C.M.P. Who is Ian Lewis Copestick?
I.L.C. Me, I am the youngest of 3 children, the only boy born to working-class parents in Stoke on Trent, England. After leaving school at 16, I had a few short term jobs until at 18 I went into my dad’s trade ( like a lot of working-class kids do ) and became an engineer.
I did this for 10 years before I got sacked because of my drug problem. First I got busted scoring heroin on my lunch break, then 3 months later my girlfriend died of an overdose. This landed me in the local newspaper and I was fired for bringing bad publicity to the company.
At this point, I had a bit of a breakdown. After that, I had loads of short term jobs, the longest being in a cardboard box factory for 5 years. I was made redundant in ’05 and in ’06 I had a major stroke. After a few weeks in the hospital, I had a lot of physiotherapy to learn how to talk and walk again. Since then I’ve had a couple of jobs, but really, my health isn’t up to it. I feel fine but I am still quite weak on my left side.
So that’s the whole sad story.
Oh, I forgot about a really important thing, in 2003 I met Karen and we’ve been together ever since. We aren’t really married, but I call her my wife after 16 years together.
C.M.P. Well, my friend, sometimes hardships make the best writers. Did publishing your first book change your process of writing in any way?
C.M.P. “A Bad Day” and “Dying On His Knees ( Howling Like A Dog )” are my two favorite poems from this collection. Where did the inspiration for those two writes come from?
I.L.C. “A Bad Day” was written on a bad day, I had been in a huge argument with Karen and I was pissed off and depressed.
When I read it a few hours after I’d finished writing it, I thought it was a bit too much, that’s when I added the coda about the McDonald’s staff.
“Dying on His Knees” was a surrealist, stream of consciousness thing that I wrote after waking up at 5:47 am, half on, half off the bed. Still drunk from the night before, with “Stones In My Passway“ by the awesome bluesman Robert Johnson running through my head. I’d had a nightmare about seeing a young girl being raped in broken glass and all of these weird influences came together and I just wrote out whatever was passing through my brain.
It turned out pretty well, maybe I’ll try writing that way again.
C.M.P. Interesting, Robert Johnson has been the inspiration behind some of my writing as well. Is your poetry mostly the result of personal experience, inspired by the world around you, or is it a mixture of both?
I.L.C. Both really, and anything can inspire me.
I wrote a poem about doing an armed robbery on a post office, I’ve never done it, or seen it in the world around me. The idea just popped into my head from God knows where and I thought it would be fun to write about. It was.
C.M.P. I think all writers have written at least one piece of dark personal fantasy, I know I’ve written my share. Have any specific book(s)/author(s) have influenced your life and writing?
I.L.C. I think that the first time I was absolutely blown away by literature was reading Henry Miller’s Tropic Of Cancer and Tropic Of Capricorn books.
They broke all of the rules of storytelling, but I couldn’t put them down.
The next time I was that affected by a book was Factotum by Charles Bukowski, at the time I was working loads of really terrible jobs, a couple of weeks here, a month there, and in my spare time, I was drinking as much as I possibly could. It felt like he could have been writing about me.
C.M.P. Charles Bukowski is a personal favorite of mine, I can relate. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I.L.C. I don’t know who it was who said that you aren’t a writer all of the time, but you have to become one every time you sit down to write, but I agree with it. The hardest part for me is getting myself into the headspace where I think that anyone would be interested in what I have to say.
When you are brought up in the school system as working-class, you are taught that you are nothing special and you never will be.
This is something that I have to fight against every time I face a blank page.
C.M.P. Well, it’s a fight worth fighting, and I believe people are interested. I definitely enjoy your work. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I.L.C. I can’t think of a specific time when I realized the power of words, I just know that as far back as I can remember I’ve always loved reading.
My mum has always said that even when I was a really young child, if she wanted me to behave, she would give me a book to read and that was it. I’d be engrossed until I’d finished it.
C.M.P. I was the same way, always loved to read. How long have you been writing, and what sparked your initial love of poetry?
I.L.C. I started writing poetry aged 29, or so, but for 15 years before that, I had been playing guitar and writing my own songs.
I suppose that’s where I first found out what words could do, and the fun you could have playing with words.
I loved ( and still do ), great songwriters like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed.
I loved to compare their styles, Dylan spinning words together endlessly with his 10 minute long songs filled with exotic imagery, Reed would tell a story in as few words as possible, a really economic, spare sparse style.
I loved them both, I think maybe that’s why I write both rhyming and non-rhyming poems. I love different styles of writing and don’t want to be tied down to just one.
C.M.P. Music is poetry put to melody, and Dylan & Reed are indeed two of the greats. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
I.L.C. Yes, I always feel on dodgy ground talking about spirituality, I don’t know what I believe in.
It changes from minute to minute, never mind day to day. Having said that, when I write I feel in touch with something other than myself, I don’t know what it is, or even if it’s there, but I feel it.
C.M.P. I understand that sentiment 100%. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I.L.C. It energises me, if I’ve just written something that I think is particularly good it takes me a few hours to come down from the high.
C.M.P. Nice, I feel the same way. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I.L.C. I read all of the time, almost every genre; crime, thrillers, mystery, horror and of course poetry.
Some of my favourite writers are:
Philip Larkin ( the poetry, not the novels )
Of course, there are thousands more, these are just off the top of my head.
I also love music, I like nearly all styles, as long as it has a certain spirit or attitude. I love music:
From folk to funk.
From blues to breakbeats.
From Lead Belly to Led Zeppelin.
From Woody Guthrie to the Wu-Tang Clan.
Well, you get the picture.
I used to love playing guitar, but since I had the stroke it’s frustrating, I can’t play like I used to.
C.M.P. I see some of my favorites on those lists! Tell me, is there a second book in the works?
I.L.C. I haven’t consciously thought about another book yet, but I am constantly writing.
I must write at least 3 poems a week, although having said that, there have been periods in the past when I haven’t written a word for months.
The longest has been 6 months without a single idea, then I don’t know what happens, maybe the planets align properly, or my hormones balance out right, whatever the blockage is over and I will write 5 poems in one day. Then everything is back to normal and I’m back to 3 poems a week.
C.M.P. I believe we all hit a wall now and then as writers. You can’t force the words, they will flow when they’re ready to flow. Well, Ian, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions and letting us get to know you better and what drives you as a writer. Is there anything else you’d like to add, or anyone that you’d like to mention?
I.L.C. I think that I have said enough for now.
This has been my first interview, I have enjoyed it, but I think that I have said enough.
C.M.P. Excellent, this is my first time as the interviewer instead of the interviewee, thank you again for letting me pick your brain a little.
Ian Lewis Copestick is a 46-year-old writer from Stoke on Trent England.
Although he started writing poetry in 2001, he only started sending them out for publication 8 months ago. In this time he has had over 100 poems and 5 short stories published. He is featured in print anthologies by Alien Buddha Press and Horror Sleaze Trash.