Josie Gray talks to poet and author Sime Naylor
Sime Naylor is well known around town as the front man of Merlin’s Keep, as a poet and as a bare kneed the postie with a social conscious. He’s had a busy autumn, producing two new children’s books in the popular Earthwood Series and a also a new volume of poetry, The Waymark. I caught up with him after his daily round to delve further into the wonderful world of the Earthwood stories, for which Simon writes the stories and his friend and illustrator Tim Michael provides the drawings and I started by asking how they came to collaborate.
‘Tim and I met about 5 years ago when we were both at a local festival. I was aware of Tim’s cartoons and he was aware of my music and we got chatting. When I saw some of his new characters, Red the Squirrel in particular, I thought of some stories I had written for my kids years before.’
So Earthwood was born and the pair set about creating a series of stories set in a magical woodland.
‘I’ve always loved the outdoors, especially woodland. The woods and trees have a real pull, something ancient, something hidden and magical, but at the same time something familiar and comforting,’ explained Simon when I asked him to tell me why he had chosen a woodland setting for his world.
‘Woodland has been the friend of the human race since time immemorial, providing food, fuel and shelter, but also creating legend and myth. I guess I wanted to tap into that somehow, and hopefully bring some of the wonder of the woodland to children.’
The books tell the stories and adventures of animals, trees and the environment but they also have a more human dimension.
‘Essentially they’re stories about friendship, about working together, and working with the world around us rather than exploiting it.’
The two new volumes in the series continue these themes. The Scarecrow And The Crow’s Nest deals with fear and looks at how everyone, even if they seem strange, has something positive to offer. Belinda And The Bee’s Nest takes a gentle look at greed and desire and at how we only need take a little of what the world has to offer.
We soon got to talking about poetry, Simon’s love of nature and how he tries to capture that in his verse. The new work is a further exploration of landscape and follows on from his previous two collections.
‘This time I wanted to catch a particular moment in time, with all the associated sensations. Poetry is a very solitary thing for me, a way of distilling and discussing the emotion and inspiration that comes from walking the Lincolnshire Wolds, a landscape that I feel very rooted to.’
Simon explained that he sees his song and story writing as a direct way of connecting with an audience whereas for him poetry is more personal.
‘I reflect upon and record the living landscape that is such a source of imaginative inspiration and spiritual sustenance for me. It’s no surprise therefore, that I admire nature poets. Wordsworth is an obvious inspiration, as is the poetry (rather than prose) of Thomas Hardy.’
Simon finds that the work of other poets inspires him to keep writing and to look to improve all the time. He is never unprepared for inspiration to strike him.
‘I carry a notebook when walking, and sometimes a whole poem or song will flood out. Sometimes it’s only a line and it’ll sit and gestate in that book until the time is right. I do tend to write very quickly, I have this need to get the thing finished pretty much straight away – then I tend to leave it alone and come back and chip away until if finds a form I’m happy with.’
Simon’s books are available from Waterstones and Amazon or directly from the author at Moonfruit Books 36 Manor Ave DN32 0QR.
Poetry £3, Earthwood £3.50
This interview also appears in The Peoples Issue 30