Louise G Cole

Louise G Cole

Originally from Worcestershire but now living in Ireland, Louise G Cole writes poetry, short stories and flash fiction. She won the Hennessy Literary Award for Emerging Poetry in March 2018, when a Dublin pub was renamed in her honour. She performs at literary events in the west of Ireland.

 

Louise G Cole's collection Soft Touch has recently been chosen by Carol Ann Duffy for the 2019 Laureate's Choice series.

 

Louise G Cole – On Her Work

 

How did you start writing?

 

I began writing poetry only about five years ago, although I’ve always read other people’s. However, it is a bit disingenuous to make out I’ve only just started writing after having had a long career as a commercial wordsmith: I trained as a local newspaper reporter, going on to become one of the UK’s youngest female newspaper editors of the time. Then I jumped ship into Press and PR and I spent many years writing press releases and newsletters for various organisations, including editing the Aerostat, a magazine for hot air balloonists. That was back in the day when ballooning was my passion, before keeping alpacas and growing organic vegetables in Ireland took over my life.


Do you have a poem or poet that you go back to?

 

I have always loved the irreverent humour of poets like Wendy Cope and Roger McGough, the sharp nail-you-to-the-spot look at life from Carol Ann Duffy, and Gillian Clarke’s take on the natural world, and of course I couldn’t live in Ireland without loving almost everything by Seamus Heaney. But one single poem I often return to is Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise’. It is such a perfect, lyrical reflection of an indomitable spirit, with rhyming and rhythm that resonates time and again.

 

Where do you write?

 

I write wherever and whenever I can, always with a notebook and pen first. I can rarely create poems from scratch on the keyboard, it has to be the scrape of ink on paper. When I’m not writing, I like to walk, although my dog is rather arthritic now and can’t keep up very well, so we tend to saunter slowly and don’t go far. I love anything creative, so I make junk journals and my own greetings cards (advanced cutting and sticking according to my family), and I run two creative writing groups, taking great pleasure from encouraging beginners to try their hand at writing.


How does a poem make it from idea to page?


My creative process is pretty messy: lots of frantic scribbling, crossings out and two notebooks on the go as I work on drafts. Although I like complete silence as I work, that is rarely possible, so I have mastered the technique of zoning out from what is going on around me. Occasionally a poem will arrive nearly fully formed, and how that happens is a complete mystery. Usually I work at draft after draft until my eyes start to bleed. Then I might leave a poem alone for a few hours, days, weeks before going through it again – and some poems are never done, even after years I still want to tinker with them. Ideas can come from the ether, or more often from writing group prompts, or just from everyday experiences and relationships. I’ve written a lot about my parents, although I didn’t have an unhappy childhood so much as an uneventful one, but there are still things there for me to write about.

 

What was it like being chosen for the Laureate’s Choice Collection?

 


When I heard I’d been selected for the Laureate’s Choice I told hardly anyone for a few days until I felt sure it was really me, not one of those other Louise Coles (there are a few of us around). Of course, a lot of people in Ireland have heard of Carol Ann Duffy and the prestige attached to anything to do with the Poet Laureate, so it has opened a few doors for me, and it’s a delight to have recognition in my home country as well as my adopted one. I’m looking forward to reaching a UK audience as well as my usual Irish one. I have lived in Ireland for 15 years, but I’ve never lost my old accent or acquired a new one, so I’m hoping for some opportunities to read to audiences without feeling self-conscious or apologetic about my very English delivery.

 

What advice would you give to other poets?

 

My advice to other writers is to keep going, don’t give up at the first hurdle. Just because one editor or publisher doesn’t like your work today, if you like it yourself (and you should always like your own work), someone else will enjoy it tomorrow, or the next day, week, month. Writing is very subjective, but you do need to keep practising, practising, practising to get it right.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about your forthcoming pamphlet, Soft Touch, due to be published in February 2019?

 

Soft Touch refers to a poem about the memories evoked by the feel of soft knitted cotton jersey fabric, but it seemed appropriate to name the collection Soft Touch since that sums up my character pretty well. I am always experimenting with style and form, but I seem to have settled on a particular voice that is slightly acerbic and with dark humour, attempting to diffuse serious topics which could otherwise become maudlin or oppressive. I didn’t realise until fairly recently I could capture events so succinctly in poems, but since I realised this is the way I want to be heard, there is no stopping me. I like how my take on life resonates with other people and I love the empathy my poetry generates. When I sat down to write a poem about how my mother never listened to me, ‘Fur Coat and No Knickers’ emerged. Sadly, a lot of people also have elderly parents in care homes, so they can relate to the poem. My mother died recently, aged almost 95, but there is still more for me to write.


On Soft Touch

 

Sharp-edged and sharp-witted; richly humane and darkly humorous. These deft poems are both crystalline and subtle

– Dermot Bolger

Sharp and observant, Soft Touch uses wry humour to balance the pathos arising from picking holes in life’s day-to-day dramas. Cole often finds poetry in the mundane, twisting fantasy and truth with a memorable resonance.

 

 

Soft Touch
from Soft Touch

 

Stroking the navy legginged thighs
of a woman who used to be me,
daydreaming at the traffic lights,
lost in the fabric feel of fantasy,

holding a freshly-minted
babe-in-arms, sleepy-wrapped
in a bunny print Baby-grow,
poppers snapped against wriggle;

leaning against the still-taut
muscles of a former six-pack
strained against stained singlet,
curled silver chest hair peeking;

embarrassed by smooth gussets,
newly-washed panties immodestly
teetering atop Monday’s laundry
should-have-put-away-sooner pile;

hiding in a rock-chick t shirt
faded into over-worn nightwear,
colourless soft cotton comforter
at bedtime’s long, lonely stretch;

distracted by indecently tight,
white boxers, clinging, I’m hot
blushing, not knowing where to
look, but I’m looking anyway;

or here’s me, grey polishing cloths
formerly known as clothing, now
dusting shelves, mopping spills,
rubbing a shine onto mirrors

reflecting my life almost done.

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