Interview with Sean West

Three Findings has a deeply interesting form; it uses found text taken from newspapers reporting your grandfather’s disappearance at sea in the Moreton Bay region in late 1980. What guided you towards this form and this concept? How has poetry been a lens for you to explore family history?

Three Findings are taken from my larger body of work, Fishing Not Catching, and they stand as interludes in the text to contextualise my more abstract and ambitious pieces where I take on my grandfather’s voice or imagine him in surreal settings. But my Findings poems had to, by design, ground my non-linear narrative in facts and true “crime.” So, it was very natural to me to lean into the found text form and stress that idea that this really happened, long before I was even born and I have no memory of, but nevertheless this really happened. Large parts of this work are all me but this isn’t fiction.

It’s been really strange and empowering as a poet to explore family history through my craft. At first, I didn’t feel like my family history was exciting or interesting enough to base a large body of text upon but the more I heard about my grandfather’s disappearance, the conflicting accounts from different texts or family members and half-forgotten or lost memories, I just felt compelled to explore it. The real hook for me was actually stepping beyond the facts and shaping my own sense of history in the missing spaces.

You are the founding editor of Blue Bottle Journal, a literary journal established in June 2020. What compelled you to start this publication?

Blue Bottle Journal sprung out of a personal need for me to do more and be more for other new poets. I got my start in publishing through local Meanjin-based print zines, many of which have since dwindled away even before the pandemic struck. If those highly accessible and community-based print zines were gone, I thought something had to fill the void and provide a platform for emerging poets to get started. Being a first publication for many contributors is really the greatest joy I get out of Blue Bottle. I also really needed to provide personalised feedback no matter the outcome of every submission. Ethical publishing is hugely important to me, so quick response times, clear communication, personalised feedback, sincere kindness and empathy all play a defining part in that.

What upcoming projects or publications are we able to look forward to from you?

Still chipping away at my debut poetry collection, Fishing, Not Catching and will be until it’s eventually published. I’m extremely patient with this process and love watching this long term project adapt and evolve, getting closer to that central truth of the work. My individual pieces and community involvement can be found at http://www.callmemariah.com. A couple of poems have recently appeared in Meniscus Literary Journal and Westerly Magazine, which is super exciting! And I’m always working on developing Blue Bottle Journal. I’m motivated to keep the ball rolling on this project in perpetuity or until something else grabs my attention and provides that same sense of drive working for others’ benefit and development.


Interviewed by Munira Tabassum Ahmed