The Wigtown Daily: Full Interview with Tom Pow

4 October 2014
Tom Pow will be discussing his poetic biography of Galloway criminal-turned-artist, Thomas Watling, today at 3pm.


How would you describe your new work?                                       


A Wild Adventure is a speculative biography. Very little is known about Thomas Watling. But I didn't want to write a story that was invented. Instead I focussed on those moments of his life I felt I could trust - arrest, transportation, what he saw of the horror and the beauty of Sydney Cove. He worked his passage back via Calcutta and as I travelled with him, so I began more and more to imagine a life that he might have lived.



What drew you to the story of Thomas Watling?


I went to an exhibition at the Dumfries Museum of his work 25 years ago. It was a fascinating story. It took me a long time to work out how I wanted to tell it. I was drawn to ideas of the trauma of what he experienced and also to ideas of forgery - his own forgery, the forging of a poem, the forging of a nation and of course my own forgery of Watling himself.



In both your events you are mixing genres and mediums - A Wild Adventure has poetry/art/nature/biography and Nine Nests has poetry/music/nature. Is this the future of poetry?


By definition, the future of poetry is not written. These are projects that have gripped me. It is almost chance that A Wild Adventure and Concerning the Atlas of Scotland and Other Poems are both illustrated. I think these two books are beautiful objects and, in the face of all kinds of on-line competition, that is important. Nine Nests grew out of a process whereby I was considering nests, as sites of home and of abandonment. It led to an exhibition with Lizzie Farey and Hugh Bryden and now to this performance.



How important is collaboration in your work?                          

Writing is a solitary occupation. If there is good reason to collaborate - to marry what poetry has to offer with other art forms - it's a delight.