Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Andy Spragg speaks to Joshua Jones

Thoughtful, passionate and occasionally provocative, Joshua Jones has recently had his debut collection 'Thought Disorder' published by the Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. He is also the editor of Etcetera. Josh has an enthusiasm that stands as testament to his commitment, not just to his own poetry, but that of others too. He recently answered a few questions for Misosensitive --

When did you start writing?

I started writing poetry when I was about 17/18, and it stopped being terrible rhyming Dylan-aping crap a year or two after that. I was lucky enough to workshop a lot with a more experienced writer-friend, Jos Smith, whose poetry and feedback helped me to, y'know, learn that editing might actually be a good thing.

You mentioned about work-shopping - what value do you place in Creative Writing courses and the workshop experience? Do you think the two tend to be mutually exclusive? I appreciate you had an informal workshop experience, but I get a sense that it tends to be fairly rare for writers of that age - hence the popularity of Creative Writing courses at university level.

On a personal level, I place very little value on the entire CW experience. I have had a singularly negative experience of it, and have no desire to ever engage with any CW course again. I think to properly discuss some of the failings of workshopping in CW at an undergrad level would require massive diversions into the British educational system as a whole, which we obviously have no desire to do here. But yes, I think to an extent they are mutually exclusive -- it's difficult for people to engage in in-depth critique in large classes, with not enough time to properly read through the piles of poetry you're given, coupled with generally poor structuring by tutors. At the same time, the majority of the work I read was pretty poor, and the majority of students I 'CWed' with had very little conception of how to read a poem and very little confidence in their own ability to speak and express. Not a single person in my second-year poetry class even read poetry. And if they did it was at best Modernist stuff they'd been taught to read in their first year. I think a lot of people enter a CW BA thinking they're going to be taught, that they're going to learn, be told. It's quite embarrassing. But hey, their money.