Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Holly Pelesky

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

quiver front

Holly Pelesky

is a lover of spreadsheets, giant sandwiches, and handwritten letters. Her essays have appeared in The Nasiona, Jellyfish Review and Homology Lit among other places. Her poems are bound in Quiver: A Sexploration. She holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska. She cobbles together gigs to pay off loans and eke by, refusing to give up this writing life. She lives in Omaha with her two sons.

links:

website: https://hollypelesky.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hollypelesky

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I don’t think I’m inspired to write poetry particularly as much as I’m inspired to write words generally. I was a very shy and sheltered child who found solace in reading books. That gave way to wanting to write my own stories. I used to write Nancy Drew fan fiction on legal pads or scrawl rhyming poems on floral stationery. I grew up in a religious household where I was rewarded for fitting in, not standing out, but in words I found a place to put my own voice.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Although I was aware of the genre before college, it was in undergrad that I really paid attention to poetry. I had the most amazing professor who was more of a mentor than a teacher and she introduced me to all sorts of new ways to arrange words. Poetry made words dance and dip in a way I hadn’t acknowledged before and I became a bit preoccupied with writing my angst in poetic forms, once I knew poems didn’t have to rhyme.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I knew they dominated the college textbooks and since I went to college before the internet was as vast as it is now, they were my main reference as to what poetry was. It is a pleasure to live now in an age where I have more control over what I consume and can find all sorts of voices to motivate and influence me.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

It is hard to describe a typical writing day because many days I don’t write at all. There are days for housework or submitting my existing work or the jobs I toil away at so I can continue to write. I count all that as part of the process, too. By the time I sit down to write, I have spent hours mulling through what I have to say, spinning words in my head, erasing them, writing them again without ever seeing them on a page. As much as I admire the people who wake up early or stay up late each day to write on a schedule, I am not one of them. My discipline is not in the time I set aside to write but the regenerating motivation to. Out of necessity, I have learned now to write amidst distractions. I can be found writing at my desk occasionally, or while my children are splashing in a pool or in the back of the coffee shop I work in.

5. What motivates you to write?

Words I read that other people have written so carefully, succinctly, emotionally, sensually. Images or sounds or movements or scraps of overheard dialogue that I want to ponder and explore. My own emotions that I don’t know how to articulate but want to make sense of. I am constantly intrigued by what motivates us and want to find it. The other day I heard a mother yelling at her daughter in the public bathroom, upset she hadn’t gone number two because they had a long trip in front of them and I thought there must be a story in that. I think what I mean is curiosity drives me and I am insatiable to it.

6. What is your work ethic?

With a deadline, I can be pretty impressive. I once wrote for three straight days to make the minimum word count on my manuscript in time for a contest. I just sat there in my own filth, writing through meal times and chores, ignoring everything. My girlfriend brought me bagels to make sure I ate. Without a deadline, I’m not that impressive (but more likely to bathe).

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

When I was young I read Berenstain Bears and Arthur. I graduated to chapter books and read the The Baby-Sitters Club and Nancy Drew. I kept reading books that came in series because I identified with or enjoyed their characters.  Papa Bear is a non-conformist with a temper. D.W. is so sassy. Kristy brought Sheryl Sandburg energy to the Baby-Sitters Club whereas Claudia was an absent-minded artist who hid junk food from her strict parents. I read to know characters and their motivations, to feel connected to humanity in some way. Still, I am chasing that.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water changed what writing could be for me. She made it something that could be a bit dirty and raw and completely honest. She is someone who doesn’t hide parts of herself to please her audience. I want that grit between my teeth too.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I co-coach a slam poetry team with an amazing high school English teacher. Last week she told me what she tells students who are thinking about joining our slam team. Usually these students are unsure of themselves and still discovering their talents. She says to them, “You know what you need to have in order to be a writer? You need to have something to say.” When she said that, I understood my own motivation to write.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Pay attention. Eavesdrop on the world. Be mindful of the quiet moments in addition to the loud ones. Find what’s interesting. Write into the parts that inspire you. Explore the questions you’re always circling. Give it time, let it swirl in you, be patient. Then, stop at nothing to articulate it in a way that people beyond you will identify with, which is to say with honesty and clarity and verve.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I have been really focused on creative non-fiction for two years now. I have been compiling a collection of letters to my daughter I placed up for adoption. She is turning fourteen this month and her absence has been this lump in my throat for all these years. Writing has been my exploration of that grief and love and the revolving question what if? I have been publishing them individually but next I want to see about putting them all together in a book. My dream has been to give them to her on her eighteenth birthday, a very important age to adopted children and their biological parents. I also have a bunch of other essays and poems and stories inside of me to extricate, but I’m taking it a day at a time.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Maxine Rose Munro

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

maxine rose munro

Maxine Rose Munro

is a Shetlander adrift on the outskirts of Glasgow. After spending the first eighteen years of her life exclusively on the islands, without even a small break for the holidays, the culture shock experienced on eventually seeing the wider world rocked her to her core and is still rocking some decades later. However, as the end result appears to be poetry, she is fairly ok with this. She has been writing poetry in for a few years now and her work has been widely published both in print and online, including in Northwords Now; Glasgow Review of Books; Pushing Out the Boat; and The Eildon Tree. She also publishes in her native Shetland Scots, some of which can be found in Poetry Scotland and Three Drops from a Cauldron. Her work has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and shortlisted for the SMHAFF Award 2017. Find her here

http://www.maxinerosemunro.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I loved poetry as a child and wrote a lot of it when I was at primary school. It just seems such a natural way to express yourself when you are a child and words are fairly new and exciting. Adults become jaded. I think they acquire too many words, and never need the leaps of imagination children must employ to describe the things they see and feel.

Unfortunately when I hit teen years poetry was killed for me. I couldn’t relate to Plath, Owen, Yeats and the like. And the teachers couldn’t relate to my attempts at poetry. I expect there was also a huge dose of ‘don’t you know who I am? I’m great at poetry’ going on. So I abandoned it.

In 2013 two things happened, I was bought a poetry anthology that changed my world, and I had a very bad experience.

Knowing I was poetically inclined, someone gave me a copy of “These Islands, We Sing” edited by Kevin MacNeil, and for the first time since childhood I heard my own voice in poetry. I suddenly saw my own words were good enough, I didn’t have to be Plath.

Reading this anthology and trying to get strong again after the hell me and my family had been through, I suddenly knew I had poetry I had to get out. And I had to get it out to the world. So I started submitting the very second I had some completed poems.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

It was always just there when I was growing up. My dad’s a big reader, especially of local poetry. Various Shetland journals were always lying around, and poetry was a strong part of them.

I take after him in that I read a lot, and I discovered Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear when still quite young. At about the same age I saved up and bought myself a Spike Milligan collection from the Puffin Book Club and I just loved it. I still rate him as my favourite poet, ever.

We had so many wonderful poetry books -“The Butterfly Ball” was another favourite of mine. But to be honest, no one introduced me to poetry. It was always there.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

Not at all. As I said, poetry died for me when I was presented with ‘great poetry’ in my higher English classes. It wasn’t that I couldn’t appreciate it (or some of it), but that it all felt old, or clinical, or technical, or just plain baffling. I’m very plain spoken, very straight with my words when I write, and I only quake in awe in the presence of poets who do the same but better than I ever could.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a routine. I write on my phone, when a poem comes to me. I really don’t bother with the whole write something everyday thing. I think that’s more important if you are a novelist and need discipline and focus. But poetry starts in your subconscious and, for me at least, needs time to brew. The writing is the second, less important stage. I suppose instead I try to make sure that everyday I am feeding my subconscious by reading, walking, listening, experiencing. That’s where the poetry comes from.

5. What motivates you to write?

There are two things I look for in a poem. Either a brilliant story that just gives itself to the shortness of poetry. Or juxtaposition. By this I mean taking something small and tangible, and relating it to something huge and intangible. Or the other way round. Or variations thereof. So anytime I find this, I want to write about it.

6. What is your work ethic?

In the way life can bring you good things after bad, I am lucky enough to be able to not have to go out to work these days. But I know now that I have to balance everything, and that’s what comes first. My home, family, and sanity come first. Once that’s all dealt with, I fit in sewing and writing. But when it makes me unhappy I stop and go do something else.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Milligan, Lear, Carroll, and all the other poetry of my childhood influences me all the time, in every way. I don’t try to write like them, I think that much is obvious. But it was those poets and poems that taught me to look at the world in a certain way, to link things into interesting groups, to join up dots wherever I saw them, and then turn all that into words. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t for those early poets. I wouldn’t know how.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I tend to admire poems over poets. I’ve never found a poet yet that could put out amazing poem after amazing poem. But the books on my shelf that I pick up the most tend to be by Scottish or Scandinavian poets, and the thing they all have in common is ‘sparse’. By that I mean they specialise in saying the most with the least. In addition, they all write poetry that places emphasis on meaning. I dislike poetry that turns out to be a beautiful string of images and nothing more. Some poets I like are Kathleen Jamie, Ian Stephen, Helen Allison, Hans Børli, Olav H. Hauge.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

Writing is my identity, but I need to do other stuff. It’s less that I write instead of doing something else, and more I do everything I do to feed the writing. Saying that, I am the introvert’s introvert and I don’t need to be swinging off treetop ropes getting migraines from sheer terror to find material ( I have swung from the tree tops, the experience has yet to make it into poetry!). I have a little hand-stitching business, in which I use tweed my father designs and weaves in Shetland. This takes up more time than poetry for much of the year. But what I have found is that while I rarely write while focusing on my sewing, as soon as I stop a huge rush of poems that have been brewing in the background come out. It’s quite exhilarating.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Well, despite me saying I don’t write everyday, you do have to write and write a lot. I don’t believe you have to take creative writing degrees or post grad studies. But a bit of guidance is helpful. Writers groups or online courses (there are a good few reputable ones out there) are useful. If you are able, and not a complete introvert like me, then open mic nights are a brilliant way to get your poetry skills honed. And if you are a complete introvert like me, accept you still have to do some readings occasionally. And submit. And listen to feedback. And submit again. And realise you are hooked and this will be your life forever now. Then you’ll you be a writer. Woohoo!

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

Well, I have always been unsure where I am going, I just started and couldn’t stop. But, nearing the 100 poems published mark I am thinking it’s time to get a pamphlet or three out. So I’ll be getting my head down and writing. The hardest part will be not submitting poems when I am convinced they’re awesome and all I want to do is share them with the world.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Ava Hofmann

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

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Ava Hofmann

Originally from Oxford, Ohio, Ava Hofmann is a writer currently living and working as an MFA student in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She has poems published in or forthcoming from Black Warrior Review, Fence, Anomaly, Best American Experimental Writing 2020, The Fanzine, Datableed, and Peachmag. Her poetry deals with trans/queer identity, Marxism, and the frustrated desire inherent to encounters with the archive. Her twitter is @st_somatic and her nausea-inducing website is www.nothnx.com

The Interview

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews – Ava Hofmann

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I really got hooked into poetry when I was a sophomore in a high school creative writing class. Like before this class, I was completely convinced I was going be a prose writer—I had been writing short stories and half-assed attempts at novels since I was in grade school. But then in that class I first encountered slam poetry and that was kind of the end of prose writing for me—reading and writing poetry spoke to me on a completely different level than what prose has ever done. And the rest is the disaster of my life!!!

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

So, the above is technically a lie, because the first “poem” that I ever wrote—more of a song, really—was written when I was in grade school, and it was called “The Grand Old Flag Bit Off My Nose.” Basically, it was about various U.S. monuments inflicting various injuries to my body. I would like to say that this was some kind of childly intuition about the way in which the government intervenes upon our bodies, but I really think it was just that when I was a kid I was really into the idea of all this Americana just absolutely going into me and ripping me to shreds. I think as kids we’re introduced to poetry through like nursery rhymes and shit, and we kind of intuitively know what they’re doing but don’t really understand that that something is called “poetry.” Then it gets disciplined out of you in grade-school, so you have to relearn what poetry is when you’re an edgy teenager or a too-serious college student or whatever.

Anyway, the person who taught that class that sent my on a poetry-trajectory was named Mr. Aerni, and I guess he was ok. He was really into the very hip, very sellable typewriters-and-coffee version of writing, which I just have always had a weird antipathy for. But I really appreciate the space he gave us to really write and explore.

The people who really showed me what I wanted from poetry and what poetry could really be were my undergrad creative writing professors—Cathy Wagner, Keith Tuma, and cris cheek. They all were so important for the development of my work, and for introducing me to the work of some of my major poetic inspirations.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I felt super aware of it, and still do. I remember thinking as an undergrad, when I was first studying poetry seriously, “where are all the poets who are under 30? Or at least under 40?” And this isn’t to like, knock older poets, but to ask a question about why there’s this weird thing going on with age diversity in the poetry community—there’s basically this grist mill of younger writers, and then the few poets who survive the grinder get to have institutional jobs and something resembling actual careers in poetry.

I think there’s obviously a little bit of an age bias in how an audience forms around writers, like—poets who have been in publishing for a longer time are obviously going to be more ‘established’ than younger poets, and so it’s more likely you’ve heard of an older poet. But this is also made worse by certain institutional structures surrounding the poetry “business”. Basically, to be someone with a full time job in poetry, you’re probably in the academy, which has a tendency towards seniority due to the tenure system. Meanwhile, some of the best poetry in the last 10 years or so was (as always) probably put out in random photocopied zines in editions of like 20 / posted to a deleted personal blog / published in now-defunct micro presses and then immediately forgotten, which makes accessible archives of this work which excites me very difficult to create.

All this creates this generational divide in the poetry community between these older and younger writers, rather than really allowing poets to approach each other as members of the same community. I think elements of the structural power imbalance between teachers and students might be a big part of it, that this imbalance in academia also gets played out in our artform.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Bold of you to assume I have a daily writing routine! I end up tending to work in obsessive spurts where I produce a large amount of work in a short amount of time. In the first four months of 2019 I produced the first draft for two different chapbooks, for example. In-between those spurts, however, I’m basically procrastinating on writing and getting nothing done. It’s awful!!!!

5. What motivates you to write?

1) gay energy
2) sleep deprivation
3) the perverse enjoyment of writing absolute weirdo homo-garbage

6. What is your work ethic?

Honestly, I think my work ethic is pretty bad! Maybe it’s because capitalist work/productivity culture has structured our idea of labour around “continuous” work (the pervasive idea of the “9 to 5” job), but my irregular writing pattern makes me feel like I’m wasting a lot of time.

If you mean ethic in a sense of, like, what is the “ethos” of my “work”, I really value the same kind of intermittent access to real life which already comes out in my ability to consistently work—basically, if it’s not obvious, my bad work ethic comes from a place of being a low-energy and probably depressed person, and so my work, too, is about a search for value in the midst of the ruins of a life, to find pleasure in lacunae. This is just a very pretentious way to say that I’m all about being tired all the time.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Wow, the books I read when I was young? Sometimes I feel like my life didn’t really start until my first year of college. I was a completely different person back then— religion, politics, gender, everything. That includes my taste in writing and art. I try not to think that much about my how I was back then.

One of the first poets I read and fell in love with was e. e. cummings—which, like, now is kind of embarrassing for me and there are a bunch of reasons why I’m not into him very much nowadays. But his work ended up being my first introduction into the type of experimental/visual poetry I personally value. I think a lot of his experiments into the visual dimension of poetry were kind of surface-level, but since I don’t think it was likely I was going to encounter any deep high-concept visual poetry living in an insularly Christian family in small-town Ohio, I owe a lot to that surface-level stuff kind of blowing open my mind about what was possible on the page.

I think another thing which is still maybe a big influence on my relationship to reading and writing today has been my process with understanding the text’s relationship to the writer. I grew up with my main exposure to textual analysis being through the religious study of the bible, which I was taught was an infallible text. So during my freshman year of college, when I first read Derrida’s writing on differance, and discovered that texts in and of themselves contain contradictory meanings which cannot resolve—that this imperfection was a fundamental feature of signification—it really changed my understanding of the world. Derrida was really the starting place for me to unlearn my religious indoctrination. And from that, I began to really value text as a place of irreducible contradictions, a space wherein resolution is impossible. This is probably why my writing is so concerned with visual elements and with gaps / revisions / doublings.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Gosh, there are so many writers who I absolutely adore:

Jos Charles’s historical bending of language towards the possibility of a trans future/past/present/resistance in feeld is work that I find really deeply inspiring. It’s kind of incredible it exists and is getting a lot of traction!

M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! is an incredible work which is perhaps one of the most incredible deployments of documentary form and content in poetry. It’s a masterpiece.

So much of Douglas Kearney’s work and process is so influential on my interests when it comes to form & the relationship to the reader/writer to the text.

I have to admit that Chelsey Minnis’s pseudo-ironic relationship to poetry and the poetic line is mega-appealing to me.

God, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Also shout-outs to Kinsey Cantrell, Never Angeline Nørth, V Conaty, Jayy Dodd, essa may ranapiri, and Mika, who are all people I really admire. There are so many others, but I don’t want to endlessly namedrop!!!!

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I mean, I do, in fact, do other things? A lot of my work is multi-medium. And I’m, like, a person, you know? I don’t want being a “writer” to overshadow that.

I know you mean, why do poetry at all? Honestly, this is an intractable question that assumes I’m able to confidently diagnose the causes of my own desires, which I don’t really think I can do. I mean, on some level for me, there’s an affective pleasure to assembling words together in poetry—creating synchronicity between language and its special arrangement on the page. Maybe there’s some kind of psychological or synesthetic attraction to poetry, but I don’t think I’m aware of my own cognition enough to know what that is. You could probably also pathologize my writing to be about my transness or being a low-energy person or the problems I had with communication when I was a kid.

If I wanted to assign a narrative to my actions, though, I think I would say that I’ve been writing stories, poetry, etc. ever since I was a little kid and so there’s just a little bit of inertia there. I think I’ve always known that writing is kind of a private passageway out of that which consumes and totalizes our lives, a place where I can find pleasure even when pleasure or happiness seemed impossible. When I was still in the cult-culture of my upbringing, poetry was a big part of both my devotional practice and my exploration of my gender. I could imagine for myself the possibility of being a woman, even if that woman was worshipping a religion that hated her. So there, I guess I provided the pathology for you. But even then, for me, it’s kind of the opposite of pathology—poetry is the site of my own personal possibility of desire.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

By writing. If you’re putting time into the artform, you’re a writer.

Yeah, I know that the person who is asking that question is really asking “how do you become a professional writer?”, but that question is really just another way of asking of “how do I make money by writing?” I’m pretty sure that’s a question which is plaguing and unanswerable for the vast majority of writers. I mean, almost nobody makes anything like a living wage from writing and selling copies of their poetry—it’s all from teaching, or doing talks, or some other institutional work which has coalesced around the medium. If you’re really wanting to do something poetry-adjacent as your job, you’re probably going to have to be lucky and/or have institutional favour in order to snag that kind of work. Oh, and you’re also probably going to have to be ok with these institutions being funded by money-laundering fronts for the bourgeoisie and/or the frantic workers’ nightmare of academia. Seriously! Actually look at who is funding like the four wealthy poetry institutions out there.

I know this sounds really pessimistic about the poetry business, but I actually find this is pretty liberating. I’ve been trying to “be a writer” since I first learned how to read, but my writing only really started coming from a good and genuine place when I stopped trying to “be a writer” and started instead trying to be a real person with a real life—coming out, escaping the cult-y environment which defined my entire upbringing, learning about the real world. Writing was and is the vehicle for my escape into a non-totalized life—for me, there’s something really valuable about poetry’s ability to be kind of secret and personal, even when someone else is reading it. It took me a long time to realize that I don’t need an artform I happen to practice to totalize everything about me.

This is why I answer the question literally: live your life first, write second. You’re still a writer. If you make your art practice all about institutional fealty or literary clout, you might as well just sell out by writing ad copy for some oil barons’ fascist propaganda wing or whatever, you know? Fuck that. Write to agitate. Write to organize. Write to discover new possibilities. Overthrow the ruling ontology!

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I’m working on a few different writing projects in different stages of completion:

Leech-book, the full-length manuscript that I’m working on as my MFA thesis. Leech-book is a collection of visual poems which concern themselves with the form of the medieval charm or spell as a site of the frustrated desire inherent to queer encounters with the archive; leech-book, is in a sense, a historical fantasy that one could find a source of radical-queer power within the scraps of our history, and also the elegy for the impossibility of that fantasy.

that I want, a more personal visual-lyric chapbook. the poems, which explicitly feature elements being crossed out / revised / added onto as a visual element, use this element of self-revision as a formal entry-point into an examination of my trans identity.

plastic flowers, a chapbook of explicitly Marxist prose poems which explore the ways in which capital-power embeds itself into the ‘personal’ experiences of daily life. it’s kind of a mix between a personal journal and a stand-up tragicomedy routine.

And finally, the woman factory, which is a series of sonnets written in the voice of a sex android.

There’s published examples of work from most of these projects up on my website, nothnx.com Hopefully at least one of these messes will be in print at some point!

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Shivangi Chatterji

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Annotation 2019-07-21 212548

Shivangi Chatterji

Focusing on grief poetry, Shivangi’s style wanders from weird, wise to whimsical. Growing up in a quaint suburb of Bombay (now Mumbai), her home overlooked the sea as she wrote and read her poems aloud to the birds on the terrace. Her ancestral home is in the hills, and the silence features in much of her poetry. A professional writer and editor for print and digital media, she is working towards publishing her own book (yet untitled) this year. Meanwhile, she continues to write some thematic poems on Instagram.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

My childhood was divided between the urban and rural – I grew up in Mumbai (then Bombay) and spent summers at my family’s farms in the foothills of the Himalayas. Being introverted, it was the stark contrast between the people and places that made communicating my thoughts all the more complex. I used my little ditties to express my thoughts through writing as a mode of communication with myself and with others.

Today, I mostly focus on grief poetry because of certain incidents in my life. When I tried to find solace through poetry, there weren’t many poets old or contemporary who could soothe a grieving soul. So, I started to write with a theme aside from my usual style.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My grandfather gave the gift of words to my mother. She wrote short stories and rhymes herself, but mostly she got me to read and develop an ear for languages. She believes that listening well is the key to writing well. Most Indians are multilingual, and my family came to acquire diverse cultural influences through marriage and travel. I grew up on a steady diet of poetry in at least 7 languages and a plethora of Indian dialects. Thanks to my mother, I read and listened to verse in Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, English, Bengali, Burmese and Nepali. The rhythm and cadence of words is what keeps me looking for new channels for listening and writing.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

The sheer number of poets in the Indian subcontinent is enough to put immense pressure on budding poets! Add to that the fact that my parents’ and grandparents’ generations were greatly influenced by British poetry as the British Raj brought new genres like Anglo-Indian poetry and Foot Soldier poetry to the fore. Classical Celtic/ Irish poets lined the bookshelves in my home as did Resistance poetry in English and Indian languages. Of course, nonsense rhymes by contemporary American poets like Dr. Seuss rivalled British poets’ like Roald Dahl.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

It was a choice made 15 years ago, when I started a career in publishing. Writing and editing all day long seemed to be the best thing ever! And, I was thrilled to get to be the first pair of eyes that discover new literature. But, the occupational hazard is that I am too washed out to channel my creativity into my own writing at the end of the day. So, I have no dedicated writing time. I write on Sundays, holidays, on days special to me and most importantly, on days when I am feeling particularly distressed. I have a huge collection of notebooks and pencils that silently say, “Dream me.”

5. What motivates you to write?

Since I write grief poetry, my main motivation is finding a healthy outlet for my feelings. In this modern day and age, expressing ourselves freely is an illusion. Social media psychobabble puts a timer on our feelings, tells us to be soft and uses empty motivation to fuel a cycle of negativity.

In the larger scheme of things, there is no time limit to when our inner child has to grow up or feel a certain way (even those that are perceived as positive… because who is to say that life is fair?). It is best to appreciate what is in the present moment and write about it. We may change tomorrow, we might forget today. The Japanese word ‘Mono-no-aware’ captures this feeling for me; it’s a word that sensitises us to the transience of this world just like a cherry blossom that blooms and withers in springtime. The fact that beauty fades is what motivates me to constantly strive to create it.

6. What is your work ethic?

To me, writing is a form of mindfulness. I let everything extraneous fall away only to singly select those things that remain. Like Michelangelo who saw the Statue of David when it was just a hunk of rock. Fears that bubble to the surface are scary, but I just sit with them and continue till I feel I’ve created something with care and distilled my sensorial experiences for the reader. But I also self-edit mercilessly and try to read from the POV of the reader.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

For the longest time I thought of myself as someone like Alice – here and now, not in Wonderland. I was amazed to discover that writing could be a composition of prose, poetry and pictures. That is something that I carry with me as I illustrate my poems and short prose with inked doodles. They are often floral as the language of flowers is an added layer.

Closer home, I still like the good ole’ stuff – Dom Moraes and Sarojini Naidu. I cannot seem to outgrow them. Kamini Roy is a poetess who was a social activist and champion of women’s rights. I share my birthdate with her – just not the year! Her poetry is probably fiercely feminist and elegantly simple. The sheer research and the vivid historical storytelling in Amitav Ghosh’s works are awe-inspiring. Their style of storytelling is what I hope to emulate.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I was introduced to ‘The Wombwell Rainbow’ by Steve Denehan. A talented poet himself, I responded to his poems on Twitter because his work strikes that fine balance of logic and creative – just extremely honest poetry, no frills attached.

I think I am still lagging behind in discovering new poets that I really admire. I do see a lot of Instapoetry (poetry written on Instagram, often it takes the form of confessional poetry) as I too use Instagram for publishing my own poems at the moment. There are a couple of noteworthy accounts that I read and I’m constantly discovering awesome works on groups like ByMePoetry, EvePoetry and Her Heart Poetry. Personally, I’m honoured to have been a featured poet in these groups. They find some amazing folks 🙂

An unusual poet who inspires me is Korean pop artiste Kim Jonghyun. It is really unfortunate that his book Skeleton Flower: Things That Have Been Released and Set Free released post-mortem. The book is in Korean and I had to patiently wait for a fellow fan to translate it for international fans. I’ve followed Jonghyun’s career since his debut in 2008 and it really saddened me that his magnum opus released in 2018 would also be his last. His mastery of the craft shines through in his book and accompanying music album.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

The embarrassing reason was that I started to write was because I was painfully introverted and escaping to my study was the easiest form of personal catharsis. But as I shared what I wrote with others, people began to relate and that really makes me happy about it. It’s a fulfilling sense of community that I can do with just my computer or a plain notebook. I make other forms of art and even therapeutic practices but writing offers the most interesting balance of what’s within and without.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Simply by writing. There is no teacher better than practice. Then, start expanding your writing circle to writing groups. Find a mentor or writing buddy. It’s very fluid really, and you do what works best for you. I like to create solitary but definitely like to take feedback from a group. Online groups have helped me find writing buddies and prompts. The goal is just so that you are happy with the output, and the sheer fact that you write keeps you in a state of momentum that’s constantly sparking new ideas.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

Currently, there are two personal projects I’m working on:

1) https://www.instagram.com/kelticfae/
This is my Instagram that is a collection of grief poems dedicated to everyday objects, places and faces that remind me of someone who is no longer walking this world with me.

2) This is a WIP manuscript with poems and prose about life and love. Some of the poems were originally written as song lyrics (and I call them sonGEMS = song + poems). This manuscript also contains poetry as artwork. The working title is Madrugada and it’s named after a Norwegian alt-rock band. I hope to have that one out by end of this year.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Kari A. Flickinger

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these fiction writers you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Annotation 2019-07-20 222817

Kari A. Flickinger

was a 2019 nominee for the Rhysling Award, and a finalist in the Iron Horse Literary Review’s 2018 Photo Finish. Her poetry has appeared in Written Here: The Community of Writers Poetry Review, Riddled with Arrows, Door-Is-A-Jar, Dark Marrow, Rhythm and Bones, Moonchild Magazine, Nine Muses, Burning House Press, and Ghost City Review, among others. She is an alumna of UC Berkeley. When not writing, she plays guitar to her unreasonably large Highlander cat.

Find her:    kariflickinger.com   @kariflickinger   legendcitycollective.wordpress.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

Love and trees, maybe. I spent my childhood wandering aimlessly through the mountains of Northern California. Poetry is love. Lovers inspire me to write. And I don’t mean between the sheets, necessarily. I mean the way we show love in our world. The way I have been cared for, and have been shown how to care. The way I can extend care.

At the same time, my infinitely shit grasp on communicating with others also inspires me to write. Poetry makes all of my worst personality traits beautiful. I’m obsessive, destructive, at times unkind due to my scrutiny of my environment—a bit oblivious. I’m bipolar—I flip a lot, and process slowly. But all of these traits help me build like an ocean on the page. I unfold, align, take up space, and it all swells into a crescendo. Learning to read from all directions has helped me write from all directions.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

As a kid, I stumbled into poetry. I picked up these big fat books that were impossible for a little Kari to understand, and I consumed them. I was a weird kid. I told people I was going to be a poet and write the “Great American novel”. I was like eight years old. I was exposed to poetry at Renaissance festivals as a kid, too. My mom was a seamstress for years, and we would hawk for various shops, or join parades, and it was all very over-the-top Shakespearean. I like to think those years taught me how to read nuance.
But, the first time I was aware of loving poetry was when I read a book about unicorns from a local library. I checked that book out so many times. No other budding child-poets were going to gather inspiration from THAT copy! (I just looked it up, it was The Unicorn Treasury edited by Bruce Coville. I can’t believe I’ve just shared this story. Just ordered a copy online. What a time to be alive.)

I knew poetry would become my life when I read E. E. Cummings’ “[buffalo bill’s]” in high school. The configuration and rhythm fascinated me. My schoolgirl crush: E. E. Cummings. I wrote this poem out in my notebooks the way most girls write their crush’s last name in hearts.

Later, I think I became poetry when I read Marianne Moore’s “The Paper Nautilus” in community college.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I wasn’t until I went to get my formal education after turning thirty. I went to Diablo Valley College and knocked those survey courses out, and every day was a new expansion. I mean, do you know what it’s like to fall in love every day? I started getting migraines from reading and loving. Suddenly, there was Donne, Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Coleridge, Keats and Milton. There was Beowulf, and Chaucer. And it was love everywhere.

And it’s absolutely a problem that these are all old white fellas from one region of the world (some of which were stealing their poetry from their sister’s journals—cough, cough, Wordsworth, cough.) But, how do you abate love when it appears? How do you deal with that?

When I got into UC Berkeley, the reverence for these fellas was almost too much, at times. The boys’ club is still very much alive, but I think that’s changing and being part of that change is brilliant.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I write when I do. I’m very self-motivated, so I can walk away when something isn’t working, and come back to it later with fresh eyes, and it doesn’t hold me up for years. I write most days. Until recently, I had written almost every day for about two years. But it’s not a hard fast rule because I hate rules, and I immediately throw them out when I make them. Writing just happens. I’ve begun to trust my gathering phases or downtime. I’m unreasonably prolific. If I get manic, I clean the house and write into the night.

5. What motivates you to write?

Usually either piecing together observations—sewing together ideas that don’t necessarily belong together, or deconstructing. I love to build and destroy. Poetry is like a Lego set you can take with you everywhere, and work on anytime. Or an inexplicably meaningful blanket-fort. That’s a weird answer. I basically said writing motivates me to write.

6. What is your work ethic?

It’s absurdly strong. I put myself into anything I work on. I’ve held jobs since I was 15 years old. I often walked two miles back and forth between my first job and home, (not necessarily through the snow.) I had extremely strong, nearly obsessive follow-through all my life until recently when I worked through several diagnoses. It’s made me take a step back, and examine what I have time for. Should I write and research for hours, and not eat or go outside? No. No, I should not do that. I’m squishy and I’m 35, and the body can’t take that madness, anymore. But, I admit I love to work on writing. I love to edit. I never stop. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking of how I could be. It’s a compulsion. I have cancelled life obligations to stay home and write.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Music shaped me, first. I was a musician, I played guitar and wrote songs. My family was very musical. I would walk to this old record store with this bearded wizard looking man, and buy records for 25 cents and listen. I listened very loudly, then.
Teens-Kari found: E.E. Cummings, the poemphone poets, the beats, the constellation of sixties rock—The Doors, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles—it was all this absurdist spoken word kaleidoscopic thing really. Eventually, I found how to be brutal and honest by listening to Tori Amos.
Twenties-Kari found: Bukowski, because of-course-she-did. Those were hard years, love-wise.

Thirties-Kari has found: Robert Duncan and Czesław Miłosz. Sharon Olds. Lorine Niedecker. Roethke. Södergran. Rilke. Yeats. Merwin. Glück. Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

The why: I love writers who burst through language to annihilate the expected. It’s extremely difficult to balance complexity of construction with what is real. I love when a piece is a little bit instructive, part knife-to-the-gut with a dash of the order of humanity’s place in the universe, and a sprinkle of science.

The who: I’ll start with my brothers-of-the-word, Nicholas Yingling, and Dylan Heier-Ross—two of the most brilliant beautiful human beings, and most stunning writers a person could possibly hope to encounter. My writing friends Sterling Farrance, Bree Cassells, Tessa Rissacher, Ian Sheerin, and Kim Harvey.
Then my Writing Collective, they are all amazing writers cultivated by the wonderfully talented C. Aloysius Mariotti: legendcitycollective.wordpress.com.
I admire Jessica Barksdale, Brenda Hillman, Bob Hass, Lyn Hejinian, Tess Taylor, Brenda Shaughnessy, Sharon Olds, Jorie Graham, Morgan Parker, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Joy Harjo, Rae Armentrout, Matthew Zapruder, Aaron Poochigian, and K. Weber.

At Berkeley and the Community of Writers, I was so incredibly privileged to work with a few of the above-named folks, and I genuinely felt like an imposter. It’s an insane time to be writing. There are so many working amazing living breathing reading loving poets—it would be impossible to name who inspires me. Chances are, if I’ve encountered you, and your poetry, I admire what you’re doing. I seem smug, but that’s just my face. I secretly love you all.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I would never say anything if I didn’t write it down first.

And I do other things, I walk in botanical gardens, play guitar, work for a financial institution, eat tacos and watch bad television. But, something in me is always forming the next piece. I keep a notepad next to me when I’m driving. I sit at this long stoplight after work everyday, and write.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Write something down—you’re a writer. Labels are a huge myth created by this square little system. Claim your label. Practice. Observe. Love. And, this is especially for young women, you don’t owe anyone your “humbleness”. Buy into yourself. Promote yourself. Time to yourself is self-love. Believe in what you can do because you are capable.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I have a handful of poems I really love coming out in the next few months, one is inspired by Molly Bloom’s monologue at the end of Ulysses, and songs by Cake, and Concrete Blonde. Also, a couple poems about my struggles with my mental health; one about Ceres (celestial and myth.) Some about Taco Bell and Sappho. One about sound-bathing at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden for the Summer Solstice last year.

I have several larger projects in some level of construction. A chapbook on liminality that is inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses; I’ve started writing shorts in dialogue with various folktales, and a dialogue with Italo Calvino’s Complete Cosmicomics. I also have a chapbook on myth and limerence that explores the ramifications of the idealized poetic object (features poems to an avalanche of exes.) And I’ve been doing a lot of pieces based in sound—partitioned by the movements in specific pieces of music, or samplings of pop-culture.

I think sometimes people read my work and think there’s too much going on. But this is my brain. I have been accused of not showing enough heart in my work before; there is heart there—a lot of it—but like me, you might have to dig to get there.

My latest project (this is an on-going project):

Ten Things I Learned as a First Time Literary Magazine Editor

WendyPratt

 

I’m just about to write the editorial for Dream Catcher Magazine issue 39, the first issue to go to print with me in my official role as editor. It’s been a rollercoaster and a real learning curve as myself and the fantastic Dream Catcher team navigate the hand over between two editors with with different styles and ideas. Whilst trying to keep on top of the day to day stuff – the ever growing submissions reading, liaising with colleagues, making decisions and accepting (yay!) and declining (sorry!) work from writers all around the world – I have been working out new systems for tracking submissions, in order to speed up the process and allow us to easily and precisely see exactly what the status of any submission is at any point in the process. And lo, the hard work is paying off and we are about to see Issue…

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Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: C. Aloysius Mariotti

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Mariotti 2

C. Aloysius Mariotti 

was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Arizona. He studied creative writing at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he listened to a lot of Rush, Radiohead, and PJ Harvey. His poetry been featured in Black Bough Poetry, Marias at Sampaguitas, Boston Accent Lit, and Memoir Mixtapes, among others. He resides in Massachusetts with his wife Kristen and Westie Bella Francine.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@Lonesome_Noise

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I think I was inspired mostly by reading it. I’ve always adored language, the way combined words can make incredible beauty, or tell a staggering story unique to anything else. But there was also a great challenge to writing poems that sucked me in, to find the right combinations of words to evoke the stories I wanted to tell.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

No one in particular. I’m sure it originally came about through my curiosity in the public library, then furthermore in the Mesa Public School system.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

If by older poets, you mean the canon of dead white males, I was very aware. They were in every anthology I read. Some became influences. I admit to loving the British Romantics. Coleridge, specifically. Keats. But, man. What an improving poetry world we live in now, where it’s normal to find poets of color, of all genders, of all creeds and philosophical thoughts. I think poetry was always a voice for marginalized people. It’s awesome to finally see books from that community in the public space. But we always need more.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I’ve never been one to write x-amount of words a day. I don’t use prompts to create on the spot. Generally, for me, writing inspiration best comes with some glasses of whiskey.

5. What motivates you to write?

Language. There are few things as perfect as words, how seeing them on the page can summon something indelible inside you. Either from a memory or common connection, or just the gorgeousness of certain letters strung together. I’m motivated to create such wondrous beauty.

6. What is your work ethic?

According to the novel I’ve been writing since 1997, my work ethic is quite methodical.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

There is always an influence in there on an unconscious level. As a young poet, I was very into rhyme and meter. While at the University of Arizona, I took a writing class taught by the poet Steve Orlen. He read my work and picked a modern poet he felt I resembled, and then had me read a collection and write an essay about it. He chose the British poet Philip Larkin, and his book The Whitsun Weddings. And though I wasn’t familiar with Larkin at the time, I was absolutely unshocked to be paired with him, because how towering an influence on me were the British writers of the past? They were 90% of the poets in the books I read. After that class, I made it paramount to move beyond that influence, and I immersed myself in poets who played with form, like prose and free-verse. And I realized, quickly, that that was my true wheelhouse and passion.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I’ve been fortunate to meet a group of writers who are not just as good as it gets but supportive as well. So, I decided to create the Legend City Collective (a name taken from the novel I’m writing). I’m a firm believer in creative communities, and the selfish person I am, I filled mine with my favorite ones! From the website:

“There is something gorgeous about entwining your artistic sensibilities with others, about being in a spot to encourage, & support, & inspire one another. And to also be pushed to create such fire so you can keep up with the brilliance around you.”

You can read about those writers I most admire here: https://legendcitycollective.wordpress.com

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

Truth be told, writing is what I’m best at. I’ve played music since high school, and even recorded an album. But, there is nothing more free to me than language. It lets me be my best me.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I’m of the thought that if you write, you are a writer. It’s as simple as that.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I have a few poems upcoming in publications such as Black Bough Poetry, Dark Marrow, The Failure Bailer, Sub Rosa, and Pink Plastic House. But my all-consuming project is this novel. It’s called Collapse the Light into Earth (title taken from a Porcupine Tree song). I’m about 85% complete, with a goal of having it done by November 1, which is my 45th birthday. The story is in three parts, which intertwine in surprising ways, and follows a non-linear path toward an existential ending. It’s the best work I’ve ever written, and I truly hope readers will connect to it. Oh, and that an agent is reading this interview and wants me to query with them!

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Mark Antony Owen

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Subruria

Mark Antony Owen

Syllabic poet Mark Antony Owen (https://www.markantonyowen.com/) writes exclusively in nine original forms – sometimes, with variations. His work centres on that world where the rural bleeds into the suburban: a world he calls ‘subrural’.
Mark’s economic, often bittersweet, poetry cycles through themes of love and loss and what we think we remember. His poems – some general, others intensely personal – shift unchronologically back and forth between things observed and things recalled.
Based in subrural East Hampshire, Mark is the author of digital-only poetry project Subruria.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

Poetry and I have had an on/off love affair stretching back to when I was seven. I still recall the first poem I ever wrote at that age … though I’ll spare your readers that. Poetry has come and gone and come again into my life several times since then – and until I turned 37, I didn’t really know what to do with it. It took a troubled period of my life, a realisation that my career was insufficiently fulfilling, and a deep-seated desire to create something that might reflect at least some of who and what I am in the world before I admitted to myself, ‘You’re a poet.’

For this reason, there’s been no one moment I can point to and say, ‘That’s what first inspired me.’ I’m a writer, I’m certain, because of Jeanette Winterson’s novel, ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’. But I’m a poet, perhaps, because I think and feel poetically, rather than in a prose-like way. All I know is that I don’t want to tell my life straight. Where’s the art in that?

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Here’s where I’d love to be able to heap praise on some long-forgotten secondary school English teacher, or a thoughtful relative who instilled in me a love of literature. Sadly, I can’t: I’m pretty much self schooled in poetry – and in art, generally. So I’ll tell you instead about two poems which, when I was coming back to poetry after a prolonged period of not thinking about it nor writing any, reinvigorated me and made me want to make it as a poet … whatever that means.

The first poem is ‘Shopper’ by Connie Bensley. It contains this one line that, when I read it first, felt like it showed me what was possible in poetry:

` … The road chokes
on delivery vans.’

It’s just those six words: the idea of a road as a throat. And it was utterly transformative. It made me realise I didn’t have to write about love or loss or nature in that florid, faux-Keatsian, juvenile way too many young people do.

The other poem that had a devastating impact – in a good way – was ‘A Bird in the House’ by Elizabeth Jennings. I feel I need to share a bigger slice of this poem, from its ending, to try to convey what I felt when I first encountered it:

`After my first true grief I wept, was sad, was dark, but today,
Clear of terror and agony,
The yellow bird sings in my mind and I say
That the child is callous but wise, knows the purpose of play.
And the grief of ten years ago
Now has an ancient rite,
A walk down the garden carrying death in an egg
And the sky singing, the trees still waving farewell
When dying was nothing to know.’

How powerful is that last line? Obviously, this extract is shorn of context. But you get a sense of the innocence and the tragedy that this poem deals with so brilliantly. You can read the poem in full and hear Elizabeth Jennings read ‘A Bird in the House’ over at The Poetry Archive. (https://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/bird-house)

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

Larkin and Hughes. Those were the only two names I can remember having imposed on us at school. Consequently, they were the two dominating presences I encountered as a young man. I don’t recall much about Hughes from that time, but I do remember thinking I wanted nothing to do with Larkin.

Fast-forward nearly twenty years, and there I was, reading Andrew Motion’s biography of the poet – and (horror of horrors) finding myself as inspired by the facts of his life as by his poetry. I worry at times that I’ve absorbed something of the Larkin spirit; I often talk about my own work as belonging to something I’ve termed New Pessimism, which I’m sure Larkin would’ve loved.

This is not to suggest I see myself as entitled to nor wearing the old curmudgeon’s crown – his poetry works in quite a different way to mine. But I do seem to see the world through Larkinesque eyes when I write, so it’s possible I’m treading in his footsteps even without consciously meaning to.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Oh, to have one of these! My days are long and quite full-on. I rise early to drive to places of work that are considerable distances from home. Once I’m back, I help a lot around the house and with the raising of my children – so there’s no sloping off to a study for a couple of hours’ writing. But at some point, I fantasise, I’ll be in a position to enjoy at least one day a week when I can wake around 7am, take coffee, listen to some chamber music, shower, perhaps go for a walk in the countryside, then arrive at my desk for 10am to write or revise till about 4pm.

I greatly admire those who rise before the sun to write, or who scribble deep into the night. My brain’s not at its best at those times of day. So I tend to write in snatches: draft new poems quickly to preserve (as far as possible) the original idea, then take sometimes several years – and countless revisits – to perfect what I first jotted down. Not exactly what you’d call ‘routine’.

5. What motivates you to write?

I’ll let my vanity answer this one: I want to be remembered. Or rather, I want the art I create to be remembered. That’s not my sole motivator, of course – I write because I need to express how I think and see and feel about the world around me (as well as the world within me). But when I ask myself how, at the end of my life, I hope to appraise all I’ve written, I always come back to the idea of art conferring upon artists a kind of immortality. I’m not actually interested in living forever physically. I like to hope, however, that my work might go on living long after I’m gone.

6. What is your work ethic?

If, by ‘work ethic’, what’s meant here is, ‘Do you believe in working hard?’, then no – I don’t. I believe in working smart. There’s no inherent virtue nor value in hard work, no matter how much the world tries to convince you there is. There’s every virtue and value in working smarter. Do it right, and you can achieve just as much as you might by hard work alone but with a greatly reduced cost to your physical, mental and emotional health. Take it from someone who used to be a workaholic (and who got ill for a number of years because of this): it’s really not worth it.

What matters most is constancy. You need this to drive you – give you a reason to believe that what you’re doing matters, to motivate you to carry on. It also helps to keep you from deviating too far from (or diluting) your original vision. Do that, and things can and will get messy, sooner or later. Hard work doesn’t enter into it. Yes, you will face challenges. Look always for the smartest way to resolve these, not the way that’ll see you expend the most effort. Life is hard enough as it is. Don’t make it harder, especially not in the name of art. Don’t rob what you love of its joy.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Without wishing to make it sound like I grew up in a house free from books – I didn’t; my father was a voracious, wide-ranging reader (and still is) – I wasn’t a reader as a child. I wanted to make and do and go outside to play: to have a visceral interaction with my environment. I sometimes wonder if this hands-on life experience in my early years has in some way shaped my approach to poetry. When you’re immersed in the world in a very physical way, you tend to notice a lot about it. Certainly, I can’t imagine anyone who knew me as a child ever suspecting I’d grow up to be a writer – and definitely, not a poet. So as much as I’d like to answer this question by citing a list of obscure or critically acclaimed authors, I really can’t.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

There are so many incredible, inspiring writers around today that whoever I pick I’ll inevitably neglect to mention someone else equally worthy. I must confess to reading mainly female poets, so I’m going to name-check just three: Natalie Ann Holborow, an extraordinarily talented poet to whose work I was introduced only relatively recently; Rebecca Goss, whose writing goes from strength to strength with each new collection; and Ada Limón, who writes with such intensity and honesty it’s disarming. I could reel off a dozen more names, but I won’t.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

Fun fact: I wanted to be a visual artist. A cartoonist, actually. I spent my entire childhood believing this was my creative destiny. I tell people the reason I quit was because my step-brother was much better than me at visual art. The truth is that I simply lost my love for it. Around the same time, I was discovering I had facility with words.

At first, much like Larkin I suppose, I was resolute in thinking I’d be a novelist. It took me most of my twenties to realise I wasn’t cut out for this – followed by a long, dry spell of no creative writing through the bulk of my thirties. I say ‘no creative writing’, but in fact I was working as an advertising copywriter, which gave me an outlet of sorts. What that job alone should’ve proved to me was that I enjoyed short-form writing the most.

To bring all this back to the question, I hit a point where I felt almost a physical ache from not creating something original – something that came from me, rather than in response to a commercial brief. When I’d wrestled with the reasons why and explored what might make my ‘pain’ go away (my options at that time included writing comedy, something I still wish I’d done), I realised my first literary love was poetry. Ever since that epiphany, I’ve made poetry a fundamental part of every day. I can’t imagine this ever changing now, after almost a decade.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

If you can do anything else better, do that! Being a writer is rarely, if ever, as glamorous as one imagines. But if putting one word after another after another is the thing that gives you your power and freedom of expression (and you believe you have something to say, and a way to say it differently to how others might say it), then you need do only two things: write a lot, and read even more. Reading will fuel you, inspire you, educate you, entertain you, alarm you, enrich and enliven you. Writing will give you the means to take what reading – and living – gives you, and transform it into art. Because art is the goal. Why aim for anything less?

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I shall be frank here, and bold: the next 30 years are being dedicated to my digital-only poetry project, Subruria (https://www.subruria.com/). You can read what this is (and how it came about) in another interview I gave earlier (http://poetryminiinterviews.blogspot.com/2019/03/mark-antony-owen-part-one.html?m=0) in 2019 as part of Thomas Whyte’s Poetry Mini Interviews series.