[Photo: ©Jonathan O’Farrell]
[This is an interview I conducted with the newest member of Sudden Denouement, Jonathan O’Farrell. I have had several conversations with Jonathan about his photography and poetry. I looked forward to the contribution he is going to make to Sudden Denouement and will be posting a selection of his poetry in the near future. He is an immensely talented individual, who has wonderful poetic sensibilities. His work is featured primarily on Patreon.]
Sudden Denouement Collective Q & A. – Sunday 13/08/201
Jasper Kerkau: Introduce yourself, perhaps give us a glimpse into what you do as an artist. You delve into several mediums, give us some insight into your art, what motivates you and what are your goals.
Jonathan O’Farrell: Hi, my name is Jonathan O’Farrell. My family background, if I think about it has been a curious mix of artists and military, or exploring types. There is, or has been in the past quite a pioneering trait, on both sides of my family. My mother was an artist. I don’t see creative work, poetry and photography as being particularly divorced from my daily reality, or being overly abstract. But ultimately I am happy for those who get to know me well as an artist and person to be the judge of that.
If you ask me as a poet and writer what my core themes are then we are talking about landscape, exploration, weather, seasons, nature, animals. Those, just mentioned, are the iconic actors in my poetry; but deeper still, my writing often alludes to significant influences – relationships, self-conquest, self-knowing, loves and loves lost.
Kerkau: I found myself very taken with your photography. Talk about your process, and what you hope to capture in photos. Do you feel yourself to be a photographer or a writer, or both?
O’Farrell: Okay, good question. I am definitely a photographer, but hey – I don’t currently make any appreciable income from it and am for the most part, utterly unknown. But I am damned if that’s going to stop me. You see my photography is a direct extension of much of what I do daily to support myself and others, working on the land, with trees, trying to keep myself healthy and sane. As for process, let me into just one aspect. I don’t have as good eyesight as some folk. So imagine I am walking quickly through the forest (and I do, I have long legs!). I’m striding along the way, full tilt, and then I stop! Say out of the side of my eye I have just glimpsed a vista, a stone, a shadow, or insect. I will stop, back up if need be and then approach my position, for the photo. If it takes me 20 minutes to circle a fire ravaged old Chestnut, wait for the sun to arc some more overhead I will. Sometimes I will almost stop breathing, it’s, almost, meditative how I am bought together with my subject. I just feel, sense first, then capture the photo. At least that’s my nature photography, a goodly bulk of what I do. But urban, historical and streetscapes is a developing practice for me.
Kerkau: I was very interested in your concept of the ethereal dream state. Can you explain how it is important to you to find stillness and how that impacts you as a writer?
O’Farrell: In its most obvious form a creative needs time and space to create. As for the bulk of my poems they come in the middle of the night or very early morning. They come out dreams, to an extent, or at least that half-wake state thereafter. They come to me with maybe as little as a few words, at the title, or line. In that time it takes to awaken, that is the transition space that I use to let more be channeled. At tops most poems are written in 30 to 60 minutes, the whole process. If I ever do post-edit its light. I did take maybe two and a half hours on one poem recently, but that utilized three languages, English, Low German and Anglo Saxon and spans 1,100 years of ancestral heritage – so you’ll have to cut me a little slack on that.
Kerkau: You seem to have a great deal of freedom, which is essential for an artist. Are you tied to a vocation, or are you a professional artist? If you have a vocation outside of writing/photography, what is it and how do you balance both?
O’Farrell: I am an escapee. I jettisoned much of that which comes with wage slavery last year. So, what do I do and how have I been surviving? Bottom line is I am living off savings, very frugally, living and working on the land utilising what vital life skills I have gleaned over 25 or so years, gardening, forestry, conservation, marketing and publicity – almost in spite of having a former existence in transport planning, sat on my arse, in an office for 12 years! Last ten months have seen me work in two animal sanctuaries, eco-tourism and land regeneration projects, as well as collaborating with a fellow photographer and environmental artist in Portugal, Caterina Costa Cabral. You will find me, so to speak, semi-nomading between Portugal, France, with forays into Germany and Belgium etcetera.
Kerkau: I am interested in finding out more about your photography and writing. Where does one find more of your work and to what degree do you utilize social media to find an audience?
O’Farrell: For now find your way to Jonathan O’Farrell on Patreon, it’s my go to site. I utilize other subsidiary channels like WordPress, therein Misterkaki has a little residence. Also I like to give a big shout out to Jeff Brown, the Canadian writer. I worked with Jeff and many others on his online writing course ‘Writing your way home’ and thus I am still involved in a wonderfully supportive Alumni Facebook group. By the way you can find me on Facebook, there are not all that many Jonathan O’Farrells!
Kerkau: I feel that all writers are beholden to someone. For me it was Ginsberg, he was a catalyst for my evolution as a writer early on. What writers are you beholden to?
O’Farrell: Ian Dury, soul/punk/funk wordsmith and songwriter. The chap had severe disabilities, but yet a big inspiration. More conventionally, in literary terms the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke is, I have to say, a fair influence in the genre of poems I might call ‘love letters in transit’.
Kerkau: I found you to be very engaging and intelligent. What is your background in terms of classical education, and how has that impacted you?
O’Farrell: Classical education, he, he, that makes me think – and smile. In short I was semi incarcerated in a series of boarding schools, like my mate Ian D., from 7 to 18 – I could tell a tale or two! I only got mediocre results at school, but did like the humanities and French. I wanted to run away to sea to be a ship’s radio officer, but maths was crap. Art was a love, but it meant I could not take my chemistry studies further – probably just as well, or I’D have blown the gaff sky high! Mature student me, in my late 30s, University of Derby, Tourism and Geography, (Bachelor of Arts, First) and proud of that, as kudos to all mid life learners, with little kids, a job and all.
Kerkau: I have always been fascinated with the concept of home. Thomas Wolfe was an early influence on me. Henry Miller seemed to toil with this issue. Where is home for you, and are you a person looking for his place in the universe?
O’Farrell: Ask me that question when I get there! For now, as we record this I am homeless. Well, not strictly true, I own a house near Leicester in middle England, but I do not live there now, but the kids do, when they are not gadding about at university, or down the boyfriends. Good question though, you’ve just prompted me to finish my slightly travel grubby pocket edition of ‘ WHERE I LIVED AND WHAT I LIVED FOR’
By Henry David Thoreau – respect to that man!
Kerkau: Who are you at the end of the day? Where are you going? Are you at peace with the world around you?
O’Farrell: I am a would-be worshipful lover, of myself, and any other significant others who are brave enough to be in my inner circle, or tribe. Going, well I have to head back down south into the wilds of eastern France in a little while to do a spot of farm work in exchange for storage of a fair chunk of my gear, for up to 6 months in a very rustic barn. After that who knows, probably back to the Mountains of the Stars – Serra de Estrela, central Portugal, where you can drink and bathe in cold, cold, clear waters.
I think the above answers the last question – universe bring it on!
Kerkau: Lastly, do you have a choice doing what you do? What have you sacrificed for your art?
O’Farrell: Yes, I have I have, in theory a choice. But I am very innerly directed in my soul’s vision, so, is that actually a choice, or the unextinguishable light of my given vocation? I have sacrificed a lot, if you think of it conventionally. It is in spite of all the very wonderful people I meet and collaborate with (and may there be more) a solitary life – but there ain’t nothing wrong with that!