Thanet Writers Question Rosemary McLeish
My name is Rosemary McLeish and I am a poet and outsider artist living in Selling.
I was a late developer, started painting and writing when I was about forty. I wrote novels and short stories for years, while my main interest was developing as an artist. Poetry came sly, when I was riding a bike around London, and for years it was like a secret voice, only heard by me. When I was fifty-two, my oldest brother, the writer in the family, died, and I began to take writing poetry more seriously.
Many things influence my writing, but I could boil it down to what I am thinking right now. It could be something I have seen or read or heard, or some idea that floats in out of nowhere, or some odd or funny juxtaposition of sound and meaning, or a cliché or pun that catches my attention. Music and thinking about how it works is a major influence.
My motivation to write comes from anger, delight, loneliness, a sense of injustice, and a need to spill some beans.
I don’t have any writing habits so to speak. A pen or pencil, a notebook or a scrap of paper, and I just let it all out. I sense an urgency and just start at word one, see what comes. The beauty of writing poetry is that there is no need for an overall plan, for consistency; horrible cliché, but I go with the flow. This was a crucial part of what I was trying to do with my recent book. Now I’ve been writing for so long, I don’t even need to do much editing. It’s all done unconsciously; then out it pops.
I am inspired by injustice, nature, music, art, treatment of women, flowers, and emotion.
What holds me back from writing is a crippling depression which I have suffered since childhood. I go into a semi-catatonic state where I can hardly get out of bed. I have learned over the years how to cope with it and sometimes conquer it, but often I just have to wait for it to pass, and cry a lot.
My greatest achievements so far: Getting anything written at all. Becoming my true creative self. Performing my poetry (I used not to be able to speak in public). Getting my poetry published. I have won prizes but I don’t relate very much to that.
My piece of advice for other writers is to find your own voice. It will probably surprise you. Not an easy thing to do, especially as the other half of this advice is reading, reading, reading.
I have just had my second collection, Defragmentation, published by Wordsmithery. In December 2017 I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. My treatment is not the usual as I cannot have chemotherapy or other aggressive interventions. I found that the only thing that helped me cope with this devastating diagnosis was to write—not the usual ‘fight against cancer’ story, but about the impact this has had on my life and psyche and my understanding of myself. There is surrounding many illnesses an accepted ‘story,’ such as the fight, the triumph over odds, the response to the challenge. I didn’t write about this at all, and I hope my book has relevance for anyone who has been faced with this kind of breaking down of their world for whatever reason, and will bring some comfort and sense of not being so alone.
Now I am slowly, as my health deteriorates, trying to gather together a collection of my unpublished poems, which has the working title of Smithereens. I want it to be a rag tag and bobtail of all the writings I’ve done in the last twenty or so years.
© 2020 Rosemary McLeish
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Rosemary McLeish has been writing for the past thirty years, mainly short stories and poetry, as well as articles for journals.