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’m the former editor of The Screech Owl, co-founder of Resurgant Press, a reviewer, and an editorial assistant for Three Drops From A Cauldron.
I’m the author of As I Was Pulled Under the Earth (Lapwing Publications), the chapbook Yellow Wolf (Writing Knights Press), Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World (Platypus Press) and Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams Publishing).
1. When and why did you start to write poetry?
That’s like “when did I start drinking water”, it’s not an answerable question in the full extent because I don’t even know myself. However, I’ll acquiescence; I heard Michael Rosen read when I was little, I think he was on Jackanory, and I thought “what is this alien called a poet”. I didn’t, but I was fascinated, along with Transformers and He-Man I doodled and wrote funny stories. Roger McGough was on TV at the time to, all this must have sunk in. But I really felt a deep affinity with poetry when I had a sleepless night back in the mid-90s. It was about 4am and a programme was on about Allen Ginsberg and I was blown away by the way he thought, then quickly came Whitman and Blake. I was a teen musician, wanted badly to be in a band, but illness robbed me of that, so my first poems were lyrics an£ they were God awful.
I guess I started out of frustration.
2. So the programme about Ginsburg introduced you to poetry in a way?
Not introduced me, I already read some.
But not as much as I do now. It just kind of galvanised me into “this can be cool.”
I was an early teen at the time.
2.1 What blew you away about Ginsberg?
His kinetic pace of image, the power of country, not the Nixonian idea but the power lines connecting peoples’ hearts and ears.
2.2 You mentioned Whitman and Blake.
How did they influence you today?
Blake always seems to me a gaffer with a fag hanging out of his mouth, you know, like the man behind the set designs on a movie?
Whitman was America.
2.3 Love that image. A gaffer who sees ghosts in trees and on the stairs. And Whitman?
Whitman was hair hanging down, a mysterious figure haunting battlefields and writing these beautiful poems on liberty.
And so much loss. So much…
3. What is your daily writing routine?
Routine is a bit of a rigid thing.
Basically I get up, grab a coffee, check what Trump and the Conservatives’ have fucked up and then think, or read.
I’m a lazy writer, I’ve got it in me to have a rigid routine but through pain etc I cannot.
4. Political machinations motivate your poetry?
Every little thing is political, so if it’s about my body, it’s about the NHS, only I don’t think of it that way. I think the world makes us get down on our knees every single morning and scream into our cornflakes “what’s my purpose?!” That’s political.
I have some overt political poetry, only very little if I remember rightly.
5. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
As well as they can I suppose. I mean, I’ve ingested them as I’ve ingested seaside air, I don’t write like them, maybe I have a little too much affection for Dylan Thomas but am mature enough to rein that in now. At least I hope so.
6. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I have moments of ”after Stephen Spencer” etc, but I tend not to do that, which is a shame because I’d like to. George Szirtes has a book in which he lampoons and honours thirty poets, whet inspired him was his first time at the gym and he wondered how other poets would see it. Imagine Larkin!
6.1 Imagine Eliot! Why do you write?
There are Loads with a capital L. Well, the aforementioned George, Melissa Lee Houghton, Bethany W. Pope, Helen Ivory, Andrew Philip, Toby Martinez de las Rivas, Martin Figura, it’s like excepting an award. Can’t you play me off?
Everyone should really read Helen Ivory though. Try and find her Tarot set. Ooh, Rishi Dastidar! Luke Kennard as well, before we move on. That’s enough thugs for anyone’s rogues’ gallery.
6.2 What do you admire about these rogues?
The names I’ve mentioned?
Their ability with a simple turn of phrase to make you feel “ah, I know that feeling.”
That’s the hardest part. That’s why the best love songs work
7. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I would say “you are already” but that’s just being nice. I think it takes a determination, a gut that can take a tsunami of rejections just for that one perfect acceptance. It’s not a film.
All of us always say, whenever we’re asked this inevitable question ; read. Don’t stop reading, read on your breaks at work, read on the bus, anywhere, and for God sake please read modern poetry, it’ll safe you a world of hurt in the long run.
8. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
Okay. I have a pamphlet coming out with Three Drops Press called ‘This is the Carousel Your Mother Warned You About’, that should be out at the end of the year, a Co-Incidental booklet with Black Light Engine Room, that should be out next month, a Ouija themed poetry anthology I’m editing with that grand lass Helen Ivory, Gatehouse Press are interested, and a project that’s dear to so many of our hearts; Be Not Afraid: an anthology in appreciation of Seamus Heaney, I’ve edited that with Bethany Pope and Angela Topping, whom I forgot to mention. That’s out now from Lapwing, we’re having a reading in April at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden on what would have been his 80th birthday. We’re planning launches, no one place is set yet.
Bethany and I were talking the night he died and had to pour our grief into something. That might sound cynical but it really was that.