Chris Armstrong

Chris Armstrong

Tell us a little about what you make? 

I am a poet and a writer, so this will be a little different from most entries, I imagine. But it was not always so: I have had three careers, working as a merchant seaman and as a farmhand on the farm where I still live, before reinventing myself as an information scientist, working for the university, and then for 30 years in my own company, before I retired to become the poet and writer that I now am.

My poetry began while I was still working after I lost my wife and the first few tentative pieces were very much about love and loss. A catharsis, I suppose. I like to think that since I became a full-time writer I have moved on, but that old theme creeps in from time to time... along with the sea, the horizon and time! During Covid lockdown I branched out into fiction and I have published a full length work and a collection of short stories. My time is now more or less equally balanced between poetry and fiction. 

Chris Armstron Poet and WriterWhat inspires you and where do you find that inspiration? 

That is a difficult question - often it is the countryside around and on the farm or my past life that inspires both poems and fiction; sometimes - rarely -  I spend time researching and thinking of ideas, and sometimes another poet's poem may spark inspiration... At any rate - and this is broadly true of both my fiction and my poems - once I have begun it just seems to flow. Not in its final form - never that - but the beginnings of what will be. I work at a computer and quite often, particularly with poems, I move text around on the page, edit, correct spellings or change words as I go... but that rarely interrupts the flow. I wrote in my blog - - of Kamel Daoud, the French-Algerian writer and journalist who described his experience of writing - and I instantly related to it but at the same time his imagery upset me because somehow for me it just doesnt work - the idea of a dog inside my head pushing my thoughts – my unthought, subliminal, subconscious thoughts - out through my pen or keyboard onto the page is a little disturbing; I think, because of the association of dogs running wild, running amok, with madness. But something in my head - unbidden - pushes the words onto the page.

 Tell us about your favourite medium. 

I love writing poetry and experimenting with form and style but poetry is a tricksy mistress and I relax into fiction when I cannot find inspiration. At the moment I try to write a few poems a month while working on the finishing touches to my next novel... which also, incidentally experiments with form. 

What are your favourite and least favourite parts of being an artist or maker? 

Writing... and writing! The creativity that goes into modeling a poem or constructing a plotline is fun, but when it does not go right... not so much! I can sit for hours over a single line of poetry trying to bend it into shape or find the perfect word. Similarly if I am writing fiction there are times when I just type and the plot or the story just flows and then there are moments when I spend boring time checking that the time line works or that I have not used the wrong character or taken the right character to the wrong place! 

What does being a member of the Ceredigion Art and Craft Trail mean to you? 

I love the affinity with other creators and hope that there will soon be some other writers or poets onboard. I am actively trying to encourage a few to join in the hope that we can set up some poetry readings and meet the author sessions. Come on poets and writers! Join the community and benefit from the platform. 

How do you manage a work-life balance as an artist/maker? 

This is relatively easy for me as I have retired and live alone! But I do not spend every hour of every day in front of the computer - I also garden, keep bees, walk, travel and enjoy making things from wood. Last year's project was an Appalachian Dulcimer! 

What are you working on at the moment? 

I am collating a selection of past unpublished poems into my next collection and working on the finishing touches to my next work of fiction - Trystan. In between times, I am trying to write more poetry! 

How do you know when your work is finished? 

It never is... but there comes a time when I begin to think that any more fiddling around may spoil the poem! 

What is the biggest challenge of being an artist/maker? 

I think that the times when I do not have an idea for my next poem or when I have an idea but cannot see how to begin - to progress the idea are the most challenging. The constant need to think of new things to say! 

What advice would you give to new artists or makers at the start of their creative journey? 

Again, this is easy for me to say as I am retired; for others there may be a work/life, a work/creating, or a creating/life balance to contend with - or all three! If you feel that you have in you the ability to create and that living that dream will work for you, just do it. The first step is always the hardest!