Poet and artist, Gerry Loose has a background in horticulture and agriculture. He has farmed in Kerry, Ireland and market-gardened in Scotland, where he trained in conservation and ecology. In the 1990s, Loose was Poet-in-Residence at Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens. His poetry is rooted in the natural environment, and the political and social aspects of human ecology. His latest book, An Oakwoods Almanac (2015) is an exploration of two different woodlands, Sunart in the Scottish west Highlands and Saari. Finland’s Baltic coast woodlands. In 2014, Gerry Loose published fault line, a suite of poems set around Faslane submarine base, home of the UK’s nuclear arsenal; which has among its concerns the people, flora, fauna, language and the tensions existing among them. His publications include The Elementary Particles (1993), a measure (1996), Tongues of Stone (1998), Mouth of Silence, a play for Birds of Paradise Theatre Company which premiered at Tramway, Glasgow (2006), Printed on Water: new & selected poems (2007), and that person himself (2009).
As the Scottish Writers’ Centre’s Literary Research Officer, and a newcomer to Gerry’s work, I posed a few questions in an attempt to understand more about his writing process.
Can you describe your writing process? Do you write every day? Do you hand write or type on a computer? Or are there other writing habits or rituals you’d like to share?
I certainly make notes every day – if that’s writing. This can be fragments, things I overhear, things I hear in the woods, like which birds are singing. I only write every day when editing – or if a deadline is looming.
We know your work is found, inscribed and created in natural landscapes. What is it about the landscape that attracts your attention? Do you research specific geographical areas you want to explore through walking and writing?
Plants up close, birds overhead – a few days ago I was lucky enough to watch two ospreys fishing. It can be the geology of a place, its vegetation or its watercourses. I like to get an overall picture of where I am. I have planned ahead – for example when I went to live in Ardnamurchan to study and write about the Sunart Oakwoods; mostly it’s the place where I live – constantly surprising.
Would you agree to that your work is often political without being demanding? And if yes, is that because of how you see poetry’s role?
There is nothing which is not political. If writers ignore that, then they might not capture the whole story. Of course not all narratives contain the “Political” but politics underlies everything we do. I certainly don’t try to be polemic, nor expect readers to agree with my position. Thoughtful response is what I look for.
Do you have any Scottish writers in mind when you write?
No. Though sometimes someone might come to mind when I think X or Y would like this (what I’m seeing, not what I’m writing).
What are your current projects?
I’m working on a very long project about seas and islands. No details yet. Also I’m making work (poetry on various mediums) for the grounds of a new Health Care Centre in Glasgow.
Any tips for young writers?
Be alert to the moment.
Be audacious in your writing: write something that makes your heart beat faster.
Walking informs the way Gerry Loose works and is sometimes the subject of his work. If you would like to know more: http://gerryloose.com/
Words by Annie Kolemen, Image of Gerry by Loll Junggeburth