Last week I asked a few questions to songwriter-poet Rob Forest, the author of naviarhaiku 179 and 180. Rob’s works are strongly influenced by daily meditation and his relationship with the natural world; as a result, his music and lyrics evoke a unique sense of calm and depth.
Tell us a bit about yourself: how did you start making music and writing poetry?
I started writing poetry in my late teens whilst at college. It was never something I really studied or
took an immersive interest in but rather a tool that I used for exploring my relationships with others.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I started putting music to my words and that kind of happened
because, unlike poetry, music was something which I had very much immersed myself in (mainly
as a listener). So here I found a comfortable way to start sharing my words with people, starting out
with Youtube videos and then over time progressing to live performances. It all feels quite different
now to when I first started; the reason I write, the way I share work and my relationship to the
practice. Like everything, it’s always changing.
Most of your Youtube videos were recorded in the woods. Can you tell us about your relationship
with nature and how it inspires you?
This is where I’d say most of the change in my writing practice has come from. As much as our
culture wants us to position ourselves as mere spectators or consumers of the natural world, the fact
remains that our relationship is one of full involvement and participation, however well disguised it
may be. My writing has essentially become a process of listening to the natural world, observing my
role within it and feeding this back through my writing and music to give a voice to this relationship
and encourage others to shed the disguise. It’s a process that has also greatly informed the way I
release my work. Rob Forest is as much a credit to the unknown and overlooked influences in
the landscape as it is to myself. These works belong to the songbirds and cedar trees as much as
they do to the author and audience. In this sense I try to release them with as much freedom as
possible to enable people to discover them, enjoy them and then let them go again to inspire others
in the same way. This has led me to take a real interest in Creative Commons, gift economy and
collaborative projects like Naviar’s Haiku Challenge.
Your lyrics and poems transmit a profound sense of love and calmness: do you think of your
creative journey as both artistic and spiritual?
Thanks for your kind words. I think for a time these were very separate things for me but over
recent years these paths have certainly merged. It seems to be the case for most things in my life,
where I’ve now come to consider my environmentalism, politics, spirituality and creative practice to
be informed by the same experience, which is most profoundly the experience of the present
moment. If I bring myself as much to the present moment as I can, whether that’s in writing, eating
or simply sitting, it becomes a thoroughly enriching experience and there’s a whole world of
inspiration waiting there. The result for my writing seems to be much shorter poems!
Do you see yourself more as a poet, a songwriter, or both? How does the combination of these two
artistic fields influence your creative process?
I always consider poetry to be the heart of what I do, whether it ends up manifesting as a song or as
a piece of written word but then I think there’s poetry in everything. For me poetry is a way of
listening to, receiving and sharing one’s experience. It’s about finding beauty and meaning wherever
we are, whether that be in a moment of pain and struggle, idleness and boredom or excitement and
admiration. I’ve heard lots of song-writers be described as poets and I think this happens when
there’s a real sincerity to their work but I think this is something for others to decide. People can
find meaning in all sorts of things after all! I guess for convenience I describe myself as a poet and
singer song-writer because my work is recognised as spanning both disciplines (traditionally
speaking) but for myself I just see it as a part of everyday goings on and a way of opening up a
conversation with others to recognise and honour the landscape that we all share. Maybe that was
just a long winded way of saying ‘both’!
What’s in store for you? Are you currently touring, recording new music?
On a day to day level I maintain a daily practice of sitting and walking; writing and sharing when it
feels appropriate. I’m always keeping my eye out for interesting opportunities to share my work
with people and so I tend to book things as and when they come up rather than organising big tours.
The same approach applies to my poetry and songwriting. It’s a slow and steady practice but I do
have ideas that grow over time. I can see the beginnings of a music release brewing and I’m
currently exploring different ways of sharing my writing in a less virtual format. Ultimately I’m
interested in introducing the tool of writing to others as a way of becoming more present to our
experience, so workshops are another line of interest for me but things are always changing and so
at this point in time I’m just happy seeing more of the sunshine and sharing short, sweet sentences
with you all.
Thank you very much for your time Rob!
Thanks for taking the time to read and share my work with the Naviar community. I’ve really
enjoyed listening to the sounds and music that people have created in response to the poems you’ve
published. It’s a real example of how creativity can flourish when works are released back out into
the wild from which they came!