William Letford & Sean Borodale – Working Poets
Sean Borodale is a poet, but also an artist and has written about bee-keeping and geography; and William Letford, who we’ll focus on here, works as a roofer as his day job. “One doesn’t usually go with the other,” he says, “so people find it interesting.”
Interested, I asked Letford if he had a poem we could discuss, as an introduction to his work. And so here is…
Thurs hunnurs a burds oan the roofs
here huw chouf wouf wee robin rid tit peejin breesty lovey dovey
ruffle yur feathers show me yur plume look it that Frank nut a look
nut a nut plod on then mouldy breed heed woop woop look it that
fingle foogle boogaloo that’s no even a crow that’s a dinosaur
thur’ll be teeth in that beak that’s fur sure ohh beady eye beady eye
get behind the gable she’s fae the social wit a life Frank wit a life
feedin oan scraps huntin fur crumbs bit listen tae this listen tae this
we’re no dodos we kin fly forget aboot the fields Frank look it the sky
Can you describe – if you remember – the circumstances in which you wrote this poem?
I started writing the poem free hand in my kitchen, vocalising it as I was going along, the radio was on, the windows were open and the sun was out. The idea came because, well, there are lots of birds on the roofs.
Is that a typical way to write, for you? Do you have a process?
I like to vocalise a poem as I’m going along, it’s a form of editing, and first thing in the morning is good – up early, two cups of coffee, some music then go. But I don’t have any set process. I’ll take what I can get when I can get it.
Do you write with a feeling about how the poem will go over in performance?
I do. I think about how the poem will come off the page, and I think about how the poem will come off me. I didn’t start by showing people poems. I started by telling them. I once, very politely, asked a woman working in a Maggie’s Burger Van if she would give me a roll and sausage if I told her a poem (it was late and I was caught short). She said no. I told her the poem anyway. I got the roll and sausage, and staggered away a happy man.
When does the enjoyment come in, normally?
Seeing the finished work and being proud of it, is enjoyable. The actual process of writing can be difficult. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever come up with another poem. The time between that thought and searching for an idea, is dark. But once I’m on it, moving toward something that I want to write, all the choices I’ve made to get me here make sense.
How do you feel about your first collection, Bevel, coming out in September?
I was proud of it, and proud of myself. Seems like a long time ago I made the decision to see this through. It took me seven years to get my first poem published. But there’s another sensation. I looked at Bevel and thought, yes. Ten minutes later I was thinking, now what. I feel like the bouncers have let me in and it’s time to start to dancing. This is just the beginning.