Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Ian McMillan

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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Ian McMillan

Ian McMillan was born in 1956 in Darfield, a village near Barnsley, where he still lives. He always wanted to be a writer but all the books he got out of the library were written by people who lived in Surrey, not the Yorkshire Coalfield. He attended North Staffordshire Polytechnic, was a drummer in Barnsley’s first folk-rock band and worked in a tennis ball factory before finally becoming a writer. He’s been poet in residence at Barnsley Football Club, Northern Spirit Trains and Humberside Police. He’s written comedy for radio and plays for the stage. He currently presents The Verb, Radio 3’s Cabaret of The Word, and has also worked extensively for Radios 1,2,4 and Five Live as well as for Yorkshire Television and BBC2’s Newsnight Review. He’s worked in schools, theatres, arts centres, fields and front rooms.

The Interview

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

I started at school because I was lucky to be born into an era when the West Riding Local Education authority believed in the innate and perfectible creativity of children!

3. Who introduced you to poetry?

That would be my marvellous teachers like Mrs Hudson, Mrs Robinson, Mr Moody…

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

As I got older I was in the shadow of big figures like Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes and RS Thomas.

7. What is your daily writing routine?

I get up very early and write after I’ve done my exercises and my early stroll. Mornings are best for me and in the afternoon I start to fade away, but I do try to write every day otherwise I might forget how to do it!

9. What motivates you to write?

Trying to shape language to my will, and often failing!

11. What is your work ethic?

I’ve been self employed for thirty-odd years so I’ve always believed you’re only as good as your last gig, so I try to work as hard as I can.

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

They still pop up, I’m sure, Dylan Thomas especially.

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

I go back to the late Roy Fisher a lot, and I’m currently enjoying the work of Louise Gluck
I like poets who can make me think hard and also send me into meditative mode so that the words swim around in my head while I’m thinking about something else.

9. Why do you write?

I can’t think of anything else I could do!

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

Read a lot and read as a writer rather than as a reader; work out how the writer has dome what they do. And then just start writing!

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

I’m working on lyrics for a new album with my mate Luke Carver Goss; it’s always a dance around rhythm and rhyme and syllables and stresses.


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