It is my pleasure to welcome poet, John Siddique, to my blog today.  He is a poet whose work I have followed and enjoyed for several years now. But he is also one of those writers whose career I have observed from a far with admiration and some wonder. For those of you new to his work, Full Blood is his fourth full-length collection and his third with Salt Publishing. His poems, stories, essays and articles have been published widely in such publications as Granta, The Guardian, Poetry Review and The Rialto. In 2005, his collection The Prize was nominated for the Forward Prize. I was lucky enough to get an early glimpse at the new collection, and before I offer up a sample for you, I want to ask him a few questions:
Sue: Full Blood is your fourth collection. Readers often ask me how a collection begins. Do you start with a concept and then write poems to fit, or do you collect your most recent poems and then organize the book according to common themes which have just happened to arise?

John: My first book, The Prize, was simply the best material I had at the time which I pulled together when Rialto asked me if I’d like to publish with them. Since then, however, every book has begun with a concept, and it’s not always that one writes the poems to fit but that because of the area of interest you mark out for yourself one’s writing tends to gravitate to centre around those themes. Saying that, both Recital and Full Blood were actually written as books sticking closely to my initial ideas of what they should be and what I wanted to explore. Full Blood looks at the beauty of mortality and how we live through sensuality. I had noted how much self censoring seems to go on with writers and with myself, so I determined to be curious and explore those limitations. I endeavoured to find a way to go beyond the limited self and to write cleanly about the subjects I wished to explore without getting in my own way.

Sue: Your publisher’s information sheet makes sure that the reader understands that adult themes and sexual content are present within the book. Why do you/they feel this was necessary to state up front? Is it because you have written for children before? Or is it, honestly, a way to entice new readers?

John: I think because Full Blood is such a marked development in my career, we felt we needed to be very clear about the content. It is a very human book, yet the thing we are told we should fear the most are our sensuality and intelligence and masculine and feminine strength. We have been told this by religions and media so often, we now have to have certificates to prove we’re not monsters in order to talk to children. It is assumed that the worst is where we begin, and that adults’ lives are basically unimportant. So my publisher and I wanted to be clear that this is not a book for children, nor perhaps for some of my younger readers in their teens and so on, as I have a great number of people in this age range who access my work… And yes of course owning up that we hope that this bolder take on literature opens up a new audience for the work, and also surprises and delights the readers who are already on-board for what I serve up and gift through writing.

Thanks to John for his thoughtful responses.  Here is a sample of the poetry to be found in the new collection to further entice you.

On becoming a writer

Learn to sit and be invisible,
surround yourself with ordinary
things. Take no notes in public.

A glass of water with your coffee
will let you sit for longer.
Never appear interested in the talk.

Be plain on the outside. Inside
your mouth is a diamond; never
speak of it before you set its ways in ink.

© John Siddique 2011
Taken from Full Blood (Salt Publishing)
ISBN 9781844718245
Available at your Bookshop, Library & Online Store