Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Katrina Naomi

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

Would you be interested in taking part in a series of interviews with poets and flash fiction writers that I will put on my WordPress, Twitter and Facebook accounts? It can take the form of either a list of questions you can take away and complete, then email back to me or a more fluid conversation via messenger or email. Your choice.

Croc final Jan 16

Katrina Naomi

Her website states “Poet. Katrina’s poetry has appeared in The TLS, Poetry London, The Poetry Review, and on Radio 4. She received an Arts Council/British Council award in 2017 to travel to Japan. Her latest collection, ‘The Way the Crocodile Taught Me’, was published by Seren in 2016. Katrina was writer-in-residence at the Arnolfini in Bristol in 2016 and will be writer-in-residence at the Leach Pottery in St Ives in 2018. She tutors for Arvon, the Poetry School and the Poetry Society. Her previous books include: ‘Hooligans’, (Rack Press, 2015), ‘The Girl with the Cactus Handshake’ (Templar Poetry, 2009), which was shortlisted for the London New Writing Award, ‘Charlotte Bronte’s Corset’ (Bronte Society, 2010) following her residency at the Bronte Parsonage Museum and ‘Lunch at the Elephant & Castle’, which won the 2008 Templar Poetry Competition.


The Interview

1. Who introduced you to poetry?

I’d hated poetry at school. I didn’t read any – and wouldn’t have dreamt of writing any – until I heard the poem ‘I Go Back to May 1937’ by Sharon Olds. This was in my late 20s. I was a bit of a late starter, I’m not the kind of poet who wrote as a teenager, I think I was too busy dancing and going out.

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

Well, I was certainly aware of the dominating presence of male poets of a certain era – this, and how poetry was taught, helped to put me off at a young age. Every poet that we read at school was male and white, and probably from a century or two back. I found poetry incredibly dull and elitist, it had no relevance to my life, as a working class young woman. If you’d have told me that I’d be writing poetry now, I’d have laughed in your face.

3. What is your daily writing routine?

I write most mornings. I usually start by reading a collection, and I’ll always have a mug of tea on the go. I read for half an hour, or until something in another poet’s work sparks something off for me. I’m reading Lorca’s Selected Poems at the moment. I’ve just finished Zaffar Kunial’s Us, Zeina Hashem Beck’s Louder Than Hearts and W S Graham’s New Collected Poems. I don’t think you can write unless you read. Once I’ve got an idea, then I either free write for a page or two, or I might go straight for a draft, which will be messy and sprawling. Once I’ve got something down, I’ll do two more drafts of the same poem at a sitting; at the end of this process I’ve got what I call my first draft. This takes most of the morning. After lunch, I’ll go for a walk, swim in the sea, go to the gym, or see a friend. Then in the afternoon, I might edit poems, write reviews or articles, and catch up on admin – emails, social media, website stuff. I try to keep my evenings free for other things, I’m never much good at writing at night.

4. What motivates you to write?

I’m lucky, I don’t need much motivation to write. It’s the opposite, I feel strange if I don’t write.

5. What is your work ethic?

I’m quite disciplined about it, boringly so! I do my emails before breakfast, then I’m free to start reading and writing. But I find it’s important to do other things. I love walking, I walk every day, I also hate staring at the screen for too long – happily I write with a pen and notebook – and I love swimming, and seeing friends.

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

Apart from Mum reading me Dr Zeuss, I didn’t read poetry when I was young. I didn’t start reading poetry regularly until I was in my 30s. After Sharon Olds, I read Mark Doty and I’ve continued exploring ever since.

7. Which new writers do you admire the most and why?

Blimey, there’s so many poets I really admire. I’m delighted about Danez Smith winning the Forward Prize for Best Collection. I remember seeing ‘Dinosaurs in the Hood’ in The Poetry Review a couple of years back and just going ‘wow’. It made me cry. I remember reading it to everyone I could think of – even to friends who can’t stand poetry. There’s so much great poetry around at the moment, it feels a really vibrant time. I’m lucky enough to be mentoring Mary Jean Chan, she won the Anne Born Prize with the Poetry Society, so I’m reading a lot of her work, and I think she’s going to be one to watch. Also, I’m aware that there’s so much wonderful poetry in the world that I don’t know about – particularly poets writing in other languages that I might not have heard about or seen translated.

8. Why do you write?

That’s quite hard to answer. Partly because I feel I have to, and if I’m being honest, I suppose like most writers, I feel I’ve got things I want to say, things about my life, women’s lives, the state of the world…But I also write to find out what I think about things. If I know where a poem is going when I sit down to write it, then there’s no point in continuing.

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

I’d tell them to read contemporary poetry – if they wanted to be a poet. And I’d tell them that they’re likely to be in it for the long haul, that it will take over their life, mostly in a good way. And that it can be hard – not like working down a mine is hard – but it can be quite tough mentally. And to spend time with other writers, share what goes well and, more importantly, what doesn’t go so well. We all need support. And also be sure to have friends who have no interest in poetry whatsoever. That’s essential, they keep your feet firmly on the ground and help stop you becoming a poetry bore! But basically, you need to read and to write, and to carve out time for yourself. You need to be disciplined but also to know how to enjoy yourself. It’s important to have other interests too.

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

I’ve been commissioned by the BBC to write a poem for National Poetry Day, that’s on 4 October. I’ve just finished this and it’s been filmed and I’ve got to go to be interviewed about it on the day. I’m working on a new collection, which will come out with Seren in June 2020 and I’m just finishing a pamphlet which will be published early next year. So it’s a busy time. Busy but exciting.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Bethany Rivers

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.



Bethany Rivers

Bethany Rivers has had many poems published in the UK and the USA including: Sarasvati, Envoi, Blithe Spirit, Bare Fiction, Amgydala, Scintilla (USA), Fair Acre Press, Three drops from a cauldron, I am not a silent poet, The Lampeter Review, Cinnamon Press, Clear Poetry, The Ofi Press and The Fat Damsel. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Cardiff University and has been teaching creative writing for ten years. Her biggest passions in life are writing and enabling others to write. She runs poetry inspiration and poetry healing courses: http://www.writingyourvoice.org.uk

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

My very first poems, I must’ve written when I was about seven or eight. There was an old lady who lived across the road from me, Mrs Dorothy Butt, and she’d had some poems published, and one had even been read by the Queen.  She’d never married, due to the lack of men after the war.  And she lived alone with her cat, and I enjoyed giving the cat biscuits and listening to Mrs Butt read her poems.  That was my first encounter with poetry.

My first poems weren’t very good at all.  And I don’t remember writing much more until I hit the age of 12, and my father died.  I started to write a lot then.  It was a way of not only expressing feelings that I didn’t have anyone to talk to about, but also a way of figuring out what I was actually feeling in the first place.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?
See above.

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

Not sure I understand this question.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a daily routine.  I write whenever I need to.  I find I get a lot of writing done in workshops, either run by others, or when I run them.  Also, if there is a certain strong emotion or idea that is burning to be told, I will endeavour to express that the best way I can, through a poem.  Competitions that offer a theme help me to produce poems.  And I work really well to deadlines.

5. What motivates you to write?

I have to write.  I need to.  Writing is in my blood.  I start to feel out of sorts if I haven’t written anything for a while.  Writing makes me feel at home.  It’s bliss – the creative act of writing.  I forget the world and the words flow through me.

6. What is your work ethic?

Not sure what this questions means either.

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

I didn’t know of many poets when I was young.  It’s taken me many years to discover poetry, and a long time to discover poetry I liked and felt inspired by.  I don’t think the education system helps with this at all.  Poetry written by others was not really on my radar until I got to university and started studying it there, but it was many years later I actually found poets I was inspired by.  I’d much rather say that my poems are in conversation with others’ poems, rather than influenced by.  All poems are different threads of the same tapestry.  Today I’m in conversation with the poetry of many poets, here are just a few: Mary Oliver, David Whyte, John O’Donohue, Zeina Hashem Beck, Sharon Olds, Rebecca Perry, Ocean Vuong, Tishani Doshi.

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

Mary Oliver is by far and away my favourite poet.  I love how accessible her language is, and how, simultaneously, she offers many layers of interaction with the text. I love how soothing her poems often are, and how they offer hope.  I love how her observations of nature are so acute and how she then uses these to make profound points about life, without at all being preachy or obvious.  I love how her poems are quietly spiritual, and that you can take on board  as much or as little as you feel comfortable with.  I don’t write anything like Mary Oliver, but she’s the poet I return to most often.

9. Why do you write?

There are so many different reasons why I write.  And different reasons apply at different times.  But that feeling of oneness with the universe, when I’m writing – I love that.  I write to see what it is I’m feeling, what it is I really think.  I write to find out about who I am.  I write to connect deeper with myself.  I write in the hope of connecting with others.  I write to dig deeper and find the textures of truth.  I write because it’s fun and I love it and enjoy it.  I write because I have no choice – I need to write.  All humans have an innate impetus to create, and writing is my way of creativity.  I write because it offers wisdom and insight and healing.  I write because writing is alchemy.  And sharing writing with others is where healing and connection can happen on a deeper level.  Writing together with others can also be calming, meditative, powerful, centring.  I write to find out what it is I’m going to write.  Every piece of  writing is a mystery and an adventure.

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

That’s a complex question.  It’s a combination of things.  The impetus has to come from within.  Being a writer isn’t just putting words on paper – it’s an attitude to life, an approach to things.  It’s as much about observation, day-dream time, the books you read, the films you watch, the passions and obsessions you have, the culture you absorb and how you absorb it.

Writing is about the time and place you live in.  Writing is not separate from life – it’s a part of who you are.  So there is the element of that from within, which isn’t distinguishable from the rest of the self, and in some ways can’t be taught, but it can be facilitated, it does need to be given a safe space to be expressed.

There is also the craft, learning the craft.  The time you have to put into reading copiously, the time you have to spend putting pen to paper (fingers to the laptop, though I’m old-fashioned and prefer to handwrite everything first) – you have to put that time in, and keep doing it.  You have to push through the pain barriers that the inner-critic keeps presenting you with and write anyway.  You have to ignore all the other voices in the world that tell you not to write, that there are a million and one other things that need to be done.

You have to love it.  Enjoy it.  You need a sense of playfulness, a sense of curiosity, in order to begin and in order to keep going when the writing-road gets rocky.  Playfulness is key – that sense of openness, and a wondering what will happen if…  And you need cheerleaders, to egg  you on when you’re flailing, faltering, falling.  Each writer’s journey is unique, each writer may need slightly different things in order to nurture their craft, yet they all have universal elements: reading voraciously, a sense of play, persistence and perseverance, and the love of writing – they’re essential.

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

I’m currently waiting to hear back from publishers as to whether my full poetry collection will be accepted (this will be my second poetry book).  My book on the creative writing process, Tell it slant, will be published next March (2019).  I feel as though I’m in limbo really, as regards current writing projects, as I’m waiting for these two babies to be born into the world.  I’m constantly writing poems, so they’re accumulating all the time.  There’s a gentle and quiet bubble of an idea for a children’s story which is too shy to emerge as yet.  I’m open to ideas right now, for something meaty to get my writer’s-teeth into.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Peter Raynard

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, 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.

Peter Raynard

Peter Raynard is editor of Proletarian Poetry; poems of working class lives (www.proletarianpoetry.com). He has written two books of poetry; his debut collection ‘Precarious’ (Smokestack, 2018) and The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto (Culture Matters, 2018)

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I wasn’t inspired to write poetry. It was a totally alien thing to me; at least in how it had appeared to be from afar. Although Malika Booker showed me it can be more relevant to my own working class background, enough to get me writing (it was a module of a MA), I have since found that predominantly poetry generally isn’t. However, there is enough poetry that I found interesting and important.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Malika Booker, when teaching me on my MA course. Then Jo Bell, who was my mentor a few years ago.

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

I find this question a bit left field, in that all of the other questions are about writing itself, yet this one makes a statement about a particular demographic. I feel the dominating presence is not so much to do with age, rather more to do with the themes and agendas of a white middle class generally cocooned from political events, thus rarely writing about them and so we don’t see poetry that reflects the wider world.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have one. I am disabled, so it is when my body and mind allow me to. But I generally manage a couple of hours during the day.

5. What motivates you to write?

The feeling I have something to say that isn’t being said by many people, especially those who hold the power.

6. What is your work ethic?

Don’t let people down.

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

I didn’t start reading until I was in my mid-20s. None of it was poetry. It was mainly the Russian greats. I have been reading poetry since 2012, and a lot of it is young poets.

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

Fran Lock and Melissa Lee Houghton. They are fearless in their writing, highly intelligent, and are top of the tree.

9. Why do you write?

See answer 5

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

Go to a writing class. The main reason being you will be amongst your own, and you will learn together. Writing is lonely enough.

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

I continue to write poems for my second collection, and write features for my blog Proletarian Poetry.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Vincent Zepp

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, 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.


Vincent Zepp

Describes himself as “Arriving at the time in history (including literary history) when I did. I was blessed to have such a rich tradition of poetry, art, music, and culture available to me. This continues to allow my poetry to flourish in a rich loam of influences. The work I believe is representative of the best thoughts and intuitions of my generation of writers whose challenge is to move forward with the gifts given to us from previous generation of artists. From Ferlinghetti who opened my eyes to Pound and Eliot through the various significant literary and art movements of the 20th century. Then there was the haiku master Basho who showed us frogs leaping into the pond of our mind. John Berryman said our poetry should be something no one else could do. I’ve tried to focus on that idea.”

The Interview

  1. When did you start writing poetry?

I’ve had this thing called a creative urge as long as I can recall. I was too poor for piano lessons and my art work was never hung up at school. As a senior in Ligonier High School poetry, the poem, the poet was what was part of English class. Senior year was British literature. It didn’t resonate with me but I was a good student and I did my assignments and got good grades.
That year there was a student teacher attached to our English teacher. He was a good guy, close to our age and part of the culture we were all immersed in. In an attempt to spark our minds he would bring in poems that he felt might serve as flint. He brought in lyrics from the Beatles and others. One day he brought in a poem by a guy named Ferlinghetti that began: in a surrealist year of sandwichmen. I read it, understood it and enjoyed it. I thought if this is poetry I can do that.

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

at that time not at all…..

2.1 Later…?

i majored in english in college…which meant i studied american literature…focusin­g on poetry…in the beginning i immersed myself into ferlinghetti….but not so much as an influence…

Ferlinghetti opened my many eyes to poetry not the friable texts of English classes but something alive. Without a conscious effort I took the first steps on the road not taken-before i even knew Frost. Before I would read Lao Tzu who said the journey of a thousand li begins with the first step.

I flew the Ferlinghetti nest because it was time to go. I was well fed and well kept by him but it was time to fly. Around that time John Berryman jumped off the bridge and killed himself. Reading about that incident led me to read his work. I read everything he wrote. The one thing about him was that I couldn’t lapse into imitating him which often happens with novice poets. One day I was reading an interview with him. At one point he said- the important thing is that your work be something no one else could do. Read that again. That became the litmus test against which I judged my poems and everyone else’s continuing to today.

I became voracious to live up to that idea. Growing up we were told-choose your friends don’t let your friends choose you. In doing so I ran into a book called Haiku Ancient and Modern by Asataro Miyamori. The best book on haiku ever. It’s still in print. Asataro took a grandfatherly approach to haiku. But what a grandfather to have. What a beautiful thing haiku is. It introduced me to Basho. I never hesitate to say the best poet ever. His frog leaping in the pond in my mind still. The whole cosmos in a few words. The 17 syllable thing is only relevant in Japanese. He got to the quantum level before the physicists. The flash in the mind pure without cleverness.

When I first read the poem In a Station of the Metro I thought-there’s a guy who knows how to write a short poem- a great piece of comedic irony. Ezra Pound was one of the creators of modernism. His name today still in some circles raises the hackles. But no one can consider themselves a truly worthy poet without having read the Cantos. It’s the Mount Everest of modernism and stands along Picasso’s work of that period as one of the monuments of modernism. Modernism is not a movement but the moment we find ourselves in no longer wandering like a lonely cloud. Caught in the cacophony and crapulence with nowhere to go but forward. Pound taught-make it new. When the moment of poetry arrives no longer welded to the past constrictions or contemporary conventions. Not unlike Basho’s call for freshness of expression. Pound also introduced the west to Asian literature with his transition of the Jade Mountain poets like the lovely Li Po. It was Pounds vanity that caused the curse upon him-leaving that wrenching line in the Pisan Cantos- pull down thy vanity. Another grandfather to me.

If I didn’t mention Allen Ginsberg there’d be a big hole in the page. One of my personal favorite accomplishments was being able to produce a reading for him. I always learned something from him when I would read his poems. Learning the mantric realities of the word, the role of the poet in the world, similar to Pound’s idea of poets as persons of action in history. Allen was a gentle soul and I wish he was still around. I miss my friend Dennis Brutus every day.

3. What is your daily writing routine?

i dont have one…..i write when the poem arrives…..the period of not writing is as important as the period of writing…i dont believe in writers block…its like waiting for ups..the routine can be a distraction….the poem may be coming from that direction but one gets too focused on looking in this direction…and misses the opportunity….a lot of folks write the same kind of poem…ive been lucky not to…i think it may come from not having a fixed perspective…..sort­ of what denise levertov touched on in her essay on organic poetry……

4. What motivates you to write?

now that its football season …and im not a big sports guy…but living in pittsburgh you have to be or they kick you out of the city…i like to watch the players during pregame warm up where they yell and scream and beat on each other for motivation…i think that would be funny to see poets do that..

poetry like all the arts is a gift given to the true poet…and theres some kind of….responsibility­… to the gift….and now that we are in the period of art where there are no rules …i think the responsibility is even greater…..i might be wandering off here……so my only motivation is to be true to poetry….which is a real thing…like oxygen…the true poet is given the gift to be able to perceive the emanations of poetry..which is all around us…and to be able to collect the emanations into a container we call a poem….thats all a poem is….a container for the poetry…and doing it in such a way that poetry remains alive….not like the pressed butterflies our grandmothers collected….

4.1 so the motivation is the subtext for all that….

now there is an excitement that accompanies a job well done….and maybe thats my motivation…the excitement of creativity…the surprise…..

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

.i have an enormous love of the poets who are part of the idiotic and feeble minded poets facebook page….and wouldnt want to slight any of the active poets there through accidental omission

its good to know that gary snyder is still with us …as is mr merwin….i was over joyed to find that michael horovitz from england is still doing his thing…..

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

t think its like elwood p dowds story of how he came to meet harvey the pooka….it introduced itself to me…. and gave me a lifelong gift of friendship.

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

i finished my 16th volume of poetry LIM1IN6AL in december and its being published through alexander szep as part of the ongoing postpublsihing world effort…as a digital book…anyone who would like a gift can contact me through facebook or by email at postpublsihingworld@­gmail.com.. (if you’d like a copy lemme know)
ive begun poems for my 17th volume

im beginning a project to archive the poetry organization and production work here in pittsburgh ive done with the szep foundation…through­ the heinz history center

im continuing my work with the IDIOTIC AND FEBBLEMINDED POETS facebook page…….featuring poets from 16 countries and 5 continents those who are interested should check it out at https://­www.facebook.com/­groups/­idioticandfeebleminde­dpoets/

also considering re-running the posthumous poetry series that first appeared on youtube.. perhaps in december https://­www.youtube.com/user/­alexanderszep

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Claire Dyer

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, 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.

Claire Dyer

Claire Dyer is a novelist and poet who likes love stories and cheese.

Her latest novel, ‘The Last Day’ is published by The Dome Press. Her previous novels, ‘The Moment’ and ‘The Perfect Affair’ and her FREE short story is ‘Falling for Gatsby’ are published by Quercus. Her poetry collections, ‘Interference Effects’ and ‘Eleven Rooms’ are published by Two Rivers Press.

Claire has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London which means she now has Three Degrees so all she needs is to be able to sing in tune and wear sequins without looking foolish!

Her website is: http://www.clairedyer.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’m not sure. It just kind of happened. I wrote some poems when I was a girl that my family seemed to like and so poetry became my go-to place to express myself. There were, naturally, some awful poems in my teenage and student years but the more I read of others’ work, the more I learned!

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My English teacher at school. I remember we were studying a poem and the whole class thought it was about falling asleep. The teacher told us it was about dying and I got quite cross because I believed poetry should be allowed to have multiple meanings and resonate on different levels to different people. I therefore now think poetry is a gift, ie. something a poet gifts to a reader and says, ‘This is what I want to say about this subject, but it’s up to you how to interpret it.’

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

Very. I was extremely taken with the Romantic poets at school, particularly Keats, but then I found a copy of ‘The Mersey Sound’ in the school library and realised that poetry came in many different shapes and sizes. It was a revelation!

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have one! Every day is different depending on what my diary commitments look like. I teach creative writing, run an editorial and critiquing business, curate a monthly poetry event in Reading and write novels as well as poetry. I do try to plan my week to give myself some blocks of writing time but poems tend to come when you’re not looking and so I normally find myself at my keyboard when I should be cooking dinner!

5. What motivates you to write?

Feelings, experiences, being set homework by my poetry class or being commissioned to write a poem for certain occasion/campaign.

6. What is your work ethic?

Ooh, that’s a tricky one! In my novel-writing life the motivation is to get published. I have an amazing agent and together we will work on a manuscript until it’s honed and ready for submission to a publisher. In my poetry-writing life it’s a bit different. The poems come, I work on them for weeks or maybe months and then I may submit them to a competition or a magazine or I may just keep them close and not let them out of the door!

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

Greatly. I think everything we read gets stored away somewhere and makes us the writers and readers we are today, seeping through into our phrasing, word choice, sense of rhythm, etc.

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

Another tricky question! There are so many, probably too many to mention. I keep up to date with the shortlists for The Forward and the TS Eliot prizes and am interested in how they may be seen to be pushing boundaries, saying something different or adhering to traditional forms and material. But, just as importantly, are the poems that get produced in workshops or that I hear at readings and book launches, ones by poets who say, ‘This is me. I am here.’

9. Why do you write?

Because I have to. It’s how I make sense of the world. If it doesn’t sound too pretentious I ‘see’ in poems and use them to marshal my thoughts and reactions. They are also like a puzzle, getting the right pieces in the right order to make some sort of sense. When I write novels, it’s my characters who drive the stories forward, they stamp their feet inside my head! When I write poems, it’s often a phrase or a line or just an image flashing across my mind that I want to try to pin down.

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

Practice. I liken writing to throwing pots. You don’t expect to sit at a potter’s wheel and throw the perfect pot the first time. So it is with writing, you need to practise, hone your craft, learn from others, seek advice, take risks, keep believing.

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

I currently have a novel out on submission and another with my agent for review and I’m working on a collection of poems I hope may be published in 2021.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jane Burn

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, 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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Jane Burn

Jane Burn is a writer and artist who is originally from South Yorkshire. She currently lives with her family in the North East of England. She spends eight months of the year at their 1920’s eco-friendly, off-grid wooden cottage in Northumberland, which she and her husband have spent the last three years restoring with almost entirely reclaimed or recycled materials. She has a keen interest in gardening and nature and loves to spend time with her beloved Jack Russell Terriers and Gypsy Cob, Orca. She works in a supermarket to make ends meet and dreams of a day when she can devote herself to her art and writing full time.

She has been a member of 52, the North East Women’s Collective, the Tees Women Poets and the Black Light Writing Group and regularly performs at many poetry nights.

Her poems have been published in many online magazines such as, Ink Sweat & Tears (where her poem was voted Pick of the Month in June, 2015, Nutshells and Nuggets, I am not a silent poet, Antiphon, Alliterati, The Stare’s Nest, the Loch Raven Review, Proletarian Poetry, Algebra for Owls (where her poem was voted Reader’s Choice), The Blue Nib, Writers for Calais, The Poetry Shed, Open: Journal of Art & Letters, Visual Verse, The Learned Pig, Culture Matters, Rat’s Ass Review, Bonnie’s Crew, Work to a calm, The Ofi Press, Zoomorphic, The Poetry Orchard, Amaryllis, Diamond Twig, Deepwater Literary Journal, Deseeded Vol III and The Rose and the 2018 Poem of the North Project from the Northern Poetry Library.
Print magazines her poems have appeared in include Material, The Edge , Black Light Engine Room Magazine, Butcher’s Dog, The Interpreter’s House, Obsessed With Pipework, The Curlew, The Fenland Reed, A Restricted View From Under The Hedge, Strix, Under the Radar, Bare Fiction, Issues of The Rialto (in which she has had five poems), Prole, Firth, The Linnet’s Wings, Long Poem Magazine, Skylark Review, The Projectionist’s Playground, Smeuse, Elsewhere, Crannog, Domestic Cherry, Iota and The Poet’s Republic.

Her poems have featured in many anthologies, from Seren, Picaroon, Three Drops Press, Kind of a Hurricane Press, The Emergency Poet, Poetry Box, Beautiful Dragons, Paper Swans, Slim Volumes, The Emma Press and Fairacre Press as well as the New Boots and Pantisocracies anthology, the Please Hear What I’m Not Saying Anthology (to raise funds and awareness for Mind) from Fly on the Wall Press and the MeToo Anthology published by Fairacre Press.

In 2014 one of her poems was nominated for the Forward Prize. She was long-listed for the Cantebury Poet of the Year Award, 2014, commended in the 2015 Yorkmix and highly commended in the 2016 Yorkmix poetry competitions. She won the inaugural Northern Writes poetry competition in 2017 was shortlisted in the 2017 Poetry Kit Summer Competition and highly commended in the 2018 Poetry Kit Spring Competition. She won second prize in the 2017 Welsh International Poetry Competition and won second prize in the 2018 Red Shed poetry competition. She was awarded the first place Silver Wyvern in the open category in the 2018 Poetry on the Lake competition and has had four poems longlisted in the National Poetry Competition between 2014 – 2017 and was longlisted in The Rialto Nature and Place competition, 2018. She won the 2018 PENfro Book Festival Poetry Competiton, was shortlisted in the Live Canon 2018 Poetry Competition and was commended in the 2018 Battered Moons Poetry Competition.

Her pamphlets and collections include –

fAt aRouNd tHe MiddLe published in 2015 by Talking Pen
Tongues of Fire published in 2016 by The BLER Press
nothing more to it than bubbles published in 2016 by Indigo Dreams
This Game of Strangers (co-written with Bob Beagrie) published in 2017 by Wyrd Harvest
One of These Dead Places shortly to be published by Culture Matters. Exact date unknown.
Fleet to be published by Wyrd Harvest Press, exact release date currently unknown.

The Interview

• What inspired you to write poetry?

My simple answer is I don’t know! I couldn’t nail it down to one particular thing. There were people and programmes I loved when I was young that have always stayed with me – Victoria Wood and Julie Walters, Fingermouse, Kizzy, The Children of Green Knowe to name a few. I come from a small ex-mining village in South Yorkshire and we were not a well-off family. We did not have a house full of books – just a small number of random things from heaven knows where.

I was a voracious reader though I cannot tell you what started off this love of books. The ones I borrowed from school, the library, or was given, or got from jumble sales (and when I was lucky, new from a shop) were absolute lifeblood to me. I treasured my copy of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass and was mesmerized by pieces in it like The Jabberwocky. I loved The Chronicles of Narnia. I once promised my brother that I would return his copies of the books from The Lord of the Rings series to the library but instead kept them. It took me a very long time to plough through them at the age I was and when he got a letter detailing the fine he had been given he was not pleased!

I enjoyed anything that took me away from the life I had at the time. I often wrote and obsessively kept diaries. I wish I had kept them but when I left home, all I cared about at the time was leaving everything behind. The drive to write and produce craft and art has always been with me – I cannot remember a time when it was not.

• Who introduced you to poetry?

This is going to sound very pretentious of me but it was two tiny and beautifully bound books that had come from my mother’s side of the family – perhaps they had belonged to her father, or her older sister. They were very old and only a few inches in size – one was Gems from Burns and the other, Gems from Keats. I was fascinated by their miniature world and if I had to choose a favourite, it was the Keats one. The poem, Meg Merilles used to fire my imagination and I remember a lot of amateur dramatics and loud sniffing as I used to lay there imagining her death. Another poem that was in there is still beloved to me today – To Hope. I even produced a huge pencil drawing to go with the poem when I was eleven. I still have this and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. I think what has stayed with me most of all was the language and the ‘antiquated’ feel – something I use a lot of in my writing today.

• How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I wasn’t. I was so far removed from the poetry world. When I did my English Lit. A level, the wonderful teachers introduced me to more contemporary poets, who’s existence I hadn’t been aware of before – Seamus Heaney, Stevie Smith, Philip Larkin and John Betjeman. We also read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I can still recite A Subaltern’s Love Song by heart today. Lines like ‘mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells’ were like fireworks going off in my brain. I don’t feel intimidated – it just makes me want to keep raising my game. The only time I feel like throwing in the towel is when I have been reading Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast – whatever I want to write, it seems to have already been written. Otherwise, I just think, come on – you can do this!

• What is your daily writing routine?

I do not live an organised life. I have a son, a husband, two dogs, and a horse. I work part-time in a supermarket to make ends meet. We have spent the last three years renovating a cottage which was bought as an absolute wreck and have a second dilapidated property which we haven’t even begun to fix up yet. Every minute of our day is filled with something, as at our cottage we are totally off-grid and responsible for our own power etc, so there is always something that needs to be done.

I get up very early to go running almost every day too, for health reasons as I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic last October and have had to make many physical changes. Yet, there is always time in every day for writing – I can honestly say, hand on heart that I do write every day. I take advantage of any and every opportunity, be it five minutes or two hours. I think I have become a master of this smash and grab writing style. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking – there are notebooks and pens stashed in every room, next to the bed and in every bag. My brain never stops which can get a little wearing sometimes.

• What motivates you to write?

I think there is a sense of urgency as I get older – I have a strong sense of wasting too many years not really being sure what I wanted to do. I squandered much of my younger days being drunk, stoned or falling in and out of dreadful relationships. My mental health has taken up too much of my life and rightly or wrongly, I have this real ‘borrowed time’ feel about my writing – there is so much that I still want to say. I do suffer from severe OCD and have a fear of stopping, of not occupying my hands – if I did, what would I be? There are so many fascinating and powerful subjects out there. There are not enough hours in the day!

• What is your work ethic?

When it comes to myself, I am punishing. Brutal. Demanding. I am my own harshest critic. I am an obsessive researcher who above all, loves reference books. ‘Work hard, then work even harder’ would be my motto. I push myself often into the realms of fatigue and madness and am extremely hard to live with when I am fully immersed in a project. It can be tough (almost impossible, sometimes) to have to snap out of it and instantly be ‘mam’, or ‘Jane’ again.

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

The bible has been a constant source of inspiration – I spent many years at our little Methodist Chapel as I was sent to Sunday School, Brownies and Guides in the hope that it would ‘get me out of the house’. I have always been both horrified and delighted by the stories, concepts, beauty, terror, structure and language within. If there was a book that would keep you occupied forever, it is that. I still to this day love to belt out a good hymn.

I recall my childhood tomes with fondness – I used to have a stash of pony story books – Ruby Ferguson’s Jill series, Cobbler’s Dream by Monica Dickens, Dream of Fair Horses by Patricia Leitch, the Jinny books (also by Patricia Leitch) were treasures. In them was such a piquancy of emotion, which is something I try to express in my work. They were such a comfort to me in my desolation.

I have already made reference to the LOTR, Narnia and Gormenghast books – these were amazing sources of inspiration. The extreme levels of obsession that it must have taken to write these is something I can only aspire to. The images and poetic expression that I find in them, the mixture of verse and prose and the unashamed enjoyment of each book’s characters and themes are just a joy to me. Reading Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath when I was eighteen just reinforced my love of ancient dialect and language and this has most definitely remained in my writing – I can be quite the anorak!

Moving on to the purchase of poetry books took a little longer for me – I had to wait to give myself permission to buy them. It still felt as if those books were not for me, that I was not good or clever enough. The first poetry book I bought was the Poems on the Underground anthology, in 1991. I would have been twenty years old, which just shows how slow I still was to waking up to what my heart desired. Because it was so accessible, it was like being given permission to go ahead. What? These poems are everywhere, for anyone to see? You can tell that I didn’t have any poetry friends. One of the poems that stood out for me then was After the Lunch by Wendy Cope – it was such a moment to see a poet simply write what she thought and felt. It was a real lightbulb moment. I still have a weakness for anthologies – they really seem to suit my scatterbrained ways.

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

I tend to most admire poets who are brilliant in their own right yet remain friendly, accessible and approachable and who want to ‘give back’ what poetry has given them. Poets like Deborah Alma, a talented poet herself, who has also given us the Emergency Poet anthologies and helped put together the incredible MeToo anthology. Rita Dove, who’s Sonata Mulattica is a superb example of what passion, talent and thorough research can produce. I was lucky enough to meet her once and she was brilliant, warm and down-to-earth. Carolyn Forche, who will simply blow your mind. Gillian Allnut for her subtlety and control. Bob Beagrie, my fellow history and language obsessive with whom I have written two collections. I want to say Anne Sexton too – her voice is so current and mighty that she cannot possibly be dead!

You could go on forever – I admit that I dislike lists like this as you must always leave people out or waffle on forever – I have read so many stunning poems from so many people that measuring them against each other seems unjust. There are all my wonderful contemporaries – the amazing poet friends I have met through Facebook, the North East and Teeside poetry scene and projects like Jo Bell’s 52. To mention some would mean to not mention others and my friends know how much I love and respect them and enjoy reading their work in all the many publications out there today.

• Why do you write?

It is my outlet for the things you wouldn’t normally have the courage to say – in my poems I express my sorrow, rage, frustration, heartbreak, confusion, bitterness and trauma. I am unflinchingly and unashamedly honest in a way I would not be if I was talking to you on the street. I feel as if I really can say anything. I use poems to document my memories and experiences.

I also use them to express my great love for the outdoors, for nature and the animal kingdom and how I relate within both. It is where I give vent to my current obsessions – periods from history, places, famous people. There is so much out there in the world to take notice of, that my brain constantly fizzes with ideas that I just have to put down – a way of emptying the mind, so to speak.

I use poems to express my unshakeable hopefulness that no matter what, seems to stay with me. If I did not write, then my mental health would be much the worse. Writing is also such a pleasure – I feel so lucky to be able to do it. Writing is both a curse and a joy – that is the balance of it, just as you can’t have love without hate, happiness without sadness.

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

I would say, simply pick up a pen and write. What comes after is unknown until you try.

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

I have just about completed two new collections which are in the final stages of editing and checking for typos (not my strongest skill, and the thing I find the most stressful as there were gaps in my education that still seem unfilled). They are both entirely different – one, which is called One of These Dead Places (to be published by Culture Matters) is a look back at my growing up and my life now as a working class woman. The other, Fleet (to be published by Wyrd  Harvest) is a long poem about women, hares, rivers, magic and the survival of abuse. A third and deeply difficult and personal collection is also hopefully going to make it into a book at some point soon. Otherwise, I am continuing to write as much as possible. I never have less than five things on the go!

I do cherish the idea that I might return to studying in some capacity – I try not to feel too much anger at the (quite frankly) rubbish education I received and always have the feeling that I have so much catching up to do. Academia seems a closed and secret world to me, but is another door I hope to be knocking on before too much longer. Whether or not I can make this a reality remains to be seen but I am currently producing writing which I hope might go towards this.


Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: David Annwn

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, 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.


David Annwn

David Annwn (born 1953) is an Anglo-Welsh poet, critic, teacher, playwright, publisher and magic lanternist who was raised in Cheshire, Lancashire and Wales.
He is the author of ten books of poetry, the most recent of which is Red Bank (Knives, Forks and Spoons, 2018). His critical writings include the Gothic Trilogy: Gothic Machine, Pre-cinematic Media and Film in Popular Visual Culture (2011), Sexuality and the Gothic Magic Lantern (2014) and Gothic Effigy (2018).
An exhibition of Annwn’s and Thomas Ingmire’s collaborative poetry and calligraphy appeared at the California Book Club, San Francisco in 2016.
He is the recipient of first prize in the Inter-Collegiate Eisteddfod, the Bunford Prize, the Cardiff International Poetry Prize, a Ferguson Centre award for African and Asian Studies and Sexuality and the Gothic Magic Lantern, was nominated for the Allan Lloyd Smith Memorial Prize.
Nobel Prize-winner, Seamus Heaney has written that Annwn’s work is ‘wonderfully sympathetic and accurate.’
More details can be found at:
Contact e-mail: jones437@btinternet.com

The Interview

What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?

When my father taught at a school for young offenders in Lancashire and we lived onsite, I started to write out rough drafts: poetic lines and songs/lyrics.  My brothers, Gwyn and Gareth, were in rock bands; the Beatles and Dylan’s music was all around, and all this started the images in my head and words under my hand. I discovered Nubuyuki Yuasa’s translations of Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North while at Wigan Tech. I read the Liverpool Poets and J.P. Donleavy’s The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B (where he finishes chapters with sections of short lines) and started to write my own poetic drafts down.

Who introduced you to poetry?

Mum and Dad and school must take most of the blame. My father could recite Gray’s ‘Elegy’ and my mother read to all the family: poems, children’s rhymes, jingles and lines from hymns. We encountered Longfellow’s Hiawatha at junior school: one of my early encounters with an accessible, steady rhythm.
I must also express gratitude posthumously to Michael Munday who generously gave hospitality to very many artists and poets in his gatherings at his house in Aberystwyth. This is where poets like Mike Jenkins, David Lloyd, Peterjon Skelt and myself were given support and encouragement.
How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
In my early years I’m not sure I was aware of a ‘dominating’ presence of older poets or that poetry itself was dominating. It felt friendlier than that.  I think because my mother and father read us rhymes and verses, and my great uncle, Ap Hefin (Henry Lloyd) was a Welsh bard, I always felt poetry was a potential I could explore. An invitation which I could take up if I wanted.  The Liverpool poets were publicised on TV and in bookshops. The closest I got to a living writer was when Colin Welland (Z Cars and, later, Chariots of Fire) came to speak to us.
What is your daily writing routine?
The morning is best for me. Then stolen moments in the rest of the day. I taught classes, workshops and lectures for 34 years so I guess I’m used to that round of daily commitment: sitting down with concentration.

What motivates you to write?

Primarily the activity itself. That and the discoveries: the excitement of new connections and ideas. I learn as I write and research writing. I like that sudden rush when words take over and start making links and unexpected relations. That is why, for the most part, Intentionalism is a fallacy.
Sometimes I’m also motivated by commissions, like the one I received from DLA Graphics and musician Sean Mannion for my writing as part of a moving installation in central Leeds:

The wonderful American calligrapher Thomas Ingmire has also suggested new ways to collaborate:

What is your work ethic?

Not sure I have one of those. The Greek form of ‘ethic’ seems to have moved from meaning ‘manners’ to ‘morals’ when it was Frenchified. I just know that, to get anything done, I need to sit with a pen or keypad for a few hours most days.

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

Perhaps, for me, the most complicated question. Of course, if you see an influence or have dedicated a poem to poets (as I have), that’s fairly clear. Yet influence is often subliminal and it could be that readers of my work are most accurate in picking these out.
Looking back: Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Gary Snyder, Chaucer, Emily Dickinson, Alan Ginsberg, Norman McCaig, Vladimir Nabokov, Ezra Pound, Basil Bunting, Jeremy Hooker, Sylvia Plath, Linda Pastan, Keats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Francois Villon, the Geoffrey Hill of Mercian Hymns, Edward Thomas, Eugene Guillevic, Ronald Johnson, Jonathan Williams even some poetry in French and Anglo-Saxon encountered by the age of 22 still provide a kind of sonic background and undertow to my own poetic voices. They are all ravelled in my poetic conscious and unconscious. Lines by Shakespeare, W.C. Williams and others even emerge in my dreams. When I was young, Robert Browning, John Keats and Andrew Marvell were also recurrent influences.
Sometimes the fine poet of The Anathemata: David Jones, or Robert Duncan or Gustaf Sobin prove more influential than others. For example, Sobin and Guillevic influenced the writing of Against the Odds (2016) and Ezra Pound’s Chinese translations were crucial for Going up to Sun Terrace (2016).
William Blake still seems to surface with regular strength in my mind.
I heard Tomas Tranströmer read  his poem ‘Vermeer’ and it remains an electrifying text for me. As does Charles Olson’s reading of one of the Maximus poems:

These are influential voices for me: in their range, complexity and ambition.
Some poets are influential in other ways. They haunt my mind’s eye, a kind of shadowing. I miss my old, good friend Glyn Hughes, novelist and poet, very much but for some reason, it’s the Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown who seems to follow me around. I helped publish Water, the last book he saw in his life-time. He visits still. He was there in the cathedral in Trondheim when we were there a few years back and in the Yu gardens in Shanghai. It’s strange that now I envisage a poet (who had no small degree of agoraphobia during his life-time) travelling so far and long.

Why do you write?

You’ll get a myriad of answers at different times to this. Increasingly, for delight. To explore. To move things on. To find hidden connections. Yet we all also write within human and natural contexts. My voices are my own but they emerge from a sheaf of voices. I’ve recently written a poem to support the anti-fracking groups and taking the shameful judgement of the Planning Inspector to task. Didacticism and topicality sometimes kill poetry but we sit on our pens when corruption flourishes at our peril. Mike Leigh’s film about Peterloo should remind us of Percy Shelley’s ‘The Masque of Anarchy’. It’s no good saying poetry alters nothing because we don’t know that. As Seamus Heaney said: who can tell what alters the mind’s ecology? Philippine poet Marjorie Evasco believes that poetry has a social and spiritual role in healing communities. It would be so easy to accept the daily diet of Trump et. al. and wall-to-wall sports coverage and the media’s marginalisation of poetry, but we should instead remember the urgent words of some our finest poets. Towards the end of his life, W.C. Williams who spent his time working as the American equivalent of a G.P. as well as being a poet, made an urgent statement. He knew all about sickness and malaise, and wrote:
Look at
what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
despised poems.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.
I would add ‘and women’ because that’s the real news.  Poetry has so many valencies that, at its best, it keeps more wavebands of discourse and possibility open than any other medium.
Another answer is that I write because of the mystery of time. Bunting’s Briggflatts grapples magnificently with this.  My most recent collection: Red Bank (2018) is bound up with that. What does it mean that I grew up looking at a hillside where 1600 men were killed in the last battle of the English Civil Wars? That I was listening so often to the Beatles? That I found myself talking to Mary Bell, the young girl who had murdered two boys and to whom every journalist in the country wished to talk? That the home where we had all those experiences is now buried under grass? Only perhaps the local Hermit can answer these questions so, once more, I go looking for him at the end of the poem.

What would you say to someone who asked you ‘How do you become a writer?’

Unless you need to write as part of a new job, or for purely instrumental reasons, that use of ‘become’ in the question probably means ‘How do I bring that part of me that needs to be a writer into fuller life? How do I nurture that?’ A lifetime ago I asked George Mackay Brown, Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Ed Dorn the same question. Yevgeny just said to get on with it and George recommended the activity of sitting down most days and working at writing. Real commitment. Ed looked me deeply and fully in the eyes, nodded and, said ‘You know’ and then again, more emphatically ‘You know.’ His point was that, if I really wanted to be a writer, part of me already knew the answer. Each of them was right in his own way.
I’d add: Go back again and again to the words and lines that delight and thrill you. Get out your notepad, walk around and jot down all you notice and that catches eye and ear. Most of it won’t be a poem, or story, but some snippets might open doors for you.

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

Gary Snyder is still alive, though I don’t think his most recent books have been his best.  Jeremy Hooker is still writing beautifully. I liked Sharon Old’s first few books and Thomas A. Clark has brought forward the lessons of brevity with grace. I admire the work of Gavin Selerie, Frances Presley, Geraldine Monk, Alan Halsey, Tilla Brading, Harriet Tarlo and Maggie O’Sullivan. They are each exciting, playful and exacting poets in different ways. I’m also very keen on Vahni Capildeo, Rhys Trimble, Billy Mills, Robert Sheppard, Catherine Walsh, Randolph Healy and Maurice Scully. I published Robin Young’s translations of Carina Karlsson’s work, and admire these for their compressed beauty and power:
Blue, I step into
this land
like a bird which knows
no boundaries
but those between land and sea.
One step more, and I meet myself
in a world I’ve never seen.

I still think of Anne Blonstein as one of ‘today’s writers’, though she is, sadly, deceased. I like her bravery, invention and probing of, for example, the reality of laminar flow:
. . . laevonotation
two recrystallizing
saturated hopes

saturated .  .   ?

Colourful, complicated words that roil on the tongue. That refusal never ever to talk down to the reader. Difficult lines but I’ve always thought that if you don’t get it, go find out about it like you would without a second thought if it was a fire alarm, FitBit or car engine.  I also like where Jack Hirschman’s Beat poetry has taken him, and enjoyed reading with him at Café Trieste, San Francisco:

I’ve already mentioned Marjorie Evasco. Then there’s the serious, mind-blowing mischief of Taiwanese poet, Hsia Yü, available in Salsa, translations by Stephen Bradbury. Every page in her book Pink Noise, printed in black and pink, is transparent (She writes: ‘I’ve always wanted to make a transparent book…I knew the time had come to make this book of poetry filled with ‘written noise’…Then I put it is an aquarium and left it in the rain for days.’) Terrific.  My fellow Wakefield resident Laura Potts has reminded me of how liberating Dylan Thomas’s influence can be. My long-term secret and guilty pleasure is Charles Simic, (‘guilty’ because so he’s so thoroughly ensconced in the US literary establishment). He’s so mordantly funny and yet also piercing.

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

Just finishing proofreading etc. for Re-envisaging the First Age of Cinematic Horror, 1896-1934, Quanta of Fear due out in November hopefully. That’s a book about the emergence of horror films and how we view them. I’m also writing about the quality of the light in the Dordogne and a sequence of poems about Amazon. I’m finishing essays about David Pinner (his novel Ritual gave rise to the film The Wicker Man) and another about the chilling animations of Brian Coldrick for the Gothic Imagination website. I am starting to think about poems for the paintings of Steve Simpson which figure in cathedrals throughout Britain and in the refuge for the homeless, St George’s Crypt in Leeds.
Thanks, Paul, for the questions and for listening.


Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jay Gandhi

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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Jay Gandhi

Jay Gandhi is a Software Engineer by qualification, an accountant by profession, a budding Guitarist & a Yoga Sadhak at heart and a poet by his soul. Poetry intrigues him because it’s an art in which a simple yet profound skill of placing words next to each other can create something so touching and literally sweep him of the floor. He is 32-year-old Indian and stays in Mumbai. His works have appeared in the following place:
An ebook named “Pav-bhaji @ Achija” available in the Kindle format at Amazon.in The poem “Salsa; a self discovery” published in an anthology motivated by Late Sir APJ Abdul Kalam. The poem “High Caloried love” selected for an upcoming book “Once upon a meal” The poem “Strawberry Lip Balm” selected in the anthology “Talking to the poets” Four poems published in a bilingual anthology “Persian Sugar in English Tea” Vol.1 Two poems published in the anthology “Poets on the Run” compiled by RC James.

The Interview

What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?

It started when I was 19. I wanted to impress a girl whom I liked in my computer science class.

How did you impress her?

I sent her the poem. MS word file through the MSN messenger. She read it and liked it. But she did not show romantic inclination.

The poem was her birthday. I sent it on her birthday

That didn’t discourage you?

No. I wrote another poem a few days later.

I joined emerging poets.net

They all called it EP

What poets were your earliest influences?

My readings were mostly online. I read a lot of Emily Dickinson. I had befriend a very good poetess Maggie Flanagan Wilkie and Vidya panicker

Vidya’s poems inspired me a lot

What was it about Vidya’s poems that inspired you so much?

Vidya’s poems had a lot of “Indian-ness” the issues she tackled like dowry, poverty, discrimination are still present in my country.

Vidya’s poems had a lot of “Indian-ness” the issues she tackled like dowry, poverty, discrimination are still present in my country. I could connect a lot and I realised how poetry has a lot to do from the places we come from.

How important is a sense of place to your poems?

A great deal. My ideas come from the local trains in my city. The way people flock the temples. The way vegetable vendors scream to sell veggies

Though I can travel in space and time, the local settings are the biggest influences.

How important is using the five senses to convey a sense of place?

Mostly the visuals do trick. I try to put up images to create emotion. Though other senses are equally important, they come up subconsciously.

I put most of the effort in showing

What is your daily writing routine?

I do not write daily. But i read daily. Mainly on poetry websites. Writing is intensive. Only when i know i have 2-3 hours at a stretch is when i write. I get such oppotunities twice in a week

I need a very clear head before writing. Incomplete tasks and chores nag me a lot.

They dont allow me to concentrate

What motivates you to write?

Uncovering the sensitivity in myself. The thrill to convey something different and i get hugely motivated with the limited fame that the poetry brings within my own circle

Writing poetry is like peeling inner onion.

What is it about the limited fame that motivates you?

In my head there is a clear way in which i perceive the people who read my stuff. They are classes, masses and both. I always want my poems to appeal all the sections. This limited fame is the oil for my poetry lamp. Sometimes i even dream big and think i will make it bigtime. But the ground reality is different. I have found happiness in my little pond.

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

. Daniel flore ||| David Belcher and Maggie Flangan Wilkie. No big names but reading them is always a pleasure. I have read a bit of Billy Collins and he has a distinct style.

I like the Hindi lyricists Gulzar and Javed Aktar.

Some of those names may not be well known to the readers of this. Please can you tell us more about them.

Daniel J Flore III is a poet from Unites States. His published book is Lapping Water. A lot of his work is quite organic. He writes it as he sees it. I feel he is a complete natural. He does use poetic elements but they flow with the work. There is no attempt to write poetically.
David Belcher is a around fifty years old and lives in U.K. David has never been “published” but he strives to write quality every time he has a pen in his hand. He experiments a lot and his poetry is quite imaginative. He looks upon Lance Rocks as one of his ideal. His critiquing ability is right up there and he has a great feel for the poems.
Maggie Flanagan-Wilkie is an editor at Nelson Pearl Publishers. Her writings are generally very tight. The form and meter are impeccable. She has a great “ear” for the poems. Her editing is quite heavy and many would even feel that her editing often takes off all the “flesh” in the poem. But her edits never even have a misplaced comma! I learnt a lot about meter from Maggie. She used to make me so a lot of monostich for getting the sound right.
Javed Aktar and Gulzar are two maestros of Hindi music industry. Their poetry and lyrics have enchanted Indians all over the world. Their writings often make me wonder how every word is so important and how to “construct” poetry by putting words in different combinations. Both are very good with Urdu.

You stated earlier that you write to uncover the sensitivities in yourself. What does this say about why you write?

When i am writing, i get to understand a lot about behaviours of people. I realise why a person does what he does. Poetry genuinely helps in understanding people. And the i also realise my reactions, my habits and how i manage daily things

Poetry and yoga asanas are my keys to explore myself.

What are Yoga Asanas?

Yoga is ancient science meant for good physical, mental and spiritual health. Asanas are basically postures.

It helps in keeping mind calm.

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

I would tell him to read a lot of poetry and from as many sources as available. They should sit down with a coffee and a pencil whenever they get time to pen thoughts. Continual editing is very important. I edit a lot while I write. That works for me. Lastly, write enjoy the process.

Tell me about any writing project you have on at the moment,

I would like to go back to a series of poems which I had created under the title 7:34 Badlapur Local. These days I sit calmly on Sunday evenings and allow my muse to take control. Not working on anything specific.






Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Stephanie Bowgett

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, 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.

Stephanie Bowgett

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I was a teacher in my forties. I had always loved poetry and enjoyed introducing poems to children and enabling them to write their own, but as a working mother of two with a demanding job, I had never found time to write myself, till I entered a Times Educational Supplement competition which had the wonderful prize of an Arvon week at Totleigh Barton. I was lucky enough to win a place and our tutors were Kit Wright and the late Gerard Benson. Gerard kindly encouraged me to carry on writing and pointed out that Huddersfield was a good place to find workshops and readings.

I was introduced to the Monday workshop which was full of published poets, David Morely, Janet Fisher, Milner Place, John Lancaster and my three fellow Albert poets, John Duffy, John Bosley and Phil Foster among others. The council provided the space at that time and, two or three times a year, for a few weeks, a workshop leader. These included Simon Armitage, Jack Hirschman and Martin Stannard. It was terrifying. Every poem was pulled apart and analysed without mercy and I realised what an unforgiving discipline it is, but I also realised it was something I wanted to do.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I grew up in a house that was full of books and music. My Dad came from a poor London family and won a scholarship to Grammar School,  but had to leave as soon as he was old enough to work, but his love of all the arts and thirst for knowledge never left him. He was emergency trained as a teacher after the war and took his young family to Germany to teach army children. English books had to be shipped out and he ordered all the new poetry books . I still have many of these, including the Faber Ted Hughes and Thom Gunn and several volumes by TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas. Although I had children’s books, he read adult stuff to me as well. I remember my brother and I banging saucepans with wooden spoons chanting, “We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men …” which, to be fair, probably made as much sense to us as most nursery rhymes. I had “The Book of a Thousand Poems” and loved to learn stuff by heart. Being a pretentious child, I started with Shakespeare -“Full fathom five”, “Ye spotted snakes”, “This England never has nor shall”

I think a huge influence for children of my generation was hymns, the book of Common Prayer and of course, the Bible. Although much of it went over our heads, the sense of rhyme and rhythm, the musicality of language became part of our DNA. I have not been to church for decades, but still know the words to hundreds of hymns, psalms and prayers.

Similarly, the great American songbook was unavoidable.  American Forces Network and the American NAFFI provided blues records and both my parents knew all the old music hall songs. My Dad would sing to me and play records, so Cole Porter’s wonderful lyrics, Leadbelly, Josh White singing blues and ballads, Hoagy Carmichael, English whimsey from Paddy Roberts and bawdy ballads from Elsa Lancaster all introduced me to new kinds of language and a fascination or how it works.  I find I often use ballad and song forms and love the musicality of the best poetry.

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

I mostly remember being taught doggerel at primary school. “Cricket in Fairyland” and a bizarre poem that ended, “and I know it’s very naughty/but I don’t like cook!”, but I do remember doing “Hiawatha” which I loved and “The Pied Piper” because I lived in Hameln for a bit. I think I knew some big names because of home. At secondary school, we only studied poetry in exam years. I did Shakespeare, of course, Robert Frost and Browning and Tennyson and also Hugo, Baudelaire, Lamartine in French. I then went to drama school where verse speaking was one of the main disciplines. Pope, Milton, the Romantics were compulsory, but we also looked at 20th century writers including Americans, Whitman and Vachel Lindsay, and lots of Berthold Brecht. My most intense poetry study was with the OU where our main focus was Eliot, Pound, Yeats, Hughes, Plath Robert Lowell and Dylan Thomas. Seamus Heaney came to read at our summer school in York, He had a drink with my tutor group, about 8 of us, in the bar afterwards and then decided to stay over. He came to all our session for several days which was a real privilege.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have one, I write in bursts as and when I have the time and feel the urge. Having something to take to our Monday workshop is a great motivator. John Duffy and I run workshops in the library and at the Huddersfield Mission where we set exercises and prompts which we also write to and this makes me explore ideas that I might not have come up with otherwise. For instance, John set an exercise to write using only words of one syllable and this led to me exploring whether I could express complex ideas using very simple vocabulary. The result is “White Bear” a sequence of poems in the voice of a seven-year old girl. It is in my pamphlet, “A Poor Kind of Memory”.

5. What is your work ethic?

I work on poems for a long time, often revisiting after years, and I reject most of what I write. I am very bad at sending things to magazines or seeking publication. I did when I started and have been lucky in competitions, but rarely enter them, so maybe my work ethic is not all it should be! I do spend a lot of time planning for workshops and organising The Albert poets, though.

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

I think wide reading is the most important tool for me as a writer. It widens the scope of what I attempt, and I hope has given me an ear for rhythm and musicality. I hope it helps me to choose an appropriate register for each poem

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

I am lucky to workshop with some of my favourite poets, John Duffy, Carola Luther, Mark Hinchliffe, Judith Wilson, Julia Deakin, John Foggin, Anthony Costello and my ellow Calder Valley poets  to see their work in progress as well as having their critique on my work. I am inspired by and in awe of all of them.  My favourite poet changes week by week and we host so many brilliant poets at The Albert. I am reading a Black American writer called Shane McCrae at the moment who writes to his own adaptation of forms which have very stringent rules. His work is very moving and often covers historical themes.
9. Why do you write?
I enjoy it and it helps me to work things out.

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

Read loads and widely and then just write. Find a critical workshop

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

I have an ongoing project based on the life of my maternal Great-grandmother, I have been writing it for some years and I think it is almost finished. It has involved a lot of research. I want to celebrate the domestic everyday lives working class women such as my ancestors, the small triumphs and tragedies. David Starkey has said that women can’t write history because “it’s not about them.”   I think it’s all about them.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Bart Solarczyk

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, 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.


Bart Solarczyk

Bart Solarczyk lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his wife, daughter, dog & cat. Over the past 35 years his poems have appeared in various magazines, anthologies & chapbooks. His most recent chapbook, Right Direction, was published in 2016 by Modest Proposal Chapbooks (an imprint of Lilliput Review.) His full length book of poems, Tilted World, is upcoming soon from Low Ghost Press.

The Interview

When and why did you start writing poetry?

I started in grade school, probably around 4th grade, as a writing assignment. I remember I wrote a poem about my little brother, about his destructive tendencies, comparing him to a bomb. My mother loved the poem & kept it for years.

Around 7th grade I started writing for my own pleasure. I had a friend, Chipper, who shared my interest. We wrote together in a composition tablet. Our individual poems as well as collaborations.

Who introduced you to poetry?

We always had books at home. My mother read to us & wanted us to read. Some of the books had poems. I went to Catholic school & the nuns & lay teachers introduced me to Poe, Whitman, Dickinson, others. They were part of our curriculum.

What books did your mother read to you?

In high school I was more interested in song lyrics & found poetry there. Dylan, Neil Young, Ian Anderson, the Beatles particularly Lennon. More artists later like Townes Van Zandt.

What did you find interesting in the songs?

My mother bought a lot of Golden Treasury books. Stories for kids, some strange like Cry Baby Calf & others just traditional stories.

I found the stories & images conjured in the songs interesting. Some were obscure, like Neil Young’s Cowgirl In The Sand. So many of Dylan’s songs read like poems & related stories in a variety of ways, some more direct than others.

Poetry as storytelling. Was Chipper’s poetry similar to your own?

Yes & the way the story gets told. Sometimes a straightforward narrative & sometimes obscured a bit in images, word collages, abstract, maybe like an impressionist painting.

So experimenting with ways of telling.

Yeah I guess Chipper & I had similar styles. Everything rhymed & we both had a sense of humor, sometimes cruel, often absurd.

Did you use any particular poems, songs stories as templates when writing your own?

Exactly! There are many ways to say something.

I tried to imitate certain artists I’m sure, even if I wasn’t always aware I was doing it. But you have to break free eventually to form your own voice.

How did you break free?

I don’t think you can completely shed your influences but imitation equals bad writing. Look how many bad Bukowski imitators are out there.

What is your daily writing routine?

I broke free by reading more & writing more & not thinking about it too much. It took shape naturally & one day it was there.

I don’t have a daily writing routine. I can go weeks without writing. Then something happens, something strikes me & I write it down. I write longhand in notebooks & try not to stop to edit until I feel like it’s finished for the moment. Then I go back to trim & pare it into a presentable poem.

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

I guess that depends on what passes as young. Going back to the days I talked about earlier, I still appreciate Poe, Whitman, Dickinson, Longfellow. I think I learned the importance of rhythm in a poem from them, even though my poems are usually brief & unrhymed. Poets I read in my 20s & 30s will always have some value to me.

Why do you write?

It feels like something I have to do to stay balanced. I enjoy the process. It somehow helps me make sense of the world. I think it releases buried feelings & emotions. And there’s a joy when I nail one right on the head, an epiphany, satori, truth shaped in my words.

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

I’d pass along Buk’s advice: “Go to a small room & write.” But I’d add the importance of reading, certainly poetry but fiction, essays, articles, whatever. And don’t do it for any other reason than to write. Don’t try to make it a means to some other end. Not fame, not wealth, not to get laid. Well maybe to get laid if you meet the right person.

And finally Bart, Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I’ve been busy with my manuscript for a new book, hopefully coming out before year’s end. I’ve had 9 chapbooks published but this will be my first full length book. 62 poems being published by Low Ghost Press, a respected small punisher here in Pittsburgh. This past Saturday one of the editors, Scott Silsbe, & I reviewed & approved the final draft. The title is Tilted World. I’ve also been writing some new poems & doing some readings. I have one next Thursday at White Whale Books