One of the benefits of having a little space to myself here on the Internet is that other writers reach out to me and share their work. Scott McKenzie got in touch with his fantastic collection Bloom and Guts, something I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. It’s a powerful mix of self-reflection and appreciation of others. Many of his poems look at his own struggles, while others are gorgeous odes of appreciation to his loved ones. Using a variety of forms and eclectic language, he bares his soul in this visceral collection that is definitely worth a read.
I wanted to find out more about his inspiration, how he found the process of self-publishing and any advice for writers out there. Enjoy!
First, I’d like to thank you, Sarah, for wanting to ask some questions about my poetry book. A lot of people and organisations don’t give self-published authors the time of day and I really appreciate that an excellent writer (I particularly adore the short story Chrysalis) such as yourself is interested in the poems of a writer who’s still learning the ropes.
There are a lot of references to nature in your poetry. Do you find being outside inspires you and how does this show itself in your writing?
I believe one of the key strengths found across multiple types of creative writing is that it draws attention to patterns in life, the connections between things which may not obviously appear to be connected. Often to explain the internal, a connection is made with the external. Nature is a real mix of connecting contradictions. It’s extremely powerful and gentle, and I am often in awe of its incredible beauty and simultaneous complexity and simplicity, but even deeper than appreciating all this, I also find that aspects of nature help to understand and explain how I feel.
Many of your poems seem to focus on love. I particularly enjoyed ‘Returning,’ it captured the bliss of being with someone so well! Why is this something you are drawn to write about and does the way you write about it differ from other topics?
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed that one. Robert Frost said, ‘Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.’ I believe this is true for most of the poetry I have written. They often tend to be expressions of love, joy, despair, anger, or other potent emotions. It is certainly true that what I am drawn to write about depends on my mood and what is going on in my life, and this is especially true for poetry.
A big theme in Bloom and Guts is growth and throughout my late teens and early twenties, the main reason I have grown so much is because of my wife. Throughout our relationship there have been ups and downs, but she has always been there. She is my true love and best friend, and a bunch of my poems are inspired by her because she has helped me learn so much and of course holds my heart in her hands.
I don’t believe the way I write about love differs much from how I write about other topics, however, there is probably a tenderness in the love poems which is not often present in my poems that focus on other topics, and nature may be more of an influence on imagery in the love poems too.
There are also some dark, lurking monsters in your poetry. How did they come about? Do you find it cathartic to write about fears in your writing?
Catharsis is the fundamental reason I started writing poetry. As a teenager I was a bit more impulsive, more easily led by my own anger and arrogance. Also, I often found it difficult to say the right things in the right situations in order to be accepted and liked by my peers. Therein lies another contrast actually: as a young person you want to be unique, but you also want to be accepted. All this led to falling out with friends and feeling misunderstood. To make some sense of my thoughts at feelings, I started writing poetry.
Besides writing to heal (especially from emotional pain), I also write about dark topics because darkness fascinates me. Humans are capable of such wonderful and terrible things at the same time. There are of course many kinds of darkness: violence, corruption, manipulation, negligence, and abuse being just a few. Batman has always been my favourite hero and I love that he channels his inner darkness into the purpose of helping people. In a way I think Batman was my first light introduction to horror.
I have always loved science fiction, however in recent years my love of the horror genre has become fully realised. It doesn’t just capture my interest because it is thrilling; the best horror stories have a beating heart to them and aren’t afraid to examine the darkness inside us and also look at what is wrong with society at large. When horror stories delve into darkness, they remind us how important it is to cherish and protect the light. I’m reading Revival by Stephen King at the moment and in my opinion, it is a wonderful example that often the most impactful horror stories are actually profoundly moving tragedies. I’m currently working on several short horror stories which aim to not only disturb people but reach other emotions and encourage them to ask questions too.
What was your route to publication?
I chose Amazon KDP for publication because it involved no upfront costs and of course Amazon has a huge amount of traffic. Despite having to do all the marketing myself, self-publishing my debut poetry collection was the right choice for me due to having full creative control. A wonderful artist called Chunhui Li created the cover art, along with 7 other artworks included inside the book. The book is available as a paperback and ebook.
What writing advice would you like to pass onto others?
Although I have been writing poetry for over ten years, I only started seriously writing fiction in 2021; so, I see myself as a novice writer who is still improving his habits for writing and reading. Most of the writing advice which has stuck with me has come from Neil Gaiman, of whose work I need to read more.
Below are five pieces of writing advice which mean a lot to me:
- Read broadly and often
– There is so much out there to read, and it not only improves your skill as a writer to regularly read lots of diverse kinds of material, it’s also enjoyable!
- Finish things
– If you started writing something then it is worth finishing! It is okay to have a few projects on the boil but make sure you complete what you started working on.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”– Remember that writing is a journey. You won’t become a famous, best-selling author overnight. Learn to appreciate the journey as you go; after all, the writing is always the best part. Also, write as regularly as you can. Success is achieved through consistent habit and writing is like exercising a muscle. Even 50 words a day is excellent.
- Be honest
– The most memorable and impactful stories were written because they had to be written. The writer felt compelled to create the story, and this is most often because there was an emotional truth they had to share with the world. Find something honest and shine a light on it through fiction.
– Try not to put yourself in a box as a writer. Just as there is so much out there to read, there are also so many kinds of things you can write. Try lots of different things and see what feels right to you.When it comes to poetry, I try to be as varied as possible, utilising different poetic forms across multiple topics and although the forms included in Bloom and Guts are pretty diverse, I sometimes wish that I could have included more types of established forms such as a Rondeau or one of my favourites which is a Villanelle.
Scott McKenzie has been a human for years and he has said on record that it continues to be an incredible experience. He fell in love with stories when he was a boy and since then has expressed his creativity in various ways. For a long time, he drew spaceships, robots, aliens, superheroes, and more; then it was poetry which took his attention (an excellent way to get straight to matters of the heart); and now he focuses on creating short fiction which aims to not only disturb and excite, but also to truly move the heart and mind. T
To buy the book here
connect with him through: Facebook writer page:https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100091876884652 Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/captain_subtle/