Third Year Creative Writing and English Literature student Joanna Nissel brings us a festive poem. Find the poem below and read on for our exclusive interview with the talented author.
The First Present by Joanna Nissel
Dawn’s silver cloud-light travels through net curtains in the bay window’s half loop. The light shines onto the mantelpiece, illuminating thick cartridge paper cards that feature red robins and babies swaddled in pink. Between the cards, unlit fairy lights recline like pampered aristocrats. The slow sunrise layers the dark bulbs with the suggestion of brighter colours to come. Under the Christmas tree’s dense green, sparks and glints of metallic paper on piles of presents spill out like the red petticoat of a cancan dancer. A brown leather sofa sits adjacent to the presents’ metallic sheen; its fat brown arm holds a stained baby’s blanket and offers a plate of mince pies and carrots to an unopened door. The clock chime echoes the call of midday and from above,
the noise of raspberries blown on soft skin, a pause, and then a first, high-pitched, laugh.
Interview with the author
What inspired your piece?
I was listening to Christmas music and I started to think of an idyllic scene, close to that of the sequence “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” in Fantasia. In the Disney film the music is accompanied by such vivid imagery that it tells its own story. It was a beloved childhood film and the holiday music is synonymous with the season for me and my family. I wanted to write a piece that portrayed a similar ideal.
Why did you decided to write this poem as prose poetry?
In the third-year ‘Poetry as Synthesis’ module at Bath Spa University, we studied the work of Padraig Regan. He writes incredibly visual prose poems which encapsulate a scene; he then introduces a human presence that ultimately reveals something of the story behind the scene. I really enjoyed his work and wanted to create something in the same style.
Can you give us three pieces of advice that as a poet you work by?
- Experience and experiment as much as you can. Poetry slams, poetry readings, book launches, open-mic nights and literary festivals are great!
- Research the genre of poetry you are going to write: the conventions and motifs for each form are very different. But powerful poetry doesn’t have to be traditional and can break the rules of genres by experimenting with hybrid forms.
- Read poetry journals, they feature so many different forms that you get a good grounding on many different forms of poetry. My favourites are IOTA, Tears in The Fence, Ambit, and a start-up magazine called Irisi. Just head to the journals section of your library –they usually have pretty much everything you will need.