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she and the creative thing #4

Alice Tarbuck – Poet, Academic, Writer and Literature Professional (photo by Jamie Drew)

“…in terms of helpful mantras, probably just the idea that I might one day create something as beautiful and resonant as a summer morning or stained glass, or something that people like. ”

How do you describe your work?

I’m a poet and non-fiction writer. As a poet, I tend to write what might be called experimental poetry, which tries to attend to language as a medium as well as a message-carrier. My work looks at the seams where oddities converge – strange happenings, moments of realisation, the tiny grains of life and language that rub.

Who/What inspires your work?

Lots of diverse things inspire my work – the legacies of queer women, the sea, the natural world, modes of speech which interest me – I have recently completed a series of poems about classical means of augury, or fortune telling. My ears are always open, I think!

What is most important to you, in your work?

The communication of experience in the form most appropriate to it, I think.

What elements of your personality make you good at what you do?

Oh heavens! Who knows! I enjoy playing language games, I enjoy looking, I feel always oddly apart, and I suppose I’m an optimist, which helps with submitting to journals!

Do you experience self-doubt in your work? What happens?

Constantly! Poetry is a curious, odd, lonely little space. Self-doubt is constant, and the stakes are often very low, anyway. But I am lucky to have lots of lovely poetry friends, with whom to have existential crises.

What are you particularly proud of?

Winning a 2019 New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust in Edinburgh.

How are your family and friendships connected to your work?

Intimately, I suppose, by virtue of creating the experiences and life that I have – although none of my family are poets – my father is a lighting designer, and so has a very sharp aesthetic sense which I love getting to witness.

What are your joys and heartaches?

Our planet causes most of both – its magic and it’s awful, man-made demise. Love in its complexities, the future, which is so vast and strange. Leaving cups of tea to go cold, my inability to get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Do you have a personal mantra?

‘Oh, for heaven’s sake, Alice’, gets muttered a lot. I suppose in terms of helpful mantras, probably just the idea that I might one day create something as beautiful and resonant as a summer morning or stained glass, or something that people like.

How do you know when a project is finished?

Once it is in print! Before then, anything remains possible.

How do you juggle work, life, people and creative inspiration?

Clumsily, but with great hope.

Alice Tarbuck is a 2019 Scottish Book Trust New Writers Awardee for poetry, and is currently completing her first non-fiction work, on landscape and the occult. Her first poetry pamphlet, Grid, was published by Sad Press in 2018.  She has appeared at StAnza, Belfast Literary Festival, Literary Dundee, and the Scottish PEN International Women’s Day Symposium, amongst others.  Her work has been published by 404 Ink, 3ofCups Press, PN Review, Antiphon, Zarf and many others.

As an editor, Alice has worked for HarperCollins, and edited books and copy published by Palgrave, IB Tauris, OModernt and others. She specialises in manuscript assessments and edit fiction, non-fiction and poetry.  As a workshop leader, she’s run creative writing workshops for organisations including Open Book, The University of Dundee, Glasgow Women’s Library and Write Like a Grrl.

Alice is also a literary chair, and has chaired events for The University of Edinburgh, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Golden Hare Books, Lighthouse Books and others.

Learn more about Alice’s work and read her poetry at or follow her on Twitter.

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