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.
is a poet and writer. He has won and been placed in competitions including The Poetry Society’s Hamish Canham Prize, the Bridport Prize, the Ink Tears short story competition and the Bristol Short Story Prize. His first full collection, Anatomy of a Whale, was published by The Onslaught Press and he is currently editing an anthology of poems to mark 70 years of the NHS, which will also be published by The Onslaught Press. Matt edits the blog British Life in Poetry, which aims to promote poetry in Britain by posting a weekly poem by a contemporary author writing in English.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
It was the excitement of feeling a poem work, that it was doing something at an intellectual and emotional (and perhaps spiritual) level that you rarely find anywhere else.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
An English teacher at school who was very passionate about poetry and literature and also very supportive and respectful of students introduced me to poetry. Looking back I now realise that those two things – literature and respect for others – have become enmeshed together for me and feed into each other.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I was aware of older poets, but not in a dominating sense. My answer to the ‘anxiety of influence’ question, is that I’m only anxious about being influenced by bad poetry; I want to be influenced by good poetry, it’s one of the joys of reading it.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I do try to write everyday, though I often have period when I am focusing on prose or poetry. I work full time and have a family, so writing often gets squeezed out, which is hard because I find it does need momentum. But I always come back to it.
5. What motivates you to write?
I can find writing hard and frustrating, and quite often wonder why I do it. But when I write something that works, the sense of achievement is greater than anything else I do (family stuff excepted).
6. What is your work ethic?
I’m quite lazy and impatient person so I like to write quickly. If something isn’t working, my approach tends to be to tear it up and start again from scratch rather than try and incrementally improve it. When things do work, they tend to come quickly, but I may have been trying to write that thing unsuccessfully for years.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I still have many of the books that influenced me when I was young. I think that one of the marks of really great writing is that it stays with you, and I can chart my life in books.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I admire many contemporary writers, though more precisely I admire many contemporary poems and books. One of the pleasures of editing the British Life in Poetry blog (www.britishlifeinpoetry.co.uk), is that I get to share some of the poems I love. Basically, my only criteria for the blog is that I have to really like the poems; I don’t ever post a poem because I think I should.
9. Why do you write?
It’s part of my DNA; it’s what I most want to succeed at. There isn’t a reason in a normal sense of the word, I’m not trying to achieve anything beyond the writing, it just feels important.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
By making it become part of your life. By being as clear as possible about what you are trying to achieve artistically and being as honest as possible about whether you have achieved that and not letting go until you have.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I’m in the last stages of editing an anthology of poems to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS, which will be published by The Onslaught Press (and which has taken a lot more time than I thought it would). I’ve also started working on my second collection poetry (which will be a bit more structured than the first) and I’m in the early stages of a novel set in Sarajevo during the siege.