I found myself completely lost in this poetry collection. Spanning Britain and Brazil, we are immersed in tiny, beautiful moments and fierce tragedy. From Ruth's rhythmic style to her gentle probing into the difficulties of the last few years, there's a real sense of poignancy and relevance throughout.
I was particularly drawn to those poems that drew on the natural world as a source of comfort and familiarity, as well as those who deal with the completely overwhelming experience of motherhood. I most definitely recommend that you read these poems, they will stay with you for a long time.
I wanted to find out how Ruth became inspired by the natural world, and her road to publication. Read on to find out more.
Ruth draws inspiration from the natural world around her
A lot of your poems seem to be inspired by nature and the world around you. How much do you draw on nature in your writing and do you have any writing practices associated with nature writing?
I started writing on purpose after the Covid pandemic hit Brazil and lockdown for me was looking after my two-year-old, so I started really trying to soak up the moments we had walking down to the river.
But then I heard a writer say that 'nature writing' is simply writing about nature, in whatever form that takes, and I felt that gave me permission to simply write, knowing that my concrete poems about birds were just as much 'nature writing' as what is traditionally considered to be. Knowing I didn't have to be knowledgeable or scientific meant I could react to place on a personal level.
I loved the contrast between the English countryside and Brazil. How did you find being in those different places and how did it affect your writing?
I've come to realise that after living somewhere for a while I often develop a very strong connection to place, the place becomes an anchor in some way. That has happened to me in rural Cornwall and rural Brazil as well as in very urbanised big cities in Latin America and London. My natural tendency in places which are 'foreign' to me is to want to relay things that I see or hear to people who cannot be there. One way I can be a bridge for others is through writing, and I also write for myself as a way to try to keep hold of my memories.
Connection to a place is important for Ruth's poetry
There are some poems that deal with really difficult moments like the death of your father and the birth of your daughter and her being a toddler. Do you find it difficult to write poems about emotional moments or does it provide some catharsis?
I discovered as an adult that I often don't know how I feel about something that happens until days after it has happened so writing about losing my dad helped me put into words what I didn't know I was feeling. I often think about the life we have chosen for our daughter, of being part of two cultures but being considered different in both, and the losses and gains of friends and family and place as we move between those cultures, so I think that also also affects the way I write about her growing up.
Walking and reflecting is a source of inspiration
How did you go about publishing your collection?
I saw that Pen to Print were running an online poetry class over lockdown which involved learning about how to put together a collection. The class was brilliant, as are the Pen to Print team, and they published my collection at the end of the course, which was wonderful. I learned in another Pen to Print course about publishing to Amazon, so my collection is also available there.
What is the best writing advice you've been given or your own that you'd want to pass on to other writers?
Hearing the advice 'write for yourself' was very liberating for me. It frees you from the suffocation of what you think others expect you to write and if another person connects with what you have written in some way, then that's a bonus.
Ruth Callaghan do Valle writes about the landscapes around her – natural and relational, past and present – and the threads that draw them all together. From rural Cornwall to rural Brazil and back again, writing helps her make sense of the love, loss, longing and belonging. You can find posts and poems on her website https://from-the-outside-in.com/blog/.
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