Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Matt Duggan

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.

Matt Duggan

Matt was born in 1971 and lives in Bristol in the U.K. with his partner Kelly his poems have appeared in many journals across the world such as Osiris Poetry Journal, Ink, Sweat, and Tears, The Blue Nib, Into the Void, The Journal, The Dawntreader, Midnight Lane Boutique, Anti—Heroin Chic Journal, The High Window, A Restricted View from Under the Hedge, Ghost City Review, Laldy Literary Journal, L’ Ephemere Review, Carillion, Lakeview International Literary Journal, Levure Litteraire, erbacce journal, The Stray Branch, Prole, Black Light Engine Room, Militant Thistles, Matt won the Erbacce Prize for Poetry in 2015 with his first full collection of poems Dystopia 38.10 and became one of five core members at Erbacce-Press. In 2017 Matt won the Into the Void Poetry Prize with his poem Elegy for Magdalene, and read his work across the east – coast of the U.S.A. with readings at the prestigious Cambridge Public Library Poetry Series in Boston, a guest poet appearance at The Parkside Lounge and Sip This in New York, and also read at his first U.S. book launch in Philadelphia. Matt has two new chapbooks available One Million Tiny Cuts (Clare Song Birds Publishing House) and A Season in Another World (Thirty West Publishing House) plus a small limited edition booklet The Feeding ( Rum Do Press) Venice and London. He has also read his work at Poetry on the Lake Festival in Orta, Italy, the Poetry Café in London, in Paxos in Greece, and at various venues across the U.K. he runs and hosts his own poetry events and was highly commended in the Road to Clevedon Pier Poetry Anthology Competition, his second full collection Woodworm (Hedgehog Poetry Press) is due in Spring 2019.

The Interview

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

I started writing poetry and prose when I was a young boy, the first poem I wrote won the best poem in my class at the age of twelve, I also remembered the time that we’d have to read a play in class and I’d end up reading four or five of the main characters from the play. I suppose the first real poems were written for the affections of young girls, from then it just progressed, almost like an obsession that I had to keep writing. I then started becoming political and writing about Thatcherism  and neo-politics and I never really wanted to be put myself into a category as a political poet that solely writes about protest and politics, but I think today and what surrounds us it’s necessary.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Who introduced me, well, that would be a good teacher at my local school called Mr Ford who used different ways to teach us about poetry, I became fascinated with the world of poetry and poets and he would tell us stories about Dylan Thomas, Thomas Chatterton, Verlaine, and many others, he brought the poems and the poet’s life into his teachings and had most classes absolutely transfixed, I just wish I could go back and thank him.
It was around this time that I started writing a lot of material and sending them out to journals, of which 80% were rejected, but I do remember getting my first hand written acceptance in 94 / 96 from a lovely editor by the name of Jenne Conne who edited a magazine called ‘Connections’ based in London.  I still have that very letter which I do look at from time to time, she inspired me to continue writing and I just wish I could of thanked her.

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

Very aware, over the years I devoured large collections of  Ted Hughes, Shelley, Auden, Keats, Homer, Coleridge, Ashberry, Ginsberg, but I never really involved myself in the local scene at that time it was much later when I felt that I gained enough confidence to read in front of an audience, and sometimes, I do wish I took the plunge earlier.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t really have one but I have stuck to a few rules that I can’t break. I only write with a pencil and notepad and I never use any mobile devices apart from writing up the final drafts of poems onto a computer. I always write from the hours 3am to 6am and have around five notepads full of lines, themes, and half written poems that I work through when I have the time.

5. What motivates you to write?

Lots of reasons what motivates me from highlighting certain aspects of life that people generally don’t know about, such as media, history, politics, right wing propaganda, for me it’s about telling the truth about experience to the more day to day mundane. I also write to overcome feelings, and to face truths.  I try to operate on an open canvas and I suppose most things that I encounter on a daily basis can motivate me in some way to write, it could be a snippet from a conversation, a scene in a street, or a more imaginative image to conjure with, for me, poetry is everywhere.

6. What is your work ethic?

I have a very strong work ethic that I need to be constantly busy from reading submissions, reading competition entries, doing interviews for the erbacce journal, organising events to support and promote other poets in my hometown of Bristol, and my own writing which I’m concentrating more on these days. I do try to immerse myself in too much work which feeds me even more, it’s a little like getting rejections from journals I seem to feed on this, and hit back with something that they will in the end accept, I enjoy this a bit too much at times to be honest.

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

The writers that I read when I was growing up were writing about social inequality, rise of fascism, corporate takeovers, so I suppose it never really never went away and in that way they have influenced me to keep at it, to keep telling the truth, to challenge and to be honest with yourself , so I would say they have had a huge influence on my progress into the poetry world, there were also several writers who just didn’t do it for me and I remember reading all the Liverpool poets as I’d always liked Brian Patten work it just spoke to me as an adolescent, yet others in that same group did nothing for me then, and they still don’t.

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

This is a hard one as I read a lot of collections and it can change from month to month, but I would say Tony Harrison especially for his poem V and A Cold Coming I remember watching V on Channel 4 which had such a huge effect on me as a young boy, this was someone who was saying what I was thinking, and it was on T.V. plus a favourite of mine of his is The Gaze of the Gorgon I still pick up that collection and can never put it down,  I suppose because of the truth behind the poems, poetry for me is about telling the truth and being honest, a poem should make you think and should make you re – read the poem. The last Harrison book I picked up was Laureate’s Block and the title poem is simply sublime, I’d advise anyone thinking of entering into the poetry world to read this collection, other writers I admire are Andre Naffis- Sahely his debut collection The Promised Land for its themes on travel, displacement and disposable cities, his control of a poem is a delight to read as is Maria Castra Dominguez collection A Face in the Crowd, which is such a magical and beautiful experience. I’d also say Thomas McColl, Penny Rimbaud’s collection America, and How! (1973-2012) which I read while travelling across the U.S. recently I loved the poems and the bio which states ‘ He did not study at Oxford, he does not have a dog, a wife, a flat in North London or a house in Buckinghamshire. He has been a writer throughout his life.’ Brilliant! Also Simon Darragh,  and I’ve also just started re-reading John Tottenham’s The Inertia Variations it’s the best collection of poems written on the themes of sloth, inertia, and laziness, you’ll ever likely to find.

9. Why do you write?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write I suppose there are many reasons why I write sometimes it’s just for a little fun with silly puns and quirky poems of which I’ll never read out or would add to any collection, also, when I feel emotionally charged about a certain theme or subject it almost takes over my life, mind, and body, and becomes like an addiction until its finally finished, and then I get grumpy and very moody when I’m not writing.

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

Firstly I’d advise them to live life and maybe travel the world, live on a mountain, swim with dolphins, take notes, live with different cultures and experience as much of life as possible before putting pen to paper and especially read as many poetry collections as possible before finding a voice and then submit, submit, submit, and don’t be put off by bullies and editors who think that they know best, always be firm and believe in what you write and don’t take any shit from anyone.

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

I’ve just finished two articles about my recent readings in the U.S.A which will be published in A Restricted View from Under the Hedge, and The Journal. I had two new chapbooks published  this year One Million Tiny Cuts


and A Season in Another World


also  involved with the upcoming 70th NHS anthology for erbacce-press.
I’m also working on two new commissions with publishers, and  editing the final draft of ‘Brexit and Bandages’ journal, also, my second full collection of poems Woodworm (Hedgehog Poetry Press) which I’m so excited about will be published in Spring 2019. And I’ve also been asked to judge a new poetry competition called Songs of Lenin and McCarthy, based on protest poems in the form of songs by Lennon and McCartney.

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