Adam White: From turning wood to turns of phrase
After a dip in work, carpenter Adam White discovered his gift for poetry – and now his first collection is up for a major prize
“After a while, they said that if I ever had enough poems for a collection, they’d be interested in publishing it. I didn’t have to go looking for a publisher. I was very lucky that things fell into place.”
As well as writing poetry, White teaches English in Normandy where he lives with his French girlfriend. “There’s only two of us in the house. When Karine goes to work and I have a day to myself to sit down and write, it can be pretty lonely. I miss working with a team and having the craic and the banter on the building sites.”
But White is a dedicated writer who says he has served a four-year apprenticeship in the art of poetry – the same length of time it took him to qualify as a carpenter.
When he has an idea for a poem, he allows it “to go around in my head, gathering momentum.
“By the time I get the chance to actually sit down and write, it’s ready to spill out. I can get it all down in an hour or two. Then, I spend a couple of hours tidying it up. I leave it alone for a few days and write a second draft, and a few days later, a third draft.
“I write about five drafts in all. Writing more drafts would be overkill. I’d lose interest in it if I had to do that.”
White expects that his second collection of poetry will take at least three years to complete. He has an idea for a book but doesn’t want to disclose it at this early stage. Accurate Measurements is not just about construction and the metaphors it lends itself to. “I don’t think it would have been very interesting if I had 60 pages about building. So the book also has poems about my family, nature, travelling; there are three love poems as well.”
While White likes to draw a line under his apprenticeship to poetry, he is constantly reading the work of poets he admires, to improve his own writing.
“I’ve read more Heaney than any other poet and I like the work of Ted Hughes as well. I really admire Heaney’s poems about farming and what’s going on around the house, such as the making of butter. I like his technical descriptions about how things are actually made.”
White’s title poem is about the hanging of a door, describing the process from start to finish. “You could compare hanging a door to writing a poem. It’s about crafting something. Also, a door is a way in.”
And for White, the “way in” that he is now most interested in is the one that leads to creativity.