THE POET and actor Greta Bellamacina is a born storyteller. She brings a unique lyrical energy to every aspect of her polymathic creative output - and everything in her oeuvre has been deeply personal and authentic.

Her critically acclaimed offbeat indie directorial debut Hurt by Paradise portrayed the struggles of a single mother in the same suburb of North London she was born in (and featured one of her own children at its axis). And her forthcoming feature Tell That To The Winter Sea, co-written with rising US director Jaclyn Bethany, again draws directly on her experience of young motherhood. It's a tale that explores the paradigm of a love-that-should-have-been, and the mixed emotions that arise when the fire of human connection is unexpectedly rekindled.

The film will be released in June around the same time as Bellamacina's highly anticipated second collection of poetry Who Will Make The Fire, which follows on the success of her debut Tomorrow's Woman. Her work leads the reader across the landscape of the soul, while navigating epic themes of impermanence and mortality with an abstract dynamism reminiscent of Ted Hughes.

With such remarkable talent coursing through her young veins, Bellamacina is surely one of the most interesting voices of her generation. Here, she speaks candidly to square mile about what it means to be fearlessly creative in a fast-changing and increasingly digital world, and tells us why one must never compromise on the truth in order to save the future.

Greta Bellamacina

SM: What would you say are your core values as a human being, and how do they feed into your work?

GB: I want a message of hope to come through in what I write. I want the brokenness of things to feel beautiful.

The garden of spring is the metaphor for a balancing garden of light that waits on summer, that waits on autumn, that waits on winter. Impermanence is where meaning and life flood in.

I like open-ended phrases, words that don't marry well, the devil and the angel to live on the same page, as commas and full-stops in disguise. I want this vulnerable reality to bring us all back to the things that matter. To reconnect us with the child inside us all. The compassionate person who wants to be loved. And an antidote to the digital world.

SM: Who Will Make The Fire is shot through with melancholy; is your poetry Romantic in the classical sense?

GB: Well, a lot of the poems are about the circularity of nature. An uncovering of the secret circle of the garden; the fleeting moments we live together. We are all existing in our circles, whether it's in your head or the literal cycle of a flower: 'The fruit stole a piece of the fog from the vegetables / their faces grew backwards weeping into the flowers / downwards into the earth'... I like the idea that death is good for the garden.

Olivia Harrison said that at a poetry reading I attended, and I think it explains melancholy well. Even Mother Earth is rotating on an axis of twenty-four hours of lost light. Life is 'a long summary of dismantled goodbyes'... I actually think I've felt this more since moving to the countryside - everywhere there are reminders of salvaged devotions; the first white snowdrops in January lighting up the dark mornings.

SM: Is there a sense of spiritual belief in your work, and if so how does it manifest?

GB: I believe in something. Maybe an eternal soul. I believe in ghosts. I believe we have the shadows of the past hanging into our bones. People we have never met inside of us.

I think it's harder than we think to escape the songs and the voices that have been holding us and tearing us down in other times, and foreign places.

I think the human experience is filled with the push-and-pull of a mysterious time that shadows us for reasons we don't fully understand. This is the existential dimension I often find myself in.

SM: Let's discuss time in relation to these lines of yours: 'permanence is an illusion that burns down the calendar before you wake. The mirrors are careful not to magnify the language of time.' How do you personally find meaning in a universe of impermanence?

GB: I like the idea that the trees we plant will be giving the fruit to the next generation. We are here to save beauty and salvage paradises of the garden. To save ourselves inside the beauty. That's it. We can't possibly control anything more.

I wrote this line in my current collection Tomorrow's Woman: 'the water you would plant under the ground to save a generation' - it is our job to preserve, rewrite, and reinvent the canon so it is kinder for the next generation. That's it.

Greta Bellamacina
Greta Bellamacina

SM: In a lineage of poetry, where would you place your work?

GB: I think I am a traditional poet in the sense I write my work to be read in books. As a poet, I am quite shy. I want to say it all in writing. I don't have much desire to perform them.

Occasionally, I have a calling - for instance, there are a few peace poems and anti-war poems in the new collection. 'Meltdown' was commissioned for and performed at An Evening For Ukrainian Refugees charity fundraiser hosted at The Tabernacle in Notting Hill.

In times of crisis, poetry seems to be the mother tongue. A lot of what I write is instinctive, I am drawn more to the musicality of words rather than the meaning first. The subtle music of language has always been my first way into writing. I guess I see poetry like music. It kind of calls to you and touches on your soul, but you don't necessarily understand all the lyrics. It just speaks to you.

But the list of inspirations is long: Ted Hughes, Andre Breton, Alice Oswald, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath. But also musicians like Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. Then my husband Robert Montgomery is my first and last eyes on my work.

Greta Bellamacina

SM: Talk to me about your new film Tell That To The Winter Sea - how does it represent an evolution for you?

GB: I play Jo who is reconnected with her first love at her hen party weekend. I co-wrote the film with director Jacyln Bethany. I acted in a few of her early films and it felt natural to make this together.

We wanted to find a way to share the power of first love, the power of time, the memory and the reality of the moment. And the odd second coming-of-age that is a hen party. I think old love never leaves you. But time and memory hangs on in strange ways.

We wrote in the dance narrative to give the characters a physical way to share their unspoken emotions. You see them in real time dancing together, then you see them in flashbacks as teenagers making up dances. It's quite emotional. The body says it all.

SM: In a broad sense, what would you say are the key themes you return to as a creator - what, fundamentally, do you believe you have to say?

GB: I guess I am simple, in the sense everything mostly comes back to love, death, loneliness and the echoing spirit that lives inside of us. The garden and the sea. I don't have any desire to make films that manipulate the audience for the sake of entertainment.

I want to speak the truth. And the truth is often open-ended, plotless and unruly.

Greta Bellamacina

SM: As someone who has a sizeable social media presence, what is your opinion in terms of how social media is rewiring the human animal?

GB: I worry about the next generation. Reality will be a different thing altogether in the future. I worry about the pressures on young girls to feel validated by their appearance, and that it will be an even bigger distraction. The youth will be even more isolated

I guess that's why I believe in physical spaces. Places you can walk to and think and be around other people, but sit with your ideas for free.

About eight years ago, I made a documentary about saving public libraries. I think it's more important than ever that we save these physical spaces. They will be the refuge for ideas and physical reminders of new voices and possibilities.

SM: The film industry evolved pretty much alongside the growth of the field of psychology - do you think of film as a space for communal dreaming?

GB: I like the idea you bring all the elements together. The unspoken dialogue is often the quiet poetry of cinema. It's what's not said that can often be more important.

I like films that sit in the rooms with the characters - that stay with them and don't cut away all the time.

You are focused on living for a moment with the complexities of the people. There is a kindness to this kind of filmmaking. John Cassavetes' films do that a lot.

Greta Bellamacina

SM: Why do you think we are drawn to storytelling as a species?

GB: Hopefully, it gives solace - to let a stranger live inside your inner truths.

I was lucky enough to work with the Italian film director Riccardo Vannuccini on both of his avant-garde films Commedia and Things and Other Things.

In the first film, my character is mentally ill, and in the second film she lives in a post- industrial world, existing in a strange place with abandoned buildings, hospitals, schools, theme parks... Nothing left but the prehistoric reminders of other people's lives. Imagination is the only thing left.

We shot both films in Italy and in both films my character is the only one who speaks English. We used a lot of movement to express her loneliness and isolation.

It is a really magical thing when you can work with an auteur who has found his own language in the medium you love so much. I learnt so much from making these films with Riccardo.

SM: Do you think independent cinema is in a good place right now?

GB: Yes, definitely. I think if you can find a small passionate crew who believe in the story that's the most important thing. Finding a way to collaborate holistically on an idea is beautiful.

Film is a collaboration from start to finish. Indie filmmaking is a real fight and it is a miracle if it gets made. But with modern technology, we are all filmmakers.

To give a visual to pain is important. The director Michael Winterbottom is someone who is always pushing the borders of reality within his films.

I deeply admire what he does and feel very lucky to have acted in his Sky TV series This England. There is nothing pretentious in what he does, it's about the characters first as people.

SM: Why do you believe so many cultures in the world still treat women as second-class citizens? How can that kind
of patriarchy be dismantled?

So much about the female body is ignored and not prioritised.

GB: I think we need to start putting female health as a priority. I think it starts there. So much about the female body is ignored and not prioritised.

How can we possibly have any kind of equality if we don't treat female disease and health as just as important?

No wonder we've been objectified for so long. We've been focusing on the wrong thing. The inside is where we need to start. I write about in my poem Dog Woman:

I wonder how many women I have to be in this body of a dog
mouth open wide
a well of gathered rain water
slowly turning the stone blue.
A twelve month grave of empty crystal glasses
teeth holding the steps of a muddy field
an assembly of white cloud hammers [...]

SM: What is your definition of success?

GB: I think having a body of work. I feel relentless in everything I do. Even when I get a commission, I have a relentless need to make sure it's not compromising truth.

The writing has to feel unexpected for me to believe it. I guess it's not the price of the work, the value of having done it.

When I was a teenager, I would put all my money into printing my own poetry pamphlets. I walked around the bookshops and gave them away. I wanted to have the work printed on the page.

I guess I've kept that side of what I do. Especially when I am producing my own films. It's a similar punk spirit.

Don't wait around for someone to give you the opportunity. If you have something to say, treat it as urgent. 

'Tell That To The Winter Sea' is available on Digital from 1 July and Amazon UK from 29 July. 'Who Will Make The Fire' by Greta Bellamacina is available in hardback from Amazon for £12.