Conversation 43: THE DAILY HAIKU INTERVIEWS: Tom Fox

Introduction

My name is Tom Fox.

It hasn’t always been Tom Fox. But that’s for another time.

1

Brought up in a council house in West Cumbria with a millionaire’s view across the Irish Sea towards the Isle of man. This one view – which was mostly experienced too early in the evening having been packed off to bed, has greatly influenced my writing. At the time I never thought Id be writing that sentence years later.

I didn’t read books, I looked out of the window and watched the colour changes over the seasons, the days the hours, the minutes. There are a lot of minutes in an elevated western view of a summer up there. I still do that, down here in Brighton – I watch – I look – I make things up.

2

In 1989 I decided to leave the pint I was halfway through drinking. Leave my friends in the middle of an anecdote and get away from conversations that always seemed to include, ‘going to’.  I wanted to be able to say, ‘today I’ve written something.’ That’s what I did. Folks told me I should, but I had no idea what. The method was simple; get some paper, a couple of pens an empty desk, banish all excuses, and the drink, and start putting ink on paper. This method remains the same today, while allowing for a drink or two.

3

I’ve taken part in regular public readings of pieces from two [ as yet unpublished] novels. Passenger, and Under the Singer – And readings from, Letters from a Dishwasher. Set in Spain 1995.  My short story, Symbiosis, was produced and broadcast on BBC radio 4.

I write long, then take away and it needs to be said that I often write with little regard for grammar. My language comes from people not books. [ I’m sure I can hear my editor friends saying I could have learnt the grammar].

4

I began to write poetry about three years ago, as an exercise in precision, concision. To my surprise I found that I could say something in a hundred words and sometimes as few as fifty. Initially there was too much navel gazing – then I remembered the watching, observing of my youth. Looking outside of self, while on occasions reflecting back, inwards. A lot of poetry never made it out of the, Magic Drawer. This didn’t worry me, as being a writer of fiction, I had regularly dumped thousands of words. At one time during the edits of Passenger I taped the word KILL onto the delete button. Try it – liberating.

5

Now I write haiku. I write to fix my head and because I can do this one small thing every day. Because it doesn’t matter – Because it does matter – Because it reminds me that beyond and before I was a dad, I am a writer. I don’t write for anyone else – I don’t write to please – I write.

This growing family of haiku writers have quietly kept me going through a few tough periods. Not so much in what they may say to me but in what they are getting done. Knowing that while I’m trying to put a haiku together at five in the morning, or even right now as I type this, someone is counting syllables, finding a new, better word, and relooking at their world, helps me to simply put down what I see. I see everything that I write. It can be tiring. Less so when you feel other folk working away.

6

The series of Cemetery walk Haiku in October came out of a clear decision to do one thing every day, rain hail or snow. To write without expectation and to walk knowing nothing may come of it.  [ a mention of Clark Strand’s timely book, which I dipped in and out of – Seeds from a birch tree –]

Each day as I entered the Cemetery, I emptied my mind of self, and observed, looked, listened. I wrote what I heard, what I saw.

Being sent to bed far too early as a child has worked out well.

7

Two haiku:     From 3 july, 2020

Sky, a broken bowl

Fixed with blood red thread and gold

Tipped to pour out dawn.

 

Cemetery , January 25 2021

Solitary cloud
The size of a speech bubble
Not much else

 

Sometimes there is room

for one more on the ghost bench

Not today. I walk on

 

 

 

8 Comments on “Conversation 43: THE DAILY HAIKU INTERVIEWS: Tom Fox”

  1. “I watch, I look, I make things up” – I have really enjoyed re-reading your interview Tom. I love how writing has become so much part of who you are, your day, the way you see your world and express it in a way I much enjoy through your haiku in the group and your cemetery project which produced such poignant work. I think you get to the essence of what writing is or more accurately should be, that it pleases you not anyone else and that you express as simply but existentially as being “I write”. Many writers get tied up with writing what they think will be either commercially successful or producing something to please others or crafted in a way that will produce a particular response. Your authenticity springs I think from the ‘doing’ of writing, of being completely caught up in the process and also having connected with a way of ‘seeing’ that connects back to a way of expressing your ideas about the world around you from a young age. There is a beautiful melancholy and a melancholic beauty about your haiku that really stirs the senses and pricks the soul, I pay attention to the careful placing you give to each of your words, your sharp and sharpened images stay with me long after I have read them. Your haiku examples here are cut with a deep poignance where life and death are fragile ghosts, the natural world both everlasting and broken, feelings tender and throwaway… juxtapositions of humanity expertly condensed into pocket haiku that feel comforting and disquieting to hold at the same time. Can’t believe you have only been writing haiku and poetry for such a short time but feel that ‘writing’ has been there all the time.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your writing self here Tom – and your interesting comments on your childhood. I used to take off on my bike to look at the sky and the light changing across the fields in the evenings (big skies in Essex) but ostensibly to get away from “doing” (which I’d be expected to be involved in at home: piano practice, singing practice, homework, something self-improving). Like you, for me writing is a process, something I do for itself – and the childhood habit of “looking” is a practice I am so glad to return to now I am writing – and is something I find so companionable in this group: people really looking and seeing the moment and then making the effort to share it in carefully chosen words. A happy combination of looking AND doing so perhaps my parents were right about the doing after all! And you do it so well and so variously with such an amazing palette of emotions. It’s always such a pleasure and surprise to read you!

  3. You know, Tom … ha! well, of course you know Tom, but what I wanted to say was when I first got in to this group, you were one of the ones who intrigued me with your visiting cemeteries and then writing about what you saw. I still think this is something I would love to do, but there aren’t any close to where I live. This is the first writing group I’ve been in and I am so happy to have found it. I lost you. I don’t know what happened, but I did. Meeting and reading so many new member’s haiku and yours wasn’t popping up so I assumed you were gone and then I’d see another one. Back then I didn’t know I could go to the member pics (up on the top right with the •••) and find people and ALL their haiku. Today, I will get to do that with you, (even though I like when different people pop up with their different ways of approaching a theme or a thought). Thank you so much for being here. I’ve enjoyed your story and haiku. Now I’m off to enjoy more of your thoughts!

  4. Wow, Inspiring story a great talent indeed. Words speak your inner soul . Keep sharing

  5. What a lovely interview – thank you, Tom, for giving us a glimpse of you. I’ve been really enjoying your work, especially the cemetery ones, as I can picture you there quite close to our Brighton home, which I’m beginning to miss, and the haiku say so much. I’d love to read your books too – maybe you’ll publish one day.

  6. Thank you all for the kind words. Of late. I’m guilty of not getting my work out. This whole process, and this interview has me reconsidering chasing down the agents and publishers.
    Onwards!!

  7. A kindred spirit in many ways Tom. I empathise with the back story, with the writing compulsion, and with finding poetry in the world about us, not books – although there is irony in writing if we care not for books and what others have already written. I like your work and love the haiku above. Look forward to seeing more.

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