Monthly Archives: August 2012

‘Up here, we’re fierce friends with the sea’ – an interview with Jen Campbell, author of ‘The Hungry Ghost Festival’

Today I’m talking to Jen Campbell, the author of the bestselling ‘Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’ and also, now, ‘The Hungry Ghost Festival’ – her first collection of poetry, which has just been published by The Rialto.

AJ: Hi Jen, thanks for talking to me. Congratulations on The Hungry Ghost Festival, which I found to be a really engaging and poignant collection of poems. Can you tell us a little bit about how the collection came about and how long you worked on it for?
JC: Thanks, Andrea! I think the poems span over two years, when you look at them from start to finish. I didn’t deliberately set out to write a collection about the north-east, and my childhood, but I began to notice that the poetry I was writing tended to fall into one of two categories: one of those was a nostalgic/north-east/childhood/sea-memory type, and the other concerned freak shows, deformity and identity. The latter’s a longer collection I’m working on at the moment.
‘The Hungry Ghost Festival’ is not about what actually happened when I was younger; it’s often not even about real places. It’s about misremembered and strange things. It’s about girls praying to The Angel of the North. It’s about the idea of a mermaid born in the river Tyne. It’s about another girl who’s bullied for being a ‘real-life mermaid.’ It’s about Chinese lanterns, teenagers at the beach, and a family who run a sacred farm. It’s about lots of things.

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