GAYLE RICHARDSON IN CONVERSATION WITH JANE ORMEROD
Gayle Richardson lives in Suffolk, England. Her poetry appears in the great weather for MEDIA anthologies, Suitcase of Chrysanthemums, I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand, and The Careless Embrace of the Boneshaker. Some of her recent work can also be found in the Australian poetry journal, Uneven Floor. During the day, she is a freelance writer. By night, she is mostly wine or vodka.
Jane Ormerod: Your poem “To the Child I Never Want to Have” in our latest anthology, Suitcase of Chrysanthemums, is an unflinching statement. As we write in our introduction to the book, it (together with Ernestine Montoya’s short story “The Clinic”) definitively states the necessity of ownership of one’s body. Can you tell us a little of the background to this work?
Gayle Richardson: As a woman who doesn’t want children, I’m often met with: “You must really hate kids” or “You’ll regret it when you’re older” or something just as negative. Some people respect my decision and simply say, “Fair enough.” But the ones who don’t accept my choice expect me to give them a reason why I choose to be childless. I’ve even been asked, “Is it because you can’t have them?” Kids have never been on the agenda. That’s it. Nothing more to say.
So the poem is about me not wanting kids and me refusing to explain myself to all those who feel the need to pass judgement or make insensitive comments when I tell them I’m never becoming a mother. It reads as though I’m talking to my non-existent child. However, it’s more about me being sick and tired of others demanding a detailed explanation for something that’s none of their business.
Unfortunately, there appears to be a stigma around people - especially women - who opt out of parenthood, but I’m not afraid to admit that it’s just not for me. Society can place as much pressure on me as it wants. It isn’t going to change a thing. As far as I’m concerned, we all deserve the right to make our own decisions about our bodies and whether or not we want to have children without needing to defend those decisions.
JO: Your work also appears in our collections I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand (summer 2014) and The Careless Embrace of the Boneshaker (summer 2016). The world has lurched further towards hatred and oppression - and the normalization and encouragement of voicing these beliefs - since then. Do you think your creative work has changed?
GR: I don’t think so. A lot of the poems I write are about personal battles and experiences. I’m pretty sure that will never change.
JO: You are a dynamic performer. Is this a part of the poetry process that you enjoy? Do you read out loud while writing or editing a poem?
GR: Yeah, I like performing. I think poetry is meant to be heard. The best thing about it for me is getting the chance to read my poems how I read them. Does that make sense? So, when someone else reads my work in a book, it’s unlikely that they’ll read it the same way that I do. Not that it matters at all. I’m just saying, I enjoy doing it my way in front of an audience.
I read out loud when I’m editing pieces. When I write a poem, there’s just a lot of talking in my head.
JO: What do you find the most difficult part of being a writer?
GR: It’s exhausting. I never switch off. Sometimes I think of a line or an idea for a poem when I’m in bed and I have to get up and write it down immediately. I’ve been known to jump out of the shower to do the same thing. I also struggle to write about things outside of my bubble. Maybe that’s my emotions getting in the way a little bit.
JO: What sparked your initial love of writing? Do you remember the first books you ever read?
GR: I’m sure it had something to do with music. I wrote songs when I was younger and went on to study music. Sadly, I lost my passion for writing songs not long after I left college to get a job. It was then when I got into poetry but I never submitted anything back then. That all started around five years ago.
It’s hard to remember the first books I ever read. My sister and I adored Beatrix Potter as kids. One of my best-loved books as a child was Rusty’s Adventure. The story is basically about a fox cub that gets lost during a game of hide-and-seek. He isn’t bothered at first because he makes friends with all these different animals but he eventually runs into some huntsmen. It ends well. A young boy saves him. The book was a gift from my Grandpa. I still have it.
JO: What are you currently reading?
GR: I’ve currently got my nose in Bigger than Hitler – Better than Christ by Rik Mayall. It has been in my collection for a number of years. I’m busy working most of the time so I’ve only just gotten around to reading it.
JO: Is there a book on your shelf that would surprise people?
GR: Probably not. I reckon they’d be more surprised to find that there are no cat-related books on the shelf!
JO: Finally, what’s next for Gayle Richardson?
GR: To be honest, I have no idea. Your guess is as good as mine!