Mario Poetry

21 October 2019

Interview with 

Stephen Sexton, author of If All The World And Love Were Young

SUPER MARIO

Super Mario in silhouette

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Stephen Sexton has been nominated for a Forward prize for 'bet first collection'. He tells Chris Berrow why Mario inspired him to write poetry...

Stephen - I thought it would be kind of silly if somebody wrote about video games... not in general maybe but more particularly Super Mario World. And part of that…. I mean it's a little mischievous but part of it is a little bit about certain ideas of higher art and lower art which I don't necessarily subscribe to. But nevertheless I can't shake that because it’s there.

Chris - You said in one of the headline quoted things “for me death and Super Mario have always been connected”. Now there's obviously like a lighter side of that statement which is that if you play Mario and you’re rubbish, you will die constantly. But I think that there's a more serious side to that as well which you're working into this.

Stephen - That's absolutely true. And as I said much as I thought this would be kind of funny that it would be kind of silly... I mean my mother died in 2012 so when I was writing these in 2015 I suddenly got this feeling that that's actually what I was trying to talk about. So when I was looking at the video game and I was thinking... Yoshi’s House is one of the first places to go... there's a tree and a lot of little berries in the tree. So when I was thinking how do I make this into the real world as such... I thought of the house that I grew up in that had a holly tree in the garden. And it's all red berries.

Chris - That must have been really difficult because, you know you obviously didn't run out of ideas but was there a point where you said - how am I going to do all of the different levels in this... how am I going to relate everything and tie it all together because it must have been a huge challenge.

Stephen - My narrative I suppose is one that describes illness and cancer and treatment and a period of remission and ultimately loss. So it was absolutely hard to do that. But the hardest thing I suppose is being true to that experience even if a protective urge encouraged me not to.

Chris - You really have written a poem called Yellow Switch Palace for example and Yoshi's Island 2 is there next to Yoshi's Island 3. So it is giving you the framework ,but then you express yourself through that I imagine.

Stephen - Absolutely. And that structure was extremely useful. Donut Plains is missing a big hole in its middle. You know I managed to suggest perhaps that the Northern Ireland and Donut Plains are in some ways comparable!

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