Meet Tessa Foley – poetry judge for 2016

Which writers or poets inspire you and why?

Pablo Neruda is one of my all-time favourite poets; he was able to take seemingly ordinary words and phrasings and regenerate them in to something amazingly seductive yet fragile. His poetry seems to me to be a contradiction in itself – the Marilyn Monroe of verse!

tessa foleyI also have huge admiration for Jeanette Winterson who seems to have the gift of turning pain in to beauty. Her patent honesty hurts you as you read but ultimately becomes a comfort and this is definitely the sort of writing I dream of being renowned for myself.

Additionally, there are a few lyricists, people like Jarvis Cocker, PJ Harvey and Tom Waits who affected me deeply over twenty years ago and to this day continue to provoke ideas in my writing.

If you are a writer or poet, how did you get started?

I wrote stories and poems for my own entertainment from my young childhood on in to my late twenties at which point I finally took the plunge and went for a Master’s in Creative Writing at University of Portsmouth. My course leader Sam North was a great source of encouragement to me, being pretty much the first person, aside from my sister, to whom I had shown my writing. He published several of my short stories on the Hack Writers website and so I began to submit to some pieces elsewhere and to my utter delight, won the Live Canon Poetry Competition in 2013, judged by the enormous talent that is Glyn Maxwell.

What is your favourite piece of writing? Why did you choose this over everything else?

“Alone” by Edgar Allen Poe is something that I recite to myself if ever I am in need of comfort. It was a favourite poem of mine when I was a teenager and it has stayed with me ever since.

Where and when do you do most of your reading?

Mostly, under a cat. Usually with pins and needles. However, I do work in the faculty in which I previously studied and we have a lovely courtyard complete with deckchairs and wildflowers; a wonderful place to kick your shoes off, put your feet up and spend lunchtime in the sun reading.

What advice would you give your younger writing self?

Submit. Now. Someone out there will like what you do; it is just a question of finding them. It will make such a difference once that first person responds with positivity that you will find yourself writing more, discovering your true voice and becoming happy with your own work. That person will be holding out their hand for you to come aboard so all you have to do is send up the flare and share your work – magazines, competitions, poetry groups. Don’t be shy. Get out there and put it on show.

What emotion do you associate with good writing?

Blinding, heart wrenching sorrow. If a piece of writing can make me sob, make me dwell and mope on it for weeks on end and becomes a slight sting that remains with me, I think it’s done its job. For me, really good writing should break your heart a little.


You can also meet Tessa on her website: and on Twitter @unhelpable

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