Adam Ford on life, superheroes, poetry, his Twitter novel and The Third Fruit is a Bird

3rdfruit1Who is your favourite superhero and why?

I’d love to say it’s some less-well-known-to-the-general-public superhero like Machine Man or Metamorpho, but to be honest it’s a tie between Superman and Spider-Man, partly because their costumes are so striking and colourful, partly because they’re both nice-guy superheroes who always try to use their powers to help people and do the right thing, and partly because their comics, when done well (like Amazing Spider-Man #1-36 and All-Star Superman #1-12), are just plain straight-up gee-whiz fun.

Plus: flying guy with laser eyes and bouncy dude who sticks to walls. What’s not to like?

Who is your favourite poet?

I always find this question tricky and bat it away with a list. Some poets whose work I love  include Jas H. Duke for his straighforward storytelling and cynical humour, Stephen Dobyns for his blend of fantasy and the everyday, and James Tate for his restrained surrealism. I’m also a big fan of alicia sometimes for her science-geek tendencies and palpable passion, and David Prater for his playfulness and ability to accurately capture 21st century life.

I’ve just recently developed two new poetry crushes, on US poet Bob Hicok, who has a great eye for both engaging personal narrative work and playful flights of imagination, and on Australian poet LK Holt, whose work appeals to me for its grounding in both the historical and the scientific.

Tell me about the mining of childhood?

I don’t do it deliberately, if that’s what you’re asking. In fact I never really thought about it until you asked, but I can see why you’d ask something like that after reading my poetry.

I’ve always tried to keep in touch with what you might think of as a child’s way of seeing things, which is to say that I try to look at things with fresh eyes, with an open mind and a sense of curiosity and a willingness to let the imagination run wherever it wants to run. That way of seeing isn’t exclusive to children, of course, but when I tap into that, it can be a good way to come up with an idea for a poem.

Poems like ‘Infinity Plus One’, which is a mashup of every playground myth about love, and ‘You Should Have Killed the Monkey First’, which starts with an eight-year-old’s insight into why the baddies never won on superhero cartoons, are good examples of that way of doing things.

I do take other approaches with my poems, but it’s a fair cop to say that there’s some kind of childhood-inspired thread running through them, for sure.

AdamFord2Is love and longing the stuff of poetry?

Not necessarily. I mean, it can be… These days I find that stuff pretty hard to write about. I’ve cranked out a decent chunk of wistful love poems in my time – both of the unrequited and requited sort, but having done a bit of that stuff, I find it really difficult to come up with new and interesting ways to tackle such universal themes without delving into cliche or repeating myself.

My current preference is to try to approach poems with more specific, less big-question subjects in mind, like ‘what if someone got all of the superheroes’ powers all at once?’ or ‘what’s it feel like to race your bike to the train station with only five minutes until the train leaves?’

What are the best moments?

The ones that you are aware of while they’re happening.

Will you share a poem from The Third Fruit is a Bird?

You mentioned that you liked ‘Received Wisdom’, so let’s go with that. Here’s a bit of that childhood-mining, then:

Received Wisdom

Chewing a greylead pencil could give you lead poisoning. Writing on your hand in biro could give you blood poisoning. Philip Odlum ate Clag. Everyone else ate playdough. If you ran with scissors you’d trip and stab yourself. If you swallowed an apple-pip an apple tree would grow in your stomach. Those yellow flowers with sweet-tasting stems? A dog pissed on them. Fight behind the shelter-sheds. Will you get with my friend? Last year a kid fell off the monkey-bars and broke her arm. Another kid got hit in the eye with a tennis ball. His eye fully fell out. It was just hanging there on the end of the nerve. If you ate the crusts of your sandwiches your hair would go all curly. Meat pies were made of kangaroo. Kentucky Fried Chicken was really rabbit. Hot dogs were full of rat poo. Sitting down while doing a wee would turn you into a girl. If you held on and didn’t go to the toilet, and you fell down the stairs, your bladder would burst and you would die. When a man and a lady love each other very much they hug each other in a special way. That’s where babies come from.

Tell us about your Twitter novel – what and why?

I’m writing a story in 140-or-less-character instalments using twitter. It’s called ‘Aramis Fox’. It’s the story of a guy who gets superpowers and tries to work out where they came from at the same time as working out what to do with them. It’s updated fairly regularly (here), with a story-so-far version in a slightly more easily read format here. I try to update it at least every three days, and so far I’ve been reasonably successful.

I started it because I’d seen serialised fiction done online by other writers – using twitter and blogs – and I thought it would be an interesting thing to do. It was also a way to kind of trick (or embarrass) myself into committing publicly to writing something on a regular basis. I don’t have much spare time for writing at the moment, so the micro size of twitter posts made the task seem quite doable.

I’m hoping to learn something about the way I write (and the way I can write) from the process. So far I’m pretty happy with the way it’s worked out. There are things that I’m doing quite naturally to work within the restraints of this format – the brevity, the regularity, the comparative improvisation – that are different from the way I normally approach writing.

When I’m working on a post I tend to rewrite it a few times to get it to the right length and to make sure it gets across the point I’m trying to make. I think this close revision-in-progress of every sentence has produced some interesting results. It reminds me – if you’ll forgive the hubris of the comparison – of what Richard Brautigan said about teaching himself to write poetry so that he could learn to write a good, strong sentence. Once he was confident he knew how to write a good sentence, only then would he start writing a novel. You can see that approach in the muscularity and poetry of his prose writing, and I like to think there’s something similar happening with this story.

One of the most satisfying things, though, is the distinct sense of the story moving forward and making progress – however slow it may be – that comes with uploading each new post.

Words are cool because…

…they’re the perfect building block: you can carry as many with you as you need, there’s an inexhaustable supply, their variety is almost incalculable and they fit together in an infinite number of ways.

Visit Adam Ford’s great blog here.

7 thoughts on “Adam Ford on life, superheroes, poetry, his Twitter novel and The Third Fruit is a Bird

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