In Conversation: Anna Quartly 

As the old proverb goes, make hay while the sun shines. Anna Quartly has certainly made good on this; a home educated student and published poet and writer living in Wotton, she’s recently had her first piece published at just 16. Her poem ‘Water’ was featured in the May edition of Iceberg Tales, a new literary magazine looking to give a platform to talented new writers. On a sunny May afternoon Anna spoke to the Wotton Times about what this means to her and her ambitions as a poet. 

“I’ve written 22 poems,” says Anna over the phone from Wotton. “Initially it was just a homework set by my English tutor – we were working on a poem called Ozymandias. That poem was written by Shelly, and basically I was asked to reflect her style but also to develop my own style in developing my characteristics.” Anna describes her process through the analogy of a bird creating a nest, where the bird is the poet and the nest is the poem. “I fly out and take little bits – a bit of string, a bit of hay – and then I use that to create my nest and my own poem. With Ozymandias I used bits of what Shelly did, which I liked, and then I used bits of my own and I collaborated them together into a poem.” 

Anna has since refined this approach, and starts each poem by researching a topic or subject she’s interested in. “I go out of my way to take photographs of something, to take an object home with me or to research how other poets have reflected what they see. Then I zoom in on the small details and I expand it – that could be the skin of a kernel, and then I could express that in something else and use that as a metaphor.” After this, Anna begins to write lines in her notebook, random at first, that she then connects into full sentences. “Once I’m satisfied with those connections I order the connections into a full poem, from beginning to end, almost like creating a methodical story.” The order of the poem is important: “Usually with the structure I want to link to the subject of what I’m talking about or trying to express. For instance, with Water, the structure looks like water, it’s flowing in a river.”

The process of creating a new poem takes Anna anywhere between seven to ten days from beginning to end. “It can take longer or shorter depending on what I’m talking about, what I’m focusing on and how I want to express it.” Once she’s happy with the draft, Anna sends a copy to her English tutor, who edits it for her. “I go away and come back multiple times just to keep refreshing my mind and focusing on not just making music, but also making a meaning for the readers.”

Anna’s biggest influences are poets who reflect a specific theme or a similar theme to what she expresses. “I really like expressing nature and focusing on it so I tend to warm towards Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and Keates. They’re all nature poets, and they reflect and also benefit my poetry as well. Shakespeare as well, I know he’s a very famous playwright but he’s also a poet and the way he writes is fantastic, I get so much richness out of it.” Anna recently studied MacBeth with her English tutor, and she’s been able to incorporate some of the language from the play into her own writing. “I don’t make a rhyme for the sake of making a rhyme, I don’t make music because it rolls off the tongue nicely, I try to make meaning as well as music.”

Publication in Iceberg Tales came about after she approached different magazines with her English tutor. “We looked through the Young Poet’s Network to see what they offered. We did it very methodically, and we pressed on each magazine to give us a flavour and see how this could improve my writing.” Eventually they settled on Iceberg Tales as a magazine that suited Anna’s style of prose. “The main purpose of going on the Young Poet’s Network is to try and develop my platform, to build it and to expand it. I see it as another building block to my platform. As I’m thinking of becoming self-employed I want to give myself the best launchpad I can vault from.”

Now that she’s been published, Anna wants to keep putting her work out into the literary sphere so she can add to her poetic portfolio. “I want to get my work seen and recognised – I’m using my poems as a way of highlighting my work and seeing what other people think of it. As I’m writing my autobiography, I’m using my poems to create a platform so when I’m searching for a literary agent, anyone looking will think ‘Oh, this non-fiction writer has a platform, she’s recognised, people like her, does her work sell, obviously it does’. I’m trying to put myself into the best position possible.” 

Water

a crumpled mirror:
   mimicked self floats, enfolds
like pooled paint.
        trickles down petalled skin,
Sunken Feet.
   transparent hues;
           sealed night plunge in blues.