Richard Catchpole interviews the poet and semi-professional tatter Eric Eric. Mr. Eric does not use computer technology, and the interview was conducted over the telephone on May 25th, 2021.
RC: You have been very quiet on the publishing front for quite a long time. May I ask, Why?
EE: I have never been a prolific publisher of my poems. There is a lot of tosh out there, and I am reluctant to be associated with it and risk contamination. Plus I have been spending a lot of time tatting.
RC: I note your use of the word “contamination”, which is almost interesting. You will not be surprised that I want to ask how Covid and the lockdowns and so on affected you.
EE: Actually, I am surprised, and a little disappointed. I thought you might want to see some of my recent tats.
RC: It’s a little difficult to see them over the phone, so let me please ask you: How did Covid and the lockdowns and restrictions affect you?
EE: In short, because I don’t have much of a social life beyond the tatting group, and actually most of the time go out of my way to avoid people, I found a good deal of the period quite pleasant, especially the absence of traffic outside my house, although of course that came back quite early on because people had to go out to look at the shops and public houses that were closed.
RC: Do you mind if I say that sounds rather cold and heartless, given the suffering there has been?
EE: You can say what you want to say. I did my bit by abiding by the rules, which is more than a lot of people, although I did not clap for the NHS. I am not interested in empty gestures that some folk only join in when it’s not raining.
RC: You have not been tempted to join the online community, given the unusual social circumstances?
EE: Well, my tatting group was unable to meet in person, although I believe they organised some get-togethers on the internet, from which I was counted out, of course, so it crossed my mind fleetingly. But, frankly, I find the telephone quite intrusive, and nothing has happened to make me want to go further down the technological road.
RC: Perhaps we should move on. I assume that, while you have been devoting a lot of time to your tatting, you did not abandon poetry.
EE: One does not abandon poetry. Poetry does the abandoning, should it so choose. And, by the way, one might wish that it would abandon quite a few poets who continue to assail us with their nonsense. Fortunately for the wider world, only other poets read them. But, to answer your question, no, I did not abandon poetry. Indeed, I checked my records, and I see that during 2020 I wrote 743 poems, which is only 29 fewer than in 2019.
RC: That is quite a lot.
EE: As my dear Mama used to say, “Better out than in.”
RC: Did you write much about Covid?
EE: I did mention it briefly in one or two poems a year or so ago, but while they were fine poems they were also something of an aberration. All the other so-called poets were also writing about Covid, and the true poet does not write about what other people write about, or churn out what people expect.
RC: I wonder, have you written about tatting?
EE: No. I think it best to keep the two strands of my creative life entirely separate, or I might get confused.
RC: You have a reputation, if I may be so bold as to suggest, of being something of a “poetry loner”. How do you react to that suggestion.
EE: With indifference.
RC: My point is that surely poetry and all art is about communication, social responsibilities, and engagement with cultural life, and your “loner-ness” is the opposite of those things.
Mr. Eric did not answer this question, saying that he had to go now because he had an appointment at the clinic. A few days later I received the following poems in the post, with an accompanying note: “You may do with these what you will.”
You put your Winter
Two weeks later
You have to get them
TOO GOOD FOR CATS
Felix “As Good As It Looks”
Is as good as it looks
Delicious on top of
A jacket potato
I AM AVAILABLE
For sex work
Could someone please
An application form?
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE
A Direct Debit
And a Standing Order?
I’ve never been sure (or cared)
The water company’s
And after an hour
I was still on hold
I feel sorry for the fish
YOU DON’T SEE
There’s probably a good reason