Get To Know: Rob Yates

Rob Yates has been a friend of The Tung since the beginning. After contributing a number of poems to our virtual pages over the last few months (all of which you can find here), we were proud to hear that he's just published his first collection, 'The Distance Between Things'. We caught up with Rob to talk poetry, process, and self-publishing. 

Hi Rob! Huge congratulations on publishing your first collection! How does it feel to have this kind of body of work make its way out into the world? 

I’m feeling a heady mix of pride and guilt. Pride because I’m actually quite pleased with the finished product, especially the fact that it vaguely resembles a ‘real’ book of poetry. Guilt because I’ve put this one ‘out into the world’ myself, without a publisher’s stamp of approval. I always used to baulk at the idea of self-publishing, but the further publishing houses retreat the more attractive the idea of going it alone appears. 

How long has the collection been in the making? 

I trawled through all the verse I’ve written over the past three years or so and cherry picked the bits that I still have some affection for, which I was pleasantly surprised to find amounted to a small book’s worth. Anything before the three year mark needs to be religiously kept out of sight. 

What inspires your writing most: animal, vegetable, or mineral? 

Mineral, although I couldn’t say for certain what a mineral is. I know you find them in rocks and water. I’d like to meet someone who was inspired by vegetables. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process? 

I spend disappointingly little time writing and a huge amount of time wishing I had the focus to sit down and write. I also believe that focus is something you can train yourself towards - I spend a lot of time wishing I could sit down so I could learn to sit down. I have a woeful attention span so poems normally only get a handful of rakings through before they’re fixed, and they normally rush out quite fast once I’ve started them. 

At risk of sounding like a nebulous wetty - I do believe that poetry is capable, more than any other literary form, of flitting around the subconscious, both when it’s going in and when it’s going out. I’m not quite sure where the subconscious is located, but I suspect that its close proximity to a lot of verse-writing is what gives you that strange, almost dream-like feeling when you look back on something you wrote and can’t imagine yourself writing it, not in the sense that it’s good, but in the sense that it seems bizarre. To a certain extent maybe a lot of writing is like that. Perhaps we’re just quite forgetful. 

Do you write more for yourself, or for others? 

Not entirely sure, but I suspect the latter. I suppose the classic question is ‘if you were the last person on earth would you still write?’ I have a not-altogether-nice feeling that I wouldn’t. I really like the idea of people reading my work and I’m an absolute sucker for praise, or even tepid recognition. It’s also telling that I’m forcing my nearest and dearest to buy multiple copies and distribute, and by nearest and dearest I mean anyone I’m on first name terms with. I’ve never wanted to sell anything in my life but it’s like I’ve found my inner tele-salesman with this one. 

Your collection is available both as an ebook and in print - which medium do you prefer as a reader?

I like the fact that you can bend and borrow and throw away books. I like things that are dispensable and easily lost, like pints and cheap clothes. Technically you can lose or throw out a Kindle but that hurts more. I think the Buddha said something once about expensive things being prang. 

What would your desert island poem be?

I’d have to say ‘Ulysses’ by Tennyson, which is kind of like choosing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to be your desert island disc, except you don’t want to drill your ears out after having heard ‘Ulysses’ a couple of times through. Odysseus himself was also stranded on a few desert islands in his day so I think it’s thematically quite neat. Plus, the famous lines:

                      Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die. 

They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. 

Many thanks to Rob for chatting with us.  We've got our copy. Click the cover to get yours!

To find out more about Rob, head to his website