Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Bethany Rivers

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers 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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Bethany Rivers

Bethany Rivers has had many poems published in the UK and the USA including: Sarasvati, Envoi, Blithe Spirit, Bare Fiction, Amgydala, Scintilla (USA), Fair Acre Press, Three drops from a cauldron, I am not a silent poet, The Lampeter Review, Cinnamon Press, Clear Poetry, The Ofi Press and The Fat Damsel. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Cardiff University and has been teaching creative writing for ten years. Her biggest passions in life are writing and enabling others to write. She runs poetry inspiration and poetry healing courses: http://www.writingyourvoice.org.uk

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

My very first poems, I must’ve written when I was about seven or eight. There was an old lady who lived across the road from me, Mrs Dorothy Butt, and she’d had some poems published, and one had even been read by the Queen.  She’d never married, due to the lack of men after the war.  And she lived alone with her cat, and I enjoyed giving the cat biscuits and listening to Mrs Butt read her poems.  That was my first encounter with poetry.

My first poems weren’t very good at all.  And I don’t remember writing much more until I hit the age of 12, and my father died.  I started to write a lot then.  It was a way of not only expressing feelings that I didn’t have anyone to talk to about, but also a way of figuring out what I was actually feeling in the first place.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?
See above.

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

See other answers

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a daily routine.  I write whenever I need to.  I find I get a lot of writing done in workshops, either run by others, or when I run them.  Also, if there is a certain strong emotion or idea that is burning to be told, I will endeavour to express that the best way I can, through a poem.  Competitions that offer a theme help me to produce poems.  And I work really well to deadlines.

5. What motivates you to write?

I have to write.  I need to.  Writing is in my blood.  I start to feel out of sorts if I haven’t written anything for a while.  Writing makes me feel at home.  It’s bliss – the creative act of writing.  I forget the world and the words flow through me.

6. What is your work ethic?

See other answers.

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

I didn’t know of many poets when I was young.  It’s taken me many years to discover poetry, and a long time to discover poetry I liked and felt inspired by.  I don’t think the education system helps with this at all.  Poetry written by others was not really on my radar until I got to university and started studying it there, but it was many years later I actually found poets I was inspired by.  I’d much rather say that my poems are in conversation with others’ poems, rather than influenced by.  All poems are different threads of the same tapestry.  Today I’m in conversation with the poetry of many poets, here are just a few: Mary Oliver, David Whyte, John O’Donohue, Zeina Hashem Beck, Sharon Olds, Rebecca Perry, Ocean Vuong, Tishani Doshi.

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

Mary Oliver is by far and away my favourite poet.  I love how accessible her language is, and how, simultaneously, she offers many layers of interaction with the text. I love how soothing her poems often are, and how they offer hope.  I love how her observations of nature are so acute and how she then uses these to make profound points about life, without at all being preachy or obvious.  I love how her poems are quietly spiritual, and that you can take on board  as much or as little as you feel comfortable with.  I don’t write anything like Mary Oliver, but she’s the poet I return to most often.

9. Why do you write?

There are so many different reasons why I write.  And different reasons apply at different times.  But that feeling of oneness with the universe, when I’m writing – I love that.  I write to see what it is I’m feeling, what it is I really think.  I write to find out about who I am.  I write to connect deeper with myself.  I write in the hope of connecting with others.  I write to dig deeper and find the textures of truth.  I write because it’s fun and I love it and enjoy it.  I write because I have no choice – I need to write.  All humans have an innate impetus to create, and writing is my way of creativity.  I write because it offers wisdom and insight and healing.  I write because writing is alchemy.  And sharing writing with others is where healing and connection can happen on a deeper level.  Writing together with others can also be calming, meditative, powerful, centring.  I write to find out what it is I’m going to write.  Every piece of  writing is a mystery and an adventure.

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

That’s a complex question.  It’s a combination of things.  The impetus has to come from within.  Being a writer isn’t just putting words on paper – it’s an attitude to life, an approach to things.  It’s as much about observation, day-dream time, the books you read, the films you watch, the passions and obsessions you have, the culture you absorb and how you absorb it.

Writing is about the time and place you live in.  Writing is not separate from life – it’s a part of who you are.  So there is the element of that from within, which isn’t distinguishable from the rest of the self, and in some ways can’t be taught, but it can be facilitated, it does need to be given a safe space to be expressed.

There is also the craft, learning the craft.  The time you have to put into reading copiously, the time you have to spend putting pen to paper (fingers to the laptop, though I’m old-fashioned and prefer to handwrite everything first) – you have to put that time in, and keep doing it.  You have to push through the pain barriers that the inner-critic keeps presenting you with and write anyway.  You have to ignore all the other voices in the world that tell you not to write, that there are a million and one other things that need to be done.

You have to love it.  Enjoy it.  You need a sense of playfulness, a sense of curiosity, in order to begin and in order to keep going when the writing-road gets rocky.  Playfulness is key – that sense of openness, and a wondering what will happen if…  And you need cheerleaders, to egg  you on when you’re flailing, faltering, falling.  Each writer’s journey is unique, each writer may need slightly different things in order to nurture their craft, yet they all have universal elements: reading voraciously, a sense of play, persistence and perseverance, and the love of writing – they’re essential.

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

I’m currently waiting to hear back from publishers as to whether my full poetry collection will be accepted (this will be my second poetry book).  My book on the creative writing process, Tell it slant, will be published next March (2019).  I feel as though I’m in limbo really, as regards current writing projects, as I’m waiting for these two babies to be born into the world.  I’m constantly writing poems, so they’re accumulating all the time.  There’s a gentle and quiet bubble of an idea for a children’s story which is too shy to emerge as yet.  I’m open to ideas right now, for something meaty to get my writer’s-teeth into.

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