We’re so honoured to have Adam Horovitz as our October feature during his Herefordshire Poet Residency. It was a series of fortunate events when our Editor Catherine Vaughan was reading at Ledbury Poetry Festival for Community Segments and Horovitz was in attendance of the event to support and watch new talent in the county plus host his own readings for the festival.
Adam Horovitz was born in London in 1971. He is the son of poets Michael and Frances Horovitz. After his parents separated, he lived with his mother and stepfather Roger Garfitt in Sunderland and Herefordshire. With poetry in his blood he has been writing poems since childhood.
Having started out in the performance poetry scene in the early 1990s, Horovitz slowly moved towards balancing his work between page and stage. Before his first collection, Turning, came out in 2011, he released two pamphlets and worked as poet in residence for the Borkowski PR agency and as poet in residence for the Glastonbury Festival’s official website in 2009. He was a Versopolis poet for Ledbury Poetry Festival in 2015. Currently Horovitz is Herefordshire’s Poet in Residence 2015-2016.
Tell us about your time as Poet in Residence for our county?
One splendid highlight was when I was commissioned to write a poem about The Master’s House during it’s inaugural year. (The Master’s House is one of the oldest buildings in the market town of Ledbury, it now houses Ledbury’s library alongside the Archives of revered former Poet Laureate John Masefield.)
I became so fired up by the subject matter after discovering an article about old Herefordshire dialect words suddenly all the dots connected and I fused the interviews with Friends of the Master’s House, my research into John Masefield and the time I had spent looking at the restoration work in that stunning building into something workable in my head. In the end, I tried stuffing 800 years of certain aspects of the town’s history into eight poems, using quotes from Masefield, the records of Master Edward Cowper, dialect and interviews. I wrote a sequence of eight poems, in the space of a weekend , which have been collected into a pamphlet called Wattle & Daub. I am delighted to say that the residency has forced me to be more ambitious, and it has certainly rekindled my love of the county.
How did you decide that poetry was a path you too would follow as your parents were poets?
I grew up surrounded by poetry and poets, so the rhythms were a natural part of my upbringing. That said, I might not have gone on to write as an adult had my mother not died when I was 12. I spent my teenage years writing poems as a way of keeping up a correspondence with her and by the time I reached adulthood, it was the thing I cared most about doing and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
What advice would you give a new budding poet?
Write. Write more. Read everything you can get your hands on, ancient and modern. Read outside your comfort zone. Listen to other poets reading aloud when you can. Read their work aloud to yourself, or to others if they’ll let you. Read your own work aloud. Taste the sound of words. Write. Write more. But also make sure you spend time living outside the world of poetry and letting the rhythms of life filter in. Do not expect a career out of poetry, just keep on careering through life trying to write more effectively.
How significant is the spoken word platform in a digital age?
Social media and YouTube is to poetry in performance what pamphleteering was to poetry 200 years ago – an ideal way of getting a point across in the hope that it will lead to further interest. It is an essential tool, and I have discovered a lot of poetry through it. It is also particularly good for hearing poetry in other languages, something that I find very useful, even if I don’t have the translations in front of me – I love listening to the different music and sounds of foreign language poetry.
Sometimes writing poems
is like waiting for rural buses.
Nothing comes. You stare at hedgerows.
Argue with crows. A little more
nothingness on the pitted tarmac.
Blown out umbrella, the sky a black,
expectant lattice. People pass in cars,
laugh at your predicament.
Then rain, a persistent mizzle
that sticks like oil.
About to go home, the light
an hour away from failing,
a rackety bus crawls to a halt,
takes you on the scenic route
whilst a little old lady,
clinging determined to the seat in front,
fixes you with one angelic eye,
sucks her teeth and tells you
you never thought you’d want to know.
(Written during his Herefordshire residency)
Last Night She Saw Badgers
He stands at the school gate
hunched and trembling
like a tree at winter’s rise.
The air is glue. I wade to him, each step
taking all of my twelve years.
He is grey as the rope we found in Orkney,
coiled and faded on the cliffs of Ronaldsay,
worn out with hoping for the rescue
that would never come.
The car is waiting.
We must go to London now, he says.
Death waits in the car, unspeaking.
I too am silent. The blood rushing
in my ears like howling trees
is noise enough for me.
I do not grasp the journey.
It is over in moments.
I am contracting time to reach my mother
in her sad bed in the stale ward
where my two plastic Star Wars toys
stand against the coming dark.
Too long I have waited in the deathly quiet
of the Vicar’s house, unspeaking, ungrateful,
mapping out how I will run away to London
Do you have a favourite word?
I do. I believe, however, that if you aspire to write, you shouldn’t announce your favourite word. You should, like a good parent with many children, attempt to love all words equally, in public at least.
What book are you currently reading?
I’m in the midst of rereading Middlemarch, which is even more glorious than I had remembered – I last read it when I was a teenager. I’m interspersing this with poems from Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake. It’s quite a potent combination.
Are there any notable literary blogs you enjoy?
Horovitz has released several works since 2011, notably A Thousand Laurie Lees, a poetically charged memoir of growing up in the Slad Valley, to coincide with Laurie Lee’s centenary year in 2014, and Little Metropolis, a CD of poetry and music, originally commissioned as a show for the 2015 Stroud Fringe Festival. He is currently working on a second full collection of poetry and a lyrical study of pasture farming in Britain.
Next Year in Jerusalem (pamphlet, Hoo-Hah, 2004)
The Great Unlearning (pamphlet, Hoo-Hah, 2009)
Turning (Headland, 2011) – first full collection
A Thousand Laurie Lees (History Press, 2014)
Only the Flame Remains (pamphlet, Yew Tree, 2014)
Little Metropolis (CD & book, 2015)