FORWARD ARTS FOUNDATION: Please talk about your development as a writer of poems. Tell us when you first felt you were a poet and how it went from there. 

HOLLY PESTER: I have only ever written poetry alongside reading and being present at poetry readings. Poetry readings in London (established series like, Xing the Line or new ones like 87 Press or Out Else – so many nights have come and gone!) are very important to me; it’s an editorial space and a community, where political solidarities, gossip, and sweaty togetherness mixes up with aesthetic conversations. That might sound gross but I love it.

FAF: What does being shortlisted for the Forward Prizes mean for you?

HP: It’s a good feeling. I’ll put it where the good feelings go.

FAF: Please tell us about the genesis of your shortlisted poem. Is it part of a collection or sequence? Where can a reader find more by you?

HP: ‘Comic Timing’ is a poem from the (first proper full?) collection I am working on, all around latency and radical rest states. Of course this poem has a clear object at the heart of it; an early medical abortion, a banal and farcical one, and is hopefully part of the history of poems that translate that bodily-yet-politicised experience into an ongoing collective thought, or an ongoing communal conversation between women (not exclusively) responding to the instances where such a moment, against the different contexts, feelings and apparatus, composes a kind of subjectivity. All of that work is a thought-pattern for us all, can’t not speak from the historical context of reproductive rights, and the absolute urgency to continually fight for everyone who wants one to have free, easy access to an abortion at any time.

FAF: Which poets do you admire most and what do you value in their work?

HP: Poets who do formal experimentation in time with lived experience, which becomes a new thought and an expression of a politics, and sometimes also, a form of comedy (as an affect on life); namely Maggie O’Sullivan, Bernadette Mayer, Aimé Césaire, Hannah Weiner, Tom Raworth, Vahni Capildeo, Elaine Kahn, Lisa Robertson, Verity Spott.

FAF: What is next for you as a poet?

HP: Dream about the end of work; write the essay on William Blake that I’ve got an idea for; mark 82 exam papers; walk dog.

FAF: What advice would you give to anyone starting out in poetry today?

HP: Don’t chase establishment success.