Martin Mooney Launches a New Poetry Collection

The poet talks about the dearth of paper publishing, his unseemly interests and masochistic radio habits

You have just launched your new poetry collection, The Resurrection of the Body at Killysuggen. Can you tell us a bit about the collection and your inspiration for it?

About the collection: cheap at twice the price, available in paperback and hard covers from Lagan Press and soon to be one of those Kindling or Kinder things. And it’s got a dead fox on the cover. Inspiration? Middle-age, approaching death, failure and dismay, knees that don’t really work and an unseemly fascination with sexual matters.

What made you pick the title for the collection?

The titling of poetry collections is one of the great mysteries… in this case, I’d written the poem of the same title. Then, as I looked at the rubble of first drafts that would eventually become the collection, it seemed that something about that poem explained elements in all the rest. So it felt logical to take the title of that poem as the title of the book. Not logical at all, of course.

Do you have a favourite poem in the collection?

I have a soft spot for a couple that I don’t think most readers would consider stand-out pieces. And at the moment (this could change) I think one called ‘The Architecture of Fire Stations’ does what I wanted it to do. And one enthusiastic reader thinks the poem about Japanese octopus porn is the best thing he’s read in ages. I hope that says more about him than me…

The Resurrection of the Body at Killysuggen isn’t your first poetry collection. Does the process of publication feel any different this time around?

It’s my fourth. And yes, I think I’ve learned that the book won’t promote itself. So I’ve tried to build some interest and open up the process on my blog. And I worked harder on the proofs than ever before.

What is your favourite and least favourite part of the editorial process?

What’s not to like, except maybe the abject humiliation of someone pointing out that your images are derivative, your lines don’t scan and your grasp of the English language would shame a Moldovan six-year-old? (Seriously, though, my partner is a trained editor and the book wouldn’t have made it into print without her!)

What do you think has been the most significant influence on you as a poet?

My unhappy childhood.

What has changed the most in the arts between your first collection and this one?

The disappearance of places where you could actually publish poems. In 1993, when Grub came out, the North had a range of small magazines and pamphlet presses that published poetry – and made space for the serious consideration of poetry – on a more or less regular basis. Now there’s the internet, which is okay for small-talk and raving paranoia, but not much else. Where has all the paper gone? (Actually, I’ll make an exception for this.)

Do you have any particular writing habits – always write a poem a day, never go out without your lucky seagull badge type of thing?

Nope. Superstition gets you nowhere. I note down images or turns of phrase that sound interesting, try to find time to work them up into a draft of a poem, and pick at it like a scab until it scars into something useful.

If you could go back in time and tell your neophyte poet self one thing about art (no lottery numbers), what would it be?

Think more, work harder, pay more attention to the language and the craft, shut your gob occasionally, publish less, be in less of a hurry. (Then I would charge him £200 in 1980s money for the advice.)

If you could be any living poet in the world, other than yourself, who would you be?

Why would anyone want to be a poet?

What is your favourite radio station and why?

BBC Radio Ulster, between 6.55 and 7.00am each weekday morning. Why? Masochism.

If you could hit anyone in the world in the face with a cream pie, who would it be?

I resist the temptation to consider violence an appropriate form of moral or political action. Besides which, the cream pie is a feeble American imitation: the correct and time-honoured weapon is the custard pie, and I hate custard.

You launched The Resurrection of the Body at Killysuggen at the Belfast Book Festival. Did you go to see anything else at the festival?

I got to see old friends and the new Crescent Arts Centre. One of the two looks amazing.