Peter Forster is an interesting poet who always provokes deep thoughts. I read his work online regularly and wanted to know about the mysterious man behind the words.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am 67 years old and from the north east of England…Murton… a small village between Sunderland and Durham City.
After leaving school and being unable to persuade my parents to let me go to art college I trained in engineering (yes I know-it was what was expected from a boy from a tiny northern colliery village in the olden days) whilst getting my kicks playing drums in a rock band. On turning 21 I decided to move to London and after a few years trying for the big time and failing I worked in engineering as a design draughtsman before diversifying into the service industry (it seemed like a good idea at the time…more people oriented). I got married had two children and after 7 years and a very difficult divorce was a single parent for close to 8 years during which time I began to write again. I had written lyrics for my old band and began to write with a new partner. We were moderately successful for a while without setting the world on fire and I began to write more poetry. After a period of unemployment I returned to study and eventually was awarded a couple of psychology degrees and qualified as a Chartered counseling Psychologist.
I met Kay in 1988 and we married 1989…one of my better decisions.
For close to twenty years I worked in a busy East London NHS community health setting and have just recently retired. I now write and do some consultative work from time to time. I have previously been published in academic works and provided chapters in books for counsellors’ psychologists and psychotherapists. I have also written 3 novels as well as collating a collection of my daily missives.
When did you start writing poetry?
I began writing song lyrics over 40 years ago at a time when prog was a foppish prince regent and Dylan was (and still is) the king. At school which was a very small colliery school we were just about taught how to read…(I remember going to see a production of the Merchant of Venice in Sunderland…and being absolutely transfixed)… so my knowledge of poetry and literature was quite basic until my early twenties when I began to read and write with equal hunger. Looking back at my early work the songs were too wordy and much too political to be successful but over the years my style did develop a more mellow tone and I was able to speak in different voices. I would say my first real poetry was written in the mid 1980’s.
Do you have a favorite poet/poem?
No…I like a number of different poems and may favour one over another…depending on my mood…but I have always been a sucker for the sonnets…Blake…Wilfred Owen and the divine play for voices…Under Milkwood are all close to my heart.
Does music inspire you? What kind?
Music has always been a passion. I love all types other than overly sentimental pop songs.
I am an old jazz and blues player and love raw blues guitar as well as Miles Davis…The Mahavishnu Orchestra…The Impossible Gentlemen… and the thrill of Leadbelly Jack Johnson John Lee Hooker…Hendrix Clapton Beck or Led Zep. However I hold a special place for Bob Dylan…Nick Drake and John Lennon…and many others such as Van the man…David Bowie…Tim Hardin…Kate Bush. I like contemporary music… The Shins…British bands such as Elbow and London Grammar…as well Father John Misty…Spoon…The National…Animal Collective…Tame Impala…The Phoenix Foundation…et al…I often listen to music whilst writing it relaxes and stimulates in equal measure.
Do you write on the computer or in a notebook?
I generally write on my laptop…as it seems to suit my style. I am left handed a health professional and my hand writing is diabolical. I do have a journal and can capture thoughts on the move should something need to be written and I am away from my laptop…some of my café pieces were written that way…almost as the action happened.
If you could write a poem anywhere, where would it be?
Right where I am…on my sofa with my wife’s head resting against my chest…I am typing with one hand…my right arm is draped across my wife’s tummy…my absolute favourite place to be…full stop….even better if my children and grandchildren could be here. However if we could still sit in the same position…a view across the dunes from Bamburgh Castle toward Holy Island…off the Northumberland coast…on a beautiful sun kissed day…early morning…the sun rising from the sea…would take some beating.
What do you enjoy most about writing poetry?
Its surprises. I struggle to understand where the words come from…how I find them…it is like alchemy…and when I read somebody else’s poetry…if it is good I can’t fathom how they were able to do it either. I love the feeling when it seems to flow…and the first time I read it aloud…if it works…it is a moment of euphoria.
If you could hang out with any poet, who would it be?
You Ben…who else.
Me: Aw, shucks!
If you could physically fight a fellow poet, from any point in time, who would they be?
I know this would be easy to answer if I was being dishonest…Bukowski… just because…Ginsberg because he was ultimately a disappointment…but I am a pacifist of long standing and have no interest in violence…not since Ali retired anyway…but if pushed I could be seriously miffed with Dylan Thomas for croaking so early. If I could have met him I might have been tempted to give him a good shake…even if it did mean he spilt his drink.
Have you read or performed poetry live at slams or open mic?
I performed some of my poems last year in front of a group of 70 members of a local women’s institute…they were lovely but it was a little nerve racking…they are notoriously a difficult audience and can be a little jam and Jerusalem. Previous to this I gave a slew of performances in the 80’s in pub’s and once at the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank in London, at a benefit concert…I don’t think I was a very good performer back then as I could never remember my words and always had to read them…now at my age that is expected so it is not so bad.
Why does nothing rhyme with orange?
It is a mystery Ben and one that has baffled many a Satsuma resulting in a few sleepless nights for feisty Clementine…so much so she packed herself in an air tight bag and moved to Jaffa. But in my basket she can be found alongside a wide range of strange fruits with a host of zesty tangerine flavours.
Do you post your poetry online?
It is currently all I do Ben…my latest novel is a work that is not making progress and I post a poem every day under the heading ‘A daily missive for…’
Do you put your writing into pictures to share on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook?
I have little interest and fewer skills in other aspects of social media other than Facebook and Twitter…and I don’t use those platforms very well. I rarely use images…because of my clumsy computer literacy…unless I enter a picture challenge on one of the Facebook sites I use.
What is the most difficult poetry to write? Are there any forms you dislike?
I am a terrible rebel and don’t even consider myself a poet really…I prefer rhythm to rhyme as a rule…and do not like to be restricted by a rigid poetic convention. I admire those who do it well but so much of it feels contrived and a bit smug. Haiku’s rarely work and seem as though they need a few extra words and those that limit syllables seem to be an exercise in literary cleverness. Of course I am over generalizing and the Sonnets are beautiful but not everybody can write that way without it sounding twee and trite.
Do you believe anyone can learn to write poetry? Do you think anyone can enjoy reading it?
Anybody can write a verse…whether it works is another story…but if it is written from the bottom of the heart it can be very moving…I think some people close their mind’s to poetry and that might be a product of poor early exposure…poor teaching…and a mistaken belief it is not macho…but even these people will laugh at a funny or crude monologue…so a qualified yes to both questions.
Where do vanishing objects go? Remember to phrase your answer in the form of a riddle.
Objects never vanish
they become unseen
familiarity breeds indifference
and in absence we grieve their
What project(s) are you currently working on, poetry or otherwise?
I am hoping to have a second collection of missives published soon…certainly before the end of the year. As already mentioned I have stalled on my 4th novel but hope to kick start that process soon.
Would you like to share a poem with us today?
Certainly. Here is one I wrote earlier:
Daily missive breaks into the weekend Sunday the 13th of September..
Anniversaries turn me back
And looking at the past
From a world of my creation
Is a bitter truth
That may never taste as sweet.
It is a mordant reverie,
To stand closer to the man
I thought to be
But further from the world
I used to know.
It cannot be denied
Adversity and life
Have changed me,
Not all for good or ill.
And cautious self awareness
Are valuable gifts
To be richly celebrated.
But at what cost?
When so much is lost.
Can we pay too high a price
To be the better man?
Is it enough to have survived
Life’s spiteful challenge
And still remain upright,
When it might have been so easy
To fall by the road side.
Experience can forge a sharp mind
With a keen edge,
And temper wisdom
In a heart that barely smoulders.
Heed the call
And stoke the dying of the fires,
Feed the hungry embers,
That may yet burn with a warmer glow.
And in time,
Sadness, though deeply
Etched into the pages of a story
Will not steal the glory
Of the final line.
Words can themselves be golden,
And spin a thread, to mend a broken heart,
Weave new magic from
A tiny grain of truths
Finely craft the old sack cloth
Used to cover the grey ashes
Of our broken past,
And transform it
Into a silken cloak.
Of many hues and shades,
As may yet,
When worn anew,
With a more beneficent
Change this world
And lighten its complexion.
For the past fifteen years I have practiced as a consulting Counselling Psychologist in a busy East London community health setting.
Although I have previously been published in academic works and provided chapters in books for counsellors’ psychologists and psychotherapists I have always nurtured a love of and talent for creative writing. Over the years I have attended writer’s workshops, written and performed poetry as well as provided lyrics for jobbing musicians. However I have long harboured the ambition to write full length fiction. And this I am now doing.
The plain in simple truth is that I enjoy writing. I always have.
Sometimes it feels like the flow of hungry words is never ending and I will be swept right off my feet, carried along on an imaginative stream of unconscious process. But like everybody else I have a life. To some it may seem narrowly defined. Focussed as it is on work, family, writing and music but to others without the opportunity to learn, make relationships build a future and have the freedom to choose it may seem like it is a world of riches. Whilst on most days it really can feel like that to me, on other occasions it can be an effort to maintain enthusiasm: In other words my life is not that much different from many and better than most. I have known tragedy and delight and struggle to account for what might be its unequal measure. But I live, love and am loved so in truth I have to say I am blessed. I hope the same can be said of you.
An example of my academic work can be found in:
Professional and ethical issues when working with learning disabled clients, in Tribe and Morrissey (eds) Handbook of Professional and Ethical Practice for Psychologists, Counsellors and Psychotherapists. Brunner-Routledge (2005)
Find more about Peter Forster:
Mr Charalambus and the One Soul
Copyright 2012 Peter B Forster
(cover art from Createspace, licenced for all uses)
Reviews on Amazon UK
A young man is barely alive. He is lying in a ditch and has no clear memory of who he is or how he got there. Revived with the last two drops of an elixir by Cora, a healer with whom he has an instant mutual attraction she charges him with the task of re-filling a silver phial with the healing tears of the fabled Wolf-Dragon. Accompanied by Lightning, a broken down old horse with the gift of speech and a need to regain the power of flight he embarks on a journey of discovery, betrayal and redemption. He is confronted by his connection to earlier times and learns of his relationship to Josep, a hard working loner who has spent much of his young life drinking and talking to an invisible friend. In this parallel story Josep meets an exotic stranger known as Mr Charalambus, a mysterious and enigmatic man with an unusual hypnotic personality, who may or may not be the Devil. He acts as benefactor to the poor boy and introduces him to the trappings of wealth and society whilst promising the hand of his niece the Lady Karina. Guided by Charalambus the young Josep steps into a strange new world of privilege in which wealth confers power and the expectation of obedience. One day whilst investigating an enchanting orchard he has an electrifying encounter with Karina to whom he is instantly attracted. He also discovers that she is a ‘one-soul,’ as well as a healer of great power and keeper of the Wolf-Dragon tears.