Interview: Sophie Mackintosh

We talk to Sophie Mackintosh about her poems “Lunar Caustic” and “We Are Waiting For The Wolves” which appear in Neon #30.

The descriptions of harbours, canals and railway stations in “Lunar Caustic” gave me the impression of a small, quiet, post-industrial town. What kind of setting did you imagine for this poem?

It’s a combination of places that mean a lot to me, but I imagined it mainly as the garden of my family home. I grew up in a house built in a field and my parents planted trees all down the bottom, and there was a railway track at the end of it. And just a few miles away is the sea. So I imagined lying outside in my garden, listening to the trains moving, going to the local harbour and breathing in the dank summer-water smell when that got too claustrophobic, before coming inside to a dark room and waiting out the winter. But then I also live in a run-down area of Glasgow and find myself walking through all this dilapidated grandeur at dawn on my way to work–abandoned warehouses, slabs of cement, past the river and the trains going into the badlands. I stole it all.

My initial interpretation was that the poem was narrated by an ill person wasting away over the course of a year, but on second reading I noticed other elements that seemed to point to something else. What is happening in “Lunar Caustic”? Or do you prefer to leave that to the reader to decide?

There’s physical wasting, but more than that there is time wasting and emotional wasting and frustration. I wrote it as somebody slipping in and out of illness, existing in this weird feverish place where nothing is quite real and nothing changes, including the person by your side willing you to come out of it for good. I felt like I didn’t have a strong grasp on what I wanted the poem to be or even where it was coming from, kind of like a fever-dream that somehow makes perfect sense to you at the time.

I enjoyed the creative use of language in “We Are Waiting For The Wolves”. Do you consider it prose or poetry, or a little bit of both?

I think I consider it poetry, but the line where the two are distinct has always puzzled me. I approach writing prose and poetry almost the same way. Sometimes a (very) short story is just a poem that got out of hand, but sometimes–like with this one–I’m glad it did.

You mention in your biography that you’re working on your first novel. How is that going?

It’s going okay. It’s editing time, as I’ve written a couple of drafts now, and looking at it after a break is making me aware of the shabbiness of some parts. Which is good, obviously, because I can try and fix it–but also disheartening, because what if I can’t? It’s strange to have something that is your own become something more; having your own characters surprise you is a mix of queasiness and excitement. I don’t know what is going to happen to it right now, but it is out there, and I’m staying hopeful.

Do you have any other work available online? Where can readers find out more about you?

I’ve had a couple of things published in the last year or so–try Spilt Milk, The Other Room and the latest issue of A-Minor, for starters. Those are my favourite pieces. I don’t blog or have a website yet as I feel apologetic about taking up too much internet space without anything that interesting to put in it, but maybe this will change. For now, you can find me on twitter–@sophmackintosh–where I seem lately to mainly muse on secret frappucino recipes and Game Of Thrones fan videos.

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Sophie Mackintosh is a 23-year-old editor based in Glasgow, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spilt Milk, Specter, and Notes From The Underground, amongst others. She is currently finishing her first novel and likes writing about omnichords, islands, and elsewhere.