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.
Rodney Wood is retired and lives in Farnborough. He published his first pamphlet, Dante Called You Beatrice (Red Ceiling Press), last year; a pocket-sized pamphlet dealing with a love that compels him to write poetry. He has been widely published in magazines (Riggwelter, London Grip, Magma, The Ofipress etc). He jointly runs an open mic at The Lightbox in Woking.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
I was never interested in poetry at school. It was only when I did The Open University in my late 20s that I discovered poetry. We were looking at Wilfred Owen and the line “Gas, gas quick boys” struck me because I couldn’t work out how to say it properly and that inspired me to take my first steps. There was an open mic at the end of that week and I read some really bad sub-surrealist type poems and afterwards an old lady came up and said thank you very much for your poems. I won’t forget her.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
Again it was at an Open University summer school. Bill Billings, poet lorryeate of Milton Keynes and ex-SAS soldier, was my tutor for the week and at the first meeting he turned up in the car park and said can someone hold the fort for a few minutes while I go back to my room and get some papers. So I read some poems which seemed to amuse everyone, actually they probably just felt sorry for me. After that Bill took me under his wing and told me to “just write”.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I took the decision early on that I would find out what people were currently writing elsewhere in the world and leave Chaucer, Keats, Wordsworth and all that tribe till later. I counted myself lucky for the Macmillan Guide to Twentieth Century World Literature and that I could borrow books for free from the Poetry Library in London.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I spend two mornings a week writing poems. that means retreating to my playroom, as my granddaughter’s put it, turning on my computer, doing admin, reading some poetry blogs, revising and maybe writing something fresh.
5. What motivates you to write?
I’ve been writing so long now it’s very difficult to stop. I have drafted a novel but it just seemed too long and drifted back to poetry. I was talking a few years ago to a watercolourist who used to do landscapes until he saw that computers could produce them better than he could so he started painting abstracts and I thought the perhaps I should change my style and do something new.
6. What is your work ethic?
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount on social media, by the number of books I have on my shelf that remain unread and the workshops, reading and open mics I should go to but I do as much as I can because it’s fun and the people I’ve met through poetry have been wonderful. Do what you enjoy, live because you never know where poems are going to come from. For example I once wrote a poem about a heavy metal gig, found a magazine and audience that loved it.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I loved the directness and simplicity of Tadeusz Rozewicz, Hazim Hikmet and Raymond Carver as well as the dazzling and often opaque wordplay of Cesar Vallejo and Robert Bly. But then what’s influenced me is everything I’ve read and heard.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Anyone who can write has my admiration. Anyone who stands up in front of a microphone has my admiration. Me, spending 30 years writing badly I discovered my mojo.
9. Why do you write?
To answer the question what does it mean to be human? For the pleasure of being in the company of words. To find out what I think. To surprise myself. To convince myself I’m not suffering from imposter syndrome.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
A writer writes. Begin.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I had this idea that people we’re the same throughout time. So I picked on the period of the Black Death and compared that to the current news. I’ve managed about 40 poems so far and I’m wondering if they’re any good and if should I stop writing them.