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caitlin kendall

Headshot of Caitlin Kendall

Caitlin Kendall's work is magical, melodic and homely, whilst retaining an air of politically-charged attitude. Currently firmly ensconced in the far reaches of Northern England, she got her first Written Off publication as part of our first period zine, Bloody Hell, and is a valued member of the Written Off community. With poetry that zips together the turbulent journey of motherhood with a deep connection with the earth and nature wrapped in human emotion, her words will grab you by the wrist and pull you into another world. You won't want to miss it - read on for our first chat with Caitlin:  

Can you describe your work in five words?
 

  • Vulnerable

  • Nostalgic

  • Pagan

  • Political

  • Authentic

 

Who are your biggest influences when writing poetry?

 

Oh my goodness, there are so many! I've always loved the language and imagery of the Romantic poets; I'm also really inspired by the surrealism of post-modern poetry: the Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock is a favourite. In terms of more modern writers we're spoilt for choice aren't we really?! Sylvia Plath, Carol Ann Duffy, Linda France, Caroline Bird, Ada Limon, Joelle Taylor, Hannah Lowe, I could go on. I've also been really lucky to get to know some of the incredible poets writing today: Clare Shaw, Kim Moore, Amelia Loulli, and of course all our incredible Bent Key talent!

 

 

You write a lot about motherhood – tell us a bit about your journey.

 

I got pregnant for the first time when I was 19 and had my daughter a few weeks into my second year of my English degree. I had my son at 25. My entire adult life has been shaped by motherhood, so it's a really significant part of my identity - and it's hard, you know? Whatever path we end up on as far as parenting goes, it's tough - and I think that really resonates with people. I've had babies, I've lost babies, I'm a step-parent too. I've spent almost two decades raising children and I'm realising that it never stops.

 

My daughter just turned 19; she's away at university now but she's still my baby. My son is 14. I think I had this naive idea that I'd "get my life back" once they were adults. Ha ha. You know when they don't sleep or they want to be on you all the time and they're really small and totally dependent on you and it's overwhelming? You kind of long for that - but you don't "get your life back" and actually, I find I don't want to. It's really hard learning to let them go, too, but at the same time, I think I've had to work quite hard to figure out who I am as an adult beyond that role.

I absolutely adore being a mum. I'm very lucky to have such wonderful children. However, I'm also a poet, a teacher, an activist, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a lover - that last one especially can be tough to figure out when you're caught up in the nuclear family dynamic of early motherhood and I actually don't think I was able to be really honest with myself about my sexuality until I was going through a divorce in my late twenties.

 

So being a mum and being a person and a poet - it really has been a journey. 

 

What role do you think mothers have in the poetry scene – why are their stories important?

 

I think there's quite a powerful movement on the poetry scene at the moment for mother-poets. They're raising their voice and sharing their experiences: the good, the bad, and the ugly of parenting, so to speak. So much about the domestic load of motherhood is just kind of taken for granted in our society and it's really brilliant to see so many women bringing this aspect of life into the light and crafting it into something beautiful - something that says this caregiving, this laundry, these dishes, this feeding, this nurturing that we're doing: it's actually really important and hard and special, all at the same time. It deserves to be acknowledged. It deserves to be celebrated.

You’re from the North North – the proper North – what do you have on your chips? (This is a very important question.)

That is an important question! I'm actually from Devon, but I live in the North North. This might be controversial, but for me it's all about the basics: loads of salt; LOADS of vinegar! I like a bit of ketchup from time-to-time; I like gravy and curry sauce; I can even go a bit continental with a bit of mayo. But honestly, I'm a simple girl: salt and vinegar and I'm happy!

Which poem from your collection is your favourite and why?

 

I don't know if it's my favourite exactly, but I Bear Stars On My Hip For You is a really significant poem for me. I'd had a miscarriage in 2006 and I'd never been able to write about it; this poem, which I wrote in 2017 was the first time I was actually able to articulate something of that time in poetry. So it's a really special poem for me. 

 

Which poem do you wish you’d written?

 

The Orange by Wendy Cope is the first one that came to mind. I'm sure there are many others! 

You post your writing on Instagram and have built quite a following there. What role has social media played in the poetry and spoken word scene in the last few years, do you think?

I have a bit of a mixed relationship with social media, really. I've have met some truly incredible people because of it - proper ride or die friends - and it's great to have that community of writers to support you, to uplift you, to celebrate and to celebrate with. However, I also sometimes get a bit overwhelmed by digital life: the algorithm can be so disheartening at times and really worsen that sense of imposter syndrome that we can all struggle with from time to time. On the whole, though, I'd say it's a positive force. It's fantastic to see so many people writing poetry, sharing their work. It's given rise to some incredible projects and communities and of course independent presses. It's given a platform to otherwise marginalised voices which I think it's so vital to the diversity and inclusivity of the poetry scene.

What do you think the North has to offer the literary scene that it hasn’t yet been able to?


I'm so glad to see how the poetry community is growing in the North! We've always produced phenomenal writers but now there are local indie presses and publications rooted in the North, there's a burgeoning performance poetry and spoken word scene, we've got local writers going into schools or working with charities and spreading the poetry love to a whole new demographic and I'm really really here for it! I can't wait to see how that grows and develops here. 

 

What are you the most excited about for the next year?

 

Ah, that's a good question! I'm turning 40 next year so I guess I'm excited for my life to begin! No, I'm just kidding. I don't know really - I'm so excited about the idea of seeing my book for the first time, holding it in my hands, sending it out into the world. It'll be the fulfilment of a dream I've had probably since I learned to read! So yeah, I'm really excited about that.

Nothing Is Yours arrived in 2023 and is now available to purchase. 

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