Interview: Nathanael O’Reilly

Thankyou Thom

Thom Sullivan


Over recent months, I’ve enjoyed reading the regular interviews with poets published by Paul Brookes at The Wombwell Rainbow. This week Paul published an interview with poet Nathanael O’Reilly, born and raised in Australia, but currently living and teaching in the United States.

In the interview, Nathanael speaks of the influence of Keats, Yeats and Heaney, his “holy trinity”, as well as his advice for young writers: “Every serious writer knows that it takes years and years of practice to become a decent writer, let alone a great one […] Young writers are often impatient and in a rush to get published, and many of them don’t understand that writing requires a really long apprenticeship […] Having the desire to write is just the first step.”

Nathanael’s interview can be read in full here, and is highly recommended, along with his most recent book of poems, Preparations…

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the poet by day, makes me a poet by night
how sweet is the sensation how smooth the flight
in  holy silence, words flow on, with delight
as the hours pass by, dawn breaks into light 
Anjum Wasim Dar

Over my life
I have drifted,
along, with the flow-

I came to know
I have to go, be slow
To move step by step
shed tears drop by drop,

Over my heart I found,
nothing was my own
It all had to be gifted,
to known and unknown,

Over my heart I saw,
as inside I bled
outside all was black ,

as the invisible was red,
love’s return, hard to find,
to complete a good age

we ourselves must be
loving caring and kind.

Spirit of Two Spheres

O My Spirit
someone has seen you
In sound and silence,
felt you in celestial
O spirit where dost thy…

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Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Julia Webb

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.

Threat Cover WEB

Julia Webb

graduated from UEA’s poetry MA in 2010. She lives in Norwich where she works for Gatehouse Press, is a poetry editor for Lighthouse and teaches creative writing. Her first collection, Bird Sisters, was published by Nine Arches Press in 2016.  Her second collection, Threat, will be published by Nine Arches in May 2019. Her poem ‘We is in the bank” won the 2018 Battered Moons poetry competition. To find out more: She blogs at: and tweets: @Julwe1

Read more about her new collection:

The Interview 

Thank you so much for asking me to complete your questionnaire – it is always good to be made to think about what I do and why .

  1. When and why did you begin to write poetry?

I began writing poetry in my teens – back then I wrote it for myself and it was (as you would expect) full of angst. I kept writing poetry on and off over the years – although for a while I concentrated on short stories – before coming to it more seriously when I was 40. I had started a degree in Creative Writing at Norwich School of Art and Design (now Norwich University of the Arts) thinking I would focus on prose but rediscovered my love for poetry – it’s conciseness, its ability to distil the essence of an idea and, more than anything its playfulness and the exciting things it can do with language.

  1. Who introduced you to poetry?

I had some poetry books as a child – mostly bought for me by my mum – The Oxford Book of Children’s Verse, The Golden Treasury of Poetry (edited by Louis Untermeyer) and Hilda Boswell’s Treasury of Poetry and her Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. I also had two books of poems by A.A. Milne and a lovely copy of The Quangle Wangle’s Hat by Edward Lear. All of these were books that I read and re-read countless times. I don’t remember much poetry at school – in fact I only remember studying Cargoes by John Masefield.

On the creative writing degree the poets George Szirtes, Andrea Holland and Helen Ivory were the tutors that re-awakened my love for both reading and writing poems.

  1. How aware were and are you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I am guessing by that you mean poets of the past. The books I read as a child were mostly full of older poems – in fact it was not until I left home and started looking for poetry on my own that I discovered that there were interesting contemporary poets. The male female balance in those books I read as a child was definitely mostly male heavy and I was delighted as an adult to discover so many great (and often overlooked) female writers. I still read older poetry now but tend to read more contemporary work. I think it is important to read and be aware of both. If you study art history you need to learn what came before the modern art movements to be able to understand how they came about – it is the same with poetry.

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a set routine. In fact I believe it is more important to set a reading routine than a writing one. Without reading poetry I don’t write much. I tend to write in flurries. There are times when I can’t stop writing and others (like now), which are a bit slower. For me writing is the easy bit – it is the typing up and editing that I have a resistance to.

  1. What motivates you to write?

I am driven to write – something sparks an idea and I am compelled to write it down – the spark could be a book, a poem, an article, something I have watched or a place I have visited.

I am interested in what makes us human (and therefore fallible) and how we relate to and act upon each other and the world around us – the nitty-gritty and the minutiae of the everyday. I am more interested in the grimy and dysfunctional side of life than the glitz.

I am also excited by the potential of language to challenge and excite us and to make us see the world in new ways. I love wordplay and breaking the rules – for example using verbs as nouns or messing up the punctuation.

Actually what I should have said earlier is reading that reading motivates me – reading other poets and reading widely is a huge motivator.

  1. What is your work ethic?

Keep writing. Stay true to the essence of the poem. If you are not scared of what the world will think then you are probably playing it too safe.

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

Alfred Noyes and Alfred Lord Tennyson taught me about sustained rhythms, I also love them for their tragedy, their romanticism and their ability to spin a tale. Lear, Beloc and nursery rhymes taught me to be fantastical – that things don’t always have to make sense. Milne I love for the pathos of the everyday, his humour and his ability to find a moment of joy amidst unhappiness (e.g. King John’s Christmas). Yeats and Thomas taught me to appreciate the beauty of language.

  1. Whom of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Gosh there are so many – where to begin?

I read very widely and am a huge fan of contemporary American poetry – some favourite Americans are C.D. Wright, Ross Gay, Claudia Rankine, Matthew Dickman, Michael Dickman, Lynn Emanuel, Joy Harjo, Dara Wier, Melissa Studdard, Rosemarie Waldrop, Natalie Diaz.

I love poetry that has a surreal twist – where people transform in some way or where the poet explores family or relationships between people in lots of different or unusual ways – people who do this really well are: Toon Tellegen, Anne Carson, Pascale Petit, Moniza Alvi, Helen Ivory, Hilda Sheehan, Stephen Daniels and Sarah Law.

Other poets whose work I love are: Carrie Etter, Andrew McMillan, Liz Berry, Alice Oswald, Denise Riley, Kei Miller, Jacqueline Saphra, Wayne Holloway Smith, Ágnes Lehóczky, Rebecca Tamas, Heidi Williamson, Esther Morgan, Angus Sinclair, Laura Elliott. These are all poets whose work excites and/or offers me new ways to view the world. There are lots of upcoming new poets whose work I admire too – too may to mention here.

  1. Why do you write?

Because I need to, to fulfil my creative needs and to help me make sense of the world.

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

I would start by reading – read lots, read widely, read journals and books, read modern stuff as well as older works. Write a lot too – but don’t be in a rush to put everything you commit to paper out into the world. A famous poet once told me that it takes ten years to become a mediocre poet! When you have established a writing practice consider going on some workshops with writers you admire. I still go to workshops – you never stop learning, it gives you new ideas, insights, ways of working – it keeps things fresh.

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

I have a new poetry collection Threat coming out with Nine Arches Press in May this year and I will hopefully be doing some readings from that later in the year.

Currently I am working on a sequence of poems about my mother and mothers in general and another sequence about writing that features a character called The Bishop. I have also recently finished a pamphlet length sequence of experimental sonnets called Enteric, I am not sure what I am going to do with that yet.


Very pleased to have four poems featured in the response to last Wednesday’s prompt in the company of great writing. Thankyou, Jamie.


“When I was young and miserable and pretty
And poor, I’d wish
What all girls wish: to have a husband,
A house and children. Now that I’m old, my wish
Is womanish:
That the boy putting groceries in my car

See me. ”
Randall Jarrell, Selected Poems

What a generous and engaging response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, I Am Beautiful Now, February 6, 2019. I guess we all have something to say about aging: poignant, wry, wise, well considered. You’ll find a lot to munch on here today.

Thanks to Julie Standig (and a warm welcome), Paul Brookes, Irma Do, Jen Goldie, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Marta Pombo Sallés (welcome back), Mike Stone, and Anjum Wasim Dar.  Well done, poets, and thank you!

Enjoy this stellar collection and do join us tomorrow for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt.

I’m Not Done Yet

I lost my ovaries a week…

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Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Marc Woodward

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.

Marc Woodward

is a poet and musician born in New York but a long term resident of Devon. He has had work published in numerous magazines journals and online ‘zines (including Acumen, Atrium, Avis, Caught By The River, Clear Poetry, The Clearing, Ink Sweat & Tears, The High Window, Popshot, Prole, Reach; amongst many others) and featured on The Poetry Society website.
His chapbook A Fright Of Jays (Maquette Press 2015) was reviewed as “Beautifully crafted poems that sing in the dark of darkness” (Canto Reviews); and “Stories of moonlight and wildlife in the strange small wildernesses of the South West” (Ink Sweat and Tears).

A full collection

Hide Songs’ was published in August 2018 by Green Bottle Press and a further full collection ‘The Tin Lodes’ written collaboratively with well known poet (and Exeter University professor) Andy Brown is currently with publishers, hopefully for release later this year.

Marc is also a remarkable musician. His CD Bluemando is highly recommended.

The Interview

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

I’ve been writing poetry on and off since I was a child. I recall writing a poem at primary school, aged maybe 7 or 8, which the teacher was very enthusiastic about, and thinking ‘this is it, this is my thing – I’m going to be a poet!’  It was the first thing I ever wanted to be. I didn’t know then that it wasn’t really a career option!

  1. Who introduced you to poetry?

Hard to say. My father wrote poetry although more satirical verse really, which he used to have published in She (the woman’s magazine) and other journals. I think I picked up on it at school and just ‘got it’.

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

I was into Blake as a child (The Tyger of course, what kid doesn’t love that?), the whole Songs of Innocence and Experience. Then later A E Housman, Larkin, Betjeman, Edward Thomas, and the War Poets – all fairly straightforward poets that we got presented with at school I suppose. Milton and Shakespeare obviously.

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t really have a routine. However I do believe you have to have time alone, which for those who hold down day jobs or have family commitments can be hard. I’ve always found long solo car journeys – with the radio off of course – to be useful times to mull things over.

  1. What motivates you to write? 

Sometimes it’s seeing or hearing something I feel I should write about but mostly it’s just things that jump into my head – often as a response to a visual stimulus from the natural world and a creative process starts to occur.

  1. What is your work ethic?

I don’t have a structured one. I don’t really force myself to write although if I’m working on a specific project I’ll become quite obsessive about it. I’m certainly not a writer who diligently bangs out so many words a day. I’ll go for periods where I don’t write anything but hopefully the reservoir is gradually refilling during these times. Also I feel it’s important to get out and live – talk to people, do things, and if in the back of your mind there’s a little curator making notes then I believe that’s the truest way to find poetry.

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

I was taken with Larkin when I was in my teens – not so much his cynicism- although that always seemed so English and relatable – but his attention to structure and form, craft if you like. I still pay attention to that, too much perhaps and more so than many other contemporary writers. It’s a habit I’m working on breaking…

Edward Thomas looms large too.

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

I read quite widely. Some poets I enjoy for exactly the opposite reason that I enjoy others. For example I admire structure and form but I enjoy reading free verse too.

But to answer the question, recent favourites have included Wendell Berry (he’s still alive so I think it counts!) because he speaks to me of issues I feel connected too; Billy Collins for his lovely light touch, Gillian Clarke for her rural themes and sense of craft, John Burnside for beauty and tautness.

I also enjoyed Sarah Howe’s Loop of Jade and thought the high profile debate about it unfair; and Kayo Chingonyi’s excellent collection Kumukanda for its musicality and voice.

Also my friend Andy Brown’s (professor of English and Creative Writing at Exeter Uni) various collections – most recently Blood Lines.  As well as being a truly excellent poet, Andy should also get a mention as a mentor – he’s been a generous, reliable (and occasionally brutal) second opinion and kindly edited/published my Fright of Jays pamphlet.

  1. Why do you write?

This is one of those questions where I should answer flippantly with ‘I just do’ or similar.  In truth I love the idea of creating something beautiful that goes beyond the self. I love it when I start out with an idea and the end result is something altogether different – when the poem takes on a life of its own.

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

Write. Then read and write some more. Then throw it away, read some more – from a range of places – then write again.  Repeat.

Think about who you are, what you want to say, how you’d like to say it. Then ask yourself why would anyone be interested? Ultimately I believe you need to be making a connection.

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

I went to California last October to take up a two week writing residency working on a project looking at the USA/UK relationship. I was born in New York, my English parents were living there in the 50s and 60s, and I’m exploring their relationship with the US as well. At least that’s the idea but it’s still a work in progress.

I’m also writing a little portfolio of poems dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. I was diagnosed as being in the early stages of this illness a couple of years ago – which came as a shock as well as a wake up call to make each day count.  I think perhaps the art with writing about such matters is to avoid self-pitying or mawkishness and find a way of stepping out of yourself.  Find a way of communicating so that it connects with the widest cross section of people.

But perhaps that’s true for all poetry?




Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: VVBT

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.



is a Spanish Norwegian poet, artist and actor living in London. her publications include works in 3am magazine, a new type of imprint, brygg, penteract press, ren sommer and utflukt. she was a member of the experiments and innovations in poetry program at kingston university, where she won the 2018 writers graduation prize.

The Interview

  1.  When and why did you begin to write poetry?

poetry – i don’t know. i’ve been writing since i was a kid, all kinds of stuff, stories for my brothers, word games, anything really. in college i was part of a poetry society (i know how it sounds – if it helps, its name was K.U.K., which is norwegian for dick – that doesn’t help, does it) which probably constituted my first attempts at poetic endeavours. i’ll take them with me to the grave.

  1. Who introduced you to poetry?

i grew up surrounded by books, prose and poetry and anything in between. i’ve been extraordinarily lucky, having always access to a plethora of authors, and being encouraged along the way. i’ve also had some magnificent teachers, like my spanish teacher reading lorca to a class of 11 year olds.’ t

  1. How aware were and are you of the dominating presence of older poets?

never been an issue. for one, i’m surrounded by fellow foals. moreover, i’ve only ever been met with welcome and support by the poetry community. it might be a case of echo chamber or naivety, but i remain grateful.

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

utterly, magnificently, perpetually non existent. i usually juggle loads of stuff, projects and meetings and collaborations and training and whatnot – none of which adhere to a set schedule. i don’t operate with weekends or holdidays, just endless to-do lists and post-it’s. i write on the bus, at intermissions, when reading, when trying to sleep.

  1. What motivates you to write?

anything and nothing. a deadline can be as efficient as an idea. generally speaking, i write because i write because i write. i’ve always been drawn to language, and am by nature hyperassociative. add to that a fair amount of curiosity and cheek, and you got yourself a poet.

  1. What is your work ethic?

i would say see question 4.-5., but in all honesty i take my work ethic very seriously. the idolised notion of an erratic and capricious creative genius possessed by divine inspiration is just BS. i’m obnoxiously lucky to do what i do, and i pride myself in calling it work. professionalism is a matter of self-respect as much as common decency.


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

probably in every way except directly.


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

i am hopelessly guilty of not reading enough of my contemporaries as i’m forever trying to catch up with the past. it’s a deplorable habit. given this predicament it’s fortunate that i get to collaborate with living, talented creatures i would otherwise not have encountered. that being said… lyn hejinian, alice birch, sarah kane (i know, but come on), oh, and i discovered brenda shaughnessy just earlier today.


  1. Why do you write?

i don’t have a good answer to that. i’m not sure it matters why – whether it’s a compulsion, a passion, or a logical outcome of given circumstances. i know it’s a privilege, and i know it’s a struggle. on a grand scale the creation, manipulation and mutilation of language and culture is fascinating, but who cares why i do it?


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

apart from things like ’write’ or ’read’, i mean, who’s asking? i’d probably say it is a case of the blind leading the blind.

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

i’m doing a series of things in relation to the european poetry festival, including a book launch and a few collaborative readings. then i’m filming a short film i’ve written, and developing a curatorial concept which is not ready for disclosure quite yet. other than that i just had a pamphlet out with penteract press, an extract from a collection of asemic writings that i’m still developing.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Carl Scharwath

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.

scharwath cover

Carl Scharwath,

has appeared globally with 150+ journals selecting his poetry, short stories, interviews, essays or art photography.Two poetry books ‘Journey To Become Forgotten’ (Kind of a Hurricane Press).and ‘Abandoned’ (ScarsTv) have been published. Carl is the art editor for Minute Magazine, a dedicated runner and 2nd degree black- belt in Taekwondo.

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

My journey of becoming a writer began eight years ago. One evening I went for a run near my home. It was very dark and cold and I just completed a 2 miler run. I usually walk a little afterward and as I began to cross the street there were no cars present. Half-way in the road, I heard two teens laughing and when I turned my head to look bright headlights were coming right at me. (this was a police car that pulled out from a school parking lot and had turned the lights on after turning onto the street.)

As I walked home shaken and having a strange feeling of maybe this was a dream and the car did hit me,I started to think about a short story concerning these ethereal feelings and wrote it as soon as I got home. I also wrote a poem immediately after the story. Upon submitting them to a few publications I was shocked when they were accepted and thus began my love of writing.
Running has been the inspiration for my art as most of my ideas happen during this solitary experience of being one with the road. I also am an avid reader of classic literature and poetry

As I look back on 8 years of writing, I know I am blessed to have almost 200 publications of not only my poetry but also short stories, essays, interviews, a play and many selections of my photography.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Jennifer Link my long time friend always supported and loved my writing. She was the one who inspired me to write poems as she cared the most, always gave feedback and helped edit my short stories and plays before submitting. Sadly she passed almost 2 years ago. I am the art editor of Minute Magazine and in memory of her I am funding a no entry-fee, cash prize poetry contest. She also inspired me to help other poets as I have done poetry/photography collaborations with eight international and two America writers who use my photography for their poems. I am happy to say everyone has been published and a few were first time publishing credits for the poets. I love to support other artists in the way Jenny supported me.

3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

When I first began to write poetry, I was not reading the other great poets. That changed quickly though and now in addition to my fictional reading I am discovering the joy of reading other poets. Currently I am reading and studying T.S. Elliot and Hart Crane. These are two of the most difficult poets to understand and this is why my studies are in-depth with these great writers. I love the online tools to analyze poets and to read their biographies. I also use YouTube for the great college lectures on poets and subscribe to Poetry and Tin House for the most modern writing. Finally every morning I read a poem before beginning the day.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Sadly I do not have a daily writing routine. I currently have a career as a licensed financial adviser. After work most nights I run and work-out, I am also a grand father to two amazing grand children so during the week there is not any time to write. My time for writing is early weekend mornings when I am usually up at 6:30 and can write an hour or two. Many times while out on a run, new poems and stories flow through my mind and some lines are written when I return to home.

5. What motivates your writing?

Simply being out on a run. I love to run and think about poetry, short stories or a sentence that will begin the inspiration. Here is an example of one creation of an idea from a run. One summer morning out on a hot Florida run with the sun burning,I took refuge behind a medical building that cast a cooler shade. In a few moments a police car slowly passed me, took a quick look and continued on. The balance of my run had me thinking that I could have been behind that building to case the back doors or to steal something from the parked cars. I used this idea to start a short story called “Sinful Runner/.”

The story was about an unemployed father living in an exclusive gated community who could no longer meet his financial obligations. He took up running and eventually learned about every neighbor’s schedules while running and began to break into homes and stealing jewelry under the disguise of neighborhood runner. “Sinful Runner” has been published in three different literary journals and was my favorite short story to write.

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

I loved the first time I discovered Emily Dickinson. Her poetry spoke to me with its innovation and brevity. I have always written short poems, I love to compress words and sentences into short usually under 16 sentence poems. As far as a novelist ,Hermann Hesse and Phillip K.Dick influence my short stories as I love to write either philosophical or science fiction type what-if stories.

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

I prefer to read classic fiction and poetry from the 1890’s to 1970’s so unfortunately I do not read any best sellers. When I do read today’s writers I prefer non-fiction or fictional history. I love Eric Larsen especially The Devil In The White City, which I hope becomes a movie. In the same vain I also read David McCullough and just recently finished “The Wright Brothers.” My time spend reading modern poetry has been focused on poets to be discovered. Many of my friends on Facebook are writers and there is always a supply of great writing to discover. I also am a member of Facebook poetry groups and love reading new writers. As a photographer and through social media I have met and collaborated with other poets. We have had multiple publications with these Ekphrastic collaborations. The three poets discovered who have provided great new poems for my photography and multiple publications together are: Deborah Setiyawati. Sharon Dina Rose Regala and Nicole Surginer.

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

“Read, read read.” I would say first be a lover of reading, learn about your craft and begin your passion with a goal in mind. Find support, even if it is only that one person who understands your new talent and will give feedback. We all need that one muse that can inspire us. When you are ready, do not be afraid to submit your work and share with the world. We all have had rejections. Then one day comes your first acceptance and that is when the passion is truly lit. My favorite poet said my favorite quote; “I love my rejection slips. They show me I try;” Sylvia Plath.

9. Tell me about a writing project you are involved in at the moment.

Currently I am working on two different science fiction short stories. I always enjoyed reading science fiction when I was a young boy. One is a Dystobian story concerning government control of what the citizens are allowed to read. My second short story discusses a world controlled by men and the women revolt and bring a final forever peace. I was happy to be notified of an acceptance of my first 10 minute play being published. In the future I will shop this work to local playhouses and hopefully one day I can produce my play. Lastly I continue to write poetry often combining the poems with my photography.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jeanette Powers

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.

Jeanette Powers

is the founding editor of Stubborn Mule Press and a poet/painter with seven full length poetry books published, along with numerous gallery exhibitions and online journal publishing credits. They also are a founding member of FountainVerse: KC Small Press Poetry Fest, an annual festival celebrating the indie press poetry world and which has featured international and US based presses over three days each October. Powers has been awarded grants for the poetry fest, as well as for the POP POETRY: #12poetsin12months series which featured 36 KC based poets over three years in collaboration with Spartan Press. Their personal work focuses on feelings, avoiding the political and investigating the internal wonderscape of relationships, family and emotions in a way designed to reach beyond identity while staying fiercely personal. Their newest book, “Sparkle Princess vs Suicidal Phoenix” is available through their website at and you can follow Jeanette at @novel_cliche .

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

I started writing very young. I was reading before even kindergarten and have always been a library brat. It just always felt right to be creative. I think all children probably feel this way, or at least do until they get a device in their hand. I didn’t get a phone till I was 32. Why did I start writing? I figured out that in my imagination, I am completely free. There are no hold barred, no limitations. I thrive in environments like that, and have just never stopped writing.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Wow, what an amazing question. I guess maybe was my fourth grade teacher, I definitely wrote my first poem in 4th grade. It was about a pegasus that I rode into the moonlight. But I wasn’t taken with poetry until high school when I was reading books from my school library. And I mean I really went through libraries as a kid, but this was the first one where I found the poetry section. I remember finding ee cummings and Sylvia Plath, but the poet that really took my breath away and whose book I stole was James Dickey. I think of that book often still, and here it is again. When I moved to the city after graduating, my education in poetry began in earnest, going to open mics and meeting lots of people who were voracious readers like me. It was a beautiful space in my life to be filled in with the classics and with a lot of the great modern Masters. The last decade though has been much more dedicated to reading living, contemporary poets.

2.1. Why did James Dickey take your breath away?

I suppose he sort of reminded me of my grandfather; the poems make sense, they have a weight of history, they have a certain amount of existential angst without it becoming pained or mewling. There’s also a joy and just a raw humanity. It’s not necessarily the poet that I would pick off my shelf today, but he sure set wheels going in my head.

3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

I guess in some ways I’m not that aware of it then or now. It’s just all about what is relatable or interesting in terms of what I read or collect. I certainly see how, in many ways, older poets have more access to doing poetry because putting books out and touring are both expensive endeavors. I think many of the younger or marginalized poets just don’t have the opportunity to be read and heard due to financial restrictions. Which is why I’m always such a huge fan of the no-fee submissions. Of course it’s difficult for everyone in every way, but I very much feel that if you are going to dedicate yourself to building a press that is inclusive, then not charging fees is essential.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I have struggled with routines my whole life, always wanting and always being too much of a being made of chaos to make it work. However, what works best most of the time is for me to wake up in the morning and not think of anything else in the world except for my own art, whatever project I’m working on at the time. I can work anywhere from an hour to three or four if I get on a roll. Then I go do my make-money work, read, socialize, drink. Sometimes, though, a project really calls for something special in terms of a routine. For instance, I wrote a novella in 2018 which required me to start writing tipsy and then just get extremely drunk to write. I couldn’t get the rage of the main character any other way. It’s a strange and very intense book. I think of it like character acting. You have to inhabit the space of your novel. Of course, poetry is only inhabiting the space of me, so that is easier to access. And I also love writing alone at bars or coffeeshops. In fact, tomorrow I’m going to a city (three hours from my country home!) just to do that! ha!

5. Method writing! What motivates you to write?

Method writing. Yes. That’s cool. I’m motivated by feelings, the most. I love the idea of the common denominator between people, things that interrupt the binaries of the world, emotion and feeling is a huge one. I’m interested in excavating those deep feelings that mostly go just felt and not put into words. I’m not interested in writing lectures or proselytizing, I’m interested in the dirty, hypocritical, angelic, joyful paradox of self and believe that is what makes us human. I have a natural deep compassion, and what my therapist once described as a penchant for dissociative identity disorder. This makes it easy to write. Also, I’m not afraid of telling the truth of my own stories, in fact, I view my own life as a subject through which I can practice writing. I can see I’m veering between my poetry and my novels a lot here … in some ways they are interchangeable in terms of motivation. I want to recreate a feeling, sometimes the poem is the right vehicle, sometimes a painting, sometimes performance art, sometimes a novel. I do so love when the world of a novel is born in my head, it’s addicting. Of course, you better be addicted because they take so damn long and so much focus to write.

6. What’s your work ethic?

I met a new doctor the other day and after a couple minutes, he looked at me and said “you are very self motivated, aren’t you.” That’s right, I said. I have a mantra, it goes like this: do the job completely with all of your conviction. do not lose focus on the job. do not stop until the job is done. do not stop until the job is right. do not cut a corner. measure twice, cut once. There are many verses to this mantra! I’ve been called the Energizer Bunny, Galadriel’s Light, Perpetual Motion Machine, Force of Nature on the regular, my work ethic is almost a sickness. In fact, being a workaholic is likely a coping mechanism. I’m just lucky I’ve learned to love to fail, that the perfectionist is mostly gone, that the auto-masochist in me retired, and now I mostly work in just a pure state of joy. Creation is the best playground I’ve ever found, you won’t catch me coming in from recess.

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

Not much, actually. I’ve always been a forward thinking person, and I’m voracious for what’s new, who’s new, what’s next. I go back and reread very rarely (unless it’s Dune, Neruda, Rilke, Atwood or Szymborska … or the Tao which I read daily). That’s why the indie press circuit fits my character so well, because the writers there are “the little makers of a pre-spice blast” (lol for Dune fans), contemporary writers are on the cusp of the now, their voice is my voice, this experience. It’s intoxicating. Same with painters and music and movies, I want what’s happening this moment (except for Duchamp, who was the greatest artist of all time!). I guess if I really thought about who influences me, it isn’t really another writer at all, it’s the lady pregnant with her fourth kid trying to buy a new car, it’s a tadpole turning into a frog, it’s falling in love, it’s a factory worker in January Toledo who can’t afford to heat his house, it’s how my dog can take so much pain without complaining, it’s how adopted children are really, really wanted. The list goes on and on, other writers, though? Just friends along for the ride, and bless them

7.1. Why go back and reread these authors?

Each of those authors have something distinct that touches me, they each feel like family. I suppose that’s why they stick around. You can’t get rid of family. Neruda for love, Rilke for philosophy, Wislawa for courage, Atwood for bite and range, Dune for religion. And the Tao because it’s the closest to truth I’ve ever found and I’ve searched far and wide. I once even got degrees in physics and math in the pursuit, to no avail.

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

My favorite working poet is Nadia Wolnisty, she has this capacity of turning a metaphor like no one and also just this clearly raging passion and her performances are stunning. Michelle Q. Smith, is my newest favorite, I ran across her book Ariel in Black and was blown away, she had this way of accessing older works and responding to them which is intoxicating. I also love the former poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrara, his poems are so alive they are literally dancing off the page. George Wallace has that same power. Mike James and Daniel Crocker, both poets you’ve interviewed are spectacular for their honesty and imagination … and humor. I love humor.

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

I feel in some ways this is the same question as “how do you become a queer person?” … I just am. Bukowski once said “if it doesn’t come bursting forth, don’t do it.” I would add “find what comes bursting forth for you.” That’s the really difficult thing in the world, finding what you want. Do that, try everything, when it bursts forth, you’ll know that is what you should be doing.

10. Tell me about writing projects you are involved in at the moment.

Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me, Paul! It’s been fun chatting with you. I’m currently working on a screenplay called “Southern White Democrat” which tells the story of a white boy growing up in the Jim Crow south in a wealthy, politically connected family. It’s fascinating and dark. The research exposed so much of the deep trauma of American race relationships that I was unaware of, in fact, that many people are unaware of. It was intense and disappointing and I’m glad to have learned. It makes one want to learn everything, and proves “fake news” has been around a long time. I’m also writing poems as always, but no new plans to put out a book this year. I’ll be touring 2019 on my new and selected from Spartan Press, “Sparkle Princess vs. Suicidal Phoenix”. I’m writing a new novel, my sixth now, and what else … OH. Editing. I need to edit all those novels. It’s way more fun to write them than it is to edit them, ha!