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.
Stella’s poems are widely published both in print and online. Publications include (in random order): Atrium, Amarylis, Rat’s Ass Review, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The French Literary Review, The Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Obsessed With Pipework, Clear Poetry, Prole, three drops from a cauldron, The Black Light Engine Room, Lancaster Flash Journal, Riggwelter, The High Window, Sheila-na-gig, The Fat Damsel, Open Mouse, The Curlew, The Dawntreader, I Am Not A Silent Poet, Poetry Village, Elbow Room, Here Comes Everyone, Smeuse, The Stare’s Nest, Raum, and The New European. Anthologies include: The Very Best of 52, three drops from a cauldron, Clear Poetry, NILVX A Book Of Magic and #MeToo.
What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?
In my youth writers were god-like creatures who existed on an altogether different plane than the one I occupied, ergo I never had any aspirations to write. In times of frustration or anger, I’d had momentary hankerings in that direction and even indulged in a spot of venting. It made good kindling. Girls growing up in the 50’s were not generally encouraged in education and I was no exception. I hated school and left at the earliest opportunity. My early married years were spent restoring an old mill cottage in North Wales, with very little money and two small children in tow. Survival was the name of the game. It was some twenty years later when my husband and I bought a derelict ‘petit chateau’ in France, that writing took hold of me. It happened in an epiphanic moment whilst painting the bedroom doors of this one hundred and fifty year old house, and musing on what might have gone on behind them. The first line of a poem suddenly popped into my head, then another, and another. I grabbed a pencil and paper and scribbled them down before they could escape. I had written my first poem, albeit a not very good one, but I’d unleashed something I’d always felt was inside me. I wrote like a demon in those first few months and though I’ve slowed down I’ve never stopped. It was the most cathartic and defining moment of my life.
Who introduced you to poetry and how aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
From early childhood I’ve loved reading. My father had an extensive library and as The Kama Sutra was beyond my reach I settled on what I could lay my hands on. The pocket book of nonsense verse was a favourite. It introduced me to Lewis Carroll, Ogden Nash, and Edward Lear. Poems like, The Dong With the Luminous Nose, and, The Hunting of the Snark, fostered a love of rhythm and verse, and a strong sense of pathos and empathy. Later, at secondary school, I was seduced by Dylan Thomas’ Poem in October. This for me was poetry in its truest form and a huge influence on my early attempts. Another favourite within my grasp was The Golden Treasury of Classics. Here I discovered TS Eliot, Keats, WB Yeats, Louis MacNiece and Philip Larkin, with Ted Hughes as the most contemporary of the bunch.
In 2014 I had the good fortune to be invited to join Jo Bell’s 52 group. Until that time I’d been struggling alone with my writing, learning from teach yourself books and although I’d managed third place in The Sentinel Literary Magazine competition, that was my only publication to date.
What is your daily writing routine?
Committing to write a poem a week for 52 weeks is no mean feat, yet discipline coupled with a competitive nature allowed me to achieve what I’d imagined was impossible. The unstinting support and friendship from within the group was the grounding for what I considered to be my apprenticeship. My poems were at last, being published, I was on a roll. Determined to learn and hone my craft I looked around for online courses and came across an ad for a Distance Learning MA in Creative Writing, with Lancaster University. It was already September, I didn’t have a degree, I had no chance, but the course was everything I wanted. They responded immediately to my insouciant email and I was enrolled before I could bottle out. From the outset I kept a journal which would help me with my final reflective essay. I still write in it most days. It helps me to gather my thoughts, to reflect and comment on current events, and sometimes just to vent. It’s not a great masterpiece, rather a ragbag of ideas that keep the grey matter working but I thoroughly recommend it. Better to write something, however banal it might seem at the time, than to write nothing at all.
What motivates you to write?
Nothing and everything. A fear it will leave me as suddenly as it found me. If you’re a writer you are motivated to write, however, there are poets I have need of to inspire me to write, to help me get ‘in the zone,’ and many are from within my circle of virtual friends; I hesitate to name them because I will surely miss someone out and there are so many who take my breath away with their talent.
What is your work ethic?
I’m a bit of a workaholic in everything I do, having spent eighteen years restoring the French ruin and twenty years prior to that restoring the Welsh ruin, doing A levels, going back to art school to study Fashion and Textiles, Illustration, and Interior Design, and a Masters degree in the middle of it all. I’m also a painter and have exhibited here in France. None of it feels like work because it’s what I’ve chosen to do and what I’m passionate about. I make it a rule never to procrastinate. My experience tells me not to dwell on or overthink a task, it only induces dread; I prefer to wade in and get on with it, whatever it is. For me the best part of the writing process is the revision. Once I have the bones and the sense of meaning, I have something to build on. Every word must earn its place and the joy lies in creating a beautiful place in which the words can live.
How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I’m not sure they still do. I think of them as the foundations on which I’ve built. The world is ever changing, I’m not the same person I was even a year ago. We move onwards and upwards, I’m discovering new voices, new passions, new influences every day and I hope my writing reflects that evolution.
Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
A difficult question to answer in a paragraph because there are so many writers I admire for their many strengths and differences and a hundred others that will come to mind after I have written this, but off the top of my head: Helen Mort, Liz Berry, Clare Shaw, Angela Readman, Jo Shapcott, Jo Bell, Jane Hirschfield, Simon Armitage, Graham Mort … too many to list; I admire them for their love, dedication, passion, and deep comprehension, for their lucidity and beauty, for the absolute commitment and joy that they bring to their craft and for gifting it to me, the reader.
Why do you write?
Writing gives me time to think about what I want to say. It uncovers things I didn’t know I knew. It astonishes me. I tend toward a third person narrative in my writing which allows me to explore a range of perspectives. In short, writing helps me to make sense of the world.
What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Show up for work every day, sit down and write.
Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I am fortunate to be acquainted with some excellent poets. Many have had pamphlet or full collection submissions that make it to the shortlist only to be passed over at the eleventh hour, usually after six months or longer of waiting. In February 2018, in response to this wealth of talent going unrecognised, 52 Group friend Lesley Quayle, and I, got together to form 4Word Press as an independent, non profit making publisher of poetry pamphlets. In May 2018 we produced our first three pamphlets; Black Bicycle by Lesley Quayle, After Eden by Stella Wulf, and Androgyny by our invited poet, Kevin Reid, who we were lucky enough to scoop. On September 1st 2018 we launched our fourth pamphlet, Girl Golem by Rachael Clyne. We were delighted to able to represent Rachael and to bring her beautifully crafted narrative to a wider audience. We have many exciting new voices in the pipeline. The last pamphlet of 2018 will be launched on 1st December. We aim to publish four pamphlets a year by invitation. Follow our website for upcoming announcements: http://www.4word.org
On a personal note writing is a lifelong commitment, it is life enriching, it looks for the delight, reflects on the awful, but always gives back joy.