Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Lesley Merrin

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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An anthology in which Lesley’s poetry appears.

Lesley Merrin

Her poemhunter link: https://m.poemhunter.com/lesley-merrin/

The Interview

1. What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?
I have had this overwhelming desire to write since I was very young: letters, diaries, articles for magazines, life histories and the occasional poem.  I have always loved poetry and used to read poems to my children before they went to sleep.  I think the first poem I wrote was when I was about eighteen,
I was a Teacher of English for fifteen years and set poetry writing tasks for my pupils so would write examples for them to encourage them.
I also wrote a few of my own poems towards the end of my teaching career I started writing poetry more seriously when I met Ian Parks and was entranced by his knowledge and his ability to enthuse everyone. He made very difficult poetry accessible and interesting and I have him and other members of Read to Write who encouraged me to take poetry more seriously.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?
My passion for poetry came from my father.  He was a very social man and would have late night parties after leaving the pub.  His friends came along and some sang, and others performed poetry.  His repertoire was extensive, such as Rudyard Kipling, the monologues that were performed by Stanley Holloway, Keats, Hilaire Belloc, and many more.
Although my experience has been enriched by my involvement with Read to Write.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I suppose because of my background I have been introduced to many varied poets and feel the more that you read the more you learn.  If you are aware of the varied styles you are able to create your own style and make progress as a poet yourself.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
To be honest I don’t have a routine. I make a lot of notes in my writing book, often conversations in a café, on a bus, or the pub.  Or I see something happen which I think it is worth noting.  I have ideas circulating in my head, then when they come to fruition I begin to write a poem, I can’t write every day because I have to feel a passion for a poem or an idea for it to be successful in my own eyes. If not, I can’t make it work.   A few months ago, I was moved when some Asian men were holding their own service outside a Cathedral.  They were decrying the recent bombings and said although the men responsible called themselves Muslims they were not, because true Muslims were peaceful people.  I wrote a poem about it and believe this to be one of my best poems because I really felt the passion of the men’s message and a real need to write a poem about it.
5. What motivates you to write?

I think I’ve already answered that question with the previous answer. However, I have this need to write in some form or another. I always have, and I don’t honestly think that will change.

6. What is your work ethic?
I suppose because I have worked consistently for forty years and have now retired I just write when I feel the need.  When I am set a task by Ian at R2W I sometimes have something in my head that I have wanted to write for a long time and it fits the criteria, sometimes I struggle and must do some research beforehand, I always in the end really enjoy it whichever way I approach a poem.  It always takes several drafts before I can find it acceptable, but I find the whole process exciting and worthwhile even if it is quite hard.  Sometimes someone asks ‘how long did it take to write that poem?’ and I say probably a couple of hours.  But, later I think that poem has been going around in my head for a few weeks.  It/s the pulling together and writing the poem that take two hours,

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Any poet that you read, study and perform has an influence on you. You are not always aware of this and features of the poem may turn up in your own poetry.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I love Roger McGough because of his ability to play with words and make his poems amusing.
Carol Ann Duffy, because her poems are accessible to everyone, but they are also deep and meaningful with extra layers.
Benjamin Zachariah for his delivery and the rhythms of his poetry,
Ian Parks because of his ability to recreate the feelings you have experienced and  atmosphere of a place  you may have visited on paper and touch your heart.

9. Why do you write?
I write because I have to..   Sometimes it is experiences or stories that I need to write a poem about. Sometimes it’s a feeling I need to write about, sometimes we are given exercises to do.  I always must write in one form or another, or I don’t feel fulfilled.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I would say keep a note book with you.  Write down anything you find interesting.  Conversations, happenings anything.  Keep a poetry diary.  Sit somewhere and just write what comes into your head.  Write about what you are passionate about, what you feel.  Read, read, read.  Read the well-known good poets as well as lesser known poets.   Have as many tools in your toolbox as you can, (advice from Ian Parks) i.e. forms, rhymes, blank verse, syllabics, your don’t have to use them all just be aware.  ‘Know all the rules’ and then you can break them (Ian Parks)
Don’t be put off if your poems are not accepted by a magazine or publisher, keep trying and working hard and ask for feedback.  One of the most rewarding aspects of my writing is having my poemd workshopped.  Some of the other poets are very perceptive and see what does and doesn’t work.  You don\t have to change anything you don’t want to, sometimes your favourite words or lines might be suggested to be cut, if you decide to cut them you can always keep them for another poem that will be more fitting,

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I am writing poems for the Suffragette project at the Mansion House, a poem for the Doves of Doncaster.  I am following up the Carol Ann Duffy workshop I did at Balby with a group ‘You Have Mail’. Each member is writing letters in a persona.  I am hoping to produce a booklet publishing the poems and letters from this subject.
I am writing an article for the MAC magazine interviewing a man, Charlie, who is 94 years old.
I have a poem published in the next Eye Flash poetry magazine which is due out in October.
I have just recently had a sketch of mine aired on Write Radio on Write Funny. I am also rehearsing for a short play written by a friend who will eventually film it and put it on Youtube.  Watch this space!!!!!

 

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