Refossileer Spotlight, Day 20 — Claire Smith

Back, with apologies for the convention-related delay! Today’s interview is with one of our talented poets, Claire Smith, who brings us the haunting “Forest of Borth.”


It dines on slate, sandstone, and crustacean fossils.
It chews on rock-cake food, spits out peat-bits,
And it leaves a black swamp of scraps when it’s stuffed full.
– “Forest of Borth” by Claire Smith


 * What inspired your piece in The Refossiling?

CS: An article in The Guardian newspaper about the results of the big storms in Cardigan Bay winter last year. A writer friend, Sarah Snell-Pym, had posted a link to the story on her Facebook group page, Gloucestershire SciFi, Horror and Fantasy Writing Group Mk2. So I feel a bit lazy! And also have her to thank. See Sarah and her husband Alaric’s website here: http://www.snell-pym.org.uk/

* Favorite / least favorite ___________ and why?

A. extinct or prehistoric lifeform

CS: Trilobites are my favourite because hopefully they won’t eat me. The contrary with Tyrannosaurus Rex because they unquestionably would.

B. dinosaur-themed entertainment (book, movie, game, etc)

CS: Jurassic Park really scared me as a child; general young children’s dinosaur models – my four year old nephew, Brodey, loves them; particularly the Tyrannosaurus Rex!

C. aquatic-themed entertainment (book, movie, game, etc)

CS: I hated Jaws for the same reason as Jurassic Park. I still like The Little Mermaid, particularly the sea-witch character.

D. undersea or freshwater critter

CS: I love the various tiny, multi-coloured, fish living on the Great Barrier Reef; snorkelling among them is probably one of the most memorable things I’ve experienced. Crabs after my dad’s continual warnings about them biting me in my rock-pool adventures.

E. vacation destination

CS: Australia is definitely my best; just a beautiful and varied place to travel round. I’ve happy memories of being a backpacker in my late teens. India is my least favourite place because of the poverty I saw.

F. time travel destination

CS: I like now; or try to!

G. seafood dish or delicacy

CS: My favourite has to be smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches made by my lovely husband. I don’t eat any other fish – I’m supposed to be a vegetarian!

* Where can readers and fans find more of your work?

CS: This is the first anthology my poetry has appeared in. I’ve been published in the journal Spectral Realms (summer 2014) and by Gloucestershire Archaeological Society’s Annual Publication, Glevensis (2013); proudly with some of my dad’s findings from a dig he co-ran.

* Share your best, or worst, body-of-water-related memory/experience!

CS: The best has to be diving on The Great Barrier Reef despite failing my PADDY test for reasons too embarrassing to explain… My least favourite memory is the sheer freezing cold water I dared not swim in all through Primary School. Outside Pools should have been banned – it has put me off swimming!

* Who are your main creative influences, literary/artistic or otherwise?

CS: I really enjoyed reading Jeanette Winterson’s and Virginia Woolf’s novels for my dissertation – brilliant subject matter to encounter, particularly in terms of their playfulness with autobiography. Poets I’ve encountered are wide ranging from the Romantics – Wordsworth and Coleridge, Blake, and Byron – to contemporary writers such as Pascale Petit, Alice Oswald, and Frances Leviston.

* Current ________ and why?

A. cause

CS:  I’ve written some poems for The Butterfly Garden; a fantastic local charity, working with people with a range of disabilities, based at Dundries Nurseries, Bamfurlong Lane, Gloucestershire. See their website here http://www.thebutterflygarden.org/

B. obsession

CS: Buying books, reading books, books…

C. fandom

CS: Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock. Brilliant actor (and character!)

D. crush

CS: My lovely husband Olly Smith; we’ve been married for ten years now. My late Nan joked he should get the Victoria Cross if we lasted half a year.

E. music

CS: Anything played on Radio 6Music, particularly on Cerys Matthews’ show on a weekend. I just don’t generally like contemporary pop music.

F. craving

CS: It has to be chocolate; it always has been I think.

G. peeve

CS: Grammar and my perfectionism relating to it.

* What’re you working on, what is your process/routine like?

CS: I tend to work best creatively in the evenings. It depends on what is inspiring me at the time as to what I might be writing about. I don’t want to say exactly what I’m working on as I’m scared I’ll jinx it and never be published again.

* What’s the weirdest object you own? Backstory!

CS: My main problem is I have too many objects…

* Most useless advice you’ve ever seriously given or been given?

CS: I don’t think I’ve been given much useless advice in my life. My late Nan did tell me I should write a book one day. I’m hoping.

* What kind of question do you always wish these questionnaires would ask, and how would you answer it?

CS: I think this questionnaire is pretty comprehensive. Sorry I’m being evasive. I can’t think of an ideal question.

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