Derek Sellen is well known in Canterbury literature circles, not least because as he says, he “can usually be found in The Jolly Sailor on the second Sunday of each month at the sessions organised by the indefatigable Luigi Marchini.”
His poems have won or been placed in various competitions, including 4th in the National (“I went around kissing and hugging people for a week before I realised it wasn’t as big a deal for other people as it was for little me”) – here’s one of my favourites of his, a simple but chilling war poem. A selection of poems from 1972 until 2007 are in ‘The Arch and its Shadow’ and his Spanish art poems are in ‘Storm at Galesburg’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’ (Cinnamon Press).
Here are his sentences:
When you were small, you wanted to … believe it or not (I’d rather you didn’t), I wanted to play cricket for England in South Africa and then swing off into the jungle to live like Tarzan of the Apes; there was another dream, to be a writer, which I’ve come nearer to achieving
The one thing you can never resist is … an invitation (and the common cold virus)
You may not say it aloud but… I have a good feeling about the future. Even in the short time since I wrote this, things have started to go wrong, so perhaps I should have kept my voice down but then we never really know if what seems wrong at first is really so. My last poem came out of a highly embarrassing and wrong incident on a bus, so embarrassing I won’t even whisper it let alone say it aloud, but I’m grateful for the gifted poem.
The last time you went ‘WOOP’ with excitement was … when the small plays I’d been rehearsing and developing with Japanese students actually worked in performance and made people laugh (as intended!); the next time I’ll go ‘WOOP’ is when I arrive in Santiago de Compostela later this week after 40 years away or when somebody I love writes to me again after what seems like a very long time, whichever is the sooner
Your five favourite words are …. roquefort, limoncello, Anna, miracle, deceit
I’d give a completely different list if you asked me in five minutes’ time. But the principle of selection would remain: something that tastes good, something that sounds good, a woman’s name, something that would make me feel good, and something bad.
Favourite writing place in Kent : I’d like to say on the cliff at St Margaret’s Bay looking down on the sea and across to France on a sunny day or in St Martin’s churchyard in Canterbury or in an orchard in blossom in the Weald, but regrettably most of my writing is done in a very cluttered and dark study while many of my ideas come on the walk to or from work along busy roads.
A book about Kent or by a Kent writer you would recommend: The Island Normal by Brian Jones ( Carcanet 1980 ) This is not a book to read if you’re already feeling depressed (Larkin would be lighter) but among the many fine and wide-ranging poems are some about East Kent, for example ‘The Winter Harvesters’ who ‘crop cabbages’ in the Thanet flatlands or ’1976′ which speaks of the ‘dustbowl fields beyond Sarre’ or ‘Summer: a Kent Village’ which simply demands to be read and recognised by anyone who knows the villages around Canterbury. I believe there are plans by Shoestring Press to publish Brian’s ‘New and Selected Poems’.
Lovely! Thank you, Derek. And I didn’t know Brian Jones before, so I’m grateful for that introduction too. Sometimes the photographs I gift to the writers come easily, others I have to think about more… for you though, here’s a view you can look at in your ‘cluttered and dark study’!