berridge final cover photo

David Berridge, The Poet is Working (Department Press, 2013), front cover.

Patrick Coyle wrote to me about The Next Big Thing:

…I’ve been asked to take part in a project called The Next Big Thing, for which I answered seven questions (below) and posted them on my blog. The next part is nominating another four people, who also post their responses to the questions online, and invite a further four writers/artists/poets to do the same. Anyway, I thought it might be something you’d consider playing with, for whatever next publication/script you are working on. It’s pretty flexible in terms of how you deal with the questions, and it doesn’t have to go on a blog per se, just somewhere online.

Patrick’s answers are here, following an invitation from SJ Fowler (answers here), who was responding to Kirsten Irving (here). My own are below.

1.Where did the idea come from for the book? 
I had several themes, ideas, projects that were taking shape in various notebooks, computer files, and daydreams – about the Etruscans, a trip to Budapest, Alfred Döblin and Berlin Alexanderplatz, Lev Rubinstein and an impromptu protest walk in Moscow. Also, thinking about writing as “routine”, both habit, drudgery, magic show, and stand-up. At a certain point I realised these were all one project and the book took shape.
2.What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry, although ideas about essay and fiction are also important to its content and structure. Wondering how these related, I came across Northrop Frye’s idea of “thematic genre’s” which he defines as “Works of literature in which no characters are involved except the author and his audience.”
3.What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Maybe Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. I’ve been reading Kenneth Tynan’s wonderful essay “The Maturing of Eric Morecame” where he writes:

If, as we are always being told, comedy must have an attitude towards life, they are not comedians at all. Their laughs – and this is something very British, observable in talents as disparate as Pinter and the Goons – depend on nuance and inflexion, minute details of vocal and verbal eccentricity.

With Michael Haneke and Béla Tarr to direct collaboratively.
4.What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? 
The words drew faint weary furrows across the Consul’s mind constantly filling with harmless deliriums.*
5.How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? 
About six months. It came together very quickly, although there were also parts which I had been thinking about for a long time, so I could also have said six years. But from the moment I realised all these different materials were one book it was six months.
6.Who or what inspired you to write this book? 
Thinking with/in poems; connections of page and speech; how to negotiate between the dense materiality of language and the expansiveness of anecdote, story and tall tale; poetry as response, research, notation, ambivalence; energy points of enthusiasm and desire; the fiction and fidelity of/ after place; finding form for what otherwise remains scattered inference.
This was also a text that came from the sociality of poets and the geographies those bring into being: the Etruscan material came after David Kelly and SJ Fowler asked me to read alongside their own Etruscan based collaboration in summer 2012. The Budapest parts came out of a visit to Márton Koppány. Then there are writers and places met in the text itself, such as Alfred Döblin and Lev Rubinstein.
It’s a party, a protest, and a love poem. Its energy is really the energy of being in love, even, perhaps especially, when the book is at its most disgruntled.
7.What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It is published by Richard Barrett and Simon Howard’s splendid department press.


* From my current reading 09/01/2013 of Malcolm Lowry, Under The Volcano (Picador Classics 1990 [1947]), 211.


I asked Richard Barrett, Nikolai Duffy, Mary Paterson, and one who declined. I’ll add links to answers as they appear online.


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