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Summer School Mini-Interview Chain: Rishi Dastidar interviews Rachel Long

In this third instalment of our Summer School Mini-Interview Chain, Rishi Dastidar ‘interviews’ Rachel Long, tutor of our upcoming course, The Berlin Lens. Rishi did not know who he was interviewing, and Rachel didn’t know who she was being interviewed by!

Rishi: What’s the book you re-read or re-visit the most?

Rachel: Ten: The New Wave The Complete Works II edt. by Karen McCarthy Woolf (Bloodaxe Books, 2014).

This is perhaps my favourite anthology. My copy is double the size due to pretty much every page being folded down.

Born out of a vital initiative to promote, nurture and publish ten of the leading Black and Asian voices of our generation, poets include Warsan Shire, Mona Arshi, Sarah Howe, Edward Doegar, Kayo Chingonyi and Jay Barnard. This anthology redefined and continues to redefine what poetry is to me. It is also my go-to for poems for workshop facilitation. Shire’s ‘The House‘ never fails to challenge students to revise what a poem can be and do, who they are and how they feel in their own bodies. Arshi’s ‘Phone Call on a Train Journey‘ is perfect for teaching specificity, a masterclass in dissecting feelings of epic proportions by taking the smallest dominator (in it, the smallest bone in the ear) to explore grief. I cannot recommend it enough.

Rishi: What’s the city where you feel most you? And why?

Rachel: London. It was where I was born, where I grew up, where I made my most mistakes, where I learnt and continue to learn the most. It’s a headache, it is far from utopia, I have been – along with many artists and writers – priced out but it’s where my work is, where the most poetry happens for me, where I can buy callaloo and hair products and not be looked at in the supermarket as though I’ve just asked whether I can kill a small animal in the aisle.

Rishi: On a scone, jam first or clotted cream?

Rachel: I’ll be honest, scones to me were always ‘Dad food’ that I’d overlook in the bread bin even if I came home drunk and ravenous. It wasn’t until an Arvon course at Totleigh Barton in Devon where cream tea was served upon arrival and I thought, ‘Oh no, that’s a bit sickly, I don’t want cream in my tea!’ that I discovered, of course, that cream would not be poured against my will into my tea and that scones were actually tasty. But as to jam first or clotted cream, I’m not sure, my scone education is still in its early stages so I’ll guess jam first, so that the clotted cream can have a bed to stick to.

Is that correct? Have I just committed some scone scandal?

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