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.
- What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?
I was led by a soldier of the Great War. My life was at a crossroads or a turning point. I started researching my family tree and was following up leads on my great-grandfather who was killed on the Somme.
I was inspired to write poetry by Ian Parks and his Read to Write Poetry Group. I had no interest in poetry and met Ian through my interest in family and local history. I attended his talk on the local poet Harold Massingham, which he did for Mexborough Heritage Society. I was enthralled by the voices and dialects of the Read to Write poets reading Massingham poems, especially the Anglo-Saxon and Old English words. Inspired, the next day I wrote a ‘poem’ for the first time since leaving school. I then went on Ian’s walk and talk about the Battle of Maisbelli. The following week I felt a need to take my ‘poem’ to show Ian – not because I thought it was any good, but because I wanted him to know that he had inspired me to write it. I did think this was a bizarre thing to do, but I have since learned that people often give their ‘poems’ to poets. I took it to Ian’s Read to Write group in Balby and stayed out of curiosity for the rest of the session. I thought I would check it out as it might be an interesting activity I could do with my relative who likes poetry. I returned the following week and I’ve been an active member of the group ever since.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I was not, and I am not, aware of a dominating presence of older poets. Whether by older poets you mean pre-20th century poets, or whether you mean older poets still living.
There appears to be no shortage of younger poets, especially in the spoken word arena. I’m sure the next generation are already writing poetry and waiting to be discovered.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I don’t have a daily writing routine. I can’t write to order, I have to write when I have ideas spinning in my mind. If I am busy I try to note down a couple of words in the memo on my mobile phone and hope that I can still remember my ideas later when I have time to write. My own favourite poems woke me in the middle of the night or in the morning. Sometimes I write late at night or into the early hours if the ideas are flowing. It’s probably when my brain processes my thoughts without distraction. If I do wake with ideas in the middle of the night I find it less disruptive to write on my mobile phone instead of pen and paper.
5. What motivates you to write?
Writing poetry has become one of my passions – an addiction. It rewards me with a sense of achievement.
Poetry group exercises motivate me to produce a poem within a timeframe. A given theme is a good starting point, but then my writing often goes off in a different direction.
6. What is your work ethic?
I take my writing seriously. I put a lot of thought, time and effort into it.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Not at all or minimal – I wasn’t an avid reader.
The only well-read book in my childhood collection was ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. I started young and then abandoned reading. My book is well battered and I still have it! Until 18 months ago it was my only poetry book and now I have many.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Obviously my first choice is Ian Parks because I can connect with the language and landscape in his poems. His amazing knowledge, classical literature and historical facts all find their way through time in his poetry. I’m interested in how personal poems become universal and the interplay of past and present. I like the variety from love poetry to political to translations. In addition to his great poetry I admire him for inspiring others to enjoy poetry. He does so much to promote poetry in the community and for the support and encouragement he gives to others. I love the poets of Read To Write, increasingly recognised outside of our group. I liked Incendium Amoris by Steve Ely, because of the local interest, the historical and the use of other languages like Latin and Old English. I love the unique style of Laura Potts. I recently heard a modern, political poem called Ministry of Loneliness by Clare Proctor that I really liked. It imagines the types of red tape questions and hoops a lonely person would have to jump through in order to apply for the help they needed.
9. Why do you write?
I believe in lifelong learning and taking opportunities for self-improvement. It has become an addiction. I enjoy it. I write poems for myself, it’s a bonus if other people like them too.
10. What would you say to someone who asked “How do you become a writer?”
Read. You’re never too old to start – but don’t leave it as long as me to start reading! Pick up a pen, a sheet of paper (or a memo on a mobile phone!) and just write something, anything, every day – even if it is just one word. Just make a start and develop it from there. Consider joining a reading and writing group, if you mix with people who share a common interest it sparks creativity, enthusiasm, momentum and improves understanding. Also, observe the world around you and beyond.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment
Most of my writing is the result of an exercise from Read To Write where we study poets and their poems.
I also read my work at Well Spoken when I can. Well Spoken is an Open Mic held monthly at the Brewery Tap, Young Street, Doncaster.
I entered one of my poems into the Poetry of the North competition.
I am writing a poem for the Doves of Doncaster project.
I have a theme and a title in mind and I have just written my first poem for this series.