Hi Salena, can you tell us about your latest work(s)?
Latest books: OK, my latest poetry collection is ‘Pessimism is for Lightweights – 13 pieces of Courage and Resistance.’ It was published by Rough Trade Books. The title poem has become quite an anthem for me to perform at festivals and protests. The title poem became a public art display at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol for eighteen months.
It was displayed on the waters edge, right there where they toppled the statue for the slave trader Colston. The poem ‘Pessimism is for Lightweights’ is now on permanent display at The Peoples History Museum in Manchester.
My new work and debut fiction ‘Mrs Death Misses Death’ will be published by Canongate in January 2021. In this novel I have personified Death as a Black woman and shape shifter. This book highlights the seemingly expendable lives and deaths of Black and working class people throughout history, most significantly the lives of women. The other lead character in the book is Wolf Willeford, a troubled writer, who meets Mrs Death and becomes enthralled by her stories. Wolf becomes Death’s scribe and tries to write her memoirs. The two reflect on questions of class, race and gender and loss. At the heart of this book is their bond, although Death is in the title and content, this book is a rallying cry and reaffirmation of hope, resilience and love. It was a great adventure to research and write this book and I cannot wait to share it.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I don’t feel like I decided, I just know I haven’t ever wanted to do anything else. I was 19 when I started writing and performing and getting things published but had to wait until my 40’s to get my first book published. Both the poetry collection ‘Fishing in the Aftermath’ and my literary childhood memoir ‘Springfield Road’ were published in 2014. It was exciting but also like buses, two coming at once, after a long time waiting, and decades of highs and lows, rejections and failures and lots of picking myself up to try, try, try again.
I love writing and books. I love making records and radio. I just had to figure out a way to make what I love be what I do for a job. I was prepared to starve for it, Dorothy, I thought that’s what being a good writer was about, as a young woman I believed in the starving writer cliche. I learned to write poetry, prose, songs and lyrics, essays, plays, and have enjoyed making all kinds of collaborations and experimental work, I am still learning, always growing, it’s what I have always done with my time here on earth and I guess now I am hurtling towards 50 there is no turning back now.
What’s the best bit about being a writer?
Hmmm… that’s a tricky question. I love being in a space of invention and creation. I love being dislocated from the here and now and in a world of dreams and wonder. There is a place where only you can take yourself, and a story only you can tell, it’s hard to get there, but pure magic when you do find it.
Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
Nope! Top secret!
OK, here are the questions everyone needs to know the answers to: Chocolate Hobnob or Lemon Drizzle cake?
Absolutely lemon drizzle cake. In lockdown I have perfected a version and I love it. Sweet and sour and cake and yum!
Jollof or plantain?
Both. I love them both, now I am hungry, thanks. Haha!
Trainers or Flip-flops?
White converse all-stars
Tucking your shirt in or leaving it out?
Depends. I love wearing ties so I’d button it up and tuck it in with a tie but leave it loose without.
What’s your best celeb spot?
Ha! I really don’t have one of those, do you?
Thanks, Salena, where can we find out more about you?
I kept my Waiting For Godden blog going for well over a decade. It is a map or record of my writing and performing adventures and I still keep it up to date and keep it free to subscribe: www.salenagodden.co.uk
Where can we buy your work?
Mrs Death Misses Death published by Canongate January 2021 available to pre-order from your local indie bookshops, plus Waterstones, Amazon, etcetera.
Mrs Death Misses Death on Amazon.
Mrs Death Misses Death from Waterstones.
Poetry: Pessimism is for Lightweights is out now with Rough Trade Books: www.roughtradebooks.com
Books and collections
Mrs Death Misses Death (Canongate, 2021)
Pessimism is for Lightweights – 13 Pieces of Courage and Resistance (Rough Trade Books, 2018)
LIVEwire: Nymphs and Thugs, CD and print 2016 + double vinyl LP 2017
Springfield Road: childhood memoir (Unbound, 2014)
Fishing in the Aftermath: Poems 1994-2014 (Burning Eye Books, 2014)
Under The Pier (Nasty Little Press, 2011)
Mrs Death Misses Death is on sale January 2021, but you can pre-order now.