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Corinna Board: 'I love the musicality of poetry'

A chat with Corinna Board about her poetry pamphlet, ‘Arboreal’ (Black Cat Poetry Press, 2023)

How would you describe the pamphlet in one sentence?

A portable forest (which is actually the title of one of the poems!)

How long did the book take to write?

The idea for the pamphlet began in December 2021, after I attended an inspirational workshop led by Seán Hewitt. I think I submitted an initial version of Arboreal in April 2022. I made quite a few changes between that first manuscript and the version published in January 2024.

How did you structure the pamphlet?

I tried to create a natural flow when deciding what order to put the poems in. This might be a similar theme (the farm poems for example) or a word linking one poem to the next. I switched them around A LOT, until they fell into an order that felt right.

How did the design for the cover come about?

The cover was designed by Lucia Bosman, who works with Black Cat Poetry Press. I sent over a mood board, then Lucia sent me a few different options (all of which I loved). I’m really happy with the way Arboreal looks, she also managed to find the perfect shades of green!

I wondered why the pamphlet form, and if you thought of making it a longer collection?

I think there are 30 poems in Arboreal, which felt like a nice round number, and it also fit the requirements of my publisher. I love the pamphlet form as it allows you to explore a particular theme without feeling like you need to “pad it out” with other poems.

How did you choose a publisher for the collection, and how much editorial input did they have with the book?

I was really lucky in that my publisher approached me, asking if I’d like to work with her. I’m aware how difficult it is to get published, so I am extremely grateful to Satya from Black Cat Poetry Press. She gave me lots of input on my initial manuscript, which was really useful – it was great to have an objective opinion about the poems, as I hadn’t shown the manuscript to anyone! Ultimately, I was the one who decided which poems to include or take out.

What has been the reaction to the pamphlet? Have there been any individual reactions that have surprised you?

I think there’s been a great reaction to Arboreal, people have been really supportive and shared lots of photos on Twitter or elsewhere which is lovely to see. I had terrible imposter syndrome when it first came out (I still do, I think most of us do…) so positive feedback really means the world. I don’t think I’ve been surprised (well, I’m always a bit surprised (in a good way!) that people are actually buying my book and enjoying it.)

Do you have a favourite poem from the book?

I think my favourite is probably 'I’ve been trying to write this poem for weeks', because it’s about my grampy and my childhood growing up on the farm.

As an independent author myself, I’m always interested in how other people feel about the self-promotion involved in putting out a book and I wonder how you feel about this?

Self-promotion was probably the part of having a book that I was the least prepared for. It’s really hard to keep on “putting yourself out there.” It got to a point where I would post something about Arboreal, and a little voice would say “people are fed up with you going on and on about it!” What helped was to think of my publisher and how they need to sell books to keep doing what they do, a small indie press even more so.

Have you done any readings from the book or do you plan to do any? If so, which poems would you choose to read and why? Linked to this, are there any poems that you think are specifically ‘page’ poems?

I had an online launch, which was amazing. I always get nervous about reading, but I do enjoy it. I’ve got a reading planned this summer with my local stanza group and hope to do more readings if I can. I love the musicality of poetry and it’s something I think about a lot. When I’m editing my poems, I always read them out loud. At my launch I tried to pick poems that “sounded nice” if that makes sense. I don’t think there are any ‘page’ poems in Arboreal, probably for the reasons mentioned earlier. I could be wrong though!

Can you remember the first poem you ever wrote?

I wrote a lot of poetry in my late teens. I don’t recall a particular poem though (which is probably a good thing!)

Have you always written primarily about nature?

I think so, yes. Of course I write about other stuff too, but I definitely prefer to write eco poetry.

Trees are, as the blurb insightfully says, a ‘voice’ in the book. How important are recurrent themes, symbols or motifs to you in a collection; your own or other people’s? Do poetry books need to have a dominant theme?

I love reading poetry as much as writing it, and, whilst I enjoy the “flow” created by the use of a theme, I don’t think it’s a necessity. Sometimes it’s frustrating to think “no, I can’t put that poem in because it doesn’t fit the theme.”

Do you have a typical writing process?

I wish I did. I tend to write when I have time, or quickly jot down lines that come to me to use later. I definitely feel as if I’m more creative in the morning, but I haven’t found a routine yet which allows me to do this when I’m working.

One of the poems that intrigued me was ‘The Last Tree’ and I wondered if you could tell me about its roots (so to speak)

'The Last Tree' is dedicated to Seán Hewitt and was actually written during the workshop I mentioned earlier on, which was a free Gingko prize workshop called 'In Praise of Trees'. Seán gave us the line 'Today the last tree died' and asked us to use it in a poem!

What are you working on now?

I’m writing about fields, meadows and my childhood growing up on my grandparents’ farm. It feels like it could become another pamphlet! 😉

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