Interview: Isolde Mason

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Last month on Nora and Luna, I reviewed Isolde Mason's chapbook UNBELONG as part of my Poetry Pages series. Isolde very kindly agreed to be interviewed by me about the process behind her work - I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together!

Hello, and thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed for Nora and Luna! To start, can you just tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Isolde- and no, that’s not my real name. I’m the author of UNBELONG, which is my debut chapbook (out now). I find myself writing a lot about body image and self loathing, and often anything I’m either angry about or afraid of.

When did you start writing UNBELONG, and what inspired you to do so?

There wasn’t one moment where I thought “oh, I’m going to write a poetry anthology.”. The poems in the book have been written across two years. The first was “Big Girl”, something that had been brewing for a long time. A lot of people around me were going through a rough time and I took on too many of their problems and I wanted to go back to being a little kid and to be selfish again. I didn’t, thank God.

Do you have a favourite poet or writer? Is your work similar to theirs, or different, and how?

To choose just one is near impossible. If anything, I think it’s actually Thom Yorke’s lyrics in Radiohead, particularly in the Kid A and Amnesiac eras that inspired me. Discovering those albums was monumental for me, and I’ve never looked at music the same way since. I love the way they’re simultaneously creepy and calm- child there is no such thing as oblivion was the most direct response to Kid A, written directly after I listened to the whole album through. I wasn’t in the best place mentally- those lyrics became tied up with my own dissociation.

My favourite poem from the collection was Young Woman's Protest. Do you have a favourite, or is that like asking you to pick a favourite child? And if you do, which is it?

I don’t know if it’s a favourite, but Raw Chicken is the last one for a reason. What it’s about still makes me furious. Unattainable beauty standards are one thing, but when they masquerade as feminist it gets really insidious.

What do you hope your readers will think and feel when they read UNBELONG?

I didn’t try to put an optimistic spin on anything, but I hope that’s not to its detriment. I know that in my low points I’m not looking for optimism, but validation. I just hope anyone with the same anxieties as me can take comfort in the fact that other people have them too- especially when the title exists because it can be very lonely.

I love to make playlists for my writing – do you have a song or songs that you think go particularly well with UNBELONG?

All of Kid A by Radiohead is the most obvious one. Also, The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, which was the starting point for Summer, Abandoned. I always say Running Up that Hill by Kate Bush, that song is everything to me. And Mother Maiden Crone by Claudia Boleyn, because that song, like UNBELONG, is fundamentally about womanhood.

Other than writing, do you have any other creative hobbies? Or any you’d like to try?

Writing is the primary one. I really, really love music, and want to listen to every song ever made, but it’s not like writing for me, I’ve never felt the need to make it myself, I solely want to appreciate what others have made.

Finally, what advice would you have for someone who wants to get more into poetry (either reading it or writing it) but isn’t sure where to start?

Write for yourself first, other people second.

UNBELONG is available for purchase on Amazon now, or via a link on Isolde's Twitter page, @isolde_mason.

Lucy AllisonComment