WAR BY CANDLELIGHT: an interview with Mark William Jackson

Verity La Fiction

I seem to have already established a pattern with these interviews. A bit of a preamble and introduction, and then the interview. And so we should begin.  Mark William Jackson is an emerging writer from Sydney, but I’ve always thought the word ’emerging’ is pathetically passive when applied to writers. Something that ’emerges’ seems to imply a gentle and inevitable shift from one state of being to a higher plane of existence. Do we ever actually emerge in this way? I bought an intriguing collection of stories just yesterday by a writer called Daniel Alarcon called War by Candlelight. I haven’t read enough of the collection to know what Alarcon means by the title, but for me it’s the perfect expression for what the process feels like to ’emerging’ writers, like myself and Mark William Jackson.


What makes all this worthwhile? What do we really hope to achieve? Is there perhaps an inborn hunger, dumb and brutal, that simply wants to grow and devour every bit of life, and poetry is just one way of doing this?


You make poetry sound so appealing! I guess firstly I’d have to dispense with the concept that poetry is a conscious decision that we make, Leonard Cohen said ‘poetry is not an occupation, it is a verdict.’ Anyone who writes at length does so because they have to, because if they don’t they suffer some sort of internal decay. When I think about what makes all this worthwhile I have to think about what I would do if I wasn’t doing this. Poetry helps contain my addictive personality. I can take a bad memory, spew in onto a blank piece of paper, break it, enjamb it, manipulate it into what I want it to be. At the end of the process I own what threatened to control me. I don’t think its presence could grow and devour every bit of life but I fear its absence would. If I go any period of time without writing I am at pains to function in other aspects of my life.
Poetry also creates its own euphoria. The act of searching for the word, or the line that perfectly encapsulates a moment. When it’s found it calls for a post-coital cigarette and afterglow reflection.
What do we hope to achieve? For me, personally, if I was my only reader, as I was for the first twenty years that I scribbled attempts at poetry with no direction, then I would be satisfied. I still look back with a certain fondness on the teen angst riddled doggerel that I used to (and still do) write. But of course this sounds like defeatist, self-deprecating crap. More to the point I hope that people can read my poetry and it will in some way help them conquer the ubiquitous metrophobia that society seems to suffer as a consequence of a poor poetry curriculum within the school system. People outside of the poetry world have the impression that poetry is either strict form; Shakespearean couplets and Wordsworth rambling on about daffodils (fucking daffodils!) or deliberately obscure – obscure for obscurity’s sake.  I don’t want people to have to read every line four or five times trying to decipher what I’m trying to say. Poetry should punch into your head, or break out like your drunken father – as a reader I like poems that are short and sharp, within a few lines you receive a migraine clarity; as a writer the poems should come out fighting, Bukowski style, screaming about the whores of life and the dead men walking, they should break out because they can’t be contained.
I hope that people can read my poems and receive a flash of realisation in their minds, something that makes them think, or helps them remember. I like to craft homophonic lines, lines with dual meanings – a reader can choose to take in the first reading and feel satisfied or return for a second reading and hopefully it will echo with other meanings for them. The opposite of obscure, instead of struggling for one meaning I hope that my poems can convey multiple meanings to different readers.