Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Harry Gallagher

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.

Harry book

Harry Gallagher

Harry Gallagher has been widely published by Prole, The Interpreter’s House, Poets’ Republic, Iron Press, Black Light Engine Room and many others. He runs the north east stanza of the Poetry Society and performs up and down the UK. His book ‘Northern Lights’ (Stairwell Books) was published in 2017.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

It’s difficult to say really. A big part of me thinks you’re either driven to write or you aren’t. I’ve been writing poetry of varying quality since I was a child and I’m now 55 and still trying to understand why. I sometimes think it’s a character fault! Your average person in the street seems to get by perfectly well without it, while the rest of us are cursed to keep thinking it somehow matters.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I can’t remember anyone sitting me down and introducing me to it. I think my fascination came via songs. We’re talking 70’s album inner sleeves here and sad youths who pored through them trying to make sense of the words. Yes, I was one of them. I think it’s probably why I’m still a little overly fond of using internal rhymes.

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

In terms of famous poets, the ones I loved – and still love – were all old or dead, so people like Auden, Thomas, Larkin, Betjeman were all regulars and still are, though I’d also like to think my reading has slightly widened in the last 40 years or so! And despite that list, I do also read and love lots of poetry by women writers.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I carry a notepad and pen with me pretty much wherever I go and at the first chance I’m off into reverie. I write most days, though that’s not to say any of it is much good. But I must say that the daily writing habit has only in come to the fore in the last few years. I’ve been through periods in my life where I haven’t written at all, or only sporadically. But I have found as I get older that it’s a joyful experience to be able to take up a pen and say any damn thing I like.

5. What motivates you to write?

A desperate need to dominate the world around me haha! No, as I’ve already said it’s more of a need than anything else. I think at the heart of it all is a desire to make sense of the world around me and to connect with it.

6. What is your work ethic?

I must admit, if you analyse the time I spend writing, editing, promoting etc, then I do work pretty damn hard at it – it’s really a full-time job. But like every other poet I know, it doesn’t pay the bills so it’s a bit like having a second full time job. But I must say, it doesn’t feel at all like work, it’s something I love doing.

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

I think they’re just there under the skin. It’s like most popular recording artists, you can sort of hear their influences in the background if you listen carefully, but they also – if they’re any good – produce something which sounds new and original.

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

A difficult one because I am mates with a lot of current poets, so if I name one then I’d have to name-check a load of others! But of the people I don’t know personally, I’ll name Colm Keegan, a great Irish poet. The way he writes about ordinary, working class life in his home country blew me away. Great poetry should really hit you in both the heart and the head and his does that to me.

9. Why do you write?

Because I can’t help it. It’s a happy compulsion. As I’ve already said, I have been through periods in my life when I’ve pretty much stopped and what I found is that I became unhappy. Of course, I didn’t make this connection at the time.

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

Do it. Just do it. Expose your work to audiences and read their reactions. Read lots of other poetry and other books generally. And keep doing it. Expect to be destitute or get a proper job. Better still, go to a prominent university and get yourself on the funding and publishing merry-go-round. I didn’t, I got lucky doing a job that pays for this ridiculous folly and scribe happily away in semi-obscurity.

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

Right now I’m doing a few things. I’m writing a few ‘home town’ poems about the village where I live – Cullercoats – for an Iron Press book out next year. I’m also busy getting together one half of a collection, the other half of which is being written by my poet best buddy p.a.morbid, which is hopefully coming out before Christmas this year from Black Light Engine Room Press.

Harry Gallagher

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