Interview: Rachel Plummer

Rachel Plummer is joining forces with the acclaimed Scottish Clarinet Quartet on ‘The Parlour Guide to Exo-Politics’, a vintage sci-fi themed, multi-media performance on the subject of contact with alien life.

Do you believe your childhood and upbringing has had an influence on your work?

Absolutely. I grew up with one parent living in Little Gidding, and that’s a place where you just can’t avoid poetry. Lines from Eliot’s famous last Quartet are embroidered on cushions and tapestries all over the tiny church, and you are surrounded by it. My other parent lived in Paris, and Paris is a city full of poetry. I think these two very different landscapes, and the tension between them, crop up a lot in my work.

In addition, my education was very much in science. As an undergraduate I studied nuclear astrophysics. Science is something I think my poetry finds itself preoccupied with, in various ways.

Apart from writing, are there any other creative media you enjoy working in?

Although I have only limited musical knowledge myself, I’ve been finding this Hidden Door project, with its collaboration with the Scottish Clarinet Quartet, incredibly inspiring. It has made me think of my work in new ways, shone a new light on it. I’ve been taken by surprise by the similarities in working with words and music.

A speculative question, but who, alive or dead, would you like to collaborate with?

Edwin Morgan, without a doubt. His work is outstanding. I couldn’t put into words everything that his poetry means to me, but discovering his work in my early twenties was an absolute revelation. His sci-fi poetry has directly inspired the “Parlour Guide to Exo-Politics” project.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Recently someone was kind enough to give me feedback on some of my poems, and described them as “very weird” – with the word “very” underlined!

Probably the most memorable response was having Carol Anne Duffy come up to me after a reading to tell me how much she enjoyed my poems, and that I was “the real deal”. That one will stay with me.

Can you say a few words on what Hidden Door is about for you?

Hidden Door is an incredible celebration of art’s capacity to exist outside of the boundaries. To fill unconventional spaces, to be outside of society. To take ugliness and decay and give them meaning.