daniel skentelbery

Skentelbery[1996].jpg

Daniel Skentelbery's work is striking, surreal and sexy. Taking the form of a soap-opera in words, his poetry demands attention and tickles those bits of you that you didn't know needed tickled. All at once brilliant and mundane, Daniel's command of language and ​poetic form is both admirable and enviable. Upon reading his chapbook submission, we were entranced, and know that you will be, too.

 

Miss Peacock and the Actress is a seductive, winding story that grabs you by the back of the head. It drops in October (which is quite apt).  

Read on to learn more about Daniel and his upcoming collection below:

Can you describe your work in five words?
 

  • Melancholic

  • Wit

  • Like

  • Wry

  • Grimaces

 

Your upcoming collection is described as a ‘soap opera’ of sorts – what exactly does that mean?

 

With this chapbook, I wanted to write a series of stories each taking place within an imagined lower-middle class community, loosely based on several of the towns and villages I had come to know since having moved to the Midlands seven years ago. A soap opera provided the perfect platform to explore this imagined community, the everyday lives of the people within it, and the oddities that that lurk within them. I consider the chapbook to be in many ways a pilot episode that will never get a fully-commissioned series. 


When writing, I worked hard to evoke the feeling of a TV soap opera with the imagery and action I wrote. Yet, the chapbook can only ever be a soap opera of sorts. Early in the writing process, I made the decision to not explicitly name/highlight recurring characters and their narratives. For me, the collection reads as if one has fallen asleep midway through Hollyoaks only to enter a twisted dream filled with abstract people and almost plotlines.

Who do you write for?

 

I tend to avoid assuming an audience; I like to experiment with my work, so I think different pieces appeal to different people. My audience should never be certain whether I’m about to horrify or entertain them (editor note - this is exactly why we love Daniel!).

 
A collection such as Miss Peacock and the Actress was written primarily for myself because I needed to write it. The chapbook began life as a project which helped me to work through anxieties, grief, and a handful of lost opportunities. There was never a specific audience in mind. More, I wrote the collection with a hope that I wasn’t alone, and that there will be others who share the fears and anxieties captured in the collection. 


With all this said, some of my favourite projects have sought to encourage audiences to question social norms; in particular, my work tends to focus on celebrating the diversity of human expression and condemns heterosexual patriarchal norms. So, if I do have an audience, I write for anyone who isn’t allowed to fit in. 

 
 

Are there any particular artists that you cite as influences?

Lots! I am heavily inspired by the genre fiction of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, Anaïs Nin, Timothy Zahn, and S.D. Perry; they write such bold visuals - there is a cinematic language to their writing that I am heavily influenced by.

 

Poets like Dylan Thomas, Luke Kennard, C.D. Wright, and Sarah Wallis create beautiful narratives and bizarre characters weaved with unpredictable but beautifully lyrical phrases. There are also many illustrators, painters, and sculptors who inspire me, such as: the gothic works of Harry Clark, the haunting portraits of Shani Rhys James, and the horrifying sculptures of Patricia Piccinini. 


Perhaps the most noteworthy influences on my writing (and to my personality) are bands and artists: Katzenjammer, Kirsty MacColl, dodie, Tessa Violet, and Neil Hannon. These artists all have a talent for wrapping humour around emotional struggle which I seek to emulate in my own work.  

Your work is very character-driven – are there any real-life people behind these characters, or are they all figments of your imagination?

Practically all my poetry is character driven. I’m invested in exploring different personalities and their responses (or sometimes lack of response) to uncomfortable and unpleasant circumstances. In my chapbook, all the characters are twisted and exaggerated personalities which encapsulate aspects of the communities which locate my soap opera, but ultimately come out of my own imagination.

 

It is my love for character driven plot which motivated the ‘soap opera’ -esque structure and ultimately facilitated an exploration of a community and the lives of those within it. Though this is not to say that there aren’t a couple of specific people who may have influenced certain characters (scratches neck, looks away, and other nervous tics). 


The main characters of my chapbook are the titular characters. Miss Peacock is loosely based on a handful of people I’ve felt affection for in the past. On the other hand, the Actress is based much more on myself. In the chapbook, however, I rarely distinguish character names; it is a decision which renders the characters of Miss Peacock and the Actress as abstract figures. Who these titular characters are, and whether they even appear in the collection, will be up to each individual reader.        

How would you sell yourself and your collection to Bent Key readers?

Imagine; if you will, dear Bent Key reader, a young Vincent Price stood at a snake oil stand. This Vincent Price wanna-be is wearing a tattered blood-covered lab coat; he has an arm extended out to you, and with a wiggling finger he lures you into his little tent.

 
You sit in a large metal chair in the centre of the squalid tent. Suddenly, clasps snap around your wrists and ankles! You are trapped.

 

Ahead of you, the curtains open on a Punch and Judy stand, from which a scrawny puppet of a dog named Corned Beef and a young man with floppy hair dressed as a witch greets you. They recite poems out of order; they perform the macarena and then they tell you to buy Daniel Skentelbery’s chapbook.

 
Do you either… (1) Purchase the chapbook which has been reasonably sold to you. OR (2) Try to escape. Roll a die. If you roll higher than a 6, you are successful and escape.          

 

You’re currently in the Midlands – what’s your opinion on chips and gravy?

Chips and gravy are pretty decent. I’d say that they are in their element when served alongside a steak pie. 


But, dare I say… in a choice between chips and gravy or chips and curry sauce? I’ll side with the curry sauce.    

 

We can excuse it. Still moist. -Editor
 

Red wine or white?

 

Coca-Cola (calisober, only smoke bud!). 
 

Which poem/piece of writing do you wish you’d written?

 

If I had written the Star Wars films, I’d be rich. If I had written Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood I’d be respected. If I had written the Sonic the Hedgehog choose your own adventure books I’d be poor but happy. If I had written dodie’s album Build a Problem I’d probably have worked through my grief. I’m not sure I wish I had written any of them though; I’m quite a happy audience member. 


But - I guess I’d have liked to have written Kate Bush’s song Cloudbusting. That would have been cool.   

Miss Peacock and the Actress drops in late October