#Interview by Lou of White Eye of the Needle author/Poet – Chris Campbell @Citizen_Chris @Choir_Press @kenyon_isabelle #Poetry #ContemporaryPoet

Today I am very excited to present to you an interview with Chris Campbell, who, in contemporary poetry, explores human connections, both passing and intimate. The collection was put together in Nottingham and also includes pieces from the former journalist’s time in Bristol, London, Swansea, Glasgow and Gloucestershire, plus visits abroad including a honeymoon in Madagascar and trips to Tignes, France.
In his interview he talks about music, inspiration for writing, wildlife, his former career and more…
With greatest thanks to Chris Campbell for his time and to Isabelle Kenyon for presenting me with the opportunity to interview.

Front Cover White Eye of the Needle

  1. What and/or who inspired you to write poetry?

I wrote one of my first poems as a child in a hotel room. I suddenly thought it was Mother’s Day and that my younger brother and I had forgotten to get anything, so I wrote a poem to my mum on hotel paper. It turned out Mother’s Day wasn’t until the week after. But she still has it framed on her bedside table! I continued to write through my teens and contributed to various anthologies. I enjoyed the process of writing and editing, the downtime and being able to formulate my thoughts and reflect. This also helped me through university, when faced with a lot of life changes. I used to carry around Bob Dylan’s ‘Chronicles: Volume One’, my dad’s ‘The Essential Spike Milligan’ and enjoyed Leonard Cohen’s work. My dad also encouraged me to study the back of record sleeves – lyrics from musicians like Frank Zappa and Eric Clapton. As I got older, I enjoyed the works of Dylan Thomas, ee cummings, WH Auden, and DH Lawrence – who inspired me a lot in my latest collection.

  1. Your title – ‘White Eye of the Needle’ is intriguing, what inspired this title?

The ‘Eye of the Needle’ is a rock formation in Tignes, France. My wife and I met on a ski trip to Tignes and almost had our first kiss inside the landmark; which has a hole through the centre and we had climbed up to. It will always mean a lot to us and we went back a few years later to take more photos and, this time, have a kiss! White refers to the snow – fortunately there was a lot of it that year!

  1. Your poems focus on the natural world intertwined with human emotions, what inspired you to use these as your topics and together and was this a very conscious decision, or was it more organic than that?

Having started as a journalist in my early 20s, I’ve always enjoyed writing about people. I also find nature a wonderful thing to write about, that feeds into a lot of our feelings and actions. The poems in White Eye of the Needle cover a six-year period, and a few different locations during that time, both in terms of where I’ve lived and visited. It has been an organic process, but I often write what I see around me, and this intertwining was perhaps enhanced by lockdown. Whether it’s a walk along the canal by our home, in poem ‘Chimney snorkels’; cardboard sheets being blown across our garden, in ‘Hurdles’; or describing a garden party, in ‘Catch light’, which I wrote while I was enjoying a break in the garden. In the absence of seeing people it can be easier to attribute human emotion to nature, of which I’m lucky to have lots around me despite living in a city centre.

  1. How important is it to you that humans connect with the natural world, since the two meet quite powerfully in your poems?
Countryside
photo by Lou

One thing I noticed during lockdown is how nature seemed to be reclaiming our garden and other outdoor spaces. I’ve been appreciating the wildlife here while spending more time at home. We’ve been in Nottingham for a few years, and before lockdown I spent a lot of time commuting. I grew up near and in the countryside, so have always valued it. As well as writing about my current surroundings, White Eye of the Needle includes poems I wrote when living in other parts of the country, including Bristol, Swansea, London and Gloucestershire, as well as trips abroad. They capture certain moments, whether skiing, away for long weekends, on honeymoon, or in the garden. While I’m not an advocate for needless travel, I do feel it’s important to enjoy new experiences, forming and deepening connections with people and landscapes, whether ones you see every day or for the first time.

  1. When and how did you decide to concentrate your time to writing poetry as opposed to your journalistic career?

pen and paper picI left a national newspaper to move to Bristol with my now wife and to work as a freelance journalist, writing news stories and features mainly covering politics, business and property. I then went into PR a few years ago and still work full-time in the industry. Thanks to less commuting and more hours at home, I felt I was able to dedicate more time to my writing, including editing and putting poems together to form this collection. I was always hoping to release a second collection, but lockdown helped speed up the process. Journalism tended to involve very long hours and it could be difficult to switch off from it. I released my first collection, Bread Rolls and Dresden, in 2013, while a section editor at the Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen. PR still involves long hours, but I am now working more of a Monday to Friday job, and I’m able to write first-thing in the morning, in the evening and most weekends.

  1. In a few words, how would you describe your poetry style and your latest book?

Front Cover White Eye of the Needle

White Eye of the Needle is written in free verse and captures moments over a six-year period, both everyday and intimate. It touches on romance, marriage, the birth of a# nephew, passing of a grandad, and recent experiences through lockdown and restrictions, as it seeks to find meaning in places, at a time when we’ve all been forced to slow down and reflect.

  1. If you could pick 3 poems that you would say were your ‘must reads’, what would they be?

I’m particularly interested in Imagism and regularly read the work of DH Lawrence, who has been a big source of inspiration. But I also enjoy a range of styles and admire Dylan Thomas, ee cummings and WH Auden. Lawrence’s ‘Green’ and ‘Snake’ are among my favourite poems, I love his personal and nature pieces. Also, cummings’ ‘now is a ship’, Thomas’ ‘In My Craft or Sullen Art’ and ‘Clown in the Moon’, as well as Auden’s ‘If I Could Tell You’.

  1. Can readers expect further works from you? If so, can you tell us a bit more about this?

I’ve continued to write during lockdown and have started to focus on sonnets. I will be aiming to release a third collection in the future.

Cover White Eye of the Needle

Buy Link: Waterstones 

An Extract/Excerpt of White Eye of The Needle by Chris Campbell @Citizen_Chris @Choir_Press @kenyon_isabelle #Poetry #ContemporaryPoetryExtract

Today I am excited to present you with an extract of the latest poems by Chris Campbell.
Thanks to Isabelle Kenyon for this opportunity. I also have a bit about the author for now, but then look out tomorrow (Wednesday) for a very insightful and highly interesting interview I had with Chris Campbell.

Cover White Eye of the Needle

About the Poetry Collection

White Eye of the Needle, the second book of poems by Chris Campbell, explores human connections, both passing and intimate. The collection was put together in Nottingham and also includes pieces from the former  Journalist’s time in Bristol, London, Swansea, Glasgow and Gloucestershire, plus visits abroad including a honeymoon in Madagascar and trips to Tignes, France.

Extract/Excerpt

Dawn

When exhausted birds have flown away and tweeted their last breath
that’s when i’ll close my eyes and say there’s more to life than death.

For when they call, they call with heart through feathered chest
and as they go, they fly with hope that after song they’ll rest.

and i in bed as next day looms and dawn begins to stir,

think back before this sombre place to sunlit gardens far.

a silent bird that sings no more may have no song to make,

but as i lie in deepened thought, my bitten nails, break.

as once it sang, brought the day and closed it with a verse,

now every time i think of it, my anxiety gets worse.

Take my clothes, my pillow too and place me by the tree

where these poor birds once posed and sang and breathed relief to me.

Trainers

in fields of yellow daffodils

and grass as fine as hair,

that’s where my chest beside you once

grew under torn trainers.

like cats that toy with life,

we chance, pounce and play,

i count the years, and ‘til we stroll again,

all blue skies will feel grey.

Praise for White Eye of the Needle

‘These poems are sparkling with affection. Campbell finds beauty in the everyday, in the
connections to each other and to the land. in a world when we are feeling cut off, these poems
are like a bridge back to some sense of balance. They are celebrations of relationships, places
and of being alive. some of them feel like a home i’ve never been to.’
– David Linklater

‘At a time when the world feels a little darker, White Eye of the Needle invites the reader
to gaze upon a world where “houses rub shoulders”, “the taps of shoes are circling” and
dawn spreads its welcome light “like the oranges brightening seville”. in this tender, wistful
collection, Campbell observes humanity with a sharp eye – where the lockdown poems offer a
relatable and searingly honest depiction of our days transfixed on blinking screens, there is
always the human touch to offer relief in a lemon dress, the notes of ‘Für Elise’, tumbling
hedgerows and the tender simplicity of a shared meal with a loved one. like the flowers that
push through its city gardens, this is a collection that reminds us that it’s the human
connection and the power of the natural world that keep hope alive in a world gone dark.’
– Natalie Ann Holborow

Buy Link: Waterstones 

Front Cover White Eye of the Needle

About the Author

Chris Campbell, born in Dublin, is a former national and regional journalist who worked for newspaper titles in London, Bristol, bath, south Wales and Gloucestershire. Chris has a passion for poetry, writing and travel and has judged young writer competitions in Swansea. he graduated with an MA in Journalism from Kingston University and a BA (hons) in Economic and political Development from the University of Exeter, with a year’s study in Uppsala, Sweden. he currently lives in Nottingham.