20 Questions with... Charlotte Cosgrove
Charlotte Cosgrove is a poet from Liverpool, England. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies both online and in print. She has published two poetry collections - Silent Violence with Petals, and, Neurotic Harmony. She is also the Editor of Rough Diamond Poetry Journal. You can follow her on Twitter: @CharleyAustin89
and follow Rough Diamond on @PoetryRough
Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What was your life like growing up?
I was born in Liverpool, where I still live, and grew up with my parents and brother. I was born and raised on a council estate in a deprived area and because of this my life growing up was very focussed on thinking critically and left wing ideals.
Did you always want to be a writer? If you also work, what do you do / did you do?
Ever since I can remember I’ve always wanted to write. Writing has always been the thing that I’ve wanted and needed more than anything else. I have a BA and MA degree in Writing and after having my children it really made me sit down and evaluate that it was time to fully put pen to paper. I’m also an English lecturer - so all I ever want to do is read and write. I run Rough Diamond Poetry Journal which is an online journal that I’ve been running and editing since July 2021.
Tell us about your most recently published work in a sentence.
My most recent poetry collection Neurotic Harmony is out now and published by Alien Buddha Press. I’m really proud of this collection - it tackles themes surrounding obsessiveness, anxiety, eating disorders, and what it means to be a woman.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m trying to work on more fiction pieces as well as still devoting time to poetry. A lot of the poetry I’m writing now seems to be very childhood based so I’m just seeing where that takes me.
Do you have a writing routine, and if so what is it?
I write when I can. I write around work and the kids going to bed. I’m always jotting ideas down to be used later, either in the notes section in my phone or on bits of scrap paper.
Where do you write – always in the same space, or different places? Can you write ‘on the move’?
I always write while sitting on my chair in the living room. Usually I’ll have my two cats crawling all over me but they do keep it peaceful! I can write anywhere really but it is something I love to do when I’m alone and have no distractions.
What advice do you have for other authors who are starting out? What is the best advice you’ve heard?
Before I sent off my very first poem for publication that poem had been swirling around my head for years. It felt as if it was always mine to write. My advice to other writers would be to get something down and get sending now. I started with about 5 poems I’d written just rotating which I sent out. Your first acceptance will come and it will motivate you but don’t let the rejections bother you. If you’re writing a lot and reading other’s work you will get better.
Do you enjoy doing live readings or are they a necessary evil – or somewhere in between?
I am most definitely not a live reading type of poet! I wish I was though as I love listening to other poets.
Are there recurring themes in your work? Where do you feel these emanate from if so?
Memory, nostalgia, obsessiveness, and feminism all seem to be paramount to my work. These are the things that trouble me, and often the things I don’t talk about, so it makes it easier to write it down and have that outlet.
Should writers have a moral purpose? What is the purpose of a writer in today’s society?
I honestly don’t think writers should have a moral purpose necessarily. I’m extremely political but most of my poetry doesn’t go that way, and that’s fine. Writing, for me, is about letting out whatever comes and that’s not always what you intend or want to come out. Although I would love to write this generation’s 1984!
Do you write between genres or not?
I occasionally write short stories but poems come to me a lot more. Poetry is my real love in that way. I love the heartache and gut punch of poetry so it will always come first for me.
Which living writers do you most admire?
I love Kim Moore’s poetry. Every line seems to sting and I love that. What she writes about also appeals to me - what it means to be a woman today. Lemn Sissay is someone I really look up to as well. His poetry is so rhythmic and his life so interesting.
Which dead writers do you most admire?
I love Orwell and Dickens. The way they used their writing to present social issues has always had me in awe. In terms of poetry Sylvia Plath has a place in my heart the way she does many other female poets. The daring outpouring of her mind is something I think we’d all like to fully brave with our words.
What’s the book you wish you’d written?
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Robert Tressell. This is such a classic to me and I think there’s no other text that should be more compulsory to read! Robert Tressell worked long hours and still managed to find the time to complete his novel - I love that through the text and the writer it really shows what it means to be working class.
What external influences do you have: nature/place, music etc.?
I live in a city and city life has never agreed with me! I’ve always felt more at home in the countryside. Fields, trees, birdsong - that’s the inspirational stuff for me. It feels more like a muse allowing a calm to enter in order to be creative.
Do you suffer from ‘writer’s block’ and how do you overcome it if so?
Writer’s block used to really get to me. But I’m pretty sure everyone gets it from time to time. I’ve had a few months now where I haven’t written as much and I’m just starting to pick up again but I think if I get too down about that then that will be the reason I stop writing completely. I’m a bit more holistic with myself about it all now. I’ll write when I can.
What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?
I love it when people read a poem of mine and say it has stirred up a particular emotion in them or they feel as if it provides the answer they were looking for. I am waiting for the day that my kids show a reaction to my poetry that isn’t just clear boredom!
How do your family and friends feel about your writing?
In all truth I don’t live a poet type of life (if that is even really a thing). Most of my friends and family have no interest in poetry, but, with that said, everyone is supportive of my work. Although I don’t think my parents appreciate the slightly cruder poems!
Do you have a favourite bookshop?
My favourite bookshop has closed down in the last few years but it was an amazing place. It was on Southport’s Lord Street and you had to walk down a little alley to the shop. It was three floors and held every type of book imaginable.
How do you see the future of writing? Will we become more or less dependent on Amazon?
I think the future of writing is opening up. The connections that you can make and the opportunities you can give yourself and others on social media can only be a good thing. I’m hoping that in the next few years people will start to appreciate and buy more from indie authors. I do think people are starting to see the importance of reaching out a bit further in that way. There is a dependence on Amazon but there will always be room for all the other stuff too! The excitement when another little book shop opens up or a new literary magazine makes its presence felt.
I wonder what happens if you eat too much
Of the contents of your nostrils
As a child.
Aunts and uncles say
That you must roll
For a good immune system.
Suck dummies that fall
On the floor
Before inserting them between small pursed lips.
Diced like carrots,
Sag in the middle
So children don’t choke
By the seaside
With plastic forks
That smash in your mouth.