Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Sam Meekings

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.

Sam Meekings

is a British poet and novelist. He is the author of Under Fishbone Clouds and The Book of Crows. has spent the last ten years travelling and working in China and the Middle East. He currently balances his time between writing, teaching, raising two children as a single father, and drinking copious amounts of tea. His website is http://www.sammeekings.com and he tweets via @SMeekings

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

As a child, the nonsense rhymes of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll  got stuck in my brain. There was something about them that was hard to shake, and I’d repeat lines again and again and again. It was only a short step to wondering: could I have a go myself? What really inspired me was the idea that language is pliable, and that you can play and experiment with it like you might with a chemistry set, to see what kind of strange and weird creations you might concoct.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My mum. I can remember a battered anthology of poems for children lying round the house when I was a child, filled with weird and surreal illustrations. Later at school, I had a couple of English teachers who were passionate about poetry, and nudged me towards different forms and styles.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I wasn’t really aware at all. I remember getting to go on a writing trip at a primary school, and listening to a talk given by Ted Hughes. To my young mind he seemed like a mountain of a man, craggy and worn but also full of some strange elemental power. It was only later that I realised who he was and how important he was. I’ve never really found older poets too dominating, and I’ve tended to pay more attention to those that help out younger poets, writers like Roddy Lumsden, who has done so much to support and encourage up-and-coming poets.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I’m a single parent, so much of my writing gets done in strange hours: either before the kids wake up, or in the sleepy hinterland between their bedtime and mine. So while I jot down ideas throughout the day whenever they might come to me, through necessity I’ve developed a pattern of writing at night, when I can get a cup of tea and some quiet and sit by myself in silence for a while.

5. What motivates you to write?

That niggling feeling that there’s something more to say. Writing for me is a way of feeling fully alice.

6. What is your work ethic?

I force myself to do a little every day, no matter what. Even if I feel like I’m writing something truly terrible, I keep going and tell myself that they’ll be plenty of time to delete, rewrite, revise, and improve in the future.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I’m still influenced by Lewis Carroll, especially the playfulness and strangeness of making words and images do something new. Ted Hughes I also often return to, the rawness of much of his writing about nature in particular.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most
and why?

Alice Oswald is probably the poet I admire most. Her subjects always come alive in a strange new way, and each of her books goes in a new and different direction. That variety and freshness is really impressive. I also really admire her ethics and the fact that as a public writer she’s not afraid to take principled stands, even when it might cost her awards.

9. Why do you write?

Because I have to. Because I get twitchy and difficult if I don’t. Because it helps me challenge myself and interrogate my thoughts. And because I hope other people might share some of those thoughts.

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

I would say that you write and write and write. I think I’m still becoming a writer, and I’m not sure many people ever really feel that ‘Now I’m a real writer’. That’s important to remember: its always an act of becoming. You never stop. Also, I think what is really vital is joining, finding or creating a group or community of writers. That community will hopefully keep you going, and contacts are always useful. Go to as many readings and open mics as you can. Read poetry magazines, blogs, journals, so that you find ones that fit with your work when you’re ready to submit. And of course read and read and read current work.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I’ve got a book coming out on 24th October called ‘The Afterlives of Dr Gachet’ about the subject of one of Van Gogh’s last paintings. I’m currently drafting a collection called ‘The Vanishing Light’ about endings, as well as working on a memoir I’m working on about my younger brother’s sudden and unexpected death.

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