AccessAbility Arts interview (Natalie Carr)
Welcome to another AccessAbility Arts interview! I'm delighted to be able to shine a light on the fantastic work being done by inspiring women, multicultural groups, LGBTQIA+ community members and disabilities in the sphere of art and accessibility. This time, I spoke to the wonderful Natalie Carr. A British poet and author, who lives in the town of Redditch in the midlands. She is a self employed mother of two who uses her experiences of motherhood and suffering with mental health problems to write and connect with others. Her aim with her writing is to make sure no one ever feels alone in their struggles and encourages more people to take to writing to help them on their journey to healing.
If you're on social media, give them a follow. Facebook & Instagram: @nataliecarrpoetry. TikTok: @athenasbountyuk
Here is the interview
DK: What inspired you to start writing poetry and books?
Natalie: When I was 9 I was gifted a flower fairies library from my aunty for my birthday I think it was. I fell in love with the poems and artwork, loved the rhymes and how each poem felt like an introduction to a new idea or a new feeling. So when I got my hands on a brand new notepad, it became my new poetry notebook, a safe space to write down all the poems I had heard that I loved as well as any I wrote myself. Back then I was writing poems about my pets or members of my family, for birthdays and anniversaries and things like that when I couldn’t afford to buy a gift.
I have always loved to read and so I think that’s where a lot of my inspiration to become a writer came from, wanting to create something that someone like me would pick up and read from cover to cover and just feel like ‘yeah that’s a bit of me’. I never once thought it would be my poetry to be honest as I never considered it to be any good, but I think that’s just cause at the time I hadn’t had many life experiences to draw back onto and a lot of the darker experiences I’d had I was still very much in denial about back then.
Inspiration for the book came about when I randomly shared a mental health poem I had written with someone at a craft fair. She had told me her daughter had felt broken and I had written a poem only a couple of weeks prior cause that’s how I had been feeling too. When she heard it, she wanted to share it with her daughter, which really surprised me as it was a little on the darker side and I always worried that these types of poems wouldn’t be helpful for those feeling depressed, but that’s when I started to realise that people in pain want to know they aren’t alone in their pain. They want to know that they are understood and heard and so I decided after over 20 years of sitting on some of my poetry that I was going to write a book.
DK: How did your experiences with motherhood and mental health influence your writing?
Natalie: When I was a teen I mainly wrote when I was feeling really down so poetry became my way of processing my feelings and allowing it to be in a format that I felt more comfortable with sharing with my mom. I could share how I was feeling, but yet still keep some distance from it.
When I became a mom, I realised how damaging the idea of perfection was and it was all you ever saw on social media. It seemed that everyone had their s*** together and there was me just flailing around, feeling like I was drowning in motherhood, so my poetry reflected that. It reflected the good, bad and the ugly times. Those times the kids had really bad meltdowns and I needed to take some time out to regroup, I would write a poem about the experience, and I made it something I could laugh about, even though at the time I was so embarrassed and never wanted to go out socially with the kids. The more I shared these, the more I found that people liked these poems as they were relatable. Apart from for work purposes, I have never sat down and willed myself to write something about a specific topic, it just comes, and I write when it comes. I used to have months of not writing anything and then suddenly, I wouldn’t be able to stop.
My more uplifting poems have sometimes started from a dark place and transformed whilst writing into something with hope at the helm and that’s because I was trying to shift my mindset without even realising, now I’m more self-aware, I realise that I’ve been using poetry as a therapy tool for quite some time which shows in my writing as I’m trying to unpick things.
DK: What is your goal with your writing?
Natalie: I never really had a goal to begin with, it was purely just for me. Now my goal with my writing is to reveal more of myself and show others that it is okay to do the same. I have always been scared to show the 360 degree version of me. It’s always been very carefully presented. I was the comedian, never took myself too seriously, always putting myself at the butt of a joke, always trying to entertain and all the while I had a lot of darkness that I kept hidden away, which has only just been revealed through sharing my poetry. Now people can see that I am both that happy go lucky person, but I am also someone who has been deeply hurt because I love hard. Through my poetry I’m starting to discover subconsciously who I really am and what I really want.
DK: How do you balance being a self-employed mother and an author?
Natalie: I could tell you that I juggle everything really easily but that would be a lie. How do I balance? I don’t very often. Some days I have all the energy in the world and I am able to put that energy into everything I set my mind to, sometimes I only have the energy to put that into one thing and being honest here it’s usually always work. Motherhood is unpredictable and out of my control a lot of the time and I crave to have control, which is something I can get when I’m writing. I am literally the creator of what is on the page.
I find it extremely difficult to switch off and think this has a lot to do with possible undiagnosed ADHD. I am getting better at being able to tell myself to slow down or take a breath, but that is very much a work in progress. I am learning that I can’t do everything all of the time, so I try and prioritise, so when I was putting together the book that became my number one focus with work. It does mean that other things slipped, but being a solopreneur means I don’t have anyone to keep the other stuff ticking over and I’ve tried doing it all to the detriment of my mental and physical health. So yeah, I find balance really hard. I’m an all or nothing type of person, I get obsessive about things and find it hard to let go, but it’s definitely something I’m working on, and I think the more I find like minded people to lean on, the easier it may be to stay on top of it all.
DK: What has been the most rewarding part of your journey?
Natalie: Actually getting something finished. I am terrible at starting projects and not finishing them looks at all the unfinished novels still saved on her computer. So what has been the biggest achievement is saying I finally did it. That and I have always wanted to be published and can now say that I am and not only that but that people actually bought copies of it too.
DK: What types of topics do you explore in your poetry?
Natalie: I’ve talked about a range of mental health topics including suicide, compulsion, self-harm, boundaries, anxiety and post-natal depression. I’ve written about bullying and domestic abuse, I’ve written about our world and our dependence on social media and technology as well as love, relationships, believing in ourselves and the power of our voice through poetry. At the moment, the topic I’ve been focusing on has been love and relationships as that’s what my upcoming book is all about. So I am exploring all the different types of relationships we have as well as those that are considered toxic. I have so many ideas of topics for upcoming books though, its very exciting!
DK : Your book "Life and Rhymes" (which I highly recommend) seems to touch on a variety of emotions and themes. How do you ensure that each poem maintains its own unique voice while still contributing to the overall narrative of the book?
Natalie: I think the book very much reflects me; It’s a bit of everything and you may struggle to categorise it. I’ve never been one to put myself in a box and although the book ended up being a lot bigger than I thought it would be, it was very much a purging of emotions, lessons and messages I had been too afraid to put out there for a very long time. The narrative of the book is very much to make the reader feel heard and present in the moment with me, whereas each poem individually is my own plea to be heard, which is where the synchronicity takes place. The majority of the poems in the book were written at times where I was going through emotional turmoil and awakenings and therefore it became the idea to show my journey through the layout of the book. Starting off in a dark place where hope seemed dismal to learning to see the light more clearly and start to heal, to becoming a mother which caused its own mental health battles and the journey to also heal from that, ending with my own self awareness and an awareness of the world around me through the lessons I had learnt and the important messages I felt I needed to bring to light. For me the narrative of the book was about bringing together the light and the shade and making them feel comfortable together rather than being a book that was only filled with uplifting poems or a book that was only about depression, which is why so many themes are covered, but they all come together because it is my life.
DK: Poetry and art can be a great tool for society and looking back at history. What do you think is the power of poetry - or any art - and what role do you believe artists have in modern society?
Natalie: I think art in written form or picture form is integral for teaching and healing. The government put so much emphasis on subjects like maths and science and miss the vital importance of the arts, in being creative and being able to express yourself. Without the arts we would lose our authentic voice and the platforms in which to speak it. I think the role of artists are messengers and educators. People want to be entertained, they want to be distracted from the things that make them unhappy and art has a part to play in that, but it’s also our role as artists to incite positive change through our mediums. Calling out things the mainstream wouldn’t allow because of politics and making enough noise that the powers at can’t ignore us. People like Joe Lycett and Jameela Jamil have been using their voice to bring to light tough subjects and injustices and I think more artists should do the same. It is the role of the artist to not always be pretty and aesthetically pleasing but to be loud and hurtful….because sometimes the truth hurts.
DK: What impact has your writing had on people who have read your work?
Natalie: I’ve had so much positive feedback from those who have been reading my work, but the biggest impact it’s made is that it saved someone’s life. I shared a poem at my book launch and it really triggered a lady who was watching, the other week when I was at another event a lady came up to me and asked me if I had done an event at the Ahead of wellbeing centre, which was the location of my launch. She told me that her friend had been there and was really affected by one of my poems, but that it shook her out of the dark place she had been in and had saved her life. To hear that was just incredible because helping people who felt the way I did was exactly what I wanted to do when I decided to publish.
DK: How has living in Redditch and the Midlands influenced your writing?
Natalie: I’m not sure to be honest. Poetry hasn’t really been a thing in Redditch as far as I was aware so I always felt like I was going it alone. It wasn’t until I met Rachy Bovington at a craft fair I was doing that I’d even heard of the word association and not long after that is when they began to put on the speak your mind events in Redditch, so it sort of feels like everything slipped into place at the time when I was ready to pursue poetry more passionately and professionally. Since that time I’ve gotten to know so many other writers who have really started to influence my work and performance, people like Jemima Hughes, Spoz, Clare Tedstone and even yourself DK, putting your poetry to music and opening up the idea of actually recording an album of poetry, which is just inspired! Living and writing in Redditch has made me realise that in order to tap into more creativity I need to start getting a bit more comfortable with actually leaving my comfort zone.
DK: And lastly. We all need to relax, chill, and switch off sometimes. So how do you relax?
Natalie: I love to read! Currently sinking my teeth into James Herbert’s secrets of Crickley Hall, but I love to try out different genres depending what mood I am in. Anything from a Clare Makintosh to a Sophie Kinsella. I am also a huge TV and film buff. Nothing better than finding a good series to binge watch and maybe popping on a facemask and stuffing my face with chocolate and gin….that is surely pure joy right there?
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