects of violence, either way, conclusively, I accept both views.

HST: You are also a photographer and filmmaker, do these mediums segue into your writing, can a picture paint several hundred good words, and could a film become poetic?

To me, the writing segues in the film/photography. I base my ideas entirely on visuals. My imagination creates a picture; it is then an ache to get it written onto paper. Most of what I visualise is predominantly an abstraction of some sorts. At first it is something indecipherable but it slowly forms into something of intrigue. The reason why I love poetry is because of its mysticism. It’s how it transforms non-linear concepts into something of a profound transcendence. When observing a painting, the story isn’t always clear. You have to stare, ponder and interpret; it takes up the same stature of a poem. One read doesn’t always clarify its absolute truth. It takes several attempts or to some degree, you conclude your own opinion of its story/truth.

Yes, film can be deemed as poetry. Avant-garde film has a poetic formula. Experimental film and installation film all have a poetic quality to them. Stan Brakhage labelled his work as film poetry. He scratched and painted negatives of his film, when in motion it created a new form of language. Maya Deren was a firm believer that film was poetry. Again, she was another filmmaker who quashed the convention of a linear narrative and instead used symbology as a means to create ideas within a frame. Bill Viola, the installation artist has made many revelatory films of a poetic nature. Man Ray filmed bull fights in silence, Derek Jarman’s film ‘Blue’ which basically is just a blue coloured screen for 90 minutes whilst narrating his combat with AIDS, Un Chien Andalou, a film by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali is a poetic and surreal allegory about sex and death…

There are many filmmakers who challenge audiences with their poetic scope. However, most noticeably, it is not a mainstream convention as non-linear is somewhat an ‘unlikeable’ approach for the masses hence why they are labelled avant-garde. Some mainstream filmmakers do achieve this: the likes of David Lynch, Werner Herzog, David Cronenberg, Lars Von Trier and Terrence Mallick have a large following. It is with these filmmakers (along with many others I have not mentioned) that keep cinema as an art form.

Film is a poem and that is for certain.

HST: I’ve been looking at a number of online dating profiles in the last week or two, and it appears a lot of women are interested in photography, why is photography considered sexy?

Photography is that secondary eye that is not as coy as the human one. The mechanical iris becomes the tool in ‘seeing’ worlds voyeuristically; the mechanism becomes a barrier that is attracted to the likes of sex, nudity and death.

Today, our personas are manifested through photography based on the Internet and social networks. It is important for us to be a beautiful reflection of ourselves. I also think it’s a fashionable thing to like photography. I partially think that the reason why photography was created was for the recordings of fucking and beauty. Our obsession with sex is mammoth. Pornography is nearly bigger than supermarkets and the revealing of flesh in the photo form will always be religious in our nature.

HST: On your Twitter feed I noticed you’ve recently seen the final Harry Potter film. I’ve managed to completely avoid all of Rowling’s books and the film adaptations. I was wondering what pop culture phenomenon’s have completely passed you by?

Ha-ha, well, I will confess, the last 4 Harry Potter films were great! Mainstream cinema isn’t a dead art form, it still should be appreciated for its reasoning to entertain.

Well, knowing I’m quite a sucker for mainstream cinema, not much passes me by. I mean, I understand that cinema for a mass audience is somewhat drivel and that world cinema as well as the avant-garde film has more of my respect. Their ideas and filmmaking break more barriers artistically. Star Trek (even though I think it has more of a cult status) has passed me by in many ways more than one. On a witty note, it just isn’t logical to me…


If you want to answer HST’s 13 Questions then email us: aprilmaymarch777@yahoo.co.uk

Previous post:

Next post: