Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Deborah Alma

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.


Deborah Alma

According to Amazon “Deborah Alma was born in North London, has lived on the Welsh/ Shropshire borders for the last 25 years where she brought up her 2 sons and she lives with the poet James Sheard. She teaches creative writing, works with people with dementia and at the end of their lives and is the Emergency Poet in her 1970 s ambulance. She edited The Emergency Poet-an anti-stress poetry anthology and The Everyday Poet-Poems to Live By (Michael O Mara Books) and was the editor of the landmark #MeToo poetry anthology, published by Fair Acre Press. Her first poetry pamphlet True Tales of the Countryside was published by The Emma Press. She is currently Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University.”

The Interview

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

Oh dear! I think I started to write poetry out of a classic and embarrassing teenage existential angst. I have read poetry all my life, but didn’t really start writing it and being careful with line breaks and what it looked line on the page, or with an imagined reader in mind, until my 40’s when I did a Creative Writing BA at Birmingham University. Before then it was either a feeling of playfulness or necessary in a cathartic sort of way.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My much-loved Grandmother, loved to bounce me on her knee to strange nursery rhymes and I loved reading her Arthur Mee’s 10 volume Children’s Encyclopaedia published in the 1950’s which was full of the classics, La Belle Dame sans Merci and Sea Fever and Edward Lear. When I was a young woman, as a bookseller and then working for a publisher we would share poetry books that I brought for her; we loved Dylan Thomas and RS Thomas in particular. My Dad and my Uncles all wrote poetry too, and I think we all got it from her.

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

I was very aware of them; felt often that I was presumptuous to even call myself a poet. I wrote a lot of scraps in notebooks and never typed them up. As a young woman working for Jonathan Cape I almost read too much so that even now I struggle not to be overwhelmed by them. I love the absorbed music in my head though and know that reading is the best route to writing well. Why oh why aren’t I better?

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Can I use one of those rolling around on the floor laughing emoticons?
I am not great with routines. I started writing on Sunday mornings when my children started to lie in as they moved into their teenage years. It was literally the only space I had as a single working parent. Oddly, now that I have more time to write I find that it comes less urgently or easily. That’s a bugger!

5. What motivates you to write?

I tend to write from a sense of something hanging around unexpressed or poorly understood in my own psyche; a strange habit of making connections between apparently unrelated things. The way pain from one thing connects to another older hurt for example. I remember bursting into tears over the death of a much-loved hen and realising I was crying about the Brexit vote and the poem written at that time connects those things.
I really do love the feel of a good black-inked pen in my hand, a new notebook and the almost dream-like state of creating something new. It’s like flight or something a bit wild and uncensored. And there’s pleasure too in the crafting afterwards and seeing if there’s any sense or value in the outpouring

6. What is your work ethic?

For writing? None at all. I could do with one. Where can I get one?
Outside of that, in my employed work, which now luckily enough is in the world of writing; in teaching and editing and ‘poetry on prescription’ it’s a deep-rooted working class get on with it and work hard.

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

Admire is a tricky word . And this question is too enormous !
I admire a lot of the writing of women in particular, those who have written out of the domestic, or the apparently small stuff of the everyday and seen it as beautiful or fascinating. I would name Jane Burn, Wendy Pratt, Angela Readman, Liz Berry, Helen Ivory, Kim Moore, Jacqueline Saphra, Nicky Arscott amongst those. They all have a sense of the surreal which I’m particularly drawn to as well.
I also really admire poets who are open and receptive to learn and develop; I’ve loved watching my friend Pat Edwards do this over the last few years- and I admire my friend Meg Cox for her out of this world simple-seeming poetry and perfect delivery when she’s performing her work. I admire the work of Brett Evans and the carefully managed thin-line between ugly and beautiful and the art of self-deprecation.
I started to type more and realised that the list would go on and on, so I’ll stop there…

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

I say to them, go on then and have some fun with it. Get some peer review set up, through a course or a writer’s group. Read, read and then read. And then write. And keep reading. Nothing gets on my nerves more than people who say they are writers and don’t take the time to read the work of others. Not just for the short-sighted lack of educating yourself, but also for the lack of generosity to those in the community of writers.

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

I have returned from 3 weeks in the north of Norway, ostensibly to read and write and maybe think about actually working on a second collection, but I was very disappointed in myself and have terrible self-doubt all over again.
My creative energy is all going into the possible development of a writing retreat/poetry centre in my home town of Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire which will develop my Emergency Poet ‘poetry on prescription’ project much further.

Thank you so much for being interested and for the opportunity to answer your questions!

2 thoughts on “Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Deborah Alma

  1. Pingback: “souls and human beings”. . . and other responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt | THE POET BY DAY

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