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.
Kate Garrett is the founding/managing editor of Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon Poetry, Lonesome October Lit, and Bonnie’s Crew, and her own writing is widely published online and in print. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and longlisted for a Saboteur Award. She is the author of several pamphlets, most recently Land and Sea and Turning, published by CWP Collective Press in August 2018. Born and raised in rural southern Ohio, Kate moved to the UK in 1999, where she still lives in Sheffield with her husband, five children, and a sleepy cat. Find out more at http://www.kategarrettwrites.co.uk; follow her on Twitter /Instagram @mskateybelle
Links to books:
The Density of Salt http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/kate-garrett/4591581784
You’ve never seen a doomsday like it http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/kate-garrett-doomsday/4593922000
Land and Sea and Turning https://www.cwpcollectivepress.com/bookstore-1/land-and-sea-and-turning-by-kate-garrett
1. What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?
Well, I’d been writing stories since I was very small (around three years old), I started with drawing little booklets with simple sentences about Care Bears and My Little Pony, branching out into fantasy and ghost stories as I grew… but poetry came into my life when I was in 7th grade (I went to school in the States) and we read ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes. This poem moved me – it was history, ghosts, full of strong emotions – and taught me poetry could tell a story as much as any prose fiction book, and I was hooked. In my teens I discovered Sharon Olds, the Beat Generation, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, and became obsessed with writing poetry myself. My home life was a mess, and it made me feel that misery could be transformed or transcended, art and creativity were my way out of dark times. I very vividly remember the absolute compulsion to write poems – I used to sit on the floor under the window in my Algebra II class in my junior year of high school because there was a shortage of chairs and desks, scribbling poems (that sadly no longer exist), and subsequently not learning a single thing about maths… my friend – who I am still in contact with thanks to social media – said to me “you’re going to be one of those people who writes poems for people in the street for $5”, which hasn’t happened yet but I have read poetry out loud in the street… anyway I passed the algebra class with a D. I’m surprised I managed to do as well as that – I’m still convinced the teacher passed me just to get rid of me.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
Well initially it was my 7th and 8th grade English teacher, Mrs Chambers. Obviously as a small child I knew poetry like Shel Silverstein and The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, etc, but Mrs Chambers was the one who gave us ‘The Highwayman’. My interest grew from there.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I don’t think I’ve ever taken much notice of poets’ ages. I’ve heard older poets say younger ones are the dominant group… and to be honest, I’m 38, neither old nor young, so I really don’t know. I just enjoy reading poetry – whether the writer is 16 or 96 (and I know I’ve read great work from both ends of that spectrum, in fact I’ve published it – those are genuine ages of poets I’ve published).
4. What is your daily writing routine?
Where poetry is concerned, I just have to write when I can – with 5 kids, journals to edit, and health problems, it can be tricky to stick to a routine. I would love to write every day, but it isn’t always possible. I try to make notes for new pieces at least four days out of seven. I might manage to sit at the laptop and write new full drafts / finished poems once a week if I’m lucky.
5. What motivates you to write?
It’s just a constant urge to create that’s always been there. Even when I was growing up in an abusive household, when I was living in a bedsit and working two jobs, when I was in domestic violence situations… I had to write, and I did write. The world and being human in it motivate me to write. Being published is lovely, and was a childhood dream, but I know I would write – have written – things even if no one ever reads them. I’ve been writing for 35 years, writing poetry for 26 of those, and I’ve only been published for 6 of those.
6. What is your work ethic?
I’d say I have a pretty strong work ethic, but again, because I am juggling writing with editing and raising children, I don’t always get to focus on my own work as much as I’d like.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Well, when I’m being horror-y, I have to thank two books from my childhood for the way they scared me – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures. I still have the urge to unsettle readers, because I think it’s the best feeling and I want to be a writer who gives other readers a chill. Then I was influenced in my teens by Jack Kerouac, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, who are very different in terms of styles, but they brought real emotion and/or experiences to their work, and I still try to be true to myself in mine when writing about personal things. In the case of Sharon Olds, I like the restraint in poems like ‘The Clasp’ – https://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/sharon-olds/the-clasp/ – you can really feel the subject matter, but there’s no judgement or sentimentality, it’s just a statement, a story. And when I’m writing about topics such as trauma, or motherhood, or whatever, I don’t want to tell the reader how to feel, I just want the thing to be said, and in an artful way.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
First of all, Chris Jones, one of the Longbarrow Press poets (though he is published widely elsewhere). He was my tutor on my creative writing degree at Sheffield Hallam, and is still a writer friend now, even though I don’t see him very often. I’ll tell everyone who will listen – his poetry is wonderful, well-crafted and sensitive and insightful, and he’s just a good person. He gets on with things, he’s like a zen master of writing. If it wasn’t for Chris I wouldn’t be doing the things I do, and I certainly wouldn’t be published. But I come into contact with so many writers every day, and I admire them all for different reasons. Anyone who gets up, writes, and sends their work into the world – either to be considered by editors, or hustling with self-publishing, whether it’s open mic, doing readings, recording their work, competing in slams – any of it, I admire that effort.
As for famous people, I am forever in awe of Lawrence Ferlinghetti – the man is 99 years old and still writing, and running his press (City Lights Books), and he is a true legend.
9. Why do you write?
To discover more about whatever is on my mind, whether it’s personal, historical, an imagined scenario. Writing helps me figure things out (or causes more questions… which leads to more poems). And of course, I write because my brain won’t let me not write. And I also write to connect with others who might be interested in or have feelings about the same things.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
You have to love writing. And you need a thick skin because rejection is a part of the process if you want to be published by people who aren’t yourself. But you can self-publish too, if that’s your thing. It’s just a lot of not giving up on the dream, really.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I’ve recently finished a 12 poem sequence / mini chapbook called She looks just like you, which is very much rooted in my personal experience, but written through the lens of an elf or changeling in the human world. It’s currently under consideration, so fingers crossed it finds a home.
I’ve also just finished a four-part poem called ‘The fifth & final’ which will be published as a Stickleback – which are these cool little micro collections being produced at Hedgehog Poetry Press – in February. This poem is about blending my beliefs (Christian and pagan), magic, the cross-quarter seasons (Beltane, Lughnasadh, Samhain and Imbolc), and it sort of mythologises my youngest daughter Bonnie’s conception, gestation, and birth.
It is also part of the full-length collection I’m halfway through writing, The saint of milk and flames, which is currently without a publisher (but that’s fine, because I’m still working on it). It’s my first full collection, mostly poetry about faith and doubt, Christianity and paganism, belonging and outsiders, motherhood, mortality (which crops up in everything I do, I’m kind of a death poet), and there’s a lot of fire in it – hence the title, which refers to Brigid, who is of course both a pagan goddess and a Christian saint, and associated with fire and poetry, as well as being the patron saint of newborn babies, and midwives, and milk maids. This is all very much how it feels to be writing these poems – heat and urgency; followed by soothing and nurturing.