Interview with Markie Burnhope, Part II

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Markie Burnhope studied at London School of Theology before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University. Markie’s debut short collection, The Snowboy, was recently published by Salt. I had the pleasure of interviewing Markie about poetry, disability, theology, and much more. Click here to read Part I of this interview.

The two poets mentioned in this collection — Wallace Stevens and Zbignew Herbert — are both poets of rich imagination and lyrical intensity. The former generally relates to more abstract thoughts and feelings, whereas the latter treats difficult personal topics such as the Nazi occupation of Poland. What do you see as the role of personally difficult subject matter in your own work? How does this inhibit or fuel your creative power?

That’s a fantastic observation, that thoughts and feelings / topics and issues paradox. I am interested in what happens when thoughts and feelings, beliefs and doctrines (which are abstract and elusive, however much we argue about it) bump into authentic, concrete experience; how faith or religion helps and hinders social change, and how the desire for change sometimes necessitate a revision of personal belief systems.

To take one hot potato for example, homosexuality and homophobia: there was a point when I decided, “Stuff all this in-fighting, I’m tired of being part of a religion which fails to recognise and offer love wherever it finds it. God doesn’t exclude, he welcomes.” I’ve always identified with the ways the LGBT community has been maligned in the Church, because a lot of disabled people experience the same thing; for me, it finds its crux in talk of ‘healing the sick’. A lot of people want to heal us, believing that God made us this way by accident, or that we’re the handiwork of Satan. Even in completely secular contexts, there are feelings of pity and the desire to see us fit a more able-bodied norm in order to be accepted. Inclusiveness and equality are essential values to my faith, and that finds its way into my poems.
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Interview with Markie Burnhope, Part I

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Markie Burnhope studied at London School of Theology before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University. Markie’s debut short collection, The Snowboy, was recently published by Salt. I had the pleasure of interviewing Markie about poetry, disability, theology, and much more.

How does theology inform your poetry, and vice-versa (if at all)?

It definitely does. But rather than speaking about theological subjects in abstract, theoretical terms, I try to ground them in my experience  —  as a disabled person in an admittedly broken religion, or more metaphorically, in imagined and fabricated settings where splinters of my life might be buried in the words, somewhere. One thing I’m interested in is how much biblical language doesn’t sit right in a contemporary disabled context: words like ‘sick’, and the well-meaning but ignorant obsession with physical healing. It means well, but it’s totally antithetical to how disabled people tend to see ourselves, as differently but definitely fully formed. (Isn’t everyone different? What is ‘normal’ anyway?)
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