*featured image credit: light workers.org
Devon-based poet Phen Weston is receiving much-deserved recognition, following the publication of his poetry collection, Nothing But The Rain. Read on for his exclusive interview with Nickie Shobiery…
When asked if he always knew he wanted to be a writer, Phen replied, “As early as I can remember, I was fascinated with writing, and the older I get, the stronger this gets. I love words! The power they have over us is truly beautiful.
When I was very young, I used to write the ‘stories’ of movies I’d seen, showing it to all my mum’s friends, terrible grammar and all,” Phen laughed. “I was the outsider back then – I never felt what I had to say was good enough, and so destroyed all my work. It’s only been in the last few years that I realised what really matters – I love writing more than I care what others think.”
Casting his mind back, Phen told me about his earliest works. “The one that really stands out is one I wrote shortly after my grandfather passed away. It was a month or so before my daughter was born, and he contracted MRSA while in hospital for liver or kidney problems – I couldn’t visit him to say goodbye, because of the risk of passing it on. When he did pass away, I felt so lost and broken – he was always a magnificent soul and a big part of my life. All I could do was try to make some sense of it through words, and even though I don’t feel the poem is structurally anything amazing, it helped me to grieve.”
“I love writing more than I care what others think”
Phen’s raw emotion shows in his poetry. “I write everywhere thanks to my tablet,” Phen explained, “I’ve even been in trouble a few times for dropping it on my fiancés head when snuggled, watching a movie!”
Reminiscing on favourite writer moments, Phen said, “The rush from completing something you’ve really enjoyed working on. That feeling of knowing the words have managed to find a form in which they, and I, am happy. The response I’ve had since I began my blog – I haven’t had it that long, but the comments and commitment by those out there is beyond belief. There’s a real sense of community with bloggers that I believe can be quite hard to find in the real world. Through this I’ve met, corresponded and even collaborated with other amazing indie writers.”
Phen’s poetry collection, Nothing But The Rain, is a career-defining moment. “The process, surprisingly, wasn’t too difficult. The poems were already there, calling out to be more than coding. It was simply a matter of sorting through the good, the bad and the downright terrible. Then the ordering; trying every possible combination to see what fitted well, without over-thinking and take the enjoyment out of it.”
For his collection, Phen chose self-publishing. “It would be fantastic to be a traditionally published writer,” the poet began, “but the competition is so fierce, it’s near-impossible. Plus, the world has changed so much – we are told what to like by the powers-that-be, and those who deserve to be heard often vanish into obscurity.”
Holding your physical work must be something special. “it’s an incredible experience,” Phen told me. “You walk around all day with a huge grin knowing that you have achieved something, created a piece of art.”
Important to mention is Phen’s gorgeous cover-art. “I was very lucky with that photograph,” Phen said, “it was taken by my fiancé during a Cambodia trip. When I saw it, I knew it epitomised what I wanted – the beauty and complexity of the water-lily, and how each water droplet is perfectly perched.”
Discussing his eponymous poem, Nothing But The Rain, Phen mysteriously said, “It’s inspired by life, death and rebirth, or the struggling to find a place within the world today… or both… or none. It’s also about finding yourself, and the splendour in everything.”
Phen is currently studying English and History at university. Discussing how it effects him as a writer, Phen said, “It’s a mishmash of lectures and ideas that flood into everything I do at the minute, but that’s because university, especially final year, is so time-consuming. Between reading modernist works, learning 300 years of history and writing my dissertation, what else can be expected?
Nonetheless, studying history has definitely helped shape some of my work. I had the chance to explore Japanese Waka, and that’s something I’ve always enjoyed. Being able to not only read the poetry of the past, but place it in context, is wonderful.”
Thinking ahead to what the future holds, Phen said, “The near future will be mainly university-centred. That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing though – I’m working on another two collections that’ll be published next year.
In the meantime, I’ve been working on a small collection of roughly 50 pages, and I plan to dedicate any royalties to a charity in honour of my younger brother. He battles many mental health issues, and recently found the courage to come out to me about his sexuality. I could see how hard this was for him, and sexuality shouldn’t cause so much anxiety. Although he doesn’t see it, he has an abundance of strength, and it’s amazing to see how he’s starting to shine, setting up a support group for LGBT people and their families. So in his honour, I’ll be dedicating the money made to a LGTB charity.
Other than that, if people keep reading, I will always keep writing.”
Interview by Nickie Shobeiry
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