Greta is calling from London, cooped up in a café, ready to re-define the notion of what poetry is to her, the collaborative approach between her and Robert Montgomery. She is defiant in bringing poetry and words to the British masses, whether with her upcoming verses for “Stockholm Syndrome” or with her quest to save British libraries. Poetry is the truest expression when exploring the feelings and ideas of one, and Greta reveals to us, her beliefs and feelings, penned on paper.
How do you define yourself now? A poet, a filmmaker?
I think predominantly I see myself as a poet whilst filmmaking came as an after thought, a modern way of bringing a poetic narrative to life. With poetry, sadly, there is a limited audience and means of getting it out to people. Film was always one way to challenge poetry and bring it to an audience. In an ideal world I would call myself a poet and filmmaking is an extension of poetry, enabling so many stories to come alive.
This ultimately challenges the traditional notion of how we define poetry today and its place in society, especially in English society.
Yes. There are many incredible poets and contemporary poetry today. I recently edited a collection of contemporary poems and the whole point of that was to show the diverse and vast existence of poetry, but sadly because there is no monetary attachment to poetry, it seems that it doesn’t have the audience of mainstream films for example. Actually, what I found is having social media and the internet with all its platforms, you can be your own publisher and you can have a more objective audience. You don’t have to wait for favours to come knocking on your door and film also seems to be an easier way to interact with people and to capture their attention in regards to poetry, whilst having the finance behind it.
So how would you define poetry today?
I think so much of poetry can be defined in different media because there is so much more of a collaborative approach due to technology. Poetry is one of the art forms where it is able to wholeheartedly bring magic from the mundane with- in words on so many levels.
“Points for Time in the Sky” is written by both you and Robert. What was it like to have two people writing together?
It was very random. I did a poetry reading with Robert about two and a half years ago and he said come over to my studio and that’s how we started talking. Anyway, one night we got so drunk, and there were lots of people around, and as soon as it got to two in the morning, we were reciting poetry, and everyone was so bored, and we ended up in our madness deciding to write poetry together. It wasn’t really a decision, he was like, “you write the first line” and then Robert just took over. It stemmed from that. It was mostly an experiment at the beginning. It was a good way to learn about myself becoming a better writer and looking at him as a writer, because when you write with someone, the way you express yourself becomes heightened, whereas when you write alone you have no filter.
Over two years we collected and wrote together about 200 poems. We had realized all of the poems were about Britain and its history and culture. This ultimately redefined poetry from its traditional notion..
So much of our collection challenges the notion of poetry being written on the page, which is quite arcade, whereas I guess writing together is a new way of bringing poetry into the world. Also most of the poems were about the privatization of buildings or the conservative party or the way there is a Tesco on every corner.
“In an ideal world I would call myself a poet and filmmaking is an extension of poetry, enabling so many stories to come alive”
So you shared the same ideas and thoughts about British life?
Exactly. We were teaming up with these big ideas and putting them in a more abstract notion, rather than just talking about Tesco or the night bus. I think we both genuinely shared the same pretences for writing. And a lot of our ideas are what many other people are feeling and struggling with.
Do you feel there is more of a struggle than any other time in history?
I do not know if it’s harder than any other time, but I just think what’s sad is the loss of diversity in a place such as London. It has become very capitalist and very greedy. We’ve gone back in time, living in a narcissist community, where the community has been forgotten. Its all about what can I get, what is my brand, who am I, how can I make money from this. It was a reaction to that. England considers itself to be such a liberal country, but there seems to be a massive im- balance between the rich and poor.
When writing, are your words a true representation of who you are and who you would like to be?
At the time, it is. It’s the purest way of expressing my emotions and feelings.
Are you planning to introduce new verses any time soon?
I started to write a collection of poems, like a diary, called ‘Stockholm Syndrome.’ It’s about being pregnant and the internal connection with another soul that you have never met, an internal process where you experience everything together in the world. No one around you knows how you feel. You really embody yourself whilst being pregnant. Whereas the rest of the time, you spend being in an external state of mind, projecting our feelings to other people. However strangely, within this state of pregnancy, it feels like you fall in love with your capturer. A lot of it is inspired by Freud. So it has a maddening sense.
Also next year I am launching my own publishing company just for poetry and contemporary poets and only distributing through mainstream shops, placing poetry within mainstream culture.
I guess this is an extension of your quest to save the British public libraries?
Basically I grew up, living in London and everyone is fighting for space to write or do something, and libraries are such a safe house within our culture for all people, young and old. I am just so saddened that some have been destroyed through government cuts. I was talking to Stephen Fry about it, which started out as an interview with him, and it turned into a documentary. The more I spoke to people, the more I realized people love libraries. It was not just a community of intellectuals. So many people think that libraries were created by rich benefactors, when in fact the first British library was built by a group of miners, who did not own the land or houses they grew up in, who worked in harsh conditions, and as a community they built this library to educate their children. And this is truly a representation of what Britain is. This subject spurred a series of conversations that I had, and it became a 60-minute documentary that will be launched next year with the BBC.