It is such an honour to have on the blog today talented poet Caroline Mellor. I became aware of her work through her facebook posts and I must confess, this is a first for me – to buy a book as a direct result of being drawn in by social media posts (maybe other people do this all the time, but I don’t!)
Her debut collection of poetry, The Honey in the Bones, was published in 2022 by Golden Dragonfly Press and the accolades immediately started to pour in. Bestselling author Roxy Freeman writes: “The Honey in the Bones is a collection of evocative poems that remind people to slow down, look up and connect with their senses and surroundings. Caroline Mellor’s prose is honest and thought provoking with themes of nature and nurture written from the heart.”
I too fell in love with this enchanting collection of poetry and urge you to buy your own copy and treasure it.
1) How long have you been writing poetry for? Can you remember some of your early poems and what inspired them?
Firstly thank you so much for having me here, Rebecca! It’s been wonderful to connect with you through your work, and also to meet you in person recently at a climate action.
To answer your question, I think I’ve always written poems – but for a long time I didn’t have the confidence to show anyone. The first poem I ever published is called ‘Imbolc’ which I wrote in 2015 after being inspired by a walk at Firle Beacon in Sussex. I wrote it quite quickly, almost all in one go, changed very little and then published it on a website called Rebelle Society. The poem is inspired by nature, magic and the spirit of the land, and I guess the positive reaction to it gave me the confidence to think that maybe I could write poetry. Although my writing has changed quite a bit since then, I’m very grateful to that piece, so I included it in my book.
2)How long did it take you to write The Honey in the Bones? You call them ‘Poems to Rewild the Soul.’ Can you explain what you mean by this and can you summarise your collection in a few sentences?
From start to finish the book took seven years to write, but most of the poems were written between the years of 2020 and 2022. I started publishing more poetry online during the pandemic, and after a while I decided I had the bones of a collection. I’m deeply inspired by the rewilding movement. It gives me great hope that we can turn things around before it’s too late. But of course, it’s a process that starts within; the book is an attempt to realign with the cycles of nature of which we are a part; to rewild the soul, to bring us home to our true selves. In essence it’s a hopeful collection, a love letter to the Earth written during a time of great change and some considerable darkness.
3)The natural world sings through the pages of your book. Do you have a favourite place in nature that you like to spend time?
Thank you for the kind words! I’m happiest at home and in my rewilded garden, but like you, I’ve always loved to travel. After having children, though, and particularly during the pandemic, I felt that if I couldn’t travel outwardly, the best way to go was further in. The book grew out of paying close attention and apprenticing myself to the world around me, the fields, rivers and woods of the East Sussex Low Weald (the wild wood, although it’s not too wild these days) and the hills of the South Downs, which have a special place in my heart. It’s a richly storied landscape which my personal story is layered with, although like almost all other precious and beautiful places in the world at the moment, it’s under a huge amount of pressure from human activity. This balance between facing reality and cherishing the beauty that remains is a theme I like to explore in my writing.
4) Do you have a favourite book (or two) of all time?
It’s difficult to choose! But for deep-reaching soulful wisdom, it would have to be Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It’s a timeless book which I return to again and again and never quite finish. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass changed the way I think about the world and language, and Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark (and more recently, Not Too Late) changed the way I think about hope. Anything by mythologist and storyteller Dr. Martin Shaw is worth gobbling up, and for a bloody good yarn, Anna Hope’s novels blow me away every time. Sorry, I couldn’t limit myself to one or two!
5) Who is your favourite poet and do you have a favourite poem of theirs or poetry collection?
Mary Oliver is a favourite, she just has such a gentle way with language and a deep connection to nature that gives me chills. A friend gave me Devotions as a gift and it’s such a beautiful collection. I also love Wendell Berry’s poems, and Joy Harjo is a native American poet whose work inspires me. From the UK I’ve been reading Hollie McNish and Rob Cowen – and some of my lesser known online poetry friends are turning out amazing stuff, too! I’m inspired by everything from Shakespeare to hip hop and have an out-of-control habit for buying second hand books on ebay. The last one I bought was And Yet by Kate Baer.
6) What are you most proud of?
My kids. They’re ten and five and my goodness, what a journey so far.
7) You have a writing community on Medium. Please can you explain how Medium works and how this has helped you as a writer?
Medium is a blogging and online publishing platform. You can write pretty much anything you like there, share it and, over time, find a global audience. I’ve had to challenge myself to use facebook and Instagram a bit to promote my book, but find that they can be quite noisy places which, as you have also said in your book, are not necessarily my natural home! Whereas on Medium I feel quite free creatively, part of a supportive community, a kind of a virtual writing circle which means I am not writing in a vacuum. I come and go from it, but certainly it has made me the writer I am today.
8)What advice would you give to others wanting to write poetry but not sure where to start?
Read good poetry, pay attention, cultivate a respectful relationship with your inner voice and write things down. Poetry appeals to my inner rebel because there are no rules! It can be quite playful and fun. So I think it’s important to enjoy it, and to cultivate restful and nourishing spaces for ideas to arrive. For me this usually looks like going outside, walking and swimming and just being in nature.
9) What are you working on at the moment? How do you stay motivated to keep writing?
I’m excited because I’m just getting my teeth into a new project. It’s non-fiction and more along the lines of nature writing than poetry, although it might end up having some poetry in it (if I ever get it finished!). I’m feeling inspired about where it might lead, but juggling it with other work and motherhood is always going to be a challenge. I’m also still publishing essays and poetry online and in journals, and recording The Honey in the Bones as an audiobook. Curiosity helps keeps me motivated, as well as seeing writing as a form of reciprocity with the world and with my own life. I feel privileged to be in this relationship with my creative side. It’s a kind of magic, I think. And I think we could all use a bit of magic these days.
Caroline has very kindly shared with us a more recent poem from Medium:
“Bless the poets, the workers for justice, the dancers of ceremony, the singers of heartache, the visionaries, all makers and carriers of fresh meaning. We will all make it through, despite politics and wars, despite failures and misunderstandings. There is only love.” — Joy Harjo
This winter, it rained in California. The downpour temporarily reversed a decade of devastating drought. The result: a superbloom. Fields and hillsides awash with California poppies, suncups, milk thistle and goldfield, so vast and dazzling that they can be seen from space. Many of the seeds have lain dormant for years, waiting for the right conditions to come.
I’ve never been to California, but I try to imagine the colours, the oranges and the yellows and the seas of gold. And I dream that we are the seeds sleeping in the soil. That we are the women dancing and praying for rain on the mountainside. That we are the beautiful colours returning to the fields. And that the right conditions are coming, because we are the rain.
Thank you so much Caroline for coming on the blog and I have no doubt that people have enjoyed reading about you, your inspiration and your work. I for one can’t wait to read more of your poetry. Find Caroline’s website here, her work on Medium here and connect with her on Facebook here. You can buy The Honey in the Bones from Golden Dragonfly Press or a number of other channels.
http://rebeccastonehill.com/wp-content/uploads/image-24.png386559Rebecca Stonehillhttp://rebeccastonehill.com/wp-content/uploads/mtbsdpgw.bmpRebecca Stonehill2023-06-19 10:51:112023-06-19 10:58:40An Interview with Poet Caroline Mellor