Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Ian Badcoe

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.

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An illustration to his poem “A Love Song for Geeks”… found on his web site.

Ian Badcoe

Ian Badcoe has been a scientist and engineer. His poetry explores themes of humanism, geekhood, gender, mental health, science, art, technology and literary genres such as SciFi and Crime.

The Interview

1.When did you start writing poetry?

Sometime around ’97 or ’98, I think…It was New Year and we were a little drunk…
We had a couple of friends staying and in the pause leading up to midnight we had the idea of documenting the coming year in the form of a Haiku, each, every day…

1.1 Why Haiku?

I think the idea was that it wasn’t much of an effort every day.
Three of us stuck with it, but Rosemary and I found our poems getting longer and longer and more complex…  And so we took ourselves off to online forums to get some critique and advice, and voila…

1.2 How did you know about haiku as a poetic form?

Hmm, not sure… Rosemary was already somewhat into reading poetry occasionally…

1.3 So her interest sparked yours?

I have the idea I already knew something of the theory of haiku, possibly because I had had a previous brush with creative writing, and I think some of the books around that were agnostic between prose and poetry…  It was more we sparked each other, but she had more prior interest…

1.4. How did this previous brush happen?

That was way back when I wondering about getting into writing SF seriously. I joined an online workshop (this was back int he days when things were more email than www.) And did an online course that they ran…

It’s something I feel pretty sure I could do, but it would involve stopping _everything_ else… and I find it hard to obsess to that degree for long enough. So poetry, being shorter, fits me much better…

1.5 Did the course include SF poetry?

No, it was very much aimed at fiction.  There was some critique of short stories and novellas… Writing exercises, that sort of thing… I think I wrote a novella…

Oh yes, it was called “A glimpse through Schrodinger’s Catflap” if I recall correctly…

1.6 What did the online forums give you?

Critique, the chance to critique others (which is very valuable for learning), reassurance that I wasn’t terrible, some discussion of theory…

Semi-regular exercises…

Motivation to keep writing…

(An addiction to ellipsis…)

Oh, and some friends that I still have!

2. What historical poets do you enjoy?

Hmm… I’m not so hot on historical, I tent to immerse myself in the poets I know writing poems *now*… but I go back to T.S.Eliot sometimes…

For contemporary poets, there’s people I know online, who I met on forums, and people I know from Gorilla Poetry (a monthly open mic I am a regular at…)  I review collections and pamphlets for Rosemary’s Antiphon magazine, and that involves reading it more deeply than if I was just “reading” it…  Recently I’ve been reviewing friends’ books on my blog, which likewise involves deeper reading…

2.1 Can you throw any names out so if folk are interested they can look out for them?

Sure!

Amy Kinsman is our host at Gorilla, their book “&” impressed me a lot…

Pete Green is a Sheffield Poet who wrote “Sheffield Almanac”…

I didn’t review it yet (I’m going in reverse chronological order) but I am going to do Rosemary’s “Drawing a Diagram” (I couldn’t before now because obviously I was too close to it…)

2.2 What impressed you about Amy?

Firstly some of the poems are an insight into a very different sort of person. Amy is genderfluid and bisexual and polyamorous and I am none of those…  Then again Amy’s approach to poetry is different enough to mine that there is a “freshness” I can attempt to borrow a bit to use in my own work…

2.3 Freshness?

Yes, sometimes we get too tied up in doing things the way we always do them. Just because it is our habit…  Amy has, in particular, a couple of big prose pieces that “just say stuff”…  Sometimes directness and simplicity just gets the job done…
3. How do you achieve directness and simplicity in your own work?

Through lots of editing.  Often first draughts are more complex than they need to be.  I sometimes spend quite a long time…

4. What is your daily writing routine?

OK, so this touches on what I was talking about. I am not sure i was being clear but I was talking about the difference between elapsed time and spent time. For example I have had 10 years elapsed time while writing a poem, but that doesn’t mean I *spent* 10 years working on it…

I have no routine, what I have is the ability to drop into doing a bit of editing or writing very quickly do as little or as much as is appropriate
and then drop out again.

I use a little private blog.  Filled with part-finished poems and I can drop in or out or search for something to work on very quickly…

4.1 How does it compare with performing at Gorilla?

There’s no relation, really. I’ve never improvised, so performance doesn’t involve composition. I think (after 2+ years) I am just getting to the point where I have options about how to perform, but I have never been an actor…

(I was at Diversity Fest on the 30th September, so that was a new performance challenge…)

4.2 Is speed paramount?

You mean when reading, or writing?

4.3 Speed as in both reading and writing? Are particular poems more suited to performance than others? When writing less time to do it is preferred.

I try to bridge the page/performance boundary. Some poems just happen with no real target for how they will be delivered. Others I set out to write a “performance” piece or else default to “page”…

4.4 Do you recite your poems from memory?

No, I know people who do that and it is very impressive…

People who do slams have to learn their poems… but I am not sure where I stand on slams.
Generally I am always performing something new, I rarely repeat myself, so it isn’t memorized.

5. What is your work ethic?

I don’t have a work ethic, but then it isn’t work, is it? Which may mean I play more devotedly than would somebody “working” at it…

5.1 How do you “set out” to write performance or page?

Performance is “punchier” delivers its message more explicitly and repeats phrases more.

Page is all about “show don’t tell” and control of viewpoint…

5.2 I should have asked what’s your “play” ethic?

Maybe… last week I think I did nothing and that didn’t worry me at all. I haven’t been “blocked” recently, which I put down to always being able to do something a bit different…

5.3 Along with Amy and Pete whom of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I’m not a great admirer. I have reviewed ten or so pamphlets for Antiphon and I only review things I really like, but I don’t tend to idolize (not the right word) people, I just respond favourably to what they wrote.

I’m quite keen on Jess Mookherjee…

And I think, now that I am distant enough to appreciate it a little less personally, I’m going to love getting reacquainted with Rosemary’s work.

5.4 Tell me more.

So Jess comes from having complex heritage and a complicated life. She expresses stuff in a pretty indirect way but weaving in details from places she’s lived and cultural components from her Welsh and Bengali backgrounds.
Rosemary is, I think, completely polymathic.  (is that a word?)

Her co-editor Noel Williams introduced her at her launch listing all the areas that her poems touched upon and it went “astrophysics, psychology, maths, history…” for a whole paragraph.

6. Why do you write?

I don’t know.

To express myself, I guess.

Except I am the antithesis of a “confessional” poet.  I never write about me.

However I am completely aware that I will be emerging as a sort of mosaic from the sum of all the pieces.  I am non-political. I am an aggressively political non-political in that I believe all politics is deeply broken, so broken that any kind of “let’s throw out the XXX and elect a YYY government” movement can never do any actual good. It is almost impossible to express such opinions directly in the current climate, so one idea is that my ideas arise from my work without being directly stated by it…

7. Which out of Rosemary’s and Jess’s collections would you recommend?

Recommend… well I have to go with the one I am married to (which is Rosemary :-))
8. “Mosaic”, as in always writing as narrator or taking points of view from voices in your head?

Neither of those, more that I write pieces that form fragments of my overall philosophy. For example I am always pro-science, humanist, progressive, and I try to be supportive to my LBGTQ friends, and I genuinely believe we are lead by idiots (to be precise I believe they are “functionally idiots” which is effectively the same), I do not believe in “belief” (by which I mean all belief, not just religious) and I obviously speak from the point of view of a very educated and technologically privileged position…

My most important core understanding of the world is that nothing is wholly good, nor wholly bad, which when you think about it makes 100% of the news nonsense…

…so I have stopped consuming news, as much as possible.

8.1 Your non political political ideas not foregrounded?

Nothing really foregrounded. I am possibly less allegorical/¬symbolic than some poets…

When I write a poem about dragons, it is actually about dragons, not dragons as a metaphor for Manchester in the 1800s…

8.2 Protopian?

In the sense of improvement by small steps?

8.3 Yes, as in any future society will never be either a Utopia or a Dystopia but a mixture of the two.

I think that is slightly different? I mean any society is a mixture of utopian and dystopian (even if it is 100% : 0%).  I take Protopia as looking at where you are and setting out to make improvements, even if that can’t take you all the way to Utopia…

I would claim that we have no institutions capable of delivering Protopian progress, because such progress would hinge upon an ability to measure “progress” which neither the political establishment, nor the media has the discipline to do.

8.4 I understand. The “small steps”.

It’s as much an engineering problem as a political one.

I used to be very optimistic, but since as a country we have completely wasted the last three years, it has become hard to keep smiling…

However the longer term picture remains theoretically rosy, it is just against the current backdrop it is very hard to see.

8.4 Austerity of the soul?

I do not know about austerity… the arguments that it is all completely misconstructed seem weighty but there is nothing resembling proof, I mean we do not know how bad things would be if we had gone the other way…

I’m talking about Br*xit (which I will not write for fear of some sort of Lovecraftian summoning…)

So… possibly… I write poetry because I am angry. But I wasn’t (so) angry back when I began.

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

Write. Get critique from those who already succeeded at writing. Give critique to anybody who will take it (you learn as much, if not more, from giving critique, because you have to work out _why_ you are saying it). Write some more. Get more critique. Write. Do not assume there is any $$$ to be made…

(If you are sufficiently dispassionate, look at what mistakes all the other beginners make and consciously do not make them — you can only skip about 2 steps this way)

10. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
– I’m doing a poem for Grant Tabbard’s “Oiija” collection, just because it is fun really

– the project which I said I would get back to is an online, interactive version of my poem “Z Boot” (like a U-boat only in time not water) which I am doing with my online friend Jenn Zed (she’s done some artwork). I said to her “let’s do something quick and easy” and that was over two years ago now

– near the top of my ongoing writing pile I have:
— “Six characters in search of a portal”
— “Believe nothing”
— and I am workshopping one called “Sexbot rebellion” which it occurs to me may owe something to your work…

Main link: https://¬www.ianbadcoe.uk/

Another link people might find interesting is my SoundCloud: https://-soundcloud.com/¬ian-badcoe

another thing I usually link to is Gorilla Poetry itself: https://¬www.facebook.com/-gorillaopenmic/

– And the biggest thing, so big that I can’t see it any more and forgot to mention it is my four year, on-going collaboration on an album with Hallam London: https://hallamlondon.com/ – we were recently had Dave Sanderson (65daysofstatic, Reverend and The Makers) producing it.

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