'The magic comes in –the craft'

It was about a decade ago that Bermudian Andra Simons won a grant from the Bermuda Arts Council which enabled him to attend a writers' workshop in Barbados.

He didn't know it then, but that five-week course would sow the seeds for 'The Joshua Tales' a collection of Mr. Simons' poetry recently published by London-based Treehouse Press.

"I wrote 'The Joshua Tales' during the last week that I was there," Mr. Simons said. "I was obsessed with it and I was still writing on the plane from Barbados to Canada."

  • <b>Poet</b> Andra Simons is the newly published author of 'The Joshua Tales'.

    Poet Andra Simons is the newly published author of 'The Joshua Tales'.

  • Andra Simons' first published book 'The Joshua Tales'.

    Andra Simons' first published book 'The Joshua Tales'.


It was about a decade ago that Bermudian Andra Simons won a grant from the Bermuda Arts Council which enabled him to attend a writers' workshop in Barbados.

He didn't know it then, but that five-week course would sow the seeds for 'The Joshua Tales' a collection of Mr. Simons' poetry recently published by London-based Treehouse Press.

"I wrote 'The Joshua Tales' during the last week that I was there," Mr. Simons said. "I was obsessed with it and I was still writing on the plane from Barbados to Canada."

Mr. Simons said he read some of his work and had a friend, artist Kendra Ezekiel, to draw some images to accompany it.

"I then sort of packed it away and once in a while visited it for public readings."

Mr. Simons moved to London, England about five years ago where he teaches creative writing at Greenwich University.

He was doing little to promote his own work until he pulled it out for a private reading for a friend, Shaun Levin.

An accomplished author, Mr. Levin is also the founder of Treehouse Press, the company that published Mr. Simons' work.

"He read it and loved it and thought that it needed to be published," he said. "Basically he told me that he wanted me to start looking at the pieces fresh and new.

"I spent the last nine months looking at them new from when I wrote them ten years ago and then Shaun edited them some more. Then we published it."

Most exciting to Mr. Simons is that his wasn't a vanity project, that he went through the process of having his work professionally edited.

"I find the act of being creative more painful than the act of editing, because I have my own perfections and neurosis that I deal with when I am creating.

"But what I do love which matches that little perfectionist inside of me, is the editing and going over and over the book.

"And in fact the morning the before the book was published, I was obsessed with a period [full stop] on one of the pages, because the book plays with punctuation. I had dreamed about it and I woke up thinking about it. I really love the editing side."

'The Joshua Tales' is about a poet.

"So you can assume that the poet is me," Mr. Simons said.

"It is about a little boy or his shadow it never quite says what he is. But my description would be that he is the poet's alter ego in the form of a little boy, but he is not like any other little boy in body and in spirit.

"So basically it's the poet and his alter ego Joshua.

"There are fables of encounters. So Joshua meets God, he meets Eve, he meets a Jazz singer, he meets a black man, and then Joshua builds a kite, he takes a trip it is basically the adventures of the poet and this little boy named Joshua."

He continued: "In total it's 25 poems and they are to be read in a sequence, you just don't pick up a book and read a poem.

"That is sort of like what it is about, but sometimes Joshua represents me and sometimes he is a representation of a particular group of people in the book."

The book is set on an island called Pocaroja.

Although fictional, in many ways the island represented Bermuda for the poet.

"Pocaroja has mysteries, lots of holes in the earth where mysterious things happen and there are interesting characters that live on the island," he said. "Joshua leaves Pocaroja to discover the world and [then] returns."

Although the book has a childlike feel to it, Mr. Simons warns that it is very much for an adult audience. Mr. Simons has been writing seriously for the past 12 years. Prior to 'The Joshua Tales' his work had only been published in journals. He has now started a second book of poetry.

"I don't consider myself a novel writer," he said. "It is basically a book of poetry of all the stuff I have written, as there is no need to dispose of the stuff.

"There are hundreds of poems that I will need to re-edit and re-approach to make a collection out of them."

He gave this advice to anyone considering having their own work published: "Edit, edit, edit and get an editor as well."

"I used to get a lot of people who would say, 'this is a stream of thought, of consciousness and I wrote it all in one go'. People don't realise that the magic comes in the craft and that the craft is often in the editing of it.

"Even though I have had a hand in the publishing of this, it was very important for me that it wasn't self-published and that it went through a whole editing process with a qualified editor.

"So the quality of the work is still quite high and anything that you may come across [and think] a mistake, it is very intended.

"There is lots of punctuation missing, but that is intended effect of reading where punctuation becomes emotional markers, or the lack of, in the work."

The book is available locally at The Bermuda Bookstore, and online at www.treehousepress.co.uk.

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