Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Ian Parks

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.

Ian Parks

Ian Parks was born in 1959 in Mexborough, South Yorkshire. The son of a miner, he has taught creative writing at the universities of Sheffield, Leeds, Oxford, De Montfort and Hull. His many collections include Gargoyles in Winter, Shell Island, The Landing Stage, Love Poems 1979-2009, The Exile s House, The Cavafy Variations and If Possible. He is the editor of Versions of the North: Contemporary Yorkshire Poetry and runs Read to Write in Doncaster.

The Interview

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

I have always wanted to be a poet. I can’t remember a time when I wanted to be anything else. I started writing in my teens and began taking it seriously when I was about twenty.  My first collection, Gargoyles in Winter, came out when I was twenty-five.  I was passionate about history as a child and I recently discovered a couple of notebooks in which I’d written poems on historical themes. I’d forgotten they existed.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My father, inadvertently. He was a miner and there were no books in our house – let alone poetry books. But he’d learned reams of it at school: Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson and used to recite them when he was getting ready to go out. Poetry came in through the ear and not the eye for me at a very early age.

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

By ‘older poets’ do you mean poets who are living but older than me? If so Milner Place. Milner is in his eighties now and came to poetry late after living an adventurer’s life a s a sea captain. He’s a master of the long narrative poem and I recommend him to everyone. Ff you mean poets of another generation then I’d say Hardy, Auden, and Thom Gunn in the last century and, further back, Shelley.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have one! Although I do make serious effort to write something every day. I don’t write and finish one poem at a time. I work on at least twenty all at once, moving them all on slowly. Then suddenly one of them will start screaming for attention and I’ll try to finish it. I probably save one in ten of the poems I write.

5. What motivates you to write?

Love. Romantic love but love of freedom, liberty, equality – all the great radical virtues. I think poetry should be motivated by passion. It’s not a hobby and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s about dedication, hard work, and the willingness to expect rejection. We live in a world that is increasingly alien to everything that poetry stands up for so the poet today has to swim against the tide. Being a poet is, and always has been, a radical act. When Shelley made his huge claim that poets are the ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world’ I think he had something like that in mind.

6. What is your work ethic?

I don’t have one. Poems call and I respond. I never wanted to be a career poet. I’m not sure that the two notions can possible co-exist. I write as honestly as I can about what moves me, what angers me, and what seduces me.

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

Only in so far as they’ve left an atmosphere. I’m not technically influenced by any of the Romantics for instance – but the spirit of Romanticism permeates everything I try to do. I more likely to be influenced by a new collection from a young poet than by the poets I read when growing up.

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

I think Laura Potts is a truly remarkable poet. She incorporates the best from the poets who have influenced her – most notably Dylan Thomas – but has an instantly recognisable voice that is as impassioned as it is mellifluous, as urgent as it is passionate. She manages to convey complex emotional states in a language that is accessible, conversational almost, but leaving the reader in no doubt that what they’re encountering is poetry of the first order.  Easily the best young poet writing in English.

9. Why do you write?

To hold a mirror up to myself.

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

Stop worrying about it. Treat poetry as if it’s something as natural as breathing, not something to strive after and be anxious about. It’s not a competition. You won’t become a poet by watching the progress and successes of others. You need to make contact with your own voice, find it, recognise it, and explore its potential.

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

I’ve recently published two collections. Citizens deals with social justice (and injustice) and tries to explore the language we use to articulate that idea – and who that language now belongs to. If Possible is a collection of thirty versions of poems by the modern Greek poet Constantine Cavafy – a poet I love. A further, companion pamphlet, Body, Remember, will come out next year with another thirty of these translations. It’s been a labour of love. My main project at the moment is putting together my selected poems. Choosing what to keep and what to discard is a sobering business – but a worthwhile one too. I must say this project of yours is timely and very worthwhile. Thanks for asking me to take part.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Wren Tuatha

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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Wren Tuatha

According to Califragile “Wren Tuatha was previously Artist-in-Residence at Heathcote Community and co-founded Baltimore’s Sunday Salon. She received grants from Towson University’s Women’s Center and Office of Diversity to perform her slam play, This Is How She Steps on Snakes, and other productions. She won a Young Authors Award for Poetry. Her chapbook, Thistle and Brilliant, is upcoming from Finishing Line Press.
Wren studied education at University of Louisville, and film and poetry at Towson University, where she minored in Gay and Lesbian Studies.
Wren’s poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Canary, Poetry Pacific, Peacock Journal, Coachella Review, Arsenic Lobster, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, and Bangalore Review, among others. Yes, she is a Best of the Net nominee; Thanks for asking! Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Lawrence Butler, herd skeptical goats on a mountain in California.”

The Interview

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

Must have been between first and second grade. That summer, I took a writing or poetry class at my neighborhood community center. I sat on a lawn and wrote something with words I could spell, like sky, trees, grass. I remember feeling transdemensional, as if I had healed all diseases by extolling the beauty of sky, trees and grass.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?

In terms of adult poetry, my much older sister gave me a well-creased, dogeared anthology. I remember landing on Robert Duncan’s Song of the Borderguard. I had no idea what it was all about, but it reminded me of Jimi Hendrix’ version of All Along the Watchtower, or what I knew of that song at eleven or so. I was hooked. I wanted to write mysterious things.

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

If you mean an Old Guard that sets poetic standards from dusty armchairs, I feel the dominating presence of male poets. I’m currently spending time in a couple of online poetry groups, and it’s just like the former Poetry Circle where I met you, Paul—The ratio of posts and responses is anywhere from four to ten men for every woman. When I founded Califragile and put out the first call for submission, I got eight offerings from men to every one woman submitter. I put out special calls for women and discovered some amazing poets. I do witness class and race divides in the literary world, as well.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

If I have a writing routine, it’s a slow motion one that is more monthly or yearlong. I do have a daily editing routine for Califragile, promoting the day’s posted poem on social media and having a first look at new submissions. I  prune my own works in progress between editing and tending goats. I’ll revise a particular poem for months or years.

I’m just getting back to writing after an illness of many years. My best practice has been to always, always have pen and paper with me. Writing before my infirmary, I used to have a deep commitment to being ready, stopping whatever I was doing, when the deep muse would give me something interesting. It was usually a phrase in the noise of my inner chatter. Often I would bury an idea there and only be ready to write it six months or a year later. But I would pull over in traffic, turn my stove off, whatever, to let the first draft finally come. I’ve never been a journaler or had a daily practice of exercises or prompts. I’m sure those are powerful, too.

5. What motivates you to write?

I’m not sure I’ve decided to write! I want to have some answer like the desire for justice or the urgency to shine a light on truths we must face these days. I think those are honest. But I am also a pessimist about the world. I certainly have my own selfish reasons—Words are music and art to me. I love creating and reading well crafted poetry, just as I love a painting or song.

All these questions have a before answer and an after one. About six years ago, chronic health conditions I had lived with for most of my life got much worse. My language center was effected. I had trouble forming sentences and keeping up in conversation. I stopped writing poetry, too. Not a line for five years. When I signed up for critiquing on Poetry Circle a couple of years ago, I wanted to shape up my old poems with the  hope of getting just a single volume of poems published. My health was so poor I realized I wouldn’t continue the activism and teaching my partner and I had dedicated our lives to. I thought that book of poems could be my little-read legacy. With much effort, I was able to start writing again. Critiquing, editing, reading and writing are great therapy for my brain and I’ve healed quite a bit. I just got a two book offer from Finishing Line Press—One for a book of those old poems, and the other is all new poetry I’ve written recently! That feels like a personal victory.

6. What is your work ethic?

I’m a project person. I’ve been self employed for decades, going from one long term vision to the next. I have to be hyper-focused and able to work all my waking hours on my current project, whether or not I’m being paid or certain that money will come.

I have to say that, living here in America, I see the question of work ethic used as a weapon against poor folks and non-White people. My experience is I’ve met a legion of struggling people, not sure I’ve observed truly lazy people. Then again, our current president has enough time to watch Fox News all day…
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Yoko Ono. Not her writing but her performance art. She taught me that the audience is the canvas. This has informed everything I do in art and education. My goal becomes to get my audience to notice themselves being hypocritical, selfish, human as they interface with my work.

I wanted to be a singer/songwriter. So my formative poets were rock songwriters—Pete Townshend, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Chrissy Hynde, Elvis Costello, Cris Williamson, James Taylor, Joan Armatrading, David Byrne, and so on. They still influence me because I hear the music of language, sonics in images. I dig words for their psychedelic impact—haiku and didgeridoos; glossary, tidbit, figment, sing song, crinkle/crackle, dayglo ipswitch, Scooby Do didgeridoo, hullabaloo, Baloo. Leeloo. Irredescent hobnobbit.

 

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Eileen Miles! Fearless. Allison Joseph, Amy King, Jericho Brown…They’re rooted in their individual truths while holding us all accountable to injustice.

Barbara Henning. She’s putting out a book of what she calls digigrams, lots of dashes between finely sliced images and scenes that are urgently personal and universal. She has distilled poetry down to its very DNA. It’s the poetic lovechild of Emily Dickinson and Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. Yes, I’m auditioning for her back cover!
9. Why do you write?

I write because no one wants to hear me sing/I can’t play guitar/crazy shit happens around me perpetually/I’m right but no one listens/I don’t have plane fare to DC for protesting/I meet people/I’m human/the computer’s already fired up, so…/if I didn’t I’d have to run for office, and no one wants that.

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

This is a pregnant question! Sorry, but I’m just not going to stop at, “Write, write, write!” I flash to authors in Feminist Wicca who advise, “Say, ‘I’m a witch!’ three times, and you are one,” the idea being that you have the authority to label yourself without needing outside endorsement. I believe this works for writers, too. If you write, you’re a writer, more so now with the internet. There are venues for all types of work. This sounds like a great equalizer. But of course, we all know that’s not the end of the story.

More deeply, I believe the answer is tied to your goals as a writer. Maybe you’ve been writing a blog for friends, slam for the local open mic, or a newsletter for your club. The bar is low in terms of style, content and quality of craft there. If you now want to see your poetry in Prairie Schooner or Rattle, it needs to conform to what those editors love. Nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. It’s their sandbox. Or you might decide to be true to a different vision and submit elsewhere. Is it your goal to have an independent press publish your book, or do you want to self publish? The answer to “How do you become a writer,” is different for each decision. A writer with big dreams needs to have a high humility level, curiosity and discipline. These come from within. They also need available time. Life/outside forces like to play with us here.

Here’s a morsel I learned in the editing trenches: Don’t put Best of the Net nominations in your bio. This causes an editor eye-roll like you would not believe. When you win, put it in.

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

I just got a two chapbook deal from Finishing Line Press. We’re working on my collection Thistle and Brilliant first. It’s about relationships and attraction in motion, from my bi/poly perspective. Then we’ll publish Skeptical Goats, about my experiences as an East Coaster transplanted to way-too-sunny-California. My long term poetry project in a book length cycle about “a sense of place,” as a way to explore our relationship to ecology and the planet, and the ways that relationship needs to change if we’re to survive. I’m also chipping away at two memoirs, Twelve if You Count the Peacock, about our small goat rescue ranch, and Vinegar, A Memoir, through the lens of housecleaning. Of course, my daily project is Califragile. We’re wrapping up our #Immigration and #Mountains themes and seeking a publisher for our #MeToo anthology.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Mark Antony Rossi

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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Mark Antony Rossi

Mark Antony Rossi is a poet, playwright and author of fifteen titles ranging from poetry to future science. His seminal book on writing “Waking the Lion: Inside Writing 1984 to 2017” is a popular ebook meant to help writers with essays on poetry, fiction, nonfiction and drama. He is the Editor in Chief of the international online literary journal Ariel Chart. Most of his writings can be purchased at the site http://www.somapublishing.com
The Interview
1. What inspired you to write poetry?

At first it was the brevity. To pack so much into so little space was enjoyable.
Later it was about rearranging language. Still further poetry become my foundation to other forms of writing. It’s not hard to notice my flash fiction style which has been called “Crash Fiction” is indebted to a poetic flow.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I was introduced to poetry through Edgar Allen Poe. Once I heard his “The Raven” I was hooked to something I haven’t stopped in forty-five years. Poetry, more than any form of writing, has a powerful to captivate the imagination. There are poems literally surviving the epoch of time from the days of King Tut. The Psalms from the Bible are thousands of poems meant to be sung, repeated, used as a form of healing to people moving around in search of a home.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I liked what Robert Frost, ee cummings, Alan Ginsberg, did with their work.
4. What is your daily writing routine?

My daily writing routine has changed with the times. I used to carry a pen and pad and jot down notes everywhere and then later assemble them into various forms of writing. Now as a husband and father –time is shorter and therefore I used mostly on the notes of my smartphone. I have literally written the last two years of my column “Ethical Stranger” for Indian Periodical on the iPhone. If you are careful technology can be a partner in writing. But you have to remain in control and be the writer.

5. What motivates you to write?

Disappointment with the stupidity of the world.

6. What is your work ethic?

The open secret to writing is rewriting. Sometimes rewriting several times. I once wrote a flash nonfiction piece twenty six times before I thought is was right. I average about seven times. For those who believe rewriting is too much work I say they have no work ethic because writing is work. And when I hear a writer speak about the joy of writing I know that’s a fool who won’t go far. Writing is a torturous calling meant to extract art, truth and humanity in an unappealing manner. Confession.

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

Aldous Huxley has greatly influenced most of my futurist writings about the dangers of overreliance on technology. How it threatens human values and even the organs of democracy. Yet strangely writers of the past or present only strike me in the arena of ideas but where it concerns style or structure I’ve had to create my own way forward. Thus my innovations of “Concrete Poetry” and “Crash Fiction” are my vehicles to carry my message.

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

I admire a number of writers whom I have had contact with over the years such as Peter Magliocco, Linda Imbler, A.D. Hurley, Karlo Sevilla, Lailah Saafir, Wayne Russell, Mike Griffith,
Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Eva Wong Nava and John Patrick Robbins.

9. Why do you write?

I physically feel it is a calling. I see and hear things in my thoughts that start organizing for something creative to put out in the world.

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

I don’t believe a person can “become” a writer. You either know you are or you should look into some other field. All too often the average writer is a journalist stuck piecing together car accidents or drunk domestic violence. You can teach that to people. I am not convinced you can truly teach poetry or fiction writing to people who don’t feel anything but fame and foolishness.

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

“The Rossi Reader: Essential Writings” will be released by Soma Publishing in October. It’s a selected works project curating some of my better work in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, criticism and screenplay. I am blessed to have a lengthy foreword by Hugh Cook.

 

 

 

 

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jess Mookherjee

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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Jess Mookherjee

Jessica Mookherjee is of Bengali heritage and grew up in South Wales. Her poetry has been widely published in journals, and in two pamphlets, The Swell (Telltale Press, 2016) and Joyride (The Black Light Engine Room Press, 2017). She was highly commended in the Forward Prize 2017 for best single poem. Jessica works in Public Health and lives in Kent. Flood is her first full collection.

The Interview

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

I was a child – and probably left alone for long periods, my mother taught
me to read very early so I was reading and writing before I went to school,
I wrote my first poems when I was 5 (highly derivative nature poetry) and my Primary school teacher seemed amazed by them and wrote them on enormous sheets of paper and displayed them for a whole year. That was probably the start. I then decided to be a novelist and wrote terrible historical fan fiction chapter by chapter for my school friends. Poetry was later poorly rewarded. At my comprehensive school my English teacher told me to write happier poems after I showed her my teenage surrealist ramblings. I wrote very seriously in my early twenties as I wanted by that time to be something of a cross between Charles Bukowski, Byron and TS Eliot! I wrote an epic poem and sent it to Jonathan Cape in 1989 ! I still have their lovely kind reply where they say “try Bloodaxe” – which must have just started.  Chattertonesque, I  decided poetry was not where my fortune lay and I spent the next 30 years being a scientist. When my long term relationship broke down and I moved from London to the countryside – I took up my pen again and I found teachers all around me and poetry poured back out.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My mother sang the Indian national anthem to me as a lullaby – and that’s Tagore. But I never knew that until a few years ago! I was given by my father – a book called “A Child’s Treasury Of Poetry” which had The Jumblies, The Raggle Taggle Gypsies and Christina Rossetti and I loved it. I used to like bible stories and the psalms really got me. Going to school in Wales – I adored the dark sound of words I didn’t know what they meant so I liked to guess. Poetry and reading aloud was a thing in Welsh schools. Also, my dad used to speak weird incantations which must have been Sanskrit poetry and I got the rhythms through listening to him. But he also had these weird penguin books by Michael Hamburger and Holub – and I thought how weird and exciting words could be. I had a next door neighbour who was a native Welsh speaker and told me Welsh poetry and read me Dylan Thomas – and RS Thomas. I loved them. Also, as I got older I started listening to music and one of my friends from the wrong side of town gave me Lou Reed’s Berlin and a book by William Boroughs – and that changed my life. At the same time another – far posher friend bought me a Smiths album and The Wasteland  by T. S. Eliot and that changed me too.

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

I was very aware of Ted Hughes, Dylan Thomas and RS Thomas – in fact I thought – like many people that they were all dead. I was amazed to find when I was kid Ted Hughes was alive. I was so happy to be taught his poetry in school though as I adored it. I think we studied Stevie Smith and Louie McNeice too but little other than that and John Donne. I enjoyed it all but the real world of poetry was never really taught. When I look back at how ignorant I was – I feel quite embarrassed. I did know about Indian poets though. I bought a book of Tagore’s poetry when I was 18. In my 20s I discovered modern poetry – of Carol Anne Duffy – whom I adored and Andrew Harvey and David Constantine. In terms of dominating – I didn’t feel dominated – as I sought out poets as different as Gillian Clarke and Jeremy Reed, from Joolz to T. S. Eliot.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I’m unruly and go for days rebelling from my own routines. But when I have one it is write something as early as possible – read something inspiring. I work full time so my brain is taken up with that all day – then late at night I will start to write then redraft and redraft until I have something I’m half pleased with. Then I type it out – and tinker and go to sleep late and print it out in the morning to see what delirium has produced.

5. What motivates you to write?

Always emotion – a slow build up of something I can’t express coupled with
strange words I might hear. Also, I love challenges and commissions and the
desire to witness. People and the world they live in are so horrifically beautiful I want to capture it for a tiny fleeting moment as a witness to it and a gift to it.
I can’t write good poetry from anger – or righteousness – and I have tried – but it sounds bad when I do it. I write when I feel the burden of the worlds tragedy and some overwhelm of compassion or awe. Like most poets – I write because I must. I don’t know why.

6. What is your work ethic?

I like to be busy – even if it’s busy staring into space or being amazed at the shape of leaves or wondering who first said a particular word. I write quickly and probably over write so I enjoy the scribblingness of being industrious. For ages I was baffled by how to send things to publishers but a wise poet called Jane Clark told me to use my work brain to solve the admin problems and so that helps – to see that as a job, to help my poems live. So I like to see the publication process an extension of actually finishing the poem. I don’t think I’ve done my job if my poems are then not published somewhere.

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

I don’t think anything really leaves you. I recently published a poem in Bare Fiction magazine called Sea Shanty  about two strange people on a little boat out to sea and I put Edward Lear’s
Jumblies in – just the reference of the sieve. The editor said he liked it for that whimsy.
Sometimes at workshops people say don’t use Soul or shard and I wonder what T. S. Eliot would do or say – and try to do that. My O’ Level readings of Ted Hughes always influence me as strange animals appear in my poems and the moon! I also remember the cosmicness and the domesticity rolled together in Tagores poetry and I like that – and use it. But I was also very
Influenced by songwriters when I was young – Howard Devoto and Frank Black and Lou Reed.
I try to give a kind of character and feeling to each poem in the way my favourite musicians and songwriters did, give enough space for the reader to sail away but not too much I hope.

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

I admire my friend Abigail Morley’s work very much – as she stretches language like skin and it’s so beautiful and precise and fearless.
I admire Ocean Vuong enormously – he is brave and beautiful and packs
a punch of poetry. He is extraordinary. He writes about a world I don’t know and makes me live it and care and weep. I adore Louise Gluck and Jane Hirshfield for the span of emotion they can cover in their poetry and how they mould words over ideas. I love Jan Wenger’s poetry because it’s a meditation. Another poet I admire
is Elizabeth Sennit Clough – whose pamphlet Glass ( paper swans press) was one of the most intense poetry pamphlets I’ve read and I dreamed about it! I also admire Jane Commains poetry which makes me cry. But there are so many good writers that sometimes knock me for six. Years ago I stumbled on a war veterans website and read a poem by a soldier in Iraq and that has never left me even though I cannot find it anywhere!

9. Why do you write?

I am never alone when I’m writing and yet always alone – perhaps that contrast
appeals to me and the thought that I might never know if one of my poems touches someone – or where the life of that bundle of words will end up. I had no idea that s strange conversation that I had with a girl on facebook years ago would end up in the Forward Prize Book in 2018! That makes it very magical. I write to honour things – to remember things.
Also, I write to surprise myself – sometimes stuff pours out and I have no clue how and the joy of shaping it up Into something that sounds alive is great fun. But mainly it’s so I can witness or voice Something that needs to be said – even if if it’s just for me.

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

It’s a terrible cliché but I would say “Start writing and don’t ever stop writing, have discipline sometimes and sometimes none. Make sure you have an exiting life, some interesting friends and a few demons in the closet  ( or at very least imagination) – and read read read. And watch watch watch. And then write it all down.”

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

Right now I’m in the process of editing my second collection – it might be called Burst of it might not – I haven’t decided yet. It should be published next August. I’m working with friends on an ekphrastic project called Fractles and that’s great fun – we had an art exhibition last year. I love collaborations. I’m working with a friend on co- writing poems which is very exciting because you need absolute trust to be able to do it. I’m also starting out as a publisher along with my friends fellow poets Karen Dennison and Abigail Morley. Our new press is called Against the Grain Press and we published 4 poets in 2018 and have just selected our 4 2019 poets – it’s s labour of love. I’m also putting together a whole new collection – and there is a strange theme emerging but I can’t quite tell you about that yet. Who knows what will happen?

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Heath Brougher

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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Heath Brougher

writes on his Amazon profile
“I was born in York, PA and attended Temple University. I have been writing my entire life but didn’t begin to submit my life’s work of duffel bags brimming with 20 years worth of notebooks for publication until age 34 (4 years ago). Since then I have been published in over 450 various print and online journals throughout the world and have been a guest reader at many international events as well as the Featured Reader in many cities in the U.S. In July 2018 I will be dong a reading with Heller Levinson (a Pulitzer Prize Nominee) along with 5 other stellar poets. This reading will be my ultimate honor. I am the author of three chapbooks “A Curmudgeon Is Born” (Yellow Chair Press 2016), “Digging for Fire” (Stay Weird and Keep Writing Press 2016), “Your Noisy Eyes” (Stay Weird and Keep Writing Press 2017) as well as two full-length collections “About Consciousness” (Alien Buddha Press 2017) and “To Burn in Torturous Algorithms” (Weasel Press 2018), with 3 other full-length collections forthcoming. I have received multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Nominations and my work has been translated and published in 5 other languages. I am the co-poetry editor of Into the Void Magazine, which won the 2017 Saboteur Award for Best Magazine after only 4 issues–a feat no other magazine has ever accomplished before. I was the judge for Into the Void Magazine’s 2016 Poetry Competition and also edited the anthology “Luminous Echoes,” the proceeds of which will be donated to help with the prevention of suicide/self-harm.?”

The Interview

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

I’ve never been able to answer that question. I’ve found notebooks as far back as the 2nd grade with short stories, poetry, drawings in them. Writing was something that I have always loved to do. I suppose I’ve been writing ever since I learned how to write. Writing, in general, has just always been a part of my life.

2 Who introduced you to poetry?

I can’t really answer that concretely either. I guess I could say my grandmother, who passed away when I was less than a year old. As a little kid/teenager I remember sneaking down into a room in the basement that was filed from floor to ceiling with old books and smuggling some of them up to my room. I use the word “smuggling” because I didn’t want anyone to know I read outside of school until my early 20s, and I especially didn’t want anyone to know that I wrote, which I hid from everyone until the age of 34, if you can believe it. I remember finding Edgar Allan Poe books and various compilations of poetry in this room that I would read, although at that time (my early teens) I was more into reading the novels I found there. I did discover “Howl” in an anthology and used to have “The Raven” memorized from start to finish from one of the Poe books. The reason I say my grandmother was the one who introduced me to poetry was due to the fact that many of these books were hers and had her name written inside most of them.
3.  How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets ?

I didn’t really have to deal with that since I didn’t begin to submit my “life’s work” of duffel bags filled with writing until a little over 4 years ago at age 34. I’m always saying that I’m 20 years late to the party. Ha!

4. What is your daily writing routine

There are times, like during a submission period for Into the Void Magazine, where I’ll switch my sleeping pattern so that I sleep 8 hours once every 3 days and nights. I know this sounds crazy and everyone gives me hell over it, but once you’ve adapted to it, it actually works really well. This whole idea that people need 8 entire hours of sleep a night is really not True, in my opinion at least. People end up sleeping their lives away like this. So, I can’t really say I have a writing “routine.” I usually reserve the nights for my own writing/copying up the uncountable poems and other writings in my plethora of notebooks.

5. What motivates you to write?

When that inspiration hits, I WILL allow the ton of other things I told people I’d do for them to fall by the wayside. That’s NOT counting reading submissions for Into the Void Magazine—that’s the one and only exception to this rule. When I feel that wave of inspiration hit, I like to ride it for as long as I possibly can

6. What is your work ethic?

I guess I kind of answered that one in the last 2 questions. For instance, right now I owe 38 people book reviews, am in the process of making the final decisions of what poems are going to make it into the next issue of Into the Void Magazine, plus a million other things—only a few of which are coming to mind right now. Not to sound pompous, but I would say I have an extremely strong work ethic.

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

Most likely in more ways than I give them credit for. I always liked to think I was taking my own route in my notebooks but I’m sure that writers like Kerouac and Burroughs found their way in through my subconsciousness at least some of the time.

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

I always say that’s a 3-way tie between Heller Levinson, Felino A. Soriano, and Alan Britt. If anyone reading this is not familiar with their work I would highly recommend checking it out.  These are the 3 contemporary poets that your grandchildren will be reading in textbooks right next to Whitman and Cummings.

9. Why do you write?

This is a question I’ve never been able to fully answer. I’ve just always had the need to write.  As I said in a previous answer, I’ve found a notebook with writing in it as far back as the 2nd grade. I do know that it’s a great catharsis for me. I guess it’s something I’ve always needed to do on some kind of subconscious level. Writing has always been a part of my life.

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

I would tell them that I don’t really think anyone “becomes” a writer. I would say that when you’re born you’re either a writer or you’re not a writer. There are a lot of imitative writers out there, but I can’t speak for them.

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

Well, I’m currently typing up and editing 17 of the 88 books I’ve written over my life and am at various stages of completion with them. On top of that, there’s several new books that I’ve begun writing but none of them are really close to being done or fully edited. 2 of the newer books are books that have been written completely on the computer, which is something new for me. As far as forthcoming books, I have 2. “This is the Past” is due to be published by Between These Shores Books and “Tangential Dithyrambs” is due to be published by Concrete Mist Press.

Thank you for taking the time to let me spout a little bit about my life. It’s much appreciated.

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Tracy Dawson

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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The Interview

  1. What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?
    I was led by a soldier of the Great War. My life was at a crossroads or a turning point. I started researching my family tree and was following up leads on my great-grandfather who was killed on the Somme.
    I was inspired to write poetry by Ian Parks and his Read to Write Poetry Group. I had no interest in poetry and met Ian through my interest in family and local history. I attended his talk on the local poet Harold Massingham, which he did for Mexborough Heritage Society. I was enthralled by the voices and dialects of the Read to Write poets reading Massingham poems, especially the Anglo-Saxon and Old English words. Inspired, the next day I wrote a ‘poem’ for the first time since leaving school. I then went on Ian’s walk and talk about the Battle of Maisbelli. The following week I felt a need to take my ‘poem’ to show Ian – not because I thought it was any good, but because I wanted him to know that he had inspired me to write it. I did think this was a bizarre thing to do, but I have since learned that people often give their ‘poems’ to poets. I took it to Ian’s Read to Write group in Balby and stayed out of curiosity for the rest of the session. I thought I would check it out as it might be an interesting activity I could do with my relative who likes poetry. I returned the following week and I’ve been an active member of the group ever since.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?
Ian Parks.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I was not, and I am not, aware of a dominating presence of older poets. Whether by older poets you mean pre-20th century poets, or whether you mean older poets still living.
There appears to be no shortage of younger poets, especially in the spoken word arena. I’m sure the next generation are already writing poetry and waiting to be discovered.

4. What is your daily writing routine?
I don’t have a daily writing routine. I can’t write to order, I have to write when I have ideas spinning in my mind. If I am busy I try to note down a couple of words in the memo on my mobile phone and hope that I can still remember my ideas later when I have time to write. My own favourite poems woke me in the middle of the night or in the morning. Sometimes I write late at night or into the early hours if the ideas are flowing. It’s probably when my brain processes my thoughts without distraction. If I do wake with ideas in the middle of the night I find it less disruptive to write on my mobile phone instead of pen and paper.

5. What motivates you to write?
Writing poetry has become one of my passions – an addiction. It rewards me with a sense of achievement.
Poetry group exercises motivate me to produce a poem within a timeframe. A given theme is a good starting point, but then my writing often goes off in a different direction.

6. What is your work ethic?
I take my writing seriously. I put a lot of thought, time and effort into it.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Not at all or minimal – I wasn’t an avid reader.
The only well-read book in my childhood collection was ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. I started young and then abandoned reading. My book is well battered and I still have it! Until 18 months ago it was my only poetry book and now I have many.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Obviously my first choice is Ian Parks because I can connect with the language and landscape in his poems. His amazing knowledge, classical literature and historical facts all find their way through time in his poetry. I’m interested in how personal poems become universal and the interplay of past and present. I like the variety from love poetry to political to translations. In addition to his great poetry I admire him for inspiring others to enjoy poetry. He does so much to promote poetry in the community and for the support and encouragement he gives to others. I love the poets of Read To Write, increasingly recognised outside of our group. I liked Incendium Amoris by Steve Ely, because of the local interest, the historical and the use of other languages like Latin and Old English. I love the unique style of Laura Potts. I recently heard a modern, political poem called Ministry of Loneliness by Clare Proctor that I really liked. It imagines the types of red tape questions and hoops a lonely person would have to jump through in order to apply for the help they needed.

9. Why do you write?
I believe in lifelong learning and taking opportunities for self-improvement. It has become an addiction. I enjoy it. I write poems for myself, it’s a bonus if other people like them too.

10.   What would you say to someone who asked “How do you become a writer?”
Read. You’re never too old to start – but don’t leave it as long as me to start reading! Pick up a pen, a sheet of paper (or a memo on a mobile phone!) and just write something, anything, every day – even if it is just one word. Just make a start and develop it from there. Consider joining a reading and writing group, if you mix with people who share a common interest it sparks creativity, enthusiasm, momentum and improves understanding. Also, observe the world around you and beyond.

11.   Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment
Most of my writing is the result of an exercise from Read To Write where we study poets and their poems.
I also read my work at Well Spoken when I can. Well Spoken is an Open Mic held monthly at the Brewery Tap, Young Street, Doncaster.
I entered one of my poems into the Poetry of the North competition.
I am writing a poem for the Doves of Doncaster project.
I have a theme and a title in mind and I have just written my first poem for this series.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Mike Griffith

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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Mike Griffith

According to The Blue Nib

“began writing poetry as he recovered from a disability-causing injury. His poems, essays, flash fiction and articles have appeared in many print and online publications and anthologies. He resides and teaches near Princeton, NJ. His first poetry chapbook is slated to appear later this year from The Blue Nib.”

https://thebluenib.com/2018/08/29/forthcoming-from-blue-nib-publishing/

A link to some of Mike’s poems at The Blue Nib

https://thebluenib.com/article/michael-a-griffith/

The Interview

  1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

I started about three years ago as a way to keep my mind sharp and my emotions a bit better under control. I was living in a nursing and rehabilitation home at the time and was having a hard time dealing with my “new normal,” as it were. I was recovering from an injury which ruined my right ankle.

Reading and writing poetry was and still is a mental challenge. Poetry is also an incredibly helpful form of therapy.

1.1 How does it help?

For me it helped me first collect my thoughts, emotions, and frustrations in a coherent way. Then I ordered those thoughts and in so doing came to grips with them and understood them better.

So instead of just having thoughts and emotions roiling about my head, I channelled them onto paper then the laptop screen.

Understand, Paul, I’m not saying talking to loved ones didn’t help; it certainly did. And I am also not saying all (or much) of what I wrote resulted in art. A poem, yes. Something worth others reading? Not by a longshot.

But I am very pleased that some of my earliest writings from the nursing home have been published and in some cases have been published multiple times.

Poetry is a tool for therapy, not a replacement for those with diagnosed issues or for people feeling totally overwhelmed.

2. Which poets that you read encouraged you to write?

When I first started, I picked up the current issue of Poetry magazine and read each poem carefully, trying to suss out the tricks each poet used as best I could.

I knew only a little bit about poetry from rock song lyrics (a very predictable form of lyric poetry in the cases of most songs) and a college course from my undergraduate days, but beyond that, I was a babe in the woods.

As most of the poems I encountered were not at all like narrative fiction, basic rock songs, or nonfiction (which I have a good deal of experience writing and editing), learning the tools of poetry just by reading is like a guitar player trying to learn by ear, not knowing musical theory.

Soon after I bought a poetry anthology that had big figures like Plath, Eliot, Bishop, Hughes, Robert Lowell, Thom Gunn, and many others, so I began to learn not only by working poets but past masters as well.

3. Did you take a form or poem by one of these and try to do the same thing?

No, but I greatly admire poets such as Patricia Smith who can spin their spell on readers using forms in a stealthy way. I’m not that skilful. I think my attempts at form are pretty amateurish and feel forced. But I keep trying to work up a satisfying sonnet (which my friend Ken Allen Dronsfield does quite well), a coherent pantoum or a ghazal that doesn’t read like a madman’s shopping list.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I’d love to say there is a routine to my writing. Like most people, work, friends, and family come first time-wise for me.

My injury has had a few positive aspects on my life, one of which is I do much of my work at home like teaching online. This will change in the future, but for now on a typical day I can afford an hour or two devoted to writing.

I may need to track submissions, hunt new markets for submitting work, work on revising or retiring old drafts, or, when that all-important muse hits, to scribble down or pound out a new piece.

I try to read at least several poems from writers who are new to me by way of Poetry magazine, Rattle, or other publications a day as well as read the newest successes of friends on Facebook. A poet needs to keep reading as much or more than they need to keep writing.

5. What motivates you to write?

It’s probably the same motivation many artists express: we create because we have to.

As children we all create with blocks, with dolls, with clay and crayons, and we all play make-believe. It’s only when we grow up and start earning a living that some of us begin to see such “make-believe” and creative play as time wasters. Our time is equated with money, and most people want as much money as possible. Typically this results in a LOT of work and very little creation for the sake of creation.

As I mentioned earlier, once I start working out of the home more, my creative output will doubtlessly slow down. That happened over much of this summer when I taught five days a week, eight hours a day. It took a lot to send poems out, revise, let alone create new poems.

But, really, I write because I love it. I process both logically and visually, so concepts and themes if not fully-formed passages come to me pretty often. That can be both a good thing and a not-so-good thing.

5. 1 In what way?

So many times a thought or line will come to me as I am half-asleep at night, during a movie, out with friends, teaching, and in other places and at times when I am not able to write the idea or thought down. And once I DO get the chance to write it down, well, the blush has fled the bloom, as it were. The heat, the magic, the timgle of the muse’s tender lips is gone.

Yes, the germ of the idea may last, but it’s very seldom what I’d first come up with and almost never as good.

Yesterday I was at a doctor’s appointment and my notebook was home, my cell phone off, and a great line entered my head. Luckily I was alone in the examining room. I tore off a bit of that thin and crinkly paper that covers the exam table, took the pen from the doctor’s table, and scribbled the line down all before being asked to turn my head and cough.

Ideally a writer is always ready to capture thoughts and images, but life is seldom ideal.

6. What is your work ethic?

Well, always do your best, no matter your job, hobby, skill level, and so on.

That said, today’s best is tomorrow’s not-good-enough.

Far too many writers (or musicians, painters, athletes, and others) get frustrated by failures which are inevitable at all levels, especially when just starting out, then they give up and leave their hobby behind. There are also those who settle in at a certain level of their art or their level of success and rest on their laurels. Both of these fates are, I feel, poor work ethics.

To live is to evolve. One can only evolve by taking risks and learning new things. So my ethic when it comes to all sorts of work is to evolve. I must continually evolve as an instructor if I hope to teach effectively. In like fashion I must evolve as a creator if I hope to reach ever-larger audiences.

One other aspect of evolution and change in art and in work is knowing how to accept criticism, both from peers and the audience. Most of this criticism is of help if the artist is willing to listen with objective ears. Too many of us are too protective of our poems.

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

When I was young (a boy of 5 to about 12) I read very many comic books like Spider-Man, Superman, and Captain America. So I learned pretty basic good vs. evil morality and more, the power of hype from the tone of the comic books and the ads found in them. Morality comes up in some of my writing and I do realize the power of hype in spreading the word about my latest successes.

From about 15 or so I got deeply into rock ‘n’ roll, joining a band, learning songs, then later on writing lyrics. The nature of song lyrics with hard end-stopped rhymes and syllabic patterns is so ingrained in the minds of pop and rock music fans that it takes effort for them to the write outside those familiar constraints.

What most influenced me three year ago when I began to actively read poetry is the sheer variety presented in the world of poetry. Anything is an option. Take risks.

To most inexperienced poets who are not immersed in modern and current writing, taking a risk might be writing about some “naughty” or political topic. News flash: it’s all been done before. The risk a new writer should try to pull off is to offer new tries at form or new line break methods.

With such incredible variety in current poetry, risks need to be attempted.

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

I enjoy the work of Patricia Smith, Charlie Bondhus, Jee Leong Koh, Ted Kooser, sam sax, Shirley Bell and the works of many of my friends from publications like Ariel Chart and The Blue Nib and the Princeton-based poetry group of which I am a member, the U.S. 1 Poet’s Cooperative.

Why I admire each poet or group of poets is the sheer difference of vision and voice each poet brings to their public writing.

Patricia Smith does amazing work from a pretty urban landscape while Charlie Bondhus focuses on the world through the lens of a gay man. Shirley Bell offers up a mature voice full of quiet yet aching loss. My friends from the Poets’ Cooperative can write about dreams or dead foxes or irises or a trip to an Italian crypt or wedding vows – anything at all – and each does something in a special way that I could never do since it would never occur to me to do so.

We are all unique souls. Good artists can let what is unique to them shine through their art despite the subject.

Look at all the love poems, all the poems about heartache, alienation, hatred, anti-Trump themes, etc. So many of these poem we see posted on Facebook and other social media outlets are virtually copies of each other because the writer has not been able to let their own unique soul shine through. They may contest this, to which I would respond then why does your poem read like every other one out there on Facebook about how alone you are or how you love your mother or somesuch.

I hope not to come off as harsh, but I admire each poet I named above because none of them read like anyone else but themselves. They are each utterly unique in ways over 90% of current poets I have read are not unique.

9. Why do you write?

I write to get ideas and images out in the open. I can’t not think in a poetic or fictive way.

While at an outdoor jazz festival today two lines and a title for a poem or a short story came to me. I lost the music, lost the crowd, lost everything else by gaining these lines – the first and final one of the piece – and the piece’s title. I must write this out, must figure how how we get to that final line. And the piece must make sense within the confines of the title.

I create best by talking and by writing.

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

And this is how one becomes a writer. They just come up with a title or a line and explore.

There is no such thing as writer’s block in my life. Cripes, the opposite is true! I have too damn many ideas to capture!

I give my students, from 9 year-olds up to senior citizens, the same exact prompt: they must list 6 words off the top of their heads as I read things off like “a color,” “your favorite holiday,” “your best friend,” and so on. From those 6 items they must form a story. It can be silly, sad, whatever. They have a good deal of fun.

And when it stops feeling fun, we feel blocked.

So go write something fun. A love letter to yourself. A hate letter to your boss. Mr. Trump’s shopping list. A recipe from Mars. Just WRITE!

Look, Paul, you know as well as I do that not everything we write can or should become art.

Not every lap a runner runs is part of a race. 99% or so of her laps will be practice or warm-ups for the race itself, a pretty short and rare event.

So if you, the poet, get a dozen or so damn good poems written in your life, you’ll have maybe 12,000 attempts which will range from pretty good, okay, then down to utter crap.

We need to feel okay to write utter crap now and then, practice, write just to run laps. That’s all it takes to be a writer.

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

Thanks for asking about my projects. My first chapbook, Bloodline, will be released very shortly by The Blue Nib. It’s such a good feeling to have Bloodline come out from Dave and Shirley of The Blue Nib. I see only a bright future for them and to be part of that future is thrilling.

My second chapbook, New Paths to Eden, is being shopped around and I hope to have it produced and available by mid-2019.

Gearing up for a third book, but I need to see a theme come together firmly first. Bloodline is a collection of various themes and styles while New Paths to Eden is a more cohesive collection of poems dealing with the good and not-so-good aspects of love.

For my third book I may focus more on some of my darker, moodier pieces or ones dealing with injury, recovery, and the process between them.

We’ll see what feels best.

Thank you so much for these wonderful questions, Paul! This was both an honor and a pleasure.

 

 

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Emma Bolland

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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Emma Bolland performing ‘Le Silence #2’ at Future Imperfect, 2017.
Emma Bolland

Emma Bolland is an artist and writer working across forms. Recent publications include ‘Manus’, in On Violence, ed. Rebecca Jagoe and Sharon Kivland, London: Ma Bibliothêque, 2018, and in 2019 her experimental prose work Over, in, and Under, will be published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe Experimental. Recent performance readings include at Offprint, Tate Modern 2018, and at Dundee University’s The Essay Conference, 2018, where she was also a guest speaker on ‘inter-medial’ essay form. For a full list of past and future publications and performances see her website:

Biography / CV / Contact Me

 

The Interview

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

I have to start by saying that I am not a poet, or rather that I don’t call myself a poet. I call myself an artist writer. I am an artist writer who works through and across forms. However, sometimes certain of my works are referred to as poetry by others, I have work in the collection in the Poetry Library in London, and I have been invited to contribute to or take part in events that are framed as poetry, or even introduced as a poet. I can see that some of my work may look like poetry on the page, or sound ‘poetic’ in that it employs experimental language, but I am not concerned with the ‘poetics’ of poetry in the way that many poets are. Furthermore, I don’t have the knowledge that many of them have, either of the histories and structures of the genre, or of its various theoretical tropes, that comes from doing Literatures or Creative Writing at Universities. I call it the ‘poetry rules’. I am not versed in the ‘poetry rules’.

I will reframe your question as: What were the circumstances under which you began to write?

My background is in contemporary art, and while I have always written as part of my visual practice, I only started writing seriously in 2012. I was doing a collaborative project with another artist, the photographer Tom Rodgers, and the curator Judit Bodor. We were looking at what might be called ‘post-traumatic landscapes’, specifically the sites where the victims of the so-called Yorkshire Ripper had been found. The project was around landscape, memory, and mourning, and as the site visits continued (we made visits to gather material for about six months) I felt the need to write about the experience of walking these desperately sad places. We set up a blog and these, what?, half essay, half fiction, poetic texts began to emerge. It felt, for the first time, like I needed to write, like there was something that needed to be written. I remember thinking, ‘oh, am I a writer now?’
1. Who introduced you to poetry?

I found poetry really dreary at school. Anthologies of white men droning on about wars, butterflies, and Grecian urns. Poetry with a capital P seemed to have very little to do with me or my world. In my later teens and early twenties I made a an effort to read contemporary poetry, but I was getting it from those ‘modern poets’ anthologies from the likes of Penguin et al… so it was a bit of a chore to be honest. I was more excited by the kinds of writing I was coming across at art school: ‘poetic theorists’ like Helène Cixous, ‘punk’ writers like Kathy Acker, philosophies from Freud and Lacan. It was when I met the splendid poet and essayist Brian Lewis (who is also the publisher and editor at Longbarrow Press) in 2012 that I became aware of formalised poetry with a capital P that I found worth reading. We had met via Twitter, and I went to one of the Longbarrow poetry walks, and then he came to the opening of the first MilkyWayYouWillHearMeCall exhibition, and I think we pretty much fell in love on the spot—though neither of us realised it at the time—and he would send me stuff by W. S. Graham, Rosemary Tonks, and of course pieces by some of the poets he works with—Kelvin Corcoran, Peter Riley, Angelina D’Roza, and others. Because of these gifts I am now finding my own way through some aspects  of contemporary poetry, which has much to offer me. Superb writers such as Claudia Rankine, Anne Boyer, Jay Bernard, Vahni Capildeo, Sandeep Parmar, and many more.

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

I have never felt dominated by older poets or indeed by older writers of any description.

3. What is your daily writing routine?

Um… I wish I could say it was good. So much stuff gets in the way… admin, job applications (I really need a job), earning money to live on, depression and anxiety, family illness… I need to be more disciplined about making some of the other stuff wait, and writing / making work even if I feel like shit. Tomorrow (September 14th) the writer Jenn Ashworth and I are starting a round of #100DaysOfWriting. There are no rules, except to write every single day, be gentle, and keep some kind of record of it (we will be using Instagram and Twitter). Jenn invented / devised #100DaysOfWriting, and you can read an interview with her about it here: https://prolifiko.com/100daysofwriting-gentle-productivity/ I’m hoping this will get me back into a routine, as this summer has been difficult.

4. What motivates you to write?

Deadlines. Being in love. Imagining a reader. Ambition. Most of all, feeling that there is something that needs to be written.

5. What is your work ethic?

Not sure what you mean? If you mean do I have a disciplined routine, then see above… If you mean what are the principles by which you frame your practice, then pretty rigorous. There are people and platforms that I would not write for.

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

I don’t know if I hold with the idea that one is ‘influenced’… I think rather that there are writers who allow one to see the possibility of writing… I don’t think that I have brought many of the writers that I read when I was young with me into middle age… if I look on my shelf to see who is there from 30 years ago, then there is still Cixous, still Acker, still Freud, still Lacan. There are writers I still love from back then, but they don’t necessarily feed into my own writing style…

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

I think who one ‘admires’ is changeable, depending on what one is writing, how one’s writing is unfolding, either in the short or long term. And perhaps better framed for me as who excites me, who offers me possibilities, who frames me, who offers me context, whose writing I feel I have a relationship with… so at the moment, looking on my desk (and not all of these are ‘today’s’ writers… Anne Carson, Nathalie Léger, Marguerite Duras, Lara Pawson, Kate Briggs, Maria Fusco, Imogen Reid, Maggie Nelson, Claire Potter, Claudia Rankine, Anne Boyer, Raymond Williams, Freud, Lacan, Clarice Lispector, Walter Benjamin, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)…

I could write a page on all of the above, but to pick out a couple of examples… I have in front of me Anne Carson’s Float, (2017), (a surprise present from the poet A.B. Jackson—thank you Andrew!). It is a boxed collection of 22 slender chapbooks whose various forms include performance notes, scripts, poems, essays, lists… it epitomises the kind of writing I am currently engaged in (or at least aspire to). Fragmentary, inter-medial, open, offering possibility, managing to be both anti-didactic and magnificently assured. Nathalie Léger’s A Suite for Barbara Loden (2015, French edition 2012) is a brilliant, reflexive account of an investigation that uses fiction as both material and archive. Léger has set out on the trail of Barbara Loden—actor, film director, and the second wife of film director Elia Kazan. Loden wrote, directed, and starred in the highly acclaimed film Wanda (1970), based on a newspaper story that Loden had read about a woman who had been convicted of robbing a bank. Léger writes that ‘Barbara would say how deeply affected she had been by the story of this woman—what pain, what hopelessness could make a person desire to be put away?’. Léger drills down through the layers of real-and-fictional-real ‘selves’: Barbara, Wanda, and the imprisoned woman, returning again and again to the question of who writes who, and the question of piecing together truths from fictions. I am now reading the French edition—reading a book you know and love in the original (or indeed in translation) is a great way of learning a language. I started teaching myself French like this about a year ago… Also, everyone should read the poet Anne Boyer’s prose fragment collection Garments Against Women (2015).

9. Why do you write?

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

Read. Keep reading. Never stop reading. Be curious. Consider your reader (which is not the same as being considerate to your reader). Be ruthless with your work (sometimes we write rubbish—not everything should be read), but do your best not to do yourself down. Be generous. Take an interest in what other people are writing. Find a critical ‘other’: this could mean a trusted friend, a reading group, anywhere you can find an honest eye to give you feed back. (I’m very lucky to be shacked up with Brian Lewis—we operate as each other’s first stage editors, and we are brutal). Don’t be comfortable. Find a community, or create one: start a reading night, start an online journal or magazine where you publish others… write what needs writing. Edit, edit, edit. Read your work out loud, over and over, it flags up mistakes and develops your rhythm. I always aim for my work to work both on and off the page. Read. Keep reading. Never stop reading.

When it comes to advice on being published, I am not the best person to ask… but I guess one piece of advice is ‘do your research’. If you are sending work to a magazine / journal then check that it is suitable for what you are writing. Do they have formatting guidelines? Are the submissions even open. Ditto presses. Don’t send huge manuscripts to ‘the editor’—this is a human being, find out who they are. Take an interest in what they do. Buy one or two of their books! Check if they even accept submissions. Some writers / editors, (especially the kind of cultural gatekeepers who wouldn’t recognise their own privilege even if it walked up and punched them in the face), are snobby about self-publishing. I’m not.

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

I have a few finished pieces being proofed / tweaked for publication. The first is an experimental essay (poem-like in parts) ‘White’, which was commissioned by Emily Speed from a book that will also include pieces by Eley Williams and others, which will be out later this year (I have forgotten the title of the book I’m afraid). The second is Over, in, and Under (after Über Dekkerinnerungen) a novella length ‘experimental’ translation of a Freud essay, that reads like a prose poem—that’s being published early 2019 by Dostoyevsky Wannabe, (I’m also editing the Dostoyevsky Wannabe Cities ‘Sheffield’ book, but that is under wraps for the moment).  The other one is an article for The Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance. Its talking about a long term project in which I am experimentally translating, rewriting, a screenplay for a lost 1920 silent film by the French impressionist filmmaker Louis Delluc. The article explains my methods and thinking, and they are also publishing the first part of my ‘rewrite’ alongside it. I guess parts of this are ‘poem-like’ too.

In terms of things I am actually writing ‘right now’, I have two deadlines. One is a collaborative performance text / zaum poem with the artist writer Helen Clarke, which we are performing at the ‘Writing Photographs’ event at Tate Modern on October 13th. The other is a piece commissioned by the artist Kevin Lycett (who is also a founder member of The Mekons), which I am performing t the opening of his exhibition in Leeds on October 26th. It is going to be about monsters… I think…

 

BIOGRAPHY / PUBLICATIONS
Emma Bolland is an artist and writer working across forms. Recent publications include ‘Manus’, in On Violence, ed. Rebecca Jagoe and Sharon Kivland, London: Ma Bibliothêque, 2018, and in 2019 her experimental prose work Over, in, and Under, will be published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe Experimental. Recent performance readings include at Offprint, Tate Modern 2018, and at Dundee University’s The Essay Conference, 2018, where she was also a guest speaker on ‘inter-medial’ essay form. For a full list of past and future publications and performances see her website: https://emmabolland.com/about/

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Bozhidar Pangelov

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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Bozhidar Pangelov

Bozhidar Pangelov was born in the soft month of October in the city of the chestnut trees, Sofia, Bulgaria, where he lives and works. He likes joking that the only authorship which he acknowledges are his three children and the job-hobby in the sphere of the business services. His first book Four Cycles written entirely with an unknown author but in a complete synchronous on motifs of the Hellenic legends and mythos. The coauthor (Vanja Konstantinova) is an editor of his next book Delta and she is the woman whom The Girl Who… is dedicated to. His last (so far) book is The Man Who.. In June 2013 a bilingual poetry book A Feather of Fujiama is being published in Amazon.com as a kindle edition. Some of his poems are translated in Italian, German, Polish,Russian,Chinese, Turkish, Arabic, Romanian, Portuguese and English languages and are published on poetry sites as well as in anthologies and some periodicals all over the world. Bozhidar Pangelov is on of the German project Europe .. takes Europa ein Gedicht. Castrop Rauxel ein Gedicht RUHR 2010 and the project SPRING POETRY RAIN 2012, Cyprus.
His penname “bogpan” means “god Pan” – in Greek religion and mythology,

The Interview

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

I have the feeling that I have always written poetry. At home we used to have quite rich book library. Throughout my awkward past the (the political system), reading was a way of having a life in another worlds. Can you imagine that there used to be long queues for each translated book from a foreign author! Well, eventually the cause of writing my first poem was quite funny. Me and a friend of mine used to be in love with the same girl. The conflict about who is going to meet her was resolved after each of us wrote a poem. Romantics of the youth.
2.       Who introduced you to poetry?
To answer this question I would like to make some clarifications concerning the educational system in my country. In that system literature is considered as a compulsory subject and leads to serious exams that allow you to apply for a higher educational degree. In the study books are included national as well as international authors. In that aspect, if you like literature you just start writing.
3.       How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
During the time when I was young, the goverment used to dictate names of poets, but I have always been a rebel and that’s why I never accepted any names. Later on, when the political system changed what remained was my love and amusement by the great worldwide poets.
4.       What is your daily writing routine?
I am not a professional poet and therefore I don’t need to daily write to earn my living. Certainly I don’t trust poems written by professional poets because in most of the cases these poems have unclear aesthetic values and are there to satisfy the popular reader’s taste.
5.       What motivates you to write?
The emotions. Despite the fact that everybody feels the defined emotions as love,pain and etc., every each person senses them in his/her own unique way. The thought,which inevitably exists in a poem rests between the conscious and unconscious. I think that a poem written only by the conscious effort of one’s mind is rather a short essay or a short novel. Still there should be a cross point between poetry and prose –  and for me that’s the emotions.
6.   What is your work ethic?
I understand this question as related to writing. Ethic for me means to write a “real” poem. Now I sense the forthcoming question which would be what is the criteria or how would you determine what “real” is. A possible answer to this question is the one of the Nobel winner of Greek origin Georgius Seferis, who answers to a similar question in the following way: But he must somehow have an instinct—a guiding instinct—which says to him: “My dear boy, my dear chap, be careful; you are going to fall. You are exaggerating at this moment.” In this sense my instinct tells me that it’s an absurdity to expect everybody to understand poetry. Whoever wants to understand everything can read newspapers or magazine news. Still it’s uncertain that one will understand everything. At that point I would like to remind the following thought of T.S. Eliot:  “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.“

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

Youngsters, who tend to get highly impressed after reading an author who relates to their inner self remember this artwork and this author which remains forever in their subconscious no matter if they are aware of it or not. That’s how the model works, which we reproduce in our own way. A poem doesn’t emerge from the nowhere.
8.   Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Considering my experience and age it’s hard for me to get impressed. I just get extremely happy when I come across with an author, who has his/her own unique style, who is distinguishable from the majority. I would like to point at one single name, so I don’t miss out on some of my favourite authors. Stefan Goncharov – quite young poet, who established his presence in a quite powerful and mature way just within few months time and having in mind that these were his first poems! As I can say – this man was born a poet.
9.       Why do you write?

With writing I’m trying to express the unexpressable.
10.   What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
In case that your question is – how can I become a professional writer, I can’t reply. I guess that this is something you can learn at the creative writing courses. For me this question has never been important. I just write. I think that if one wants to become a good writer, not only many books need to be read, but that person at a certain point needs to forget about all the knowledge and without a fear start writing in the way of expressing his/her own thoughts and feelings. To be honest with himself/herself and without thinking how to be liked by the readers. There isn’t an ultimate audience of readers that is there to like your writing. Here I would give a longer quote from the interview with Georgius Seferis – Henri Michaux “You know, my dear, a man who has only one reader is not a writer. A man who has two readers is not a writer, either. But a man who has three readers”—and he pronounced “three readers” as though they were three million—“that man is really a writer.”

11.   Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
At the moment I don’t run my own projects. I’m engaged as an editor of the monthly magazine “New Associal Poetry”. We are preparing surprises for the published authors and new sections. There is already a new section for translations from mostly English language. At this point I would like to say that most of the young people know English, but unfortunately only few people for whom English is their mother tongue know my language. Maybe the reason for that the Cyrilic alphabet is mistaken for the Russian alphabet. Historically is exactly the opposite. Translations require hard work, especially when the literature is created in another language. For that reason we came up with the idea of having a new section for foreign literature dedicated to foreign authors who are a living example for language’s application and usage. All the authors, who are interested in participating in such project can read more about it on  http://newasocialpoetry.com/category/translations/. Whoever wants to learn more about the publishing requirements is kindly invited to apply with his/her literature by contacting me online -newasocialpoetry@gmail.com.