I can still remember, back in the mid-late nineties, when I first started to write poetry 'seriously', how surreal and yet wonderful it was to open a newspaper and find a picture of myself staring back. First they were interested because of my snooker career, then it was about my early successes as a poet. But after a few years in the public eye, as my writing steadied and my life became less exciting and turbulent, media interest began to flag.
Now I've been appointed Warwick Poet Laureate and the local newspapers are back again in force, calling round to take my picture - alas, sporting a rather thicker waistline than in the nineties! - and asking the usual flurry of questions: what sort of poems do I write? what am I planning to do with my Laureate year? how does an ex-snooker player break into the poetry business?
It's hard to answer the first question. I write the poems that come into my head. They tend, I suppose, to deal with the mythic in some way. Rural poems, yes. But urban ones too (after all, though I've spent most of my life living in the wilds, I'm now settled in a town). And when it comes to writing about family and personal relationships, those things appear in my poems when necessary and not otherwise. I do love my husband and five children, but I'm a little too headstrong and eccentric to be truly domesticated. Which always makes for a good excuse when the dinner is burnt ...
What am I planning to do with 2007-08, the year of my Warwick Laureateship? This is a far more interesting question and one I've already been mulling over. There are some official meetings to be attended and arts people to consult before I can be more specific about the future, but basically, there are plans afoot to make this year a truly memorable one for poetry in and around Warwick.
To give you a little more detail on that, I'll be starting a special Laureate Blog at some point in the near future, to keep the online poetry presence strong in Warwick. Then there are some special readings and workshops to be arranged, perhaps some trips into schools at some point, the odd radio interview, and maybe a poetry 'drop' of the kind instigated by Helen Yendall, the previous Laureate. I'd also like to draw the poetry world's attention to the excellent Warwick Words Festival - more on that later.
And on a personal note, since my own interests and obsessions as a poet do gravitate towards English folklore and heritage, and Warwickshire is a rich and splendid county as far as such things are concerned, local folklore and history will undoubtedly inform my own writing. So there may even be a sequence of Laureate-related poems emerging from this year's work, perhaps to be published in a special collection, if that seems like the right thing to do at the end of the year.
And that last question, about my disreputable past as a snooker player and how it translates into being a poet? Well, as in so many things in life, you just have to keep your eye on the ball and follow through ...