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Interview with Liam Bates

Photo of Liam Bates, red shirt, glasses, caucasian, smiling in front of a blurred background of trees.
Liam Bates

When did you write the book, and what was the inspiration behind it?

In a sense, I've always been writing it. In another sense, I wrote it mostly some time between 2020 and 2022. It's inspired by people, specifically and generally. It's inspired by fantasy, and reality, the places where the two collide. Terry Pratchett was there, Ursula K. Le Guin, Dianna Wynne Jones. There are swords and magic, everybody or nobody is a hero and the rules of the games and quests aren't clear. It's inspired by stuff and things that've happened to me and some that haven't.

How would you summarise this book in 100 words or fewer?

It's a book of poems that treats a video game I played when I was 10, a hospital visit I made when I was 20, and a book I read when I was 15 with equal amounts of seriousness.

How would you characterise the style of your book? For example, would you see it as lyrical, prose or experimental? (to name but a few!) Can you provide some commentary around why you feel it falls into these categories?

It's all of those things, sure. Sometimes at different times, sometimes all at once. Everything is happening through the lens of my own experience, whether it's a poem in dialogue set near a petrol station forecourt, a prose poem quest of rescuing kids from a Platonic cave, or a sonnet of more than 14 lines where the humdrum meets the magical.

During the writing of this book, did you learn anything new?

Oh yeah, fucking loads.

Can you list some of your main influences? Feel free to include writers, literary movements, but also any influences outside of the literary sphere that have had an impact?

I worry any list would omit important people, so I'll be cowardly and not write one here. But anyone who pays me any attention will hopefully get a sense of this pretty quick. I'm inspired by anybody having fun with it, having weird thoughts and running with them, wearing their fascinations on their sleeves.

Can you give some commentary around the book’s central themes and why these are so important to you?

On top of what I've already mentioned, I think this is a book about connection. I think every book I write and everything I do is ultimately about that.

For someone who enjoys your work, which other authors do you think would also be appealing to them?

That's an interesting question, I'm honestly not sure. Follow me on the social media, I try to shout about things I've been reading and getting excited about as much as possible, so maybe they'll find something there.

Is there a personal story or inspiration relating to this book? If you feel comfortable, please feel free to share!

Hello there! Welcome to the world of poetry! My name is Liam! People call me the Poetry Prof! This world is inhabited by creatures called poems! For some people, poems are pets. Other use them for fights. Myself… I study poems as a profession. First, what is your name? Right! So your name is <player>! This is my grandson. He's been your rival since you were a baby. …Erm, what is his name again? That's right! I remember now! His name is <rival>! <player>! Your very own poetry legend is about to unfold! A world of dreams and adventures with poems awaits! Let's go!

Is there a particular audience you had in mind when writing this book? How did this impact the writing process?

It would've been great, financially, if it was a crossover hit, the likes of which we'd never seen before. But no, I just wrote the book and crossed my fingers.

What are you working on at the moment?

There are a few organisations relying on me to write a second collection of poetry, some of them have even given me some money to help (shout out New Writing North and Society of Authors), so that's happening, there are some poems already and some more will likely materialise over the next year or so, but I'm in no major rush. I've also decided it's a good time to try and write a novel, so I've been thinking about tense a lot more than I've ever had to before. I am tense. Watch this space.

Liam Bates is a poet originally from the Black Country, now living in Morecambe.


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