Local writer Helen Minazza published her first poetry anthology on National Poetry Day at the end of 2014. Her book, ‘A Little Bit Of Everything’ has been extremely well received, garnering a multitude of five-star reviews for its insightful observations on life, love and the tribulations of everyday existence. Since the book launch Helen has been fabulously busy but we finally dragged her away from her young family and her writing to tell us a little more about the background to her creative efforts…
When and why did you start writing, and writing poetry in particular?
Although I’d written stories as a child I didn’t start writing in earnest until my late teens. I started a performing arts course at Camborne when I was 17 and that was when my creativity was really nurtured. I started dabbling with poetry after reading a book where the main character started writing poetry to impress her English teacher. Having seen how she tackled it, I thought I’d give it a go.
Several of the poems in this anthology have a touch of whimsy and magic about them. Has the Cornish coast / landscape / history / ambience influenced your writing?
I have always been an avid reader, enjoying the fantasy side of things. I also love Greek mythology and some of that comes through in my writing. There are most definitely Bude influenced / inspired poems in my book. ‘Apparition’ is one of those poems, written about sitting at the headland actually not far from where Sandals night club used to be. ‘Hale Bopp’ was written at the Carriers pub – the news at that time taken up with the fascinating story of the comet. ‘Take My Hand’ mentions a walk on a beach – the inspirational beach was Summerleaze.
What do you think is special about this part of Cornwall? Have you lived in Bude for very long?
This part of Cornwall is special to me because when I arrived, wet behind the ears about 25 years ago, it was the embodiment of the unknown. I arrived in the summer holidays so had no means to meet people of my own age. I didn’t know about the various youth clubs that were available at the time, so I’d often walk up to the headland and sit on the downs, looking out to sea, day-dreaming about the kind of life I would have here. Although quite a lonely start it was full of the magic of possibilities and I don’t think that magic has ever left me. Bude is an amazing place that has a rugged beauty to it. Although I moved away for a number of years, I am very happy to be back.
Thinking about your writing, are there any writers who’ve inspired or influenced you in particular?
Books have always been a doorway for me, providing complete escapism. I read a variety of authors, covering a range of genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and thrillers. Edmund Cooper’s stories, set in familiar places in England, made me feel that I could write about the places I knew. The fantasy stories of Marion Zimmer Bradley include strong female characters that appeal to me. Stephen King produces some great plots, fleshing his stories out with amazing descriptive devices. He also gives me a good scare!
The poems in a ‘A Little Bit Of Everything’ were written over many years. How has your situation changed over the time period that this collection represents?
I wrote many of the poems when I was still a teen, although it was often commented that I wrote from the perspective of an older person. From leaving home at 21 to returning to Bude at 33, I lived a varied and interesting life. I moved around and tried my hand at a number of jobs. Throughout my twenties I engaged with the clubbing scene, meeting hundreds of new people and experiencing the highs and lows of life. The poem ‘Sleep, Reality, Death’ is an observation of the dark places in which some of my friends found themselves. At the other end of the spectrum, ‘My Boys’ was written very recently about my two gorgeous sons. In reality, very few of my poems are autobiographical with many being taken from an imaginary person’s point of view.
Several of these poems speak about loneliness and isolation. How common do you think those feelings are among young women? Does it help you to be able to express those emotions in your work?
I think loneliness is common and I don’t feel that it’s linked to sex or age – there are many contributing factors. When I initially moved to Bude at the age of 15, I was lonely because I didn’t know anyone. When I got to know people I wasn’t accepted by everyone because I was an outsider, a newcomer.
For me, the real feeling of loneliness and isolation hit at the end of the day. I would often sit down and start over-analysing things, getting dragged deeper and deeper into darkness. At these moments, writing was the furthest thing from my mind and although I had friends, I kept the feelings to myself. Most of my poems are written from the safety of the light, looking back at the darkness. So maybe they are pale imitations of the actual raw emotion. I don’t feel that a huge weight has been lifted when I put pen to paper but possibly rationalising, dissecting and attempting to understand my emotions does help.
Equally, many of your poems celebrate love and family; of sharing meaningful life experiences. How has motherhood affected your life and your writing?
On one hand, motherhood has allowed me to create rough drafts of poems, stories and outlines on my phone while feeding my youngest. On the other hand, it has put a dent on the amount of time I can allocate to actually sitting at the computer to progress further. On the third hand (…), having two lovely boys has also provided the inspiration for some of my recent poetry.
Do you write prose stories / novels? Can we expect to see more from you in future?
I do write stories and I have a novel bubbling on the back burner. There is an example of a very short story I have written, on my website at www.helenminazza.com/short-stories and I’m planning to expand the initial story into a series of short stories. They’ll all start at the same point but will be written in a variety of genres and the stories will head off in very different directions.
Where can we buy your book?
Locally, ‘A Little Bit of Everything’ is available from Spencer Thorn Bookshop, at the Coffee Pot Café and Stratton Stores. You can also buy the paperback and Kindle editions from Amazon – more information is available at www.helenminazza.com/everything