Writer Of The Week: Eileen Hay

Writer Of The Week

Lucy welcomes favourite “Friend” poet Eileen Hay, our Writer Of The Week.

Hi, Eileen! Please tell us, when did you begin writing poetry?

Firstly, thanks so much for making me Writer Of The Week! My mother was an avid reader and took me to join the local library at age five; from then on, books have been a hugely important part of my life.

From the earliest age, I have had stashes of notebooks filled with jottings — poetry and prose. When my much-loved dog died, I wrote a very childish but heartfelt poem, which to this day still brings a tear to my eye!

I had often talked about attempting to have something published. Finally, early in 2006, I bravely sent off a couple of poems to D.C. Thomson. I was thrilled to have them accepted, and over the moon to have one actually published later that year!

I have enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the “Friend” for the past thirteen years, and it has added a totally unexpected dimension to my life.

Who are your favourite poets? And poems?

I enjoy a wide variety of poetry, both classic and modern. I keep a pile of poetry books by my bed, and constantly dip into them.

Some particular favourites are W.B. Yeats’ “When You Are Old”, and the wonderful, almost musical rhythm of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”. Two poems I learned at school and still love are Walter de la Mare’s “Silver” and “The Listeners”, but if I had to pick a top favourite I think it would have to be Philip Larkin’s “An Arundel Tomb”, just for the sheer romance of it!

Where do you find inspiration?

Ideas for poems can come from all sorts of sources. Some are quite mundane — things I see in the supermarket, perhaps. I wrote a poem about the vastly different ways shoppers buy food for dogs as opposed to cats, and another about being greatly cheered on a miserable wet day by the sight of a tiny new-born baby girl!

I am fortunate enough to live within a stone’s throw of a lovely riverside walk which winds through a wood, and I have written countless poems about this area in all the different seasons.

Have you always read the “Friend”? What changes have you seen in the time you’ve been contributing?

Looking back, I realise we never had magazines in our house when I was young. Newspapers, yes; piles of books on every available surface, yes; but no magazines. Once I started reading the “Friend”, I realised what I had been missing!

Over the years I have seen how the “Friend” has kept up with all current affairs and trends, but perhaps its most admirable quality is the part which never changes. The rock on which it is built is being completely ethical, and holding up the importance of family values.

Have you ever experienced (Writer Of The Week) block? And if you’ve had any rejections, how have you coped with that?

Sometimes, when I have not sent in any poems for a while, I have a slight feeling of panic that I am never going to find anything to write about ever again. But then, if I’m lucky, a couple of ideas will pop into my head! I always keep a notebook handy to jot down any flashes of inspiration.

Over the years I have had many poems rejected, but never unkindly — I was always told exactly why, so that I understood the reason. Sometimes I have been asked to alter a specific line or lines, and I am happy to do so.

Do you write in other formats?

I have occasionally tried to write short stories, and even hopefully sent a couple in. Both were rejected! I was given encouragingly constructive criticism each time, but it really only served to make me think I should stick to poetry! Each to his own!

What are you reading at the moment?

I get through a couple of library books a week; a totally eclectic mixture of fiction and biography.

Being retired, my favourite part of the day is getting up early, feeding the birds, and then I take a mug of tea and my current library book back to bed for an hour or so! Bliss!

My three year old cat, Alfie, often comes to snooze beside me!

At the moment I am enjoying Sheila O’Flanagan’s “Connections”.

What do you like most about “The People’s Friend”?

Every week when I receive my copy of the “Friend”, I find that it always gives me something — whether it’s a lovely new recipe to try, or some gardening tips, or information about places or wildlife.

I enjoy the weekly snippets of unusual information, too! I particularly like the letters from readers, as they link all the readers together.

Naturally the first items I turn to are the poems!

Notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table, or study? Blank wall, or inspiring view?

My favourite place to write is at my rather battered old pine table in the kitchen, with a cheap notebook and a Biro. The window looks out on to an apple tree which has a variety of bird feeders in it, and I am constantly distracted by the antics of the birds!

And a P.S. – What’s your one top tip for aspiring poets/writers?

We all have thoughts going through our minds all the time, and for anyone wishing to write, my advice would be this: write those thoughts down. It doesn’t have to be profound, just write what you feel. And keep on writing every day, until you know whether you enjoy the rhythm of rhyme or the free flow of prose.

Even if you never send anything in to a magazine (although I recommend that you do — nothing ventured . . .), just enjoy expressing yourself in the magic of the written word! You never know, you might be Writer Of The Week one day!

Eileen’s poem, “Lazy Summer Days”, will appear in our next issue, on sale this Wednesday.

If you’re considering submitting your poetry to the “Friend”, Lucy’s written some really useful guidelines.

For more Writer Of The Week content, click the tag below.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!