Tête-à-tête with Mr Tim Turnbull

May 19, 2009

Tim TurnbullHeading up only our second interview-in-residence, we give you Tim Turnbull. Pinched directly from the lovely Donut Press website, Tim was born in North Yorkshire in 1960 and lives in Scotland. He worked in forestry before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University in 2002.

He was awarded a Scottish Arts Council Bursary in 2004, and in January 2006 won the £10,000 Arts Foundation Performance Poetry Fellowship, the first of its kind in the UK. He has published two short collections, Work (Mews Press, 2001) and What was that? (Donut Press, 2004), and his first full collection, Stranded in Sub-Atomica (Donut Press), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Tim recently published es lebt!! (roughbooks, 2009), a selection of his poems in English and German translation.

Where have you come from?

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery, this afternoon, and a splendid place it is too. In the longer term, from Yorkshire via Sussex, Cumbria and Tottenham. Artistically, from writing shouty, bad tempered songs to slightly more sophisticated, though no less fractious, poetry. 

What books/music/influences got you into writing?

I’m reading the 1996 Canongate version of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger at the moment and am alarmed to find that the Picador edition I picked up in the eighties, (I had a girlfriend who was learning Norwegian), might have put ideas into my head. It’s a good job that you can never meet your younger self. I was always a big fan of Sparks, Ron Mael’s lyrics and of course his wonderful moustache.

Is it harder to write prose or poetry?

Prose, as I’m finding at the moment, because there’s more of it. You can’t obsess over a couple of hundred words for several weeks and count that as work. I’m working on a couple of prose things at the moment so come back to me on this one in about a year.

If there was a limit, what’s the one poem you’d carry with you, mentally or actually, and why?

I’m torn between The Ballad of Eskimo Nell and Paradise Lost. It’s a tough call.

Who’d play you in a film of your life?

James Stewart, the only actor gangling enough. In truth I’d like to be James Stewart. He’s my hero.

Describe yourself as a type of cheese; a city; a decade.

Wensleydale: creamy but a little sour; Ripon: no one can quite believe it is a city; the thirties: low, dishonest but with a matinee idol moustache. 

What’s the best gig you’ve ever done and why?

That’s probably the Arts Foundation’s Contenders gig at the Purcell Room, not for the money I won, the prestige or the venue but because, out in the darkness of the auditorium, I could hear Ian McMillan laughing.

If you had to attend a fancy dress party in which the theme was ‘come dressed as a poem’, which poem would you choose, and how would you dress it?

‘The Mask of Anarchy’ by Shelley. I’d come as Sidmouth, riding on a crocodile. It would be a stunning entrance but a health and safety nightmare.

What’s your favourite kind of donut?

I’m not in favour donuts on the whole, except in a blood sugar emergency when it would have to be strawberry jam.

Love isn’t…?

to be trifled with.

Exactly what is it you dig for?

Fire, victory and to get a fine tilth in the vegetable patch.

What CDs would be left in your collection if your car was broken into?

I don’t have a CD player in the car; I’m still on cassettes. I would hope they’d leave the mix-tape of 80s rockabilly with Restless’ version of the Pointer Sisters’ hit, Neutron Dance. It’s not available anywhere in any other format.

In your opinion, what happened to the art of the moustache?

It was brought into disrepute in the sixties and seventies by bohemians, gigolos and swingers. I noticed a few inappropriate Frenchified, nineteenth century efforts on Shoreditch Twits (as I think they’re called) when I was in London the other week. I think the youth should look to classic role models like Duke Ellington, David Niven and Clark Gable. Not enough thought goes into moustaches these days. I’m a great admirer of Brian Johnstone’s moustache, which he says was inspired by R. L. Stevenson.

You’re doing a launch here in the SPL. Tell us more…

We’re launching the new collection Caligula on Ice and Other Poems from Donut at the SPL along with my old mate Tim Wells new book Rougher Yet. The books arrived a couple of weeks ago and I was knocked out. Liam Relph, the designer, has done a knockout job on them. Folks should buy them for Liam’s work, never mind the poetry. Come and have a look on Thursday.

What’s next?

With the Caligula collection out of the way I’m determined to really get going with this bloody novel. It’s about a Goth band called Kunstlicht who live in my head, and monsters. I’m trying to make their music on the computer as well (from bits of chopped up Wagner and Symbolist poetry).  Then I’ve got Latitude festival this summer and Basel and Leipzig, so far, for the German book in the autumn.


We hope you’ll join us for Tim and Tim’s launch, here at the SPL on Thursday 21 May at 7pm…

5 Responses to “Tête-à-tête with Mr Tim Turnbull”

  1. Lilias Says:

    You’re _so_ right about the role models for youthful moustaches. If only more young men would follow your example.

    Looking forward to seeing an old-fashioned matinee idol this evening.

  2. […] Q&A with the fantastic poet Tim Turnbull (I am a major fangirl.) […]

  3. […] the launch of the works of Mr Tim Turnbull and Mr Tim Wells, and loved the hot new Donut Press […]

  4. […] had the pleasure of hosting the Scottish launch of Tim Turnbull and Tim Wells in May past, and in chatting to Donut Press publisher Andy Ching, found him to be an […]

  5. […] touched briefly upon moustaches in interview with that owner of a marvellously hirsuted upper lip, Tim Turnbull. But what other poets have moustaches? And why has the moustache slipped from fashion, outwith […]

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