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.
Brett Evans lives, writes, and drinks in his native north Wales. His favourite companion is centenarian, curmudgeon Jack Russell, Remi. Brett is co-editor of poetry and prose journal Prole, his debut poetry pamphlet The Devil s Tattoo was published by Indigo Dreams in 2015.
1. What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?
Hi Paul, first of all thank you for inviting me to do this interview.
To answer that first question, I’m not really sure. I’d always written lines that didn’t go all the way to the right hand margin but by no means was it poetry – I didn’t know a sonnet from a sestina back then. I think it was after returning to Shakespeare (when taught at school it was tedium at its most dense) and Wilde I began to look into poetic form and meter.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
Well, when I was a child my aunt was always buying me books as presents, a lot of them based on the epic poems but child friendly illustrated editions so I didn’t know it was based on a poem when reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or something. I remember in primary school watching a TV adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey – in my mind it was animated but it may have just been a series of illustrated stills being narrated over. Again I had no idea this was based on poetry.
But one clear memory is of being in the Pen-y-Bont pub in my hometown of Abergele back in the early 90s and heroic drinker and fine, sweet man Geoff Bunn was in (something of a local legend was Geoff) and he was pissed, and I was pissed and he was at the bar reciting words that although made no sense to me in my inebriated state (and they may not have done sober) they drew me in, something resonated (and again they may not have done sober). I asked Geoff what the hell he was on about. Shakespeare, he told me. Henry V. Well, perhaps not the very next day but certainly within a week I had tracked down the complete works of the man and a dvd of Henry V. The words, thankfully, still hit home when I was sober. Geoff could also do whole Goon shows and all the voices. A much missed man. I don’t think he knew how much he altered the course of my life that night. And I do hope I told him.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Hmm I think as a teen I thought that’s all there were: dead poets with legacies – Keats, Byron, Whitman (other than possibly Pam Ayers! Ah no, my brother did have a John Cooper Clarke LP and a book of Max Boyce poems). Further investigation proved otherwise of course. I don’t think my being aware of them influenced much, some I admire whilst others I don’t, all down to taste. There will always be dominating presences (and they can be to the good) and there will always be dominating and damning elites. Not being Stevie Ray Vaughan didn’t prevent my picking up a guitar. If such presences can influence one to write (or do whatever) whether via emulation or revolution, all good.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I don’t have one. Simple. I co-edit a literary journal of short stories and poetry, Prole http://www.prolebooks.co.uk/ and that takes up an awful lot of my time. We like to respond to submissions quickly but also to fully consider them, not sit on work for months. I would love to have the luxury of a writing routine and perhaps if I sorted out my own messy mind I could fit one in but truth is if I have an idea it can come out just like that or it can mature in my head or in draft form for months.
5. What motivates you to write?
Well if it were money I wouldn’t be writing poetry. I don’t know. Is ‘for the sheer enjoyment of it’ too simplistic an answer? Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple.
6. What is your work ethic?
Christ, I don’t think I was instilled with a work ethic even when I held regular jobs. Get it done and get to the pub was always my view. When asked ‘How do you know when a poem is finished?’ Sean O’Brien (a poet I admire very much) said ‘When there’s nothing left to take out’ and I try to apply that ethic when redrafting poems. I do tend to see a lot written today that makes me think ‘Is this just the first fucking draft?’ rambling, over-written, I’m sure it’s just a question of taste in style but to my eye such poems read messily.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Hmm well I don’t think the Elric novels of Michael Moorcock influence my poetry in anyway though I would like to sit down and read them again after all these years! Nor the Mr Men.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I’ve mentioned Sean O’Brien above whose work and tone was a huge influence (as was the man himself on a residential course I did back in 2008 or 2009). I admire the US poet Quincy R Lehr for his acerbic wit and way with formal verse – and for not shying from stating that Don Share doesn’t half publish some shite. The recently deceased Irish poet Macdara Woods I admired greatly. I think it an exciting time for small presses, this year I’ve bought more poetry books than ever and there’s been some great work by names that will not appear to be as celebrated as Ocean Vuong – heaven help us.
9. Why do you write?
Because jogging makes me spill my martini.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I would likely say they were asking the wrong person. However, if they persisted I would say read and read wide: poetry, novels, plays, history, biographies, anything but The Daily Mail. And read critically. Write. And know a lot of what you write won’t be much good but enjoy it for the process. Edit, and when you edit be honest, be harsh, be a bastard. And enjoy the process. If you decide to write poetry, read ‘about’ poetry, and same goes if you decide to write a novel or a screenplay, read about the craft.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
Well, I don’t want to disclose too much information but let us say I have an idea for a lot of poems that interact with one another, several threads – historical and personal. I’ve an awful lot of reading to get through to finish my research but I’ve about half a dozen of the poems down. It may work, it may not but I know it will keep me busy for quite some time.