Award-winning poet, writer, and creative facilitator Taylor Edmonds releases her debut poetry pamphlet Back Teeth, an exploration of the transition from girlhood to womanhood and all the fears, challenges, and beauty that comes with it. She speaks to Eve Davies about her creative journey.
On Fri 30 Sept, Taylor Edmonds held her book launch at Wales Millennium Centre’s Foyer Stage to celebrate with friends, family, and anyone who offered support. There were readings from guest poets, before Edmonds did a live performance with dancer Jodi Ann Nicholson. She said: “It felt like there was so much love in the room. It was an unforgettable day that I will treasure forever.” A couple of days after the launch, I caught up with the poet from Penarth via Zoom.
What is the main source of inspiration behind Back Teeth?
Back Teeth is about existing in the world in a feminine body. It narrates all things I and the women in my life have felt, observed, and experienced. I spoke to friends and family about their experience as women and they catalysed the writing process for me. I love to draw on inspiration from real life in my writing, taking an idea, playing with it, and creating something new. Seeing these ideas completed in my poetry collection has been so fun.
Can you tell me about your writing process and routine?
My routine changes but one thing is constant – I am definitely not a night owl. I feel like my brain is a lot more awake and clearer in the morning, but ultimately it is about finding time to carve out for writing.
I have desk space at home covered in books, photos, flowers, plants, and candles. Having this space that reflects me and the things that I am interested in helps spark my creativity. I enjoy writing at home, but I also like going out to coffee shops or the library; sometimes hearing bits of others’ conversations can trigger an idea.
I’m not one to write in silence and music helps get me into my thoughts. When writing Back Teeth, I made a playlist and often, if I’m listening to a particular song when the first line of a poem comes, I will play that song about 50 times until the poem is done and then never want to listen to it again. Though I’ll admit that it’s not always easy, even though I have these things to help me get into a creative frame of mind. Sometimes it just doesn’t come, and I can feel stagnant.
When that happens, I always try and step away from it and be gentle with self. I spend more time reading, go for walk, or cook something interesting – all the other things I like to do. I think it is important to step away sometimes as long as you know that you will come back to it.
What do you hope readers get out of this collection?
I hope people can connect with it; maybe see themselves in it in some sort of way. I hope readers can immerse themselves in all the little stories that I’ve weaved into the book. What I love about poetry, as opposed to other forms, is that everyone comes to read it with their individual experiences, thoughts, and ideas and it can mean different things to different people in most interesting way. I feel I am connected to my readers, and they are connected to me, on a deep and intimate level through poetry.
How are you feeling about it being released into the hands of the public?
Since I have put so much of myself into the collection, it is a vulnerable feeling, but also very exciting. Being able to write a whole book of poetry feels like a release. I have spent so many years working on the craft, so having it out in the world feels cathartic. It is good to share all the things that have been going around and around in my head. When someone tells me that they relate to something in the book, that completely validates why I write.
There are so many lines that have stuck with me from Back Teeth – do you have any favourites?
One of my favourites comes from the poem Again, which I wrote after the murder of Sabina Nessa. This poem is about navigating the grief and fear felt by so many after hearing news like this. The line goes: “Each day I take my body / and walk to where I’m going.” This line is about defiance, conveying the idea that despite fear and safety of shutting self away, going to go out and ‘do it all’ anyway
Another of my favourite lines come from the poem Sabrina, which is inspired by the goddess of River Severn who saw herself as a protector of women. It goes: “When the body of a woman / is devoured, cut open, spat / back onto the bank, / we’ll run the river red, / roll her out clean.”
The third is taken from My Magnolia Tree, which I wrote during my time as poet in residence at the Future Generations Commissioner For Wales and is about rising sea levels. I came across maps released by Natural Resources Wales showing areas of our country that could potentially go below sea level by 2050. This coincided with a trip I took to Aberdeen, where my great-grandmother grew up. While tracing her steps there, I thought what a shame it is that future generations might not be able to search the places that have been so special to their grandparents. So, the line completing this poem goes: “I read her letters to the sky / while the storm rolls in, I line / the house with an army of sandbags.”
Back Teeth by Taylor Edmonds is available to buy now via Broken Sleep Books. Price: £6.99. Info: here
words EVE DAVIES