“There is a sense of finality in changing location”: Poet Ben Fagan

Ben Fagan. Credit Tyrone Lewis
                                                       Ben Fagan: Credit Tyrone Lewis

London based New Zealander Ben Fagan has an impressive legacy of performances and productions, including two fringe shows and and publications. He brings us his new collection Some Traveller, published through Burning Eye’s B3 Imprint. Ciarán Hodgers chatted to him ahead of his tour.

Hello Ben, tell us a little more about the catalyst behind the collection?

Hi Ciarán, About a year ago I picked up a book of New Zealand quotes and for the first time realised there was a rich colloquial history between the UK and NZ. Obviously I knew the grand history, colonisation, shared language and the Queen, but I was struck by the all the little personal stories. This collection of quips about disappointing biscuits and cultural faux pas got me laughing, and thinking I would have benefitted from some of these stories when I first arrived. ‘Some Traveller’ was mostly written during the month of my two year anniversary in the UK.

The blurb interestingly says the last thing a traveller might need is advice – so what might people who travel get from reading this book?

Haha it says the last thing traveller’s need is MORE advice. Many travellers are well versed on safety tips and where to eat, but are bereft of anecdotes to help them through feelings of homesickness, grief and changing perspective. I think poetry is perfectly suited to help.

Appropriately enough I’m writing to you from an airport, and I recognise a romantic sensibility in me whenever I travel – what is it about travelling that does it for you?

There is a sense of finality in changing location. Especially moving somewhere for a significant amount of time, it draws a line in the sand. Everything either happens before or after that moment.

What’s been the most interesting experience you’ve had while travelling and indeed, where have you been travelling?

I’ve been lucky enough to explore a few corners of the globe, but significantly less than your standard travel blog. Most interesting to me is the mundanity of human life. People have the same concerns in the Tesco bread aisle as in the shadows of the pyramids.

It’s clear the sense of bringing where you’ve been with you is important. How has your perception of the places you’ve come from changed from your travels, and indeed how has your history influenced your travels?

A good question! I remember when two storied buildings were such a novelty, coming from the small seaside town I grew up in. The longer I am away from home, the more aware I am of my ancestors who travelled before me, and of the parts of my culture which are distinctly kiwi. The places I spent my early life seem more simple, more relaxed, and more appealing with each rent payment.

It seems a book tour is the most appropriate thing you can do to launch this book – talk to me a little about that. Where are you going? Who’ll be joining you?

This tour is taking me to Manchester, London, Cambridge, Birmingham, Bath and Edinburgh, in that order. I’ll be joined by excellent poets in each city, most of whom I have yet to meet.

How has this inner creative journey of collecting and publishing this work been?

Circuitous. Patterns keep emerging in my creative journey. Each new project feels like translating another little part of the story. This book is the next chapter, and hopefully will give some comfort to anyone dealing with distance.

Finally – if you could travel anywhere – where would you go and why

Anywhere? Yes please. There’s so much to see.