is a British-Cypriot poet, author, editor and lecturer. Her most recent poetry collection, Dressing for the Afterlife, was described by Nine Arches Press
as ‘diamond tough and tender’. WORD!'s Abi Willock
Caught up with her in an exclusive interview all about her writing practices and career so far.
Abi: Can you tell me a little bit about your writing process and where you gain inspiration from?
Maria: I seem to write better in the mornings, but occasionally a poem idea will come and ambush me at any time! I like to read poetry before I write, that could be anything, say, from the latest edition of Poetry London or an out-of-print collection from twenty or thirty years ago. When it comes to my own poetry, I always begin with a messy first draft and keep hammering away until it resembles something I feel I can share. If I’ve had some time off writing, it takes a while to settle back into those patterns. When it’s strong it’s a very welcome visitor.
Abi: Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Maria: Maybe. I wrote a poem for the Derwentwater Middle School magazine when I was ten, but maybe I managed something earlier. I guess I wouldn’t have been conscious of it as a poem. Anyway, my first poem was about birthday presents and specifically about getting an Eric Clapton T-shirt instead of a Kylie Minogue one. I thought I was being funny. I’ll have to dig out the magazine! Late eighties era. Classic work, ha ha! I think children blur the line between poetry and prose, which is great. As I child I thought poetry had to rhyme, but looking back I think many children wrote ‘poetic’ prose.
Abi: What is the most important piece of advice you’ve been given in your writing career?
Maria: Two things; firstly, KEEP GOING and secondly KEEP READING. Sometimes I drift away from writing and then miss it very much. At the moment I am enjoying having a bit more time to simply write and enjoy the process, but with lockdown, work etc. it can suffer a bit. So, you have to keep going and part of that is immersing yourself in good writing and freeing your brain.
Abi: Who is your biggest inspiration in the writing world?
Maria: Oh, that is a big question. I used to love Sue Townsend when I was a child and probably shouldn’t have been reading her books! David Morley was my poetry tutor at university, and he started me off in the right direction. Jane Commane and Nell Nelson are publishers who inspire me and I’ve been privileged to work with both of them. I was addicted to Hilary Mantle’s fiction at one point too. I think Dennis Potter’s script for The Singing Detective is amazing. I also devoured Maya Angelou’s autobiographical books when I was growing up – a generous strong voice.
Abi: And finally, what are you reading right now?
Maria: I am reading all sorts. Poetry wise, I am catching up with The Air Year by Caroline Bird and The Small Manoeuvres, Kathy Pimlott’s new collection. I’ve just finished On Agoraphobia by Graham Caveney, a fantastic non-fiction account of his perception of agoraphobia. I have just started I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman, a Young Adult Fiction book, because my daughters told me I should! I like keeping things varied.
Maria Taylor will headline WORD! at Attenborough Arts Centre on Thursday 30th June 2022. tickets via: https://bit.ly/3NtG6t4 or the box office: 0116 2522455