Poet Puzzlers – Martin Zarrop

Good morning poets, people, porcupines, and pineapples. This week’s puzzled poet is a writer who comes to us via distress call from the commercial space tug Nostromo. We think we’ve managed to filter out the questions between the gibberish about slimey creatures, chest ripping minibeast, and something about hugging faces. Read on to discover more…
– Note: Despite the easing of lockdown and social distancing measures, we at the Puzzle Poets absolutely do not endorse the hugging of faces (yet).

– What would you like to be reincarnated as?

I’m not a believer in an afterlife, particularly if you’re not able to remember what you did before! However, one of my scientific heroes is Albert Einstein, so coming back as an Einstein is definitely appealing. His use of thought experiments and mathematics to penetrate and analyse problems in physics was amazing. Beauty and parsimony in physics is akin to that in poetry.

– What did you want to be when you were at school?

My mother wanted me to be a doctor but I fainted at the sight of blood! Maths appealed to me because of its certainty. Nobody can argue with it! Unfortunately, its application to human preoccupations has its limits.

– What was/were the last good poetry book/s you read?

I can recommend ‘The Hollow Bone’ (Cinnamon Press 2017) by Ian Marriott. Stark, precise, mysterious – just the thing for our unsettling times. I am also reading the collected poems of Sean O’Brien, a poet of superb craft and a lot of political passion.

– Do you have a favourite word? And could you tell us what it is? (and maybe why?)

I seem to use the word ‘Perhaps’ a lot, despite the fact that ‘the rules’ suggest that words like this may weaken a line. Perhaps I like to hedge my bets nowadays – certainty has bitten me in the rump too often!

– Do you have a hidden skill or talent?

My maths is certainly hidden nowadays. I have never approached a Sudoku in my life, although I love the beauty of a good cryptic crossword clue. I also seem to have filled my brain with a huge amount of useless information about old movies!

– What is your favourite insect?

I don’t write about nature (although I have generated the odd tongue-in-cheek anti-nature poem!) and I now regret not taking more interest in the natural world as I ramble in the countryside on a regular basis. Up until recently, my greatest fear was spiders, particularly the big house spiders that suddenly scuttle across carpets. I’ve written quite a few poems about them but they don’t respond. I appreciate them more now.

– What would be your preferred way to dispose of a body?

The tone of the question suggests that this would constitute an illegal act. In that case, I would weigh down the body with concrete and drop it into the middle of the Pacific! If it’s a reference to one’s own funeral arrangements, a willow coffin buried under a newly planted sapling would be best environmentally.

– Do you have a favourite building? (and what/where is it and why?)

My favourite buildings are those I have written about in my poetry. They are my grandparents’ two houses and my parents’ flat, all in the East End of London, and a house my mother rented in Leeds during WW2. All of them are now gone except in memory. I remember them well (I think!)

– Do you have a book, event, project, invention, cat, anything you’d like to tell us about?

I like prompts to get me writing and I read the New Scientist to provide some of them. I’m thinking about a new poetry project titled ‘To Boldly Go’ that will look at the human achievements of the 20th century and it may also involve some sci-fi (and the occasional cat!)


Martin Zarrop is a retired mathematician who wanted certainty but found life more interesting and fulfilling by not getting it. He started writing poetry in 2006 and has been published in various magazines and anthologies.
His pamphlet ‘No Theory of Everything’ (2015) was one of the winners of the 2014 Cinnamon Press pamphlet competition and his first full collection ‘Moving Pictures’ was published by Cinnamon in 2016. His pamphlet ‘Making Waves’ on the life and science of Albert Einstein was published by V.Press in 2019. His second collection ‘Is Anyone There?’ will be published by High Window Press in March 2020.

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