ellen clayton

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Ellen Clayton's
debut chapbook

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Ellen is a poet from Suffolk, England, where she lives with her husband and three young children. Her poetry has been published in various print and online publications including Capsule Stories, Nightingale and Sparrow and Anti-Heroin Chic. More of her work can be found on her Instagram page.

Ellen's work covers a large range of experiences and topics, and she has the rare skill of being able to turn her poetic hand towards any topic - from warm nights with the kids under a blanket to raw carnal relations in a hotel room - and turn it into an emphatic piece of poetry that pulls the reader in and builds a beautiful image.

Ellen's first chapbook, Home-Baked, is coming in April 2022.

Ellen's work in five words:

  • Warm

  • Evocative

  • Tender

  • Nostalgic

  • Homely

 

Ellen's work is reminiscent of the old Bisto ads - sepia-toned imagery of families sitting about a table, sharing good food and making good memories. She has an uncanny ability to really nail the best parts of sharing a home and experiences.

Ellen joined Bent Key in December 2021. We sat her down for a chat about her work and her upcoming collection:

Which experiences inspire your writing?

 

I write a lot about nostalgia and memory. Ordinary family life is always a source of inspiration for me - both my childhood memories and my current life with kids. 

 

 

Which topics do you enjoy writing about?

I love exploring how food and drink can connect us to others and to our memories. I also enjoy writing about lust or desire. My work often comes back to family; my own family feel integral to my identity and it comes naturally to me to write about being a daughter, a sister, a mother. 

 

What has been the best part of your writing journey so far?

Discovering a community within the online poetry world; specifically, I discovered the Mum Poem Press during the lockdown at the start of 2021 and that’s when I began sharing my own words online. My connections online have since expanded and it’s joyous to connect with others over a shared love of poetry.

That moment when you realise your words have made a stranger take the time to write a comment about your poem and how it made them feel - that’s incredible!  

 

Who do you see as your intended audience?

I think anybody who enjoys reading about food, home or family would like this chapbook. I’d like to think most people can recall a food stuff or drink that makes them feel nostalgic or connects them back to specific people or memories - something they associate with happiness or joy. Although these poems are inspired by my personal experiences I think there’s a universality to them, too.

 

Home-Baked focuses a lot on homeliness and has a nostalgic feel in its words. Why does this appeal to you?

I’m lucky enough to have had a happy childhood and to still be close to my parents and siblings so I love looking back on those memories. I am also obsessed with the idea of "home" and how that differs for everybody, how the concept changes throughout our own lives. I find it endlessly fascinating! When I am writing I find it helpful to focus on food, drink and other sensory details so the poems don’t become too predictable or similar. 

 

Which poem do you wish you'd written and why?

Oh, so many! I come back to Wendy Cope’s The Orange over and over though. The simplicity, the joy, the life in it jumps off the page. I adore it. 

 

Which is your favourite poem from Home-Baked and why?

Oh, that’s a tough one - it depends on my mood. Today, it would be Fed as I’m feeling very grateful for all the cooking my husband does for us! 

 

Which poets influence your work?

There are so many poets I admire but my work is very different to theirs. Hollie McNish is a huge influence of mine though, and more recently Kate Baer too.

I think they’ve paved the way for writing about family life without it being seen as niche or somehow less "worthy". Historically, I think there’s been a kind of dismissal in the poetry world of writing about the domestic (especially for women), but hopefully that’s changing now.