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.
Antony Owen is an award winning poet from Coventry and the author of five collections of poetry. His latest collection The Nagasaki Elder by V.Press was shortlisted for the coveted Ted Hughes Award for new work in poetry. His poems have been published worldwide and translated in several languages with regular teaching of his work in Hiroshima, Japan and UK schools in CND Peace Education resource. He is currently writing a sixth collection with poet Isabel Palmer and both were winners of the British Army’s first ever poetry competition for Armistice in 2018
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
Ever since I was a child I drifted off into another world from the one I was presented with. I never accepted a singular version or definition of something unless I felt it. For example making pictures of clouds are the building blocks of artistic expression. Art is both escapism and from what is perceived as real to what we redefine as real. What inspires me to write are people who do not have the ability to curate wonderment or a sense of the otherworldly such as conflict.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I would credit both my Junior school teacher Mr Indian and my high school teacher Mr Taylor for that. Both were unorthodox in how they taught, both made individual connections with students as opposed to collective which leaves some students like me stranded in a SEND limbo.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I don’t think this is exclusive to older poets and the presence should be in the influence a poem holds and not a deluded person who thinks they are influential in art. It is only the work that matters, emotions not emoticons.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
It presents itself as a feeding and that could be daily or weekly yet unpredictable. If I read of a baby teargassed by soldiers then I have to write something if I feel it. For me we live in the blank pages of a burning diary and we must write those poems before the flame eats the page and it is lost forever. We must beat that burning orange line of fire and be frozen in time bringing the artefacts of our age so others can learn of them. I always listen to music, film scores which create a cinematography of the mindset. I have to transport, leave the world and write in a dreamscape. Poetry is that dreamcatcher of reality.
5. What motivates you to write?
People. All that we are, were, can still be. Important things, yeah, people are important as are all species on earth.
6. What is your work ethic?
Poetry is a discipline not a hobby. It is the ultimate manifesto of one.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I was always more interested in the screen presence of actors like John Cassavetes, Kirk Douglas, Barbara Hershey than poets like Pam Ayres my Mum and Dad had on the shelf. Kerouac and the beats inspired me as did Jim Morrison. Some people see poets as the jewel encrusted scabbard instead of the sword and how it was made from water. I was inspired by people like my Mum and Dad in the Thatcher era struggling to make ends meet. They were the poems as were many icons from the 80’s who suffered from inhumane policies home and abroad.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Bernadette Cremin because she always tunes into people and creates them into music. Wendy Pratt who is one of the bravest poets mixing technical brilliance with emotional intelligence. Wendy has that ability to turn her work into living entities as if letters are the tools of what makes a poem. Liz Berry is exceptional, a perfectionist and a maven. I will only mention women poets as they are hugely unrepresented. Isabel Palmer is one of the strongest talents writing war poetry today and I adore her work so much we are writing a book together. Ruth Stacey wrote one of the best books in Queen Jewel Mistress and Helen Ivory is also someone for me who manages to effortlessly bring and sustain a mood from her poems, they are like stage sets with each line delivered perfectly. Merryn Williams resuscitates many forms of poetry, she is one of those who knows how to end a poem and not patronise a reader. Many Japanese poets as well inspire me, Aya Yuhki and a peace army of Hibakusha poets. Jacques Gaucheron for me is also a poet that stirs me from deep within. Joe Horgan and I developed a lifelong friendship from writing together and I admire his poetry, he is a class act and captures people brilliantly and defines consequence and migration so well.
9. Why do you write?
It’s as natural to me as breathing and without writing I am dead. I write because survivors of war are dying out and the pen is a baton they pass on to tell people of what they experienced. It is neglect to ignore that. My role is a human one, not a British one, we are all equal in my eyes. When I open the pages of a book it is like a bird preparing to fly for the first time. Some poems crash and burn but some soar and make people sigh, that is the moment when I am a writer.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
You don’t become a writer if you writing solely for yourself. Writing is an injurious privilege and the payment itself is art when created.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
The Unknown Civilian – a collaboration of peace poems with poet Isabel Palmer. It will cover 100 years of war from the death of war poet Wilfred Owen in 1918 – 2018. It will show the evolution of war poetry about soldiers to peace poetry about civilians. Many conflicts are covered and women for one are the main protagonists. Long overdue, there has never been a collection that has taken this on over 100 years and we are both extremely proud of the poems and the coruscating imagery and scapes developed. War poetry is evolving to peace poetry and being at the forefront of that movement I take that responsibility super seriously.