Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jennie Farley 

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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Jennie Farley

Jennie Farley is a published poet, workshop leader and teacher. Her poetry has featured in many magazines including Under the Radar, New Welsh Review, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Artemis, Lunar Poetry, and online journals Amaryllis, Atrium. Ink Sweat & Tears, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Riggwelter, Clear Poetry, The Blue Pages … She has performed her work at Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Swindon Poetry Festival, Cheltenham Everyman Theatre, Berkeley Square Poetry Review (Bristol) and local venues. She founded and runs NewBohemians@CharltonKings an ‘iconic arts club’ providing music, performance, poetry and workshops, and has held workshops at Cheltenham Literature Festival, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham Everyman Theatre and schools. Her full collection My Grandmother Skating was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing 2016) followed by Hex (IDP 2018)

The Interview

1.  What inspired you  to write poetry?

Aged about six I made little booklets of poems and drawings of bunnies and pretty flowers tied up with coloured ribbon inspired by the Flower Fairy Alphabet and Margaret Tarrant picture postcards. Aged 12 I wrote a gory pastiche of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen. In my late teens I was inspired by the angst of Sylvia Plath, until I discovered the wonderful surrealism of Selima Hill.

2.   Who introduced you to poetry?

As a young journalist I interviewed  the writer Alan Garner​ of  the award-winning​ The Owl Service who encouraged me to write poetry, introducing me to the poetry of R.S. Thomas, The Mabinogian,  Robert Graves ​The White Goddess, the Golden Bough …

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

I was aware especially of Emily Dickinson’s original and intriguing work which I have since studied, of Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Selima Hill … and various poets in translation.

4.   What is your daily writing routine?

Checking and replying to emails, checking my list of imminent writing jobs i.e. events to organise, flyers to send out, feedback requested on colleagues’ poems …  I wait for my poems to come to me! I keep a notebook with me at all times to jot down ideas which often come from the strangest places, on the bus, overheard snippets of conversation, during a  country walk … I work on the poems as and when, treading carefully at first, and when I’m sure I’ve something worth keeping transferring notes to computer where I carefully edit which usually takes ages – until I feel I have ‘got it right’. Sometimes I send poems as drafts to a trusted poetry friend for comments .

5.   What motivates you to write?

I like getting my thoughts down so that I can see what I am trying to say. I was not overly ambitious until my poetry friend suggested I sent my poems out to magazines etc. Getting one or two poems published encouraged me to work towards a collection which I duly sent to a publisher, and to my absolute delight was accepted  (​My Grandmother Skating, Indigo Dreams Publishing 2016) followed by​ Hex (IDP 2018).

6.   What is your work ethic?

I don’t want to seem precious about this, but I feel I should spend time working at something I enjoy and for which I have a certain talent. Also, I enjoy teaching creative writing, passing on my enthusiasm for poetry and often learning from my students – especially the refreshing ideas of children.

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

When young I was an avid reader of anything I could find in our rather restricted library, but as a writer-to-be I was certainly influenced by Grimm’s wonderfully dark and magical tales. Also the narrative quality of the Brontes, especially ​Wuthering Heights,
​ and the excitement of R.L. Stevenson’s ​Treasure Island and ​Kidnapped
​ (I loved to imagine myself chasing over the heather with Alan Breck!) Oh, and the creative imagination of Kenneth Grahame’s ​The Wind in the Willows.

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

The late Angela Carter, especially ​The Bloody Chamber for its vivid Gothic depravity and feminist twist, poets – Caroline Bird’s explosive, surreal poetry full of surprises, Michael Symmons Roberts, especially ​Drysalter for moving, metaphysical poems that read like psalms, John Burnside, especially ​Black Cat Bone for strange, unnerving, almost mythical poems telling of longing and loneliness …

9.   Why do you write?

I have no true answer to this! I find it difficult and stressful but the wonderful satisfaction of having brought a poem to fruition is worth it.  Also it’s the fun of exploring an idea through from the first few words.

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

I would say, Keep practising, read, read, read, and always keep a Writer’s Notebook.

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

I can’t bear not to have some project on the go (even if it doesn’t work out). At the moment I am working toward a pamphlet of 25 poems ​The Gymslip Girls about my days at boarding school which seemed to me completely ​surreal!
​ Also a collaboration with a printmaker friend ​The Fossil House inspired by my old Cotswold Stone cottage with its sea urchin fossils embedded in the walls, her prints and my responses in poetry. And of course any new poems which may pop up in my head!

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