A while ago, I interviewed Banana the Poet for my View From the Shoe column. It was, and still is, the most popular edition of that column I've had. You fell in love with Banana and her take on the world. So when she told me that The Alternative Poetry Book was now available on Amazon, I wanted first to give everyone the chance to buy it, and second to use it as an excuse for another interview. So here she is, the wonderful Banana:
1. Your poetry brightens many people's days on twitter and elsewhere. Do you get frustrated when people see you as a "happy poet"? And is that part of why you've deliberately written this book in two styles?
I try not to get frustrated by anything. Being seen as a "happy poet" is lovely! I'd rather be seen as a beautiful sylph-like figure with the intellect of a mega genius, but anything positive is good and at least "happy poet" is attainable as an image.
As for deliberately writing anything :) I wish! I just spout poetry day after day after day ad infinitum. I had no idea of a book when I wrote them - let alone a series of seven books. But when I did decide to package them up into a book form I already had two poetry blogs - one for funny/silly poems and one for serious poems.
This wasn't a purposeful thing either. I just started off posting my funny poems because I thought they would be most interesting for people and I felt less timid about them because it is always easier to share jokes than deeper feelings especially with strangers who might not be sympathetic or kind.
As time went on I gained confidence and realised that most people I encounter online are indeed very sympathetic, kind and supportive so I was encouraged to share my more 'raw' poetry. It didn't fit in my silly/happy poetry blog so I began poems-2-share.
I wanted to include both aspects of my poetry in my books and alternating 'serious' with 'funny' just felt the obvious way to go.
2. I love the any which way you can of the book. Which way is reading it back to front, and which is reading it the right way?
There is no right way and there is no wrong way. Any way that gets you through it is a good way. Upside down and in a mirror might be tricky - but hey if you fancy trying it - why not? I wonder if I should bring out a cloth book version for under water?
3. I'm not as versed in poetry as I'd like to be, but my limited knowledge of poetry makes me think, when I think of your book, of Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience. Is there anything in that?
You've guessed it! I am in fact Blake reincarnated only with more talent (that's a joke) and large bazooms (not a joke). I sing a lot higher these days, am both more innocent and experienced than in my previous incarnation and avoid tygers/tigers like the plague!
4. Why red and yellow?
Red is for the ketchup in my fried egg,
Yellow for the caterpillar crawling up my leg.
Together they make a bright, loud cover for my book,
They grab the eye and visually shout "come and take a look!"
Yellow is for butter, dandelions and sun.
Red is for the blood and danger deep in everyone.
The balance that is found in having Yin and Yang,
the colour and the life and the noise of fizz and bang!
5. You live in a gorgeous part of the world. Does that make writing poetry easier or harder?
Much much easier.
6. Can you remember anything about the first poem you wrote?
In this lifetime you mean? Not when I used to be Blakey?
I recently found while tidying out a drawer - a fragment of paper. It was very thin - almost toilet papery and carried the old familiar clonky blue typewriting that I used to bash out of my first plastic Petite typewriter. I must have been between 7 and 9 when I wrote it. My teenage son said on reading this "you were one seriously disturbed little doodie!" It's hard to argue with that on the facts :) Here's a facsimile of it:
TWERE night where winter dwelttt,
TWAS day when summer was felt ,
YOU n ever new when it would stop ,twirling , hurling , winter leaves whirling towards
you . Never, never whould they stop .
Till baby birds fall plop from their nests .
falling , falling from their nests . .
7. Is there a poem inside you you feel you have to write - one day - but just can't bring out?
Goodness me no. I haven't got that sort of organisation or patience. I suffer more from poetic diarrhoea than poetic constipation. As soon as it begins to solidify - it's out there!
8. What reaction from a reader would please you the most?
The ultimate would be for a reader to read my work online and then feel so attached that they buy it in book form to re-read and share with others. Even better if they buy lots of copies for their friends, relatives etc or one for every room in the house because they couldn't bear to suddenly want to read one of the poems and not have the work to hand immediately!
But just reading it online and having an "Ah! I liked that," moment - for whatever reason - is absolutely all I ever really hoped for and more than I expected.
I'm writing to please readers, they don't need to please me.
9. Do you think poetry should be taken more seriously by people? Or less?
I don't "do" should - if I can avoid it. As long as people choose to take poetry at all they can take it anyway they want. I like my poetry in a certain way and that is the way I produce it. But if others have other ideas - that's fine - as long as nothing is imposed on either me or them we can all swim along together in the same sea without getting in each other's way.
10. What next?
I have no idea at all. That's what is so exciting about life - you never know what will happen and there's always something new and surprising to explore.
Thank you so much!