Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Pris Campbell

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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Pris Campbell

According to Amazon “The free verse poetry of Pris Campbell has appeared in numerous journals, such as PoetsArtists. Rusty Truck, Bicycle Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, and Outlaw Poetry Network. She has had three Pushcart nominations. Her haiku, tanka and haiga publications include Frogpond, cattails, Acorn, Haigaonline, One Hundred Gourds, and Failed Haiku. The Small Press has published six collections of her free verse poetry and Clemson University Press a seventh one, a collaboration. A former Clinical Psychologist, sailor and bicyclist until sidelined by ME/CFS in 1990, she makes her home in the Greater West Palm Beach, Florida”

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

When I became ill with ME/CFS, an illness I’ve lived with for 28 years now,  I couldn’t write at all for nine years due to my inability to tolerate light, cognitive problems,  and heavy dizziness. When I was finally able, my initial dreams of writing novels had to be set aside. They took more cognitive effort than I could handle. I found a hokey little haiku site, wrote haiku incorrectly until someone invited me to join a poetry board. I moved over into mainly writing free verse which WAS manageable for me and found I loved it. I began honing my skills until finally publications in journals began coming, as well as seven chapbooks and books. Over the past ten years I returned more seriously to haiku and added tanka and haibun to my writing choices. I love writing those, too, and recently had a tanka book published by Nixes Mate Press.

 

Who introduced you to poetry?

My mother. She was a big reader. Our house was filled with books, among them, poetry books. I memorized The Highwayman as a preteen so I could recite it to myself without carrying the book around. Another favorite in my early teens was The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. Elizabeth Barrett Browning won my heart with her sonnets.

 
What is your daily writing routine?

I have no daily routine. It all depends on my health situation on a given day and if there’s something worth writing about.

 

 

What motivates you to write?

The muse who taps me on the shoulder and says ‘I have something to say now so please take it down’. I’ve written stories or plays since grammar school so my muse has aged with me.

 

What is your work ethic?

I used to be a type A. Now, with this illness, I’m a ‘do it as you can’. If I make a commitment to do something, however, I ask for leeway in time constraints and I do get it done.

 

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

It was partly these poets but also my interest in story telling that drew me to poets with their own stories or slices of life embedded into their poems. My mother was a first grade teacher so I rode to school in her belly for eight months, kicking fiercely as time for my release into the world drew near. She told me that when she gathered her class around for story time I would stop kicking as soon as she said ‘once upon a time’ and resume immediately after. Later, when I had croup, those were the words that would soothe me. That experience led me to the early poets who were stepping stones into the now.

 

 

 

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

I would ask them first had they written anything. One can’t become a writer without setting something down on paper first, no matter how awful it may seem at first. For me, the route to improving writing is to read people who make you want to shred everything you’ve written, because they’re pointing you in a direction that appeals. Reread the poems carefully and see how they put them together. It’s important to read a good source on poetic devices and how to learn to use them, even if you only eventually use a few. Inner rhyme, half rhyme, alliteration and the song of a poem are very important in my own writing. Don’t fall in love with leaving things in a poem simply because they ‘really happened’. Does it really matter that a red bird flew by? If it’s essential to the poem, keep it. Otherwise, cut it. Understand that the close of a poem is what you leave the reader with. Don’t drag it out. Make an impact and exit stage left.

 
.Who of today’s writers do you admire the most
and why?
Sharon Olds, Rebecca McClanahan, Li Young-Lee, Sherman Alexie, Taylor Mali, Al Winans, among others. I won’t name younger, poets who are not as well known and risk leaving out someone whose writing I really like. These poets I chose all write with both honesty and grace. These are some of the ones I would want to shred my poems for.

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

I think I’m finished with books. I’m very happy with the ones I have out and grateful to the publishers but they’re a lot of work. I want to settle into only submitting to journals or good anthologies when I’m moved to and writing new things.

 

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