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.
I’ve had masses of material published in all manner of strange and obscure places, magazines, websites, anthologies and books. I’ve also worked as a Stand-Up Poet on the ‘Alternative Cabaret Circuit’, and I’ve interviewed very many people from the worlds of Literature, SF-Fantasy, Art and Rock-Music for a variety of publications (a selection of my favourite interviews collected into the ‘Headpress’ book ‘I Was Elvis Presley’s Bastard Love-Child’). My latest poetry collection is ‘Tweak Vision’ (Alien Buddha Press), while my new fiction collection ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ is now available from Parallel Universe Publ.
1. What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?
The weird thing is that I was always writing. The problem was what to do with the stuff once I’d written it. Mostly I was doing fiction, with a strangely-strange SF slant, but I was nudged into poetry via Allen Ginsberg and the Mersey Poets thing. This would be around 1966-1967. And I had mounds of it. It was discovering access to the underground press and the independent magazines that turned things around for me. I stumbled upon an issue of a magazine called ‘Sad Traffic’ by accident in a Leeds Head Shop, it had the right tone of informality and irreverence. I bought it, sent in a poem, and they accepted it. I was so amazed that I promptly shifted everything I owned into my beat-up old car, drove down its publishing address in Barnsley… and moved in with them!
2. Wow. Big change of life. Digging into your past who introduced you to poetry? Where did find find Ginsburg and the Mersey poets?
There was a series of ‘Penguin Modern Poets’ books, I bought the Mersey Poets one… Adrian Henri, Brian Patten and Roger McGough, which snagged neatly into the Pop continuum. And the Beat Poets one with Greg Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ which is a key poem. I also loved the Dada and Surrealist poets Tristan Tzara and Paul Eluard. But it was just in the air. Donovan had a single called “Atlantis” which was essentially a poem. I liked that one a lot. And the Fugs albums too…
3.1. Music appears often in your poetry. What do you think it brings to the words?
It’s all the same continuum, just twisted into alternate forms. I’m not a musician. I don’t play an instrument. If I did I’d probably be busking in the precinct. There was a thing called Jazzetry… or Jazz-Poetry with Mike Horovitz and Pete Brown. I envied that fluidity. A great jazz solo by-passes the logic centres of the brain and sets up a direct link from intuition to expression. And Bob Cobbing’s Sound Poetry which reduces language down to its most basic elements. Poetry has its roots in Bardic troubadour tradition. In my humble way, I think that’s still part of its function…
With fiction, a review or a feature, you have the structure there already, you’re just shading it in. Poems are… largely, different. They come in their own time, or they don’t come at all. Once they’ve found their voice, they write themselves.
3.2. How do you know when a poem has found its voice?
First drafts are usually best. A little tinkering and fine-tuning, but too much destroys the energy and spontaneity. When it sounds right, it’s right. As with the Beat writers, it’s the authenticity that makes it work, more so than technical perfection. At one point, if they’re lucky, a writer invents themselves…
I’ve always worked on the assumption that there’s as many forms of poetry as there are poets. There’s a million ways to laugh. There’s a lot of poetry out there that I don’t like. But there are also writers I respect and admire. Every now and then you stumble over a new poem, or a new voice, that reaffirms and rejuvenates the joy of words, and kickstarts new energies in your head.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I’m not sufficiently organised to have a daily writing routine. I’m usually working on a number of projects simultaneously, so when I get bored with one, or hit an impasse, I simply switch to another. Publisher deadlines tend to focus things. New Wave SF writer Michael Butterworth said that ‘I love to hear the sound of deadlines hurtling past my ears.’ Which is a great line. But when I get a buzz-date from my ‘R2’ editor it acts as a stimulus, and I’ve never so far faulted….
5. What motivates you to write?
I’ve always loved words, and the games you can play with them. Whatever academic potential I may once have had was totally stomped-on by loud Rock ‘n’ Roll and cheap Science Fiction, but it’s that incredible head-spinning buzz that I get from others that I’m attempting to replicate in what I do. Not the style or form, but that head-kick energy-charge. Not that it always necessarily works out that way. But in future, if someone happens randomly upon one of my books in a secondhand book shop or website, and flicks through it, and says ‘hey, that’s pretty good’… I’ll be well-pleased.
6. What is your work ethic?
I work in Yorkshire, not in Ethics! Although guilt contributes substantially. The terror of lost time that invades my darkest terrors and night-fears. The blank word.docs of unrealised potential slipping away over the event horizon…
Like it. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I’ve always had this sense that we form a global community of misfits, oddballs, poem-freaks, word-junkies, writers, geeks, nerds, artists and ne’er-do-wells, we have become the ocean in which we swim, and each small achievement for one validates the rest of us.
I was the dysfunctional brat who devoured books, trashy-magazines, comics and records to an unhealthily obsessive degree. And the writers I read then were hugely influential in shaping me. I subsequently tracked down some of those hack writers from old Pulp magazines, got to thank them and by interviewing them, drawing a slight degree of deserved attention to their frequently-neglected careers. And by doing what I’m doing now I’m howling back through time to that dysfunctional brat that I was, and telling him ‘it’s gonna work out fine, don’t worry, stay true to your strangeness…’
7. Why do you write?
What do people actually DO who DON’T write it…? I find it difficult to conjecture. I guess they must do something, I suppose…
8.. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I worked in a print factory for many years. There was a guy there who, every six months or so, would come across to me and say ‘I have this great idea for a story’… and I’d tell him, write it down, no-one can see a story that’s just in your head. But six months later he’d return and tell me the exact same thing. So write. Write it down.
When I was talking to the vintage SF writer EC Tubb he told me how people would approach him in the pub and tell him ‘I’ve got this great idea for a SF story’… and he’d tell them ‘that’s a plot, but not a story. For a story you need to get inside it and find its voice.’
I consider that pretty good advice.
9. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
Life is an ongoing perpetually uncompleted project. The things I’m working on at the moment include ‘In The Time Of The Breaking’ – a retro-styled SF novel, and a biography of Derek Taylor, the Beatles PR man. I’m open to offers from potential publishers in both instances.
This is alongside short and longer fiction in the SF/Fantasy genre plus music-related features and interviews…
Wombwell Rainbowed Review
My review of Andrew’s latest can be found here: https://thewombwellrainbow.com/2018/07/08/my-vision-tweaked/
Wombwell Rainbowed Review
is open to any authors who wish me to review their work.