Q&A with 2016 New Voices Award Nominee Beatrice Willoughby

09 Nov 2016
Q&A with 2016 New Voices Award Nominee Beatrice Willoughby

Beatrice Willoughby’s poems “The Mad, Sad, Rad Collection” were nominated by PEN South Africa for the 2016 PEN International New Voices Award, along with James Clarke’s short story “Old Iron”. PEN Afrikaans nominated Frederick J Botha and his story “Please Help, God Bless”.

Read our Q&A with Willoughby below and her poems “The Mad, Sad, Rad Collection” here.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing life – how long you’ve been writing for and what you like to write about?

I’ve been writing since I was first able to pick up a pen. I loved leaving notes around the house, often in conjunction with a questionable drawing. Looking back, I think these notes were the beginnings of poems, which I started writing in school.

I strongly believe that you should write what you know so I write about my experiences; my father’s death, my feminist feelings and my anxiety. I also think I’m quite funny so I write about humour too.

Tell us a bit about your series of poems, “The Mad, Sad, Rad Collection”, which were nominated by PEN SA for the 2016 PEN New Voices Award?

These poems explore a variety of different themes in my life – love, death, sorrow, unease – always softened by a good sense of humour.

“Mementos”, “Driving with Dad” and “My Father, the Glowworm”, all touch on the strained relationship I had with my father, while “It’s not for me”, “Lonely Heart Column” and “The Colgate Cure” are more light-hearted.

If you want to know more, read them! Follow me on Twitter to find out about my pending poetry blog.

Poets or books that have had an impact on you?

My mother, Finuala Dowling has been my biggest inspiration. Her poetry books I Flying, Notes from the Dementia Ward and Doo-Wop Girls of the Universe have a special place in my makeshift wine crate bookshelf. I’m very lucky that she squeezes me into her poetry classes, (which usually run on a waiting list basis) and takes the time to look at my work.

I’m also a big fan of Gus Ferguson’s short quip-like poetry and Carol Ann Duffy’s collection, The World’s Wife.

Novel wise, I love Colm Tóibín, Ian McEwan, and Barbara Vine (I am a little bit obsessed with crime fiction). Locally, I enjoy Paige Nicks and Deon Meyer who have mastered the art of weaving a South African thread into their work.

What was the last book or poem you read that you really loved?

I just finished Paige Nick’s Death by Carbs which was hilarious – the observations about current trends and the way people behave on social media was on point.

What’s next? Where can we find more of your writing?

I’m currently working on creating a tumblr poetry blog – watch this space!

Follow Willoughby on Twitter and Instagram.