Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Claire Dyer

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Claire Dyer

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

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

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

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

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

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

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

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

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

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

4. What is your daily writing routine?

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

5. What motivates you to write?

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

6. What is your work ethic?

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

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

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

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

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

9. Why do you write?

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

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

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

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

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

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jane Burn

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
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Jane Burn

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

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

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

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

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

Her pamphlets and collections include –

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

The Interview

• What inspired you to write poetry?

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

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

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

• Who introduced you to poetry?

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

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

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

• What is your daily writing routine?

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

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

• What motivates you to write?

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

• What is your work ethic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Why do you write?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: David Annwn

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

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David Annwn

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

The Interview

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

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

Who introduced you to poetry?

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

What motivates you to write?

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

The wonderful American calligrapher Thomas Ingmire has also suggested new ways to collaborate:
http://www.thomasingmire.com/blog/mary-shelleys-elisions

What is your work ethic?

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

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

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

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

Why do you write?

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

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

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

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

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

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

saturated .  .   ?

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

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

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

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

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jay Gandhi

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

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Jay Gandhi

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

The Interview

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

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

How did you impress her?

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

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

That didn’t discourage you?

No. I wrote another poem a few days later.

I joined emerging poets.net
poets.net

They all called it EP

What poets were your earliest influences?

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

Vidya’s poems inspired me a lot

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

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

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

How important is a sense of place to your poems?

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

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

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

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

I put most of the effort in showing

What is your daily writing routine?

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

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

They dont allow me to concentrate

What motivates you to write?

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

Writing poetry is like peeling inner onion.

What is it about the limited fame that motivates you?

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

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

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

I like the Hindi lyricists Gulzar and Javed Aktar.

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

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

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

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

Poetry and yoga asanas are my keys to explore myself.

What are Yoga Asanas?

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

It helps in keeping mind calm.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Stephanie Bowgett

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Stephanie Bowgett

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

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

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

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

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

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

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

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

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

4. What is your daily writing routine?

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

5. What is your work ethic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Bart Solarczyk

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

 

Bart Solarczyk

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

The Interview

When and why did you start writing poetry?

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

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

Who introduced you to poetry?

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

What books did your mother read to you?

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

What did you find interesting in the songs?

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

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

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

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

So experimenting with ways of telling.

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

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

Exactly! There are many ways to say something.

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

How did you break free?

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

What is your daily writing routine?

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

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

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

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

Why do you write?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Eva Wong Nava

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers, local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

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Eva Wong Nava

Eva Wong Nava is an Art Historian, Educator and Writer. She founded CarpeArte Journal where she publishes her fiction and ramblings of the art sort while leaving room for others to do the same. She lives between two worlds, literally and physically, and is based in a small city-state not far from the equator. When not doing anything else, she reads copiously and writes voraciously, always wishing there were more hours in the day to do more with the written word. Her Flash Fiction is published in various places and she is the author of a children’s book which encourages young readers to be more compassionate to people on the Autism Spectrum.

The Interview

What inspired you  to write flash fiction?

I’ve been writing short stories for a long time. These stories aren’t very long, say, between 1,000 to 3,000 words. Later, I discovered that this type of short story has a name of its own — Flash Fiction. It’s known by other names, like postcard fiction, micro-fiction (although this is normally 100 – 300 words long) and/ or sudden fiction. I prefer Flash Fiction.

I love the tightness of Flash because in as little as 100 words, the writer has told a story with a beginning, middle and end. It’s great practice for honing the craft of writing. It makes the writer choose words with care for impact and precision.

I write to help me express the thoughts that meander in my head from overheard conversations, from watching people, from looking at art, from reading personal stories, from listening to the radio, from a piece of music, from someone behaving badly, from a child crying desperately, from a man weeping at the bus stop, from a woman throwing her head back as she chortles in amusement.

I write to find catharsis.

What is your daily writing routine?

I tend to write early  in the morning, sleepy-eyed, gummy-mouthed, and longing for coffee which I make once I type in my first thought of the day. This is usually something I’d been dreaming about that I feel is finding its way to becoming a story. After the first sip of caffeine, the foggy shadows of sleep dissipate. The smudged layers of thoughts surface as I type away until hunger calls. I look at the clock on the computer and 6 hours have passed.

What motivates you to write?

I write so that stories never die. Stories are immortal, good and bad ones. I write to keep myself sane. It’s something I’ve always done in between the twilight years of being an infant-child-adult and the spacy long-drawn days of being a wife-mother.

What is your work ethic?

To always stay true to the craft of textual storytelling.

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

I love how language gets thrown about, how words are juxtaposed with poetry and how the imagination takes readers to places where they don’t want to return. The writers who’ve influenced me are many as their words remained ingrained in my unconscious. I love the Latin American writers for their magic-realism, a genre, which I love but find hard to write in. I think it takes miracles to see so much magic in pain and tragedy. I love the Russian writers for their long drawn-out storytelling; they are craftsmen for investing their novels with that many characters. I love foreign language books translated into English: they tell me that textual storytelling–the craft of writing a good story–is the same all over the world.

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

There are many writers I admire. I love Murakami, Ishiguro, Kundera, Rushdie, Roth, Marquez, Tan Twan Eng. Not forgetting Amy Tan, Zoe Heller, Carol Joyce Oates, Tara Westover, Celeste Ng, Allende. These are excellent writers, I feel, who understand the structure of stories, the techniques that are needed to tell good yarns that keep the readers beholden. They write about contemporary issues (as all writers do from Jane Austen to Charles Dickens) that highlight the human condition so vividly and scatologically. Their stories are bittersweet, dark and funny; they are memorable.

Why do you write?

For sanity, literally and figuratively.

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

Passion for the written word.

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

I’m putting together a collection of Flash inspired by art for publication. I founded an online platform–CarpeArte Journal– where I’m managing editor. I publish my own pieces and other people’s short stories, poems and reviews. These pieces have all been inspired by visual art. I ask that writers submit their work inspired by art, however, to include those whose works haven’t been, I’ll find a piece of artwork which I feel segues into their written pieces. There have been pieces where the writer submitted without an accompanying image; I let the story or poem linger in my dreamspace until an artwork emerges. The journal is gaining some traction in the Flash writing world and I’ve been privileged to read and publish some outstanding stories and poems. I’m seeking submissions for 2019, by the way, if anyone is interested.

Connecting art and text is very dear to my heart as an art historian. Editing the Journal means that I get to be in touch with some excellent writers, as well as, engage with art through their work. What delights me is that I get to write about art.

While thinking about  and penning Flash, I also write children’s books. It’s a genre that I love as it allows me to connect with my inner child. My debut children’s novel helps middle-graders to be more compassionate to individuals on the Autism Spectrum. At the moment, I’m working on my next children’s book–a picture book that will help young readers understand a condition known as Selective Mutism.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Bob Beagrie

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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Bob Beagrie

According to Amazon ” is a poet, playwright and senior lecturer in creative writing at Teesside University. He has performed at numerous festivals and venues nationally and internationally. As well as collaborating with musicians he has also worked closely with visual artists on public artworks and with theatre company Three Over Eden. He is co director of Ek Zuban Press, a independent publishing house which produces Kenaz magazine, and bi-lingual poetry editions drawn from international exchange projects.”

The Interview

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

I wrote lots of stories as a teenager but was never exposed to poetry, due to very poor opportunities at school, until I started a degree in Creative Arts (specialising in Creative Writing)  at the age of 22, when I was shown poetry by e e cummings and The Beats and it completely altered my preconceptions of what poetry could be, I also saw poetry being performed there and again that changed the way I saw it, realising that it is naturally linked to the oral tradition.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I also got involved in the local  Teesside wide Literature Festival called Writearound and saw that there was a healthy literary scene across the sub-region and many were writing poems and organising sharing events. I was taken by the grass roots drive of these events and their democratic nature, it was back in the early 90s and I saw Tony Harrison read, Brendan Kennelly, Carol Ann Duffy among others, which again was a great influence.

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

It was a gradual realisation but my degree was very focussed on cross disciplinary theory and practice so I was equally influenced by visual arts, dance, drama and music and the tradition of collaboration which has been a major element in my career and creative practice ever since.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t really have one. I write obsessively in focussed intense periods and at other times quite sporadically. As a freelancer I work on lots of literature projects and also teach at Teesside University, my time tables are extremely flexible and constantly changing from month to month so my writing has to fit around my other work commitments.

5. What motivates you to write?

To make sense of the world, to process what is going on inside me, to work out where I stand on issues, to make connections between seemingly disparate phenomenon, to capture life as it slips silently out of mind, to relieve the sense of stress that builds up if I don’t write

6. What is your work ethic?

The Literature Development projects I work on, often with disadvantaged and marginalised groups of people has always been as an important aspect of my creativity as my own writing, I see my role as a writer as more than something confined to my own written output, and my work ethic is more strongly rooted in the uses of creative writing and poetry as a vehicle for personal and collective change, providing routes and opportunities for peripheral voices to be heard, recognised and acknowledged and for those voices themselves to find their own sense of value.

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

I read a lot of myth, fantasy and sci-fi when I was young, and I think my work does still retain an element of multiple worlds, even when I am describing very realist situations there is often a sense of ontological instability under the surface, which may have been an influence from my reading when I was young.

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

If we are talking poets, still alive, I admire Paul Durcan for his flare, oddness and wit, Margaret Atwood’s poems for their penetrating imagery, the Finnish poets Riina Katajavuori for her ability to leap into the abstract and take the reader with her and Kalle Niinikangas for his straight approach to hard edged social documentary, Michael Rosen for his penetrating satire and charm, Joelle Taylor for her energy and unflinching gaze at culturally embedded misogyny and abuse, but there are poets within the North East scene that I also admire, Jane Burn for the wildness of her visions and unsettling voices, Andy Willoughby for the clear development of the Beat ethos within his work, both of whom I have written in collaboration with.

9. Why do you write?

I think I answered this to some degree in question 5, but it might be worth saying that if I don’t write for a few days I begin to twitch and fret with a strange sense of restless unease and the practice of writing is definitely an important aspect of my mental wellbeing.

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

I tell my students to write, write and write, and to read veraciously, to read closely and to experiment with various styles and techniques you can identify within the work of other authors and poets, not to rush their own output but to soak up as much as possible through combined reading and experimentation within their own work, but also to use their writing to drill into their own experiences and examine the societal codes that construct your inherited point of view.

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

The main project I am working on is Civil Insolencies which is due for publication from Smokestack Books late next year. It is an exploration and reflection on the events leading up to, during and in the aftermath of The Battle of Guisborough on 16th January 1643, the wider social and political forces and the parallels between The World Turn’d Upside Down and the troubled times and divided nation we are currently experiencing. I have been commissioned by Durham Book Festival to develop parts of the manuscript into a live show in collaboration with a group of musicians which I am hoping to take on a national tour during 2019.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Suzannah Evans

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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Suzannah Evans

Amazon says “Suzannah Evans lives in Sheffield and her pamphlet Confusion Species was a winner in the 2012 Poetry Business book and pamphlet competition, judged by Carol Ann Duffy. She has had poems published in The Rialto, The North, Magma and Poetry Review and her poem Helpline has been Poem of the Week on the Guardian website. She has been a Hawthornden fellow and was one of the 2015 Aldeburgh Eight. Suzannah works as a teacher of creative writing and a poetry editor. As a teenager she had an obsessive fear of the apocalypse which has informed and inspired many of her poems, and she still doesnt know whether its best to plan responsibly for the future or party like its 1999.”

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

I studied Keats’ Odes at A- level. After a lesson studying Ode on Melancholy I told my teacher that I felt depressed by the ideas in the poem. He had a really good answer for that, which was: ‘that means the poem made you feel something’.  So that was it for me then really. I realised that poetry could contain the whole of human experience and that I’d probably never be done with it.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My Grandmother used to read The Odyssey to me and my sister when we were quite young. That sounds a bit pretentious but the stories in that book are brilliant – monsters, witches, people turning into pigs etc. She did leave out the sex and violence though, she was a sensible Granny.

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

My school was quite supportive of creative writing and took us on a trip to Ty Newydd in north Wales where the tutors were real writers (including poets) and they seemed like fairly normal people. Like teachers really. I think I thought you had to be dead to be a properly famous poet though.

As I’ve taken poetry more seriously in adult life, I have found older poets to be really supportive and encouraging, not just of me but of poetry in general and new writers in particular. So a ‘dominating presence’ doesn’t really feel like the right term to me.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

It depends what phase I’m in. At the moment I’ve been focusing on editing a book so anything new I do write has been shoved out of the way in draft form ready for when I have time to work on it properly.

When I am getting a lot of writing done I will try to sit down to write a couple of times a week, usually in the morning. I think daily might be too much for me. I’d worry about running out of ideas, and my ideas turn into poems quite slowly – sometimes it can take six months or so. But when I do have an idea I am so obsessed with it that I can’t really do much else. And there’s reading as well. I spend more time reading than writing. I think it’s very important to do that.

5. What motivates you to write?

Obsession. I get completely obsessed with certain concepts and ideas until I’ve written about them. That and the fear of never writing anything again.
6. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Well, youth is relative. At university I discovered the poetry of Roy Fisher and suddenly felt like the landscapes and places that interested me, the everyday urban landscape, could become a subject for poetry and that was revelatory. His humour stays with me as well. I still think about those Keats odes and their rich sensory impact as a benchmark of what poetry can do. The bristling violence of Ted Hughes’ language is a reminder of the power of choosing the right words. That’s all men isn’t it? I expect we can blame the literary canon for that however.

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

I admire a huge number of contemporary poets. This year I have read incredible poems by: Danez Smith, Liz Berry, Amy Key, Jacqueline Saphra, Richard Price, Caroline Bird, Andrew McMillan. Those poets are all doing different things, so it’s hard to generalise about them. I like poetry that shows its heart but does it cleverly, perhaps that’s something that these poets have in common. I want a poem that will do something to my heart and my head at the same time.

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

Read more. Get obsessed with your art form. Get obsessed with your subject. Writing will follow.

If you mean the profession of ‘writer’ then that is harder to advise people on, because writing itself does not a living make, unless you’re very lucky. Look at what other skills you have alongside your creativity, because you’re going to need those. Are you good with people? Good with deadlines? Have a hawk-like eye for proofreading? You could run workshops. You could look for work as an editor. Are you happy to do writing alongside an unrelated part time job? For many people the answer is yes and it does not in any way de-value their work as a writer, or their passion for writing.

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

I have a book about to be published in November:  https://ninearchespress.com/publications/poetry-collections/near%20future.html .

Near Future is a dystopian, apocalyptic book that I hope is as funny as it is dark. If you want to read poems about fatbergs, robot co-workers and starlings on antidepressants then this might be for you.