Michael Oliver Semenov’s poem ‘Going Over’ features in Issue 1 of Marble. Here, he explains the story behind it
My poem began quite strangely: I was sold by my sister Mab Jones at an auction at one of her spoken word events. It was a bit of a joke but I took it seriously. The person who won me was Sara Benham, a writer, comedian, and radio DJ on Glastonbury FM.
She stole me to Glastonbury for a day or two where I slept in a big tent in her fuck-off-huge garden full of chickens, and castles and various children. I think it was here she told me about her grandmother and the whistle story. I wrote the poem quite quickly. When Horatio Clare read the first edit in 2009 at the Hay Festival where we met, he said it was a prize winner. We were, however, completely fucked on a case of champagne. I disagreed with his kind words. In the 9 years that have passed I’ve taken that poem out a few times and revamped it.
I found it easier writing poems taken from just a few short words from somebody else’s life. I published a few poems like that, and they tend to resonate more with people than when I write about my own experiences. This poem, is a sort of re-entry into publishing. Since The Elephant’s Foot two years ago I’ve taken a kind of break. I’ve filled my life up with all kinds of stuff: had a kid, made a career in theatre, grown lots of grey hair, etc etc. Sometimes, in publishing land, there’s a pressure to continue ‘getting out there’, and so on. But I needed a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective. Having had a break from poetry and publishing I can honestly say that I enjoy reading more now, and my writing sessions are becoming more enjoyable. I’ve written two good pieces in the last month, which is more than I’ve done in two years. My plan is to sit on them a while, take my time, come back when I’m ready.