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.
a.k.a Double Barrelled is the founder of Voicebox (a spoken word event in Wrexham) and also the co-founder of The Larynx (a hip hop platform from the same area).
As a writer and performer he turns his hand to both abstract hiphop ramblings and traditional spoken word; he has released 3 collections of poetry with the most recent being “The Rorschach” horror themed collection and has also dabbled in recording a few EPs, with the most recent being the Tomes EP.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
I always find this to be a difficult question to answer, which it probably shouldn’t be when you consider creatives are supposed to have this impetus about them at all times; however, for myself the truth is that there is a continuous need for inspiration so: originally I wrote out of teenage angst, then I wrote out of confusion, then I wrote out of pride, then ambition, then self-doubt and these days I write out of a simple need and it is probably the most comfortable my writing has been for quite some time.
What I will mention here is that for many years I have been surrounded by other great writers who will have given me both guidance and offered me support, which would be my most regular source of inspiration.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I think it would actually be my elder brother (though he may not have realised it at the time).
I am not a writer who reads a lot but when I was about eleven years old my brother handed me a cd which featured the likes of Eminem, Linkin Park, LimpBizkit and Rage Against The Machine and although each of these acts have great musical elements, what drew me in at the time were the lyrics. A few years later he read the beginning of This be the Verse by Philip Larkin out loud in our living room, with my parents present, and from there if I remember rightly my Dad proceeded to tell me about Roger McGough and The Liverpool poets. It wasn’t long after this that I was writing my own poetry and had joined a writing group led by a key figure in our community, Aled Lewis-Evans.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
In one word: very. I would have been the youngest person in the writing group mentioned above by about 35 years, being fifteen or sixteen when I joined; personally, I feel that this benefitted me a great deal as it allowed me insight into many different styles of traditional poetry away from my standard listening/reading at the time.
This ‘presence’ as you call it is also something which encouraged me to set up my own event Voicebox, after attending Poetica (which was hosted by Martin Daws) and The Absurd (which was hosted by Sophie McKeand), where I saw that there was a way to create a diverse room of writers and audience members.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I wouldn’t say I write fortnightly let alone daily. I am not someone who believes that writing little and often is the key to improving your writing; in fact, I definitely believe that distancing yourself from the page/screen can really help from time to time.
I have found that in the past if I have started a poem and feel I must finish writing it I will end up persevering for the sake of perseverance, rather than writing it for the actual reason I started the piece in the first place, and then by the end of the poem I don’t like what I have written and it gets archived.
5. What motivates you to write?
In a similar sense to the first question I find this perplexes me more than it probably should; I don’t often find that I witness an event or experience an emotion and then think I must write about that, I just write. This is not to say I have never been to an event and left thinking that I had a great idea for a piece, it is more to say that more often than not I write in an almost idle state.
I tend to write when I am tired and or bored. It has become a different sort of outlet for me, compared to what it would have been when writing with all the fire of adolescence, in that I am able to release any monotony or distracted moments in a productive manner; I suppose I write my own internal-monologue is what I am trying to get at, I allow the daydream a canvas to some extent.
6. What is your work ethic?
As a writer, questionable and sporadic would be the honest answer. I aim to be happy with the pieces I finish when I read them out loud. I am also prone to finishing projects and sitting on them until I have what I feel is the correct plan of action. This may be me being too harsh on myself though and I am working on organising myself and pushing my work out into the world more than I have previously.
When it came to hosting and organising my own event I had to have a different approach and found that I was better at encouraging others to share their work and arranging to bring something new to my local poetry scene than I had been at establishing myself as a reputable writer, however, as mentioned I am working on this…
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
When I was a lot younger I remember reading Roald Dahl and a book called The Sleeping Sword several times…I can’t say I am aware of either of these having a profound impact on my current work, although both were quite fantastical and I would like to think my writing carries some eccentricity and abstraction that could maybe be comparative.
If we were to discuss the impact that hip-hop has had on my writing then we would be onto a much lengthier conversation; when I first heard rap music that would probably have been the first time I experienced what I would deem to be honest and direct storytelling. I found myself delving into the lyrics of the songs to discover elements of rhyme that I hadn’t come across in traditional poetry, I would be able to look into slang that would be completely alien to me at that time, I would hear new ways of working a metaphor, new ways of breaking words up and the use of homophones etc. I would argue that some of the best writers of the past twenty years are rappers, remove the music and the writing can stand the test.
Just one example of some of the brilliance would be this line from Aesop Rock’s song No Regrets where he is speaking as a character called Lucy:
Look, I’ve never had a dream in my life
Because a dream is what you want to do, but still haven’t pursued
I knew what I wanted and did it till it was done
So I’ve been the dream that I wanted to be since day one!
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Slug, from the rap group Atmosphere, repeatedly impresses me; their recent track Virgo has pretty much been on loop in my home over the past fortnight. When I first came across their music at the age of sixteen I saw a whole new side to rap music with phrases such as ‘carve my charm into your arms’ and ‘they love the taste of blood, now I don’t know what means but I know that I mean it’ truly capturing my attention and making me see a way to merge my hip hop influences with my poetic learnings.
There are several others I could list (including Aesop Rock who I mentioned earlier) but we would be here a while.
9. Why do you write?
I enjoy the process on a fundamental level. I enjoy wordplay, I enjoy rhyme, I enjoy taking established styles and formats and reconfiguring them; I think I have been writing for so long now that it becomes my default way of occupying myself.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Know your own voice and then if you’re going to perform for others, accept your voice and their feedback. Try different styles. Challenge yourself.
Write for yourself more than you write for others.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
As mentioned earlier, I hoard. I have multiple projects that I am assessing at the moment with the idea that I will act on at least one of them in 2019; one project being a 30-40 minute set of poetry, which I am hoping to refine and then tour across the UK if I am able to secure some bookings in the next few months.