Meet The Author - A Deep Dive with Paul Robert Mullen
Get To Know Paul Robert Mullen
Getting ready for the release of the new book disintegration, by the marvelous wordsmith Paul Robert Mullen, we decided to interview him and ask some of the questions readers are asking. We will also give you a glimpse as to what the public is saying about the words contained in this collection of poetry. Here we will delve into the inner workings of this talented mind and find out what makes this poet tick.
Throughout this post, you will have the opportunity to hear from the author himself in both words and voice. By following the links provided you can experience readings performed by Paul Robert Mullen and take a step into his personal world. You will also find a path to pre-release reviews and excerpts.
An Interview with Paul Robert Mullen
1) Did you set out to write a conceptual collection with a central theme?
Initially I just started to write, as most poets do, but very early on I realised that a central theme was emerging. Therefore, after maybe three or four poems I consciously started to craft a concept rather than writing randomly about various subjects. I see this collection as having a spinal cord - each poem a vertebrae with some sort of connection to the central theme, or for the sake of continuing the analogy, the brain. To answer the question, I didn’t consciously set out to write a conceptual collection - that was entirely subconscious.
2) What makes this collection stand out for you from your other works?
My previous three collections [curse this blue raincoat (2017), testimony (2018), 35 (2018)] were very different. I was travelling around the world a lot when I was writing them. I was never in one place for very long, and I was inhaling all sorts of colourful cultural explosions. With disintegration I was back in the UK pressing the reset button. A lot had happened in my life, and these poems were somewhat reflective, but grounded in one place. I think my writing has improved. I cut flesh from the bone with greater accuracy these days. The writing here is stark and direct. I’m starting to generate deeper responses with much less in this collection.
3) What was your inspiration for this collection? Was it personal, a break-up, figurative?
It’s an interesting debate amongst writers - is it possible to write from a perspective of no experience? The answer for me personally is no. That’s not to say it’s impossible, because I’m sure it is, it’s just that my personal experiences inform 99% of what I write. The subject matter in disintegration is definitely personal in part, though every writer has to incorporate some sort of figurative element. Is memory figurative? That’s another interesting debate. I don’t want to relate my own experiences too closely to the work. Once the reader has it, it’s all theirs to indulge in, relate to, analyse, ignore. Whatever it is that an individual does with those words is fine with me.
4) What do you hope your readers will get from this newest collection? What is the message you hope it portrays?
Again, as the author I don’t want to get too involved with the readers’ interpretations. There is one thing, however, that I’d actively encourage - the notion of change, transformation, moving on. It’s very easy to get bogged down with the idea that this is a ‘break-up’ collection, but for me it is much more than just that. To make a muscle stronger you have to tear it first, then wait for it to heal. That is certainly an analogy for life too, I think. I hope disintegration can communicate that in some metaphorical sense.
Listen to Paul read 'Some People Have No Poetry' from disintegration
5) How do you see yourself as an artist?
I work very, very hard at my poetry. I spend hours and hours on a daily basis crafting my poems. I haven’t ended up here by accident. I wasn’t a very good poet when I started out. I look back at stuff I wrote in my teens and early twenties and I can barely read it. I’m a writer that has needed years behind me to read widely, soak up the scene a little, go and travel, live in different cultures. I’ve needed to learn my craft through studying others, and by getting used to that almost impossible rule in poetry that there ARE NO RULES. I see myself as a very open-minded and versatile artist, but the thing of most importance to me is that I’ve become almost immune to negativity. I write because I love it - it is an innate part of my being. I accept that some might love it, and others hate it. At its most complex, poetry is enlightening. At its most basic, it is like eating pizza - it tastes good, or it tastes bad. Friends would probably see me as eccentric. For that, I’m thankful.
6) How do you describe yourself, your views, strengths, goals?
I’m quite a laid back guy. In my biography I describe myself as a ‘sociable loner’, which sums it up for me. I’m very happy in my own company, usually writing or reading or playing guitar or listening to records. I’m not materialistic. Just enough is more than enough. I don’t own a property, but I’ve spent fortunes on experience - travel, concerts, art. I’m a born creative, with very little common sense, and a slight allergy to conformity. I like cricket. I like Leonard Cohen. I like ice-cream. I like to swim in the ocean, take long walks with my boxer dog, sit down in coffee shops and watch the world unfold. I believe in love. I am very liberal, and find it hard to hate people, though I don’t tolerate shit from people either. I believe the world can only be a better place if we as individuals get our own ship in order first. I have a natural aversion to money. As the years have gone on I’ve noticed how money destroys people’s morals, creativity, lifeforce. In terms of goals, I hope I will live considerably longer, keep improving my writing, keep loving for the right reasons, continue to influence people in the right way. Oh, and I’d love to meet Paul McCartney…
7) Who are your inspirations?
In terms of poetry, I read very widely and therefore my influences are vast. I have always loved Charles Bukowski, despite all the negativity that surrounds him and his subject matter. As Leonard Cohen rightly said, Bukowski brought even “the angels down to earth.” Having mentioned Leonard, I love him too. What a wise, beautiful mind. I think Carol Ann Duffy is a very talented poet, as is the current poet laureate, Simon Armitage. Lee Harwood has been a major influence on my use of form and structure, and I really like Robert Sheppard too for that reason. Theresa Lola and Jo Bell are both Nine Arches Press poets, and their work is exceptional. I really like anything by that press - it is an ambition of mine to be published by them someday. Andrew McMillan is a brilliant, brave LGBTQ poet with a real gift for the provocative. My friend, Kate Evans, is a slick poet. I really like Animal Heart Press editor Elisabeth Horan’s work. She is no bullshit, ballsy, in-your-face, courageous. Ginsberg was good in stages. Billy Collins has that adorable calm running through his work. There’s a kid called Coozer The Loser from Liverpool who writes super impressive, thoughtful, contemporary stuff. The #WritingCommunity on Twitter has revealed some great indie voices to me - Stuart Buck, David Hanlon, Justin Karcher, Mari Ellis Dunning, Kate LeDew, Ankh Spice. Then there is Wallace Stevens, Maya Angelou, Roy Fisher, John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, Wendy Cope. I even liked some of Rupi Kaur’s stuff before it became contrived. I could keep you here forever. I’ve probably missed many.
8) You are also a musician. Do you write your own songs? Are poetry and music similar for you, or are they separate arts?
I do write songs, although nowhere near as prolifically as poetry. I have to be around that crowd to be inspired. I play a lot of live music, and I play my own music within those sets. I released two albums as part of duo Little Wing (with Adrian Gautrey): Alchemy In The Garden (2009) and Past Midnight’s Hold (2012). I have a solo EP as a work in progress this year too. I like to create, whatever the artform, though poetry and music are completely different for me. Music has so many more considerations - rhyme, rhythm, repetition, melody. Poetry is literally as free as a bird.
Paul Robert Mullen is full of creative genius which allows him to stitch rhythm together in word and song. His new book “disintegration” includes poems like “headlines” and “days” which speak the words we all think but most of us don’t know how to articulate in the masterful way Mullen does.
Now that you know a bit about this wordsmith and his creative process, make sure you grab his new book ‘disintegration’ that is set to release June 4, 2020. We here at Animal Heart Press hope you have enjoyed getting to know Paul Robert Mullen as much as we have and we look forward to seeing all of your reviews of this fabulous book in the future.
Don’t just take our word for how good this book is. Here is what the readers are saying about this new gem:
“This collection plays on the connection between a break-up and disintegration; what was us is now blasted into shards of I, you and no-longer-we. The construction of the lines and absence of punctuation echo the crumbling of the relationship. And with the non-chronological nature of the poems, time itself dissolves. But all is not collapse; there is cohesion here in the arrangement of the poems into a powerful collection. And, as is true of his other work, Mullen’s speaker finds poetry itself to be salve, not necessarily because it’s cathartic, but because poetry is life.”
Kate Evans – Award winning poet and memoirist,
author of Target and Call It Wonder: an odyssey of love, sex, spirit and travel
“Paul Robert Mullen’s disintegration explores the pain of separation, the regret, the longing; the way a relationship breakdown can shake the very foundations of one’s self. These poems ache on the precipice of holding on / letting go. They are economical, terse in form, mirroring the instant, hammer-to-the-heart pain a break-up causes. Mullen’s sentences are broken, and words of lament are left suspended – as alone as the feelings they convey. disintegration is a collection to behold – engrossing because Mullen creates a language for pain and sorrow that is uniquely his own: “the rust upon my heart strings / in A minor.””
David Hanlon – British poet, author of Spectrum of Flight
“At the heart of disintegration is the notion of change, a fitting theme for our chaotic times. Poet Paul Robert Mullen explores deeply personal separations in order to find a true sense of self, explore the importance of memory and reflection, and find peace in settling for something new. His style is fractured, like the narratives running throughout, offering more implications than definitions. The language is curt, raw, frank; though confessions are not without hope: “fix it so it'll never break / you whisper.” It's a moving disclosure that is mesmerising throughout.”
Cathleen Miller – international bestselling American author of Desert Flower
and Champion Of Choice
“The key to this book is the poem ‘some people have no poetry’, its title quoting the riposte of Bossa Nova genius João Gilberto to his psychiatrist, as he was counselled away from his fancy of the wind ‘brushing the hair of the trees’. This poem defines poetry as imaginative outwardness, while its lack engenders polished self-regard. These deft, sparse poems, like winter trees, stand stark against what might be sunrise or sunset, but offer an assured quiet voice, in a variety of moods, not all elegiac. Their artifice is worn lightly, in line-break and lineation, in apposite image: you can feel
those ‘spider-web-december snowflakes’. Similes surprise, with what could be an embrace or menace: ‘words/climbing on me/like fingers over the shoulder’. They counsel their readers into people who ‘have poetry’.”
Robert Sheppard – British poet and critic,
author of Twentieth Century Blues
“Paul Robert Mullen's disintegration is itself “a thickening of senses,” pointing our attention to rust smell, objects that fizzle and sizzle, and light in many forms: candles, gold, sun, and headlights piercing through “rains and hauntings.” Sensory images, including “burying pennies” and “the slow melt of butterflies,” ground abstract inquiries that continue to haunt creative types—why depth of feeling seems to set one apart, and whether one is living to write or writing to live. In my favorite poem, “after school,” the speaker asks why a friend entrusted him with a story about UFOs. Like the friend in the poem, Mullen knows his audience will follow where he leads: “it's because you believed me.””
Sarah Lyn Rogers – American poet, Editorial Director for Society of Young Inklings
and author of Inevitable What
“disintegration both lets the world in and keeps it at a distance. Mullen's lens puts relationships, landscapes, current events, and even the past at arm’s length, letting the reader graze his poems with the tips of their fingers. The tactile nature of the images in this book tells a story of deep knowing, expectation, and even maybe a tinge of regret. In the opening lines of the book, the reader is told to 'wait', but then immediately is satiated. That satisfaction carries through the rest of the poems in a journey of discovery.”
Sage Danielle Curtis – American poet,
author of Trashcan Funeral
“In disintegration, Paul Robert Mullen's poems paint beautiful and devastating portraits of heartbreak and holding. These small, but illuminated poems are powerful examples of craft and intent; the space created, a landscape of memory- shared.”
Alexus Erin, American poet,
author of St. John’s Wort and Two Birds, All Moon