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.
Rob Cullen studied at Bristol and Cardiff art colleges (1969 to 1973 respectively), lived in New York and Brighton returning to South Wales in 1982. For 37 years he worked with severely damaged and damaging individuals. For the latter 9 years of his career he was an Expert to the Family & Criminal Courts and Higher Courts. He retired in 2012 after suffering severe depression and PTSD.
In 2013 Rob returned to his arts background focussing on writing and photography.
• His short story The Choice was published in the anthology A Fall into Grace. This project involved a day of storytelling in the town of Aberdare in which each writer performed the story at different venues around the town. The anthology was published on 16th December 2015 with a launch at the National Folk Museum of Wales in St Fagans.
• Rob’s first poetry collection “Uncertain Times” was published by Octavo (Accent) in 2016.
• Rob had four short stories published in Ystrad Stories another community project related to the artist Ernie Zobole.
• Rob has completed a psychological novel awaiting publication “Under the Stone Eyes of Mary”.
• Rob is working on a second novel “Imaginary Beaches”.
• Rob’s poetry has been published in the online magazines I am not a silent poet, The Learned Pig, TheBezine, and 2017 & 2018 editions of Red Poets magazine.
• In 2017 Rob collaborated with the artist Jon Pountney on a short film “Beachcombing” exploring the foreshore of Cardiff Bay. Rob’s provided poetry and the voice over for the film which was shown in an exhibition at Oriel Conwy August 2017.
• Rob is looking to publish a second poetry collection “Notes from a small garden”.
Rob has organised “Voices on The Bridge” spoken word and music events in Pontypridd Museum since 2016. He read at Walls: Muriau Welsh Mental Health Arts Festival at the Millennia Centre Cardiff 2016. He read with the Red Poets in the Indyfest, Womanby Street, Cardiff 2017 & Merthyr Rising 2018. He also regularly reads in open mics The Imp, Merthyr Tydfil & The Capel, Bargoed.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
Song writing and understanding the connectedness between song and poetry.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
Initially Grammar School.
Reading Yeats aged 12 in school. Growing up in Wales I was aware of Dylan Thomas (winning competition for the cover of a programme for a production of Under Milk Wood). Didn’t like his poetry much. Art College and art history 1969 led to Surrealism and introduction to French Poetry Rimbaud, Paul Valery poetry of Russsia – Pasternak, Block and Achmaktova etc and then Garcia Lorca and thence to Zen Japan and Haiku. And back again to Heaney.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Dylan Thomas, and Louis McNeice/Auden and the War Poets. I was averse to them Ted Hughes above all.
More positively Imagists and Ezra Pound (Gaudier Breska) came later. Heaney and early Irish writers, Gary Snyder. Octavio Paz. Federico Garcia Lorca profound interest. R S Thomas. Apollinaire, Neruda and Cernuda.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
Prose writing two hours or two thousand words between 9 and 12.
7 mile walk with notebook and pencil. Return to house and in the evening write.
5. What motivates you to write?
I’ve been artistic since I was very young – visual art which migrated into writing short stories.
My observations through a day over a week. Natural world/an acre garden – social wrongs. Overheard conversations. The influence of a visual art training is never far away – so describing a vista.
6. What is your work ethic?
Its just there. Something I do and can’t imagine anything else.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I reread them frequently – return to the familiarity of their voices.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Gillian Clarke. Christina Thatcher.
9. Why do you write?
It’s part of me of my creative being. Somethings have to be said and read aloud.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Write at any opportunity wherever you are with a pencil and a hard back good sized notebook. A4. Just write and read aloud.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
Getting a second collection of poetry published – lots of rejection but heartened by a request for a copy to be placed with the Federico Garcia Lorca Foundation Library after they read my tribute poem to Lorca.
Getting a Psychological novel published.
Completing a second novel. (almost cooked).
Compiling a book of short stories.
Compiling a third collection of poetry.