Observations and directions: Ange Chan’s world of poetry

In 2012, after twenty-six years as a professional in the city, Ange Chan left the rat race to focus on her writing career full-time. Ange Chan already has a poetry trilogy to her name – ‘Observations’, ‘Perceptions’ and ‘Directions’ – and her first novel,’ Two Degrees of Separation’, and has just this month launched her latest collection, ‘Fame: What’s Your Name?’

A working poet and short story writer, Ange has a lyrical, accessible, energetic and unpretentious style of writing. Her work inspired by her own experiences but with a universal touch, reflecting on life, love, loss, family, travel, the power of pop music and much more.

It’s the power of pop music that directly informs her new book, ‘Fame; What’s Your Name?’. It is a tribute to the musical influences that have soundtracked her life, from Bowie and Bolan to Amy Winehouse, and how their legacies live on in the new millennium.

With a second novel currently in progress, I spoke to Ange to learn more about her inspirations, her craft, and what it takes to establish yourself as a writer in the brave new world of self-publishing and social media. Here’s what she had to say.

Tell us something about your background…
I’ve always loved writing, from a young age. I won a writing competition in junior school which sealed my fate. From the age of sixteen I contributed writing to a lot of diverse forums, mostly regarding my love of music. My parents never wrote creatively. My mother has an artistic talent but my father was an academic. My youngest brother wrote poetry for himself but we only found out to what extent after he passed away.

What were your first steps towards writing poetry?
I started writing poetry, actually physically writing it down, around 2010. My first novel had been rejected by a number of literary agents and after shelving that project I needed to get my creative juices flowing again. I’ve always written poetry in my head, but it was rarely written on paper before that time.

How long did it take to put together your three collections – Observations, Perceptions and Directions?
‘Observations’ was the culmination of my written down poetry once I’d started in 2010. I’d written a few random poems, one inspired by a Marc Almond show I went to at Wilton Music Hall, which I later gave to Marc in 2009. When he next saw me he told me he thought it was “brilliant” and said I had a real talent. This was obviously very encouraging and spurred me on to write more poetry. I decided to have a go at getting self-published in 2014 after procrastinating about it for about a year. I’d previously contributed to a couple of volumes by a photographer friend of mine who wanted some poetry to go alongside his photographs. His books ‘Winter Dreams’ and ‘Winter Dreams 2 ‘ were well received, especially my poetry. On that back of that, I was also asked my MoGeo Photography to under a series of twelve photo-poetry pieces. Perceptions followed approximately nine months later and Directions came a further nine months after that in 2015.

How would you describe your style?
I feel my work is very accessible and contemporary. I often write about things which are happening “in the now” reflecting a general mood, but conversely also write about universal themes which many people can relate to.

How critical are you when editing and compiling your own work; did the themes behind each collection evolve organically?
‘Observations’ was just a mish-mash of a number of themes so I wanted ensuing collections to be slightly more structured around a framework of ideas. ‘Perceptions’ in particular has more structured themes and my latest collection ‘Fame; What’s Your Name?’ is just about the theme of art and musical influences. I’m extremely self-critical and always have crushing doubts, which most writers do, but positive feedback from readers and fans is always encouraging. When someone tells me that my work has really resonated with them, it makes it all worthwhile.

A lot of your poems are written from the perspective of life and womanhood at various ages – looking back, moving on, past and present relationships of various kinds.
As a modern woman, I feel it’s very important to get those ideas on paper to encourage other women. Several of my friends have daughters of varying ages, and I want them to be able to read my poetry, as a female, and understand that although life can be complicated as a woman, it’s ultimately all good. I was asked to contribute a couple of poems to Watford Women’s Centre for International Women’s Day on 8th March, and it’s great that my poetry can inspire other women.

There is a section in one of your collections about different cities you have visited, mental snapshots of your travels. Is travel very important to you?
‘Perceptions’ contains poetry concerning some of my favourite cities; this was part of my intention of offering more structured themes in my poetry. I plan to write more travel-inspired poetry in the future, and maybe make a collection out of these collective works.

Some of your poems on love and loss are very personal, such as The Child Inside. Did you find it very therapeutic, and have you had a response from any of your readers on how your work has touched them?

I found that poem in particular extremely cathartic and it’s provoked a lot of reaction from women who have been through the same experience.

I received a lengthy message from someone in America who found my poem Tomorrow (from ‘Observations’) very touching, and there’s a lady in her 70s who reads my poetry to her elderly mother in her 90s. They enjoy it together as the pieces are short enough to engage their interest, which they just can’t get from anything longer.

Pop music is obviously very important to you. Your latest collection, ‘Fame; What’s Your Name?’ is inspired by music and musical influences. Have pop lyrics been an influence on your writing style, as it has a snappy, approachable, conversational style not unlike pop lyrics?
I’m extremely inspired by pop music, in a number of genres. One of my recent poems, Silverlight, actually influenced the band Analog Angel to turn it into a song, and it’s being released on their album ‘FourFront’ in April. The opening lines of that poem, I later discovered, are the opening lines of a poem by Hemingway, which was also been used by Leonard Cohen – none of which I knew when I wrote the original poem!

You’re very proactive on social media promoting your poetry, and all your collections are self-published. What do you think are the advantages of this multimedia market we live in, in terms of getting your work out there?
I was extremely reticent in self-promoting in the early days but as an independent author it’s a barrier that needed to be overcome pretty sharpish. There is no publishing house to hold your hand and market your wares; it all has to come from you, which is why it’s so very much appreciated that friends sharing my posts or tweets to a wider audience is very gratefully received. Also having published on Amazon and KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) has been a positive, as I have a worldwide outlet for my books.

What are your other interests outside poetry?
I’m an avid reader, particularly enjoying autobiographies and contemporary fiction. I’m currently reading Vivienne Westwood’s autobiography. As you mentioned earlier I’m a huge fan of music and enjoy attending gigs. I used to be a band manager/promoter and have organised quite a few successful events in my time! I’m also an accomplished home cook and enjoy preparing new dishes for my family. When I have time to watch TV, it’s usually a cookery show I’m tuned into.

Networking is obviously very important in this day and age as a creator. In what way has your poetry career enhanced or broadened your social network?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited to perform some of my poems throughout literary events in London, most notably on National Poetry Day in conjunction with Covent Garden TFL Tube station/The Poetry Society. Those guys have been extremely supportive and complimentary of my work to the extent that I’ve been broadcast on their station Tannoy and participated in poetry events at Covent Garden.

Last May you published your first novel, ‘Two Degrees Of Separation’, and your second book, ‘Baby, Can You Hear Me?’ is due out later this year.
‘Two Degrees of Separation’ was born in 2007 out of an idea when three friends of mine found out they actually knew each other, although I knew them from separate areas of my life. I started thinking about how people are usually closely connected even though they may not realise it.

I finished writing the story three years later after several stops and starts and sent it to ten literary agents who, one by one, sent my manuscript back. I shelved the project and years later decided that 2015 was going to be the year I saw it published. I was offered a publishing contract from a small publishing house in Essex but, reading the contract, realised it wasn’t the right thing for me to do. It was the impetus I needed to be brave and self-publish.

‘Baby, Can You Hear Me?’ is a different story altogether which was inspired by the birth of my son, who has hearing loss.

Do you think poetry is underrated here and now?
Poetry seems to be ‘a thing’ these days, which is very encouraging. There are a number of poetry events each month in any given city in the UK which allows anyone to have a go. In terms of it being under-rated, I don’t think it is. Poetry seems to be more appreciated these days than it ever was when I was growing up.

Are there any modern poets who inspire you?
I really enjoy the works of modern poets Sophia Blackwell, Gerry Potter, Dean Atta and Jeremy Reed, but am similarly inspired by the poetry of Lewis Carroll, William Blake and Oscar Wilde. In terms of inspiration, I try to find my own style and develop my own identity through verse. Inspiration comes in many forms.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in experimenting with poetry?
Write whatever comes naturally and is in your heart and soul. Poetry takes many forms these days; it can rhyme, or it can not. It can look like a story but feel like a poem through its delivery. There are rules, but similarly there are no rules. Just go for it!

Ange’s work can be found on Amazon in eBook and paperback formats. You can catch up with Ange on her website vodkaangel22.wix.com/vodkaangel22, you can follow her on Twitter @angechanwriter and like her Facebook page “Ange Chan Writer

Author bio: James Gent has contributed to several acclaimed publications devoted to cult and popular television including 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die, You & Who: Contact Has Been Made and Blake’s Heaven: Maximum Fan Power. In 2014, he wrote the biography for the official Monty Python website.  

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