Poet puzzlers – john foggin

Our second victim to be tossed into the thresher we call the Poet Puzzlers is a Puzzle Hall Poets cornerstone. For 6 years, alongside Bob Horne, he has run, compered, hosted, marketed, breathed life into Puzzle Hall Poets Live (and continues to do so despite officially letting some new muppets have a go). He needs no introduction (so pretend you haven’t read that). The one and only, John ‘The Great Fogginzo’ Foggin.

  • What would you like to be reincarnated as?

I thought at first the answer would be ‘a cat’; egocentric, exploitative, amoral and cossetted. But on reflection, I’d rather be a bird, a strong flyer. I was 32 before I went anywhere in an aeroplane, and there was a 30+ year gap before I went on another. I love flying, I love the way it turns out the maps are accurate. Wouldn’t be wonderful to ride the air. I’m torn between a seabird (a kittiwake, say) and a raptor, but I d like to be by mountains and sea.

  • What did you want to be when you were at school?

I don’t know whether this will sound sad or not; actually I don’t care. I wanted to be a teacher. I can’t remember ever wanting to be anything else

  • What was/were the last good poetry book/s you read?

The last truly hair-raisingly good contemporary one was Steve Ely’s “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven”. I haven’t got round to celebrating it on my poetry blog, but I will. And I’ll also do the same for Ian Parks’ Cavafy translation/interpretation “Body remember”. Otherwise, it’s a toss up between Collecteds….U A Fanthorpe, Charles Causley, David Constantine

  • Do you have a favourite word? And could you tell us what it is? (and maybe why?)

I like this question a lot. One of Terry Pratchett’s characters, Tiffany Aching, has a lexicon of favourite words that includes ‘sussurus’. I think the one I may like most is ‘deft’. It’s quite simply exactly right

  • I’ve lost something. What would your advice be to help me find it?

I’d like to follow my own advice on this, which would be the Little Bo Peep strategy. Leave it alone. I waste an unconscionable amount of time looking for stuff that I don’t actually need at that exact moment. Also…never tell anyone. Because they are guaranteed to ask the most stupid question under the heavens. ‘Where did you last have it?”

  • What is your favourite insect?

I needed to check on this. Grasshoppers, crickets, cicadas. I like their prehistoric brittleness, their amazing ability to leap huge distances, theit dryness, their wings and their chirring.

  • What would be your preferred way to dispose of a body?

Got to be a ship burial, like the one at the end of The Vikings (the Kirk Douglas/Tony Curtis film). Or a wicker man. Anyway, something involving a sea coast and a big fire.

  • Do you have a favourite building? (and what/where is it and why?)

I like my house. I could never move, now. I’ve stripped, painted, bodged, renovated just about every square inch of it.

For a church, Romanesque : Durham Cathedral, or the Fisherman’s Church of Talmond, at the mouth of the Gironde. I like the truth of unadorned stone, the weight of it.

  • Do you have a book, event, project, invention, cat, anything you’d like to tell us about?

I have a poetry project which I think doomed. I’ve been researching mine disasters and theological disputes about the resurrection of the body. This has been going on for at least three years. The last time I did this (on a late Victorian painter and his model) I ended up with three indifferent poems. I should learn.

And for a bonus question (because we’re lazy), could you give us a question to ask another poet?

Clive James said that we live in a in a time when almost everyone writes poetry, but scarcely anyone can write a poem. He writes about ‘slim volumes by the thousand…full of poetry…but few….with even a single real poem in them’. Wotcher think about that?

John Foggin lives in Ossett, West Yorkshire. His work has appeared in The North, Magma, Prole, and The interpreters house, among others, and in anthologies including The Forward Book of Poetry [2015, 2018].He publishes a poetry blog: the great fogginzo’s cobweb.

His poems havewon first prizes in The Plough Poetry [2013,2014], the Camden/Lumen [2014], and McClellan [2015] Competitions respectively. In 2016 he was a winner of the Poetry Business International Pamphlet Competition judged by Billy Collins.

He has had published six pamphlets/chapbooks: and two collections, Much Possessed (smith|doorstop) [2016], and Gap Year..co-authored with Andy Blackford (SPM Publications) [2017] His most recent pamphlet Dark Watchers was published by Calder Valley Poetry (2019)

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