a conversation with David Russell
by Harsimran Kaur
Picture Courtesy: David Russell
David Russell b. 1940 is a resident of the UK and a writer of poetry, literary criticism, speculative fiction and romance. His main poetry collections include Prickling Counterpoints (1998), and An Ever River (The Palewell Press, 2018). He is also a singer-songwriter/guitarist. His main CD albums include Bacteria Shrapnel and Kaleidoscope Concentrate. He edits Poetry Express Newsletter, online magazine produced by Survivors Poetry and Music.
Harsimran Kaur is a seventeen-year-old high school student from India. She is a self-published author of three books and an editor in chief of The Creative Zine. Her pieces appear of are forthcoming in Buttered Toast, BULL Magazine, Jellyfish Review and elsewhere.
Kaur: It’s a pleasure to discuss with you your book of poetry, An Ever River. The book comprises a distinct genre of environmental poetry. What has your relationship with the environment been like and how do you think it has evolved over time?
Russell: I have always appreciated it, and admired it at a distance. In my 20s I was deeply affected by Edward Hyams’s Soil and Civilisation. This led me to strong feelings about human greed ravaging the planet and creating deserts.
Kaur: I particularly enjoyed reading Clouds. I like how it ends with a question. It makes you pause and wonder, something that I’ve always admired about great poems like such. The same could be found in Antarctic Depths. The unexpected metaphors and language weave a sense of self throughout most of the poems in the collection. From where do you think this originates?
Russell: I guess I’ve always wanted my reach to exceed my grasp. The depths of Antarctica and the heights of the clouds are out of reach, inaccessible – that magnifies my fascination with them, and forces my imagination to go where I physically cannot.
Kaur: An Ever River continuous in its natural hemisphere by being part of a whole, meandering through summer streams, carrying along with a unique sense of beauty, often cited as flamboyant and tender. It inhabits a sense of self through Scorpian and Whale. Both of these are “hard-hitting poems with a powerful attack on the human race, who must learn many lessons about other species” as Peter Geoffery Paul Thomson notes in his review. What are your thoughts on this?
Russell: Mankind has a massive capacity to pollute, to poison, to ruin, to exterminate. People should be pulled up with dreadful surprises to alert them to the need for benign alternatives.
Kaur: In your poem Work out of Progress, you wrote, “writing is a sort of discarding stage/ Some sense comes from putting something/ out into the void, the negative black.” I really liked your directness and straightforwardness in this. How did the idea of this poem originate and how do you think the sharpness adds to the meaning of this poem?
Russell: I think this poem expresses every writer’s dilemma about composition – utterances feeling like groping in the dark, some statements immediately to be jettisoned, some to be frozen and built on, initially impossible to distinguish.
Kaur: Many poets, poems and books of poems have expressed ecological concerns; but only recently has the term ecopoetry gained use. What does ecopoetry mean to you?
Russell: I have for many years been a supporter of Green Peace; I am also in sympathy with many of the objectives of the Ecology/Green Party. The term ‘ecopoetry’ seems to have coincided with awareness of the desperate urgency of the Climate Change issue. I am delighted that it has expanded into a major movement.
Prime time, swallowed whole / Could the universe, just once, / have poured itself into a molecule / so that, thereafter, / nothing could flow? / Never to suckle a broken circuit / for sparking life; / never split by cesarean pangs / of primal punctures. / Black hole never thinned to liquid, / boiling mud, foundation pustules, / turning all to gas. / All words are now compelled to use / the speech synthesizer of the global dish. / So whence the river, / its source in rejection / generating dragging threads – / bubbling, puddling, squelching, / steaming, clouding, drizzling, / splashing process
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