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.
According to Amazon ” is a poet, playwright and senior lecturer in creative writing at Teesside University. He has performed at numerous festivals and venues nationally and internationally. As well as collaborating with musicians he has also worked closely with visual artists on public artworks and with theatre company Three Over Eden. He is co director of Ek Zuban Press, a independent publishing house which produces Kenaz magazine, and bi-lingual poetry editions drawn from international exchange projects.”
1. What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?
I wrote lots of stories as a teenager but was never exposed to poetry, due to very poor opportunities at school, until I started a degree in Creative Arts (specialising in Creative Writing) at the age of 22, when I was shown poetry by e e cummings and The Beats and it completely altered my preconceptions of what poetry could be, I also saw poetry being performed there and again that changed the way I saw it, realising that it is naturally linked to the oral tradition.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I also got involved in the local Teesside wide Literature Festival called Writearound and saw that there was a healthy literary scene across the sub-region and many were writing poems and organising sharing events. I was taken by the grass roots drive of these events and their democratic nature, it was back in the early 90s and I saw Tony Harrison read, Brendan Kennelly, Carol Ann Duffy among others, which again was a great influence.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
It was a gradual realisation but my degree was very focussed on cross disciplinary theory and practice so I was equally influenced by visual arts, dance, drama and music and the tradition of collaboration which has been a major element in my career and creative practice ever since.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I don’t really have one. I write obsessively in focussed intense periods and at other times quite sporadically. As a freelancer I work on lots of literature projects and also teach at Teesside University, my time tables are extremely flexible and constantly changing from month to month so my writing has to fit around my other work commitments.
5. What motivates you to write?
To make sense of the world, to process what is going on inside me, to work out where I stand on issues, to make connections between seemingly disparate phenomenon, to capture life as it slips silently out of mind, to relieve the sense of stress that builds up if I don’t write
6. What is your work ethic?
The Literature Development projects I work on, often with disadvantaged and marginalised groups of people has always been as an important aspect of my creativity as my own writing, I see my role as a writer as more than something confined to my own written output, and my work ethic is more strongly rooted in the uses of creative writing and poetry as a vehicle for personal and collective change, providing routes and opportunities for peripheral voices to be heard, recognised and acknowledged and for those voices themselves to find their own sense of value.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I read a lot of myth, fantasy and sci-fi when I was young, and I think my work does still retain an element of multiple worlds, even when I am describing very realist situations there is often a sense of ontological instability under the surface, which may have been an influence from my reading when I was young.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
If we are talking poets, still alive, I admire Paul Durcan for his flare, oddness and wit, Margaret Atwood’s poems for their penetrating imagery, the Finnish poets Riina Katajavuori for her ability to leap into the abstract and take the reader with her and Kalle Niinikangas for his straight approach to hard edged social documentary, Michael Rosen for his penetrating satire and charm, Joelle Taylor for her energy and unflinching gaze at culturally embedded misogyny and abuse, but there are poets within the North East scene that I also admire, Jane Burn for the wildness of her visions and unsettling voices, Andy Willoughby for the clear development of the Beat ethos within his work, both of whom I have written in collaboration with.
9. Why do you write?
I think I answered this to some degree in question 5, but it might be worth saying that if I don’t write for a few days I begin to twitch and fret with a strange sense of restless unease and the practice of writing is definitely an important aspect of my mental wellbeing.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I tell my students to write, write and write, and to read veraciously, to read closely and to experiment with various styles and techniques you can identify within the work of other authors and poets, not to rush their own output but to soak up as much as possible through combined reading and experimentation within their own work, but also to use their writing to drill into their own experiences and examine the societal codes that construct your inherited point of view.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
The main project I am working on is Civil Insolencies which is due for publication from Smokestack Books late next year. It is an exploration and reflection on the events leading up to, during and in the aftermath of The Battle of Guisborough on 16th January 1643, the wider social and political forces and the parallels between The World Turn’d Upside Down and the troubled times and divided nation we are currently experiencing. I have been commissioned by Durham Book Festival to develop parts of the manuscript into a live show in collaboration with a group of musicians which I am hoping to take on a national tour during 2019.