PAM MOYLE is a retired clinical nurse specialising in drug and alcohol dependence. A member of Chester Poets, she won their national poetry competition in 1983. Pam is also the co-founder of the Re-Act Drama Group which uses poetry, music and drama to destigmatise mental health issues.
"Crocodiled, from primary school, / they wide-eyed in to write a poem..." As soon as we read these first two lines from her poem Poetry Workshop we knew we were going to like Pam's poetry!
Can you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
It was at secondary school and part of an English exercise.
And how old you were when you wrote it?
I think I was about twelve.
And what it was about?
It was about nature and was inspired by the poet John Clare, whose work was a favourite with our English teacher. I think I identified with John Clare, being a rural peasant myself.
Name a favourite poem or two . . .
I have quite a few favourites, but perhaps "The Thrush's Nest" by John Clare, "Meeting Point" by Louis MacNeice, "Truth" by RS Thomas and "November" by Ted Hughes are poems I remember and enjoy revisiting.
. . . and a few of your favourite poets.
I like so many poets – past and present – but I think I enjoy most those poets whose work lingers in the mind long after reading. I have a great love of nature, so poets whose work immerses me in nature rank as favourites: John Clare (my absolute favourite), RS Thomas, Ted Hughes, Phoebe Hesketh, Gerard Manley Hopkins... Then, for taking me on a more personal journey: Louis MacNeice, Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, UA Fanthorpe, Bob Dylan and Stevie Smith.
Do you talk about poetry to your friends or is it a secret part of your life?
I'll talk about poetry to anyone who'll listen, and fortunately a number of my friends are poets, so we tend to talk poetry. But I also have lots of non-poet friends whom I share my poems with, and we talk about poetry in general. I find that most people have a favourite poem – probably learned at school. Poetry is a big part of my life. I can't imagine a world without poetry.
Do you write poetry for yourself or for others, or for both?
When I started writing poetry it was for myself, friends and family, and I enjoyed that. It was a friend who encouraged me to share it with the wider community. I began mixing with other poets and writers, and joined a creative writing class. Whilst this helped broaden my knowledge of writing, it also served to make me become more self-conscious – and possibly doubt my writing ability. I then went through a phase of writing self-consciously – more for the approval of other poets. Nowadays, I write honestly – firstly for myself, and then with the hope that that others will enjoy my work.
Is it important to you if your poems get published or not?
It's a wonderful feeling when poems get published – it's recognition of your work, and the sharing of it with a wider audience.
Do you think poetry is important in the global scheme of things or just a pleasant indulgent hobby like needlewok or trainspotting?
You only have to look at the work of first world war poets such as Wilfred Owen to see how important it is. How could the world have known the truth without such poets? I also think of the imprisoned political poets – their writing considered dangerous! Poetry also brings pleasure and relaxation to people in this increasingly frantic world. Poets will always be there to record the truth, so yes – it's very important. I've never tried trainspotting!
What does poetry really mean to you?
Poetry sets me free to exercise my imagination in ways that nothing else can. I see poetry everywhere – nothing is mundane to a poet. We can escape from dross by mentally composing. Nature takes on more meaning. Life is generally more interesting to a poet because we can't leave things alone. I like the way a poem suddenly arrives and won't leave until it's been written. As the poet Sheila Parry says – I don't write to live, I live to write. I think a lot of poets can identify with that.
Is poetry better than sex?
I really don't feel I know enough about poetry to comment!