This month I caught up with Aidan Baker to find out more about what drew him to 26, what inspires his writing, and what he’s working on at the moment.
Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and what do you do?
I was born and raised in Nottinghamshire. I read Modern Languages at Durham and Librarianship at University College London. I now live in Cambridge, having recently retired after 38 years working as a librarian.
Where did your love of words come from?
Inherited, probably. My father was a vicar who published several detective novels and scripted a number of site pageants. I started writing stories when I was six. My teen attempts at plays weren’t up to much, but Dad reckoned the verse bits were the best thing about them. So I’ve been writing verse since then, and it has a modest publication record.
What made you join 26? And how long have you been a member?
I joined in response to a tweet from Sandy Wilkie at the beginning of 2015, announcing his ‘Under a northern sky’ project. I liked the quirkiness of the method – pairing stations along a particular train journey with songs from an unrelated album, and writing work inspired by the pairings.
Have you been involved in any 26 projects?
Eight at the last count. They, and poetry competition deadlines, keep my creative juices running.
What’s your ideal scenario for writing? (A coffee shop? Quiet retreat? With or without music? What do you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind?)
Most of my work is small-scale enough to be drafted in a notebook, and I usually have one of those on me. So I’d be writing anywhere I can whip the notebook out. Having music on is a bonus. When I’m drawing on a specific inspiration from a specific piece, I am more respectful towards the music, I wouldn’t have music playing in the background then.
What are you working on at the moment?
My chapter and fragments in the Fine Cell Work anniversary volume; interviews with poets and archaeologists for the nascent East Anglia bylines; entries for animal-themed poetry competitions.
Could you tell us about a piece of writing you’re particularly proud of?
A short poem I wrote in 1987 called ‘Music by Arvo Pärt‘ comes closest to doing what I set out to do in terms of evoking the music – specifically, Pärt’s Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Music: in a number of poems I’ve sought to do as with the Pärt poem above – catch the rhythms, or my synaesthetic vision, of a particular piece.
Places: I made 15 posts on the Places of Poetry map. I don’t have as keen a sense of place as some, but I’m glad when I’ve succeeded in conjuring them up.
Stories: my wife (lecturer and freelance science journalist Clare Sansom) has noticed that I tend to favour poetry projects that have an element of research to them. A quirky, or maybe just salient, fact can send me searching for the other facts around it. I’m a lot less well-read than many librarians, so these searches often have me reading for the first time things that others have been familiar with for ages.
Competitions: themed competitions can often create a focus on the things just mentioned. I keep an eye and ear open for them.