The Urge to Self-Correct: An Interview with Poet Daisy Edwards

Daisy Edwards, Poet
Daisy Edwards

In celebration of the voices and visions of LGBTQIA+ creators this Pride Month, we caught up with poet and author Daisy Edwards, who contributed a marvelous poem to our second issue, for a wide-ranging interview.

Daisy discusses her writing process, creative interests, and upcoming projects. She also offers some outstanding book suggestions from fellow LGBTQIA+ writers.

Meredith MacLeod Davidson (Senior Editor, Arboreal): How did you get started writing? How old were you, and what sort of writer did you imagine yourself as then? How does that differ from the writer you are now?

Daisy Edwards: I started writing stories when I was a child, but it didn’t really become a big part of my life until I was in my late teens and started University. In Birmingham, UK there’s a massive spoken word poetry scene (fed by Beatfreeks and Apples & Snakes). 

It’s fair to say I was naive in approaching the space, coming from a very white, isolated community in the north of England and moving into a big, diverse city. My eyes were opened to the kind of poetry and writers out there. I think a lot of people in their late teens/early twenties internalize the “kid making it big in the city” narrative and I realized that all the other writers there were also trying to make it.

I started seriously writing poetry then and in 2019 I began writing and focussing my efforts on publication. I’m more realistic in my goals, I have a greater understanding of the traditional and independent publishing industries, and I’ve learned my greatest strength—every writer’s greatest strength—is the community around me. We’re all trying to make it, whatever “it” is, and solidarity and support are free. 

Chad M. Crabtree (Editor-in-Chief, Arboreal): As an emerging poet, how do you balance the pursuit of your craft with other responsibilities or commitments in your life?

DE: I’m very lucky to have a full time job with flexible hours that I can leave at my desk and do whatever I want outside those hours. I’m also autistic and thrive with a routine; for me, scheduling my writing hours and committing to the time is easy. What’s more is that I have a terrific community around me—my fellow writers, my friends and family, and D&D players. Making the time for writing would be so much harder if I was alone. 

MMD: How do you approach writing day-to-day? Do you have some sort of ritual that brings you to the page each day, or does your approach vary?

DE: My approach varies depending on what I’m writing. If I’m writing poetry, I find it super easy to just get into it. When working on my novel, I ease into it by reading the previous chapter and consulting my notes and my beta reader notes. My one ritual is listening to music. My friend Rowan Ellis built me a killer playlist a couple of years back, and it’s making draft three of my novel fly by!

CMC: How do you navigate the process of submitting your work for publication? Are there any tips you can share for other emerging poets?

DE: Check the criteria: is there a theme? A word count? A line limit? Figure out how you and your perspective can serve it. My poem in Issue No. 02 of Arboreal fits the theme nicely, but is it just about perseverance? Of course not! There are so many things you can say, and the joys of writing for publication is figuring out the interesting ways you can say it. 

I suggest being rigorous and realistic with your time: ask yourself if you can meet a submission deadline, if you’re putting too much on your plate, etc. I would also suggest not being hard on yourself when facing rejection—so much of publishing has rejection baked into it. A way I’ve embraced this is by aiming for a rejection goal (my goal this year is 23). Once I hit that goal, I’m going to bake a cake and have a party. Rejection means you put yourself out there, that you made something good and wanted to share it with the world. While it can sting, it’s definitely something to be celebrated. 

CMC: Your poem “There is a tree in a museum” appeared in our recent second issue which focused on the theme of perseverance. How would you describe your poem’s connection to this theme?

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of history happening all at once.

DE: I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of history happening all at once. I’m sure we’ve seen the tumblr posts where users realize Charles Dickens and Vincent Van Gogh were alive at the same time. When confronting the theme of perseverance I couldn’t help but imagine museums and the chaos that would occur if history happened there, under one roof, all at once. What stillness would happen if all the items took a breath? Also, to speak quite literally, the figure of this poem is the sequoia tree in the Natural History Museum, in London. It is ancient. Throughout the chaos of history happening all at once, the hilarity of life and death crashing around us over millennia, can you imagine how patient this tree would be? How it would have to persevere just to get through each day in a museum?

CMC: Can you speak to the significance of Pride Month for you as a bisexual poet? How does it impact your creative process or the way you engage with your audience?

DE: Pride Month doesn’t specifically affect my work; I’m bisexual and demisexual every day of the year! But my experiences as an out, queer woman definitely does, simply because I’m happier. I feel at ease approaching certain subjects and more confidence in my conviction behind them. All my poems are queer because I am queer. Obviously, not everyone can be publicly out—I only felt comfortable doing so once I was engaged to be married to my husband—but being comfortable in your skin can only be a good thing. Hopefully it’s something readers of my work appreciate. 

MMD: The queer poet Jay Bernard writes in their manifesto, “Stranger in the archives“:

What I have learned working in the archive #317: how quickly things are forgotten, how the act of archiving can be a way to forget; as the act of reporting something in the news can be a pacifier, a way to forget the initial grievance.

I wonder about this in relation to your poem “There is a tree in a museum” and how the experience of a museum might relate to your position as a bisexual poet. In some ways, I read the self-correction that occurs repeatedly in your poem (e.g., “sorry, what I mean to say is” or “no, what I meant was”) in relation to Bernard’s suggestion of the museum as a space to host a sort of erasure. Do you think your poem is grappling with these ideas?

DE: When writing these lines, I wanted to bring uncertainty. When questioning your sexuality, you ask a lot of yourself and do a lot of reflection. As a bisexual, demisexual woman married to a cis man, I definitely questioned whether I was queer enough (spoiler alert: this is a terrible question to ask yourself!). The urge to self-correct, to doubt, to make yourself palatable is a constant for the queer and trans community, something I only deal with a fraction of. 

The urge to self-correct, to doubt, to make yourself palatable is a constant for the queer and trans community.

This doubt and uncertainty is baked into how we display history in museums. At a certain point, we are relying on educated guesses, fragments of evidence, and putting the pieces together. So in a way, yes, my poem grapples with these ideas, but I would also add that in the eyes of the museum, so much is lost to the sands of time and the remains will be put together by historians.

MMD: Who are some of your favorite queer poets or writers? Any people we should be reading for Pride Month (or anytime!)?

DE: *cracks knuckles*

Jay Hulme, a trans man and a poet doing the Lord’s work (literally) in writing beautiful, queer poems about Christianity. His second collection The Backwater Sermons is out now.

Rowan Ellis, everyone’s favorite ace, blue haired lesbian. She writes killer video essays and wrote Here and Queer, a book teenage me desperately needed. A must read for anyone who wants solid building blocks of queer terms and identities.

Lex Croucher, a non-binary, bi writer currently crushing it in the historical romance genre. Would you believe lesbians existed in the 1700s? It’s astounding. Their book Gwen & Art Are Not In Love is out wherever good books are sold.

There are also just too many to mention! Aiden Thomas, Lauren James, Jasmine Gardosi. I’m forgetting thousands. 

MMD: In your poem “There is a tree in a museum” you have this beautiful line:

know everything this tree saw, smell everything its bark forgot.

I couldn’t help but connect this to the poet CAConrad’s work surrounding their experience effacing with a tree Emily Dickinson had planted at her home in Massachusetts. I am interested in the parallels between these two pieces regarding this idea of accessing something over time through the sensory experience of trees. What was your thinking around those lines in your poem?

DE: Man, I love Emily Dickinson. Yes, exactly. Whenever we play the “if you had a time machine” game, we always imagine what we would see, but here I wanted to bring in other senses. What does 1850 sound like? What does 1602 smell like? What does 1993 taste like? They’re answers only the reader can provide. 

CMC: You identify as an autistic writer. Can you tell us a bit about your experience as a neurodivergent creator?

DE: Similar to coming out, there’s a sense of confidence I have. There’s nothing wrong with me: I’m just autistic! For me, I work really well with routine, repeating patterns of behavior, which serves me well when getting the words down on the page. The tricky part comes with feedback and working with beta readers, as I struggle to gauge tone, intent, and meaning. It means I ask a lot of questions. Thankfully, my beta readers are very good eggs, so they don’t mind. 

With autism and the complexities around masking neurodivergence, there’s the worry over being autistic enough and what it means to be visibly neurodivergent.

CMC: Are there any misconceptions or stereotypes about autism that you find yourself challenging or addressing through your poetry?

DE: With autism and the complexities around masking neurodivergence, there’s the worry over being autistic enough and what it means to be visibly neurodivergent. The greatest challenge I’ve faced is pre-empting awful behavior, waiting for someone to say something, do something, having a mini TED Talk prepared—exhausting in itself. 

This is something I’m addressing a lot in a manuscript I’m working on. The collection focuses on neurodivergence and queerness through a mythic, historic lens, so there’s a lot of poems about changelings and Medusa in it!

CMC: Do you attribute any aspects of your poetics or approach to written communication to neurodivergence?

DE: I’ve always been curious. I’m the kind of autistic person who asks a lot of questions and often doesn’t know (but wants to know) how and why something works. Being inquisitive and pulling on those threads of curiosity allow writers to tell stories. That said, similar to my sexuality, my autism is just one part of me. I’m also a runner, I lift weights to keep the demons back, I’m a bread baker, I run D&D games. I would attribute my interests and loves to my writing, as well as my neurodivergence and queerness.

CMC: You’ve alluded to your experiences questioning whether you are “queer enough” or “autistic enough,” while pointing out that these are not especially useful questions to ask oneself. As someone who struggles to locate my own experience within the rather ambiguous and misunderstood context of neurodivergence, I’m curious how you have navigated these identities. That is, how have you approached self-identification in a culture that so often insists upon clear-cut definitions and classifications?

DE: For me, being out was a much easier task because it simply relied on a lot of self-reflection. Only I can do that, obviously, but it meant it was something I was in complete control of. A friend recently said, with regards to the “queer enough” question, that it doesn’t really matter what you are or how your attraction varies—if you are anything but the cis, hetero norm you are by default queer in some way. It’s up to you, and only you, to find the best words to describe yourself. By and large, it’s very different from getting a diagnosis for a neurological condition!

I can only speak to my experiences of autism, coming from the UK with access to (what remains of) the National Health Service. I must credit my therapist for encouraging me to look at the harder, more uncomfortable parts of myself, and encouraging me to find a way of being comfortable with them. For me, the best way to find comfort was to find certainty by researching, asking questions, and when I felt brave enough, talking to my GP and a diagnostician. Obviously, self-diagnosis is completely valid, especially for people who are typically not listened to by doctors or don’t have a decent health care system (and I say that coming from the UK, where the NHS is in a lot of trouble right now). But personally, I needed that diagnosis.

MMD: What are you working on right now? What topics, experiences, or styles are currently driving your approach to your poetry?

DE: I’m working on a young adult fantasy novel, currently in its third draft, that I plan to query this year. The novel is about a lot of things, but here’s a condensed version: a queer coming-of-age story against the backdrop of the government trying to ban magic (it’s definitely a metaphor!).

I’m also writing a lot of poetry. I have a manuscript I’m working on and desperate to find a home for. I’ve always been drawn to myth, history, and the blurry area between the two. The subjects of the collection—neurodivergence and queerness—are very much at home there. 

CMC: Do you have any forthcoming publications we should keep an eye out for?

DE: Yes! Later this year my poetry will feature in Bent Key’s second Ey Up Anthology, Issue 4 of Vocivia Magazine, Issue 9 of Spelt Magazine, and Lucent Dreaming’s For A Friend Anthology.

About Daisy Edwards

Daisy Edwards is an autistic, bisexual writer based in Birmingham, UK. Her poems have been published in Porridge Magazine, Swim Press, Free Verse Revolution, Ram Eye Press, and Seaglass Lit.


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