Today’s guest poet is Allan Lake. I’ve known Allan since I was in my teens growing up in Tasmania. He was one of my poetry mentors and I occasionally looked after his vibrant daughters.
All of them have grown up into beautiful and talented women.
During his 13 years in Tasmania Lake published his first collection of poems called Tasmanian Tiger Breaks Silence (1988) which was followed by a small volume of 4 poems called Grandparents:Portraits of Strain (1994). * Both currently out of print. He also edited 11 volumes of Traks, the poetry annual by Tasmanian high school students.
Traks was one of the first places to publish my poetry when I was in highschool and it gave me that writerly buzz of being published which has ever since been one of my greatest joys (apart from having a family and coming out the other side of a cyclone.)
In 1995 Allan contacted me to say if I wanted it I had a paying poetry gig at the Tasmanian Poetry Festival. ‘Are you kidding, being paid to read poetry, yes, I’ll be on the next plane.’
It was a beautiful gift to go and read poetry back in my hometown alongside Chris Mansell, JS Harry, Jenny Boult, and Dipti Saravanamuttu and of course catch up with and listen to works by my former poetry mentor Allan.
Now fast forward to 2015, twenty years later and I find Allan’s life had undergone some major changes, but he is still as always a poet and his own unique self and often humorous self.
I receive Sand in the Sole by snail mail, and after many weeks, enjoying reading and reflecting on the poetry within, I suggest an interview.
J: What were your main inspirations in writing the poems for Sand in the Sole?
A: My inspiration can be a single image (An Engagement), a dream (Fish), the rhythm of a single line (Lost Line Dept) . . . an experience(Sand in the Sole)
A speckled trout swims
in the rocky stream, the stream
that talks through the trees at
the bottom of a gorge. And I
have no net and this I regret.
And although this fish has eluded
me, I know the spot & have
learned to be patient and I shall be
better equipped in future.
that particular fish becomes art,
leaps into metaphor and swims
at me now and will continue to
do so. Aha! That fish caught me.
(c) Allan Lake
J: Have you performed all of them live?
A: I tend to read/perform some of the poems and leave others to be read by others at their leisure. You know which are going to work aloud and which you enjoy doing. ‘Venice, a Trip’& ‘Open House’ are favourites. ‘A Cinema Paradiso’ is naughty so audiences blush and enjoy that one.
J: What is your favourite one to perform and why?
A: In this collection I would nominate different poems on different days. It’s like choosing your favourite child.
J: Are there any you would not read to an audience and why?
A: There is an audience for every poem in the collection. If I didn’t believe that I would have pulled the poem out. And I pulled several out and set them aside.
J: In your poems I notice a lot of biblical references, nature, places you have lived or visited like Sicily, Tasmania, Canada, sense of holiness, and a sense of epiphany – there are often layers of meaning under what at first seem like straightforward lines…How would you describe your main influences – poetically (other poets or writers) and life?
Emily Dickinson: How original are her thoughts! How haunting the imagery!
Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Rhythm
Bob Dylan: Rhyme, the surprise directional shift that works.
William Carlos Williams: Tenderness & delicacy. Fearless minimalism.
Allan Lake: He shares all his ideas with me.
Walt Whitman: for being Walt Whitman.
Pessoa: for everything I’ll feature some poems of Allan’s works from Sand in the Sole in Ripple Poetry in the upcoming weeks so stay tuned.