Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: John Doyle

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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John Doyle

is a poet from County Kildare, Ireland, and wrote intermittently between the mid 90s and late 2000s, until the muse finally decided to be kind to him in 2015 and give him some sense of consistency. He has had two collections published to date 2017’s A Stirring at Dusk, and 2018’s Songs for Boys Called Wendell Gomez both on PSKI’s Porch. He is at present putting the finishing touches to his 3rd and 4th poetry collections, as well as hoping the muse will allow him to enter the big bad world of prose and short stories.

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

I’ve previously been through at least 3 time frames of writing poetry; from about July or August 1995 up to late 1999, a brief return from March to July 2000, and late 2008. During those times (with a few exceptions) I was always writing because perhaps I felt I had to; I’m not sure if there was any bona-fide inspiration there, the kind that encourages a sense of engagement and helps to produce what one might call “agreeable” poetry. When I started writing again in February 2015 (with the help of my parents) the process felt a lot more natural and organic; I suppose a lot of poets will tell you that the poem will often come looking for them, and certainly at that stage (2015)  I had the life experience to be able to write in a more engaging manner than the horrendous uninspired tripe I was writing in my early 20s, so I’m not sure I can describe the inspiration as such, but it was certainly something that felt like a fully fledged relationship with the muse rather than throwing words on a page for the sake of it.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Depends what you mean by “introduced”. I would have been aware of poetry from my early teens when I had two really amazing teachers in school (Pat O’Connor and Lauren Barry), but I suppose poetry would have been part of the curriculum anyway, regardless of how fantastic those two teachers were. Around summer 1997 when my writing was really bad I found some volumes of Ted Hughes in the local library in County Kildare, Ireland, where I come from, and at least it helped me understand the necessary structures and sense of narrative poetry needs. Of course at that point my writing didn’t really improve, but at least I had *some* understanding of the component parts. So as regards extra-curricular engagement, I wouldn’t say anyone in particular, just me looking around.

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

In the late 90s it was more local poets, and because I would have had a chip on my shoulder the size of Texas I probably would have felt a lot of bitterness towards some incredibly wonderful writers which is kind of sad really; though at the same time perhaps some of it was justified as the Irish scene can be incredibly in-house and clannish, unlike maybe the U.S.A. where I have met some really open-minded and progressive writers who will do everything to encourage you. Nonetheless, back in the early days I should have been concentrating on improving my own work rather than feeling spite towards other writers, all of whom were much better than me. Thankfully I’ve mellowed (somewhat) since the late 90s…

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Not a routine as such, which I find hard sometimes to structure. More a case that if the poem wants me to write it, it will come looking for me and demand that I do so. This means of course that I could write 10 poems in a few hours that I am incredibly happy with, so sometimes a lack of mechanical structure is perhaps a good thing.

5. What motivates you to write?

Everything. My girlfriend, the world around me, small things that few notice like the sound a locomotive’s engine makes as it passes me, or the fact that it is a Tuesday rather than a Friday; maybe that’s why I am much happier writing now than I was years ago, I can find inspiration in less obvious places.

6. What is your work ethic?

I wish I had a work ethic. Ethics and me are not always on the best of terms.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

For the most part I wasn’t engaging too much with other writers when I wrote at first, be they well known or otherwise. Although I have always had a soft spot for Andrew Marvell even though I generally wouldn’t like “ye olde” poetry; there is a warmth and charisma about Marvell that I’ve always found agreeable, even when I wasn’t writing.

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

So many of them. Really amazing poets I read online, or poets I would see in book shops and randomly buy their book and impress the ass off me. John Grochalski, Steven Storrie, Duane Vorhees, etc. Alyssa Trivett is an American poet I started reading recently and really amazes me with her beautiful bleak wee-small hours Americana narratives. Although it comes across as cliched, the Bukowski-influenced writers I read online are always the poets I look forward to most; those WordPress websites run by people who do it for no profit – only the love of writing, you really find the most glorious writers there; John Patrick Robbins, Marc Pietrzykowski, and Amos Greig would be other examples of writers and editors I really admire, and people who always helped and encouraged me. Joan McNerney is another example… I could go for hours and I probably will… to quote Paul Weller.

9. Why do you write?

The devil made me do it…

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

If someone says that, then I figure there is an interest there, and that’s a very good thing; all I can really say is write, then write, then write again, then write some more, then more and more and more. It took me over 20 years from my first poem (a l’il ditty, bless its heart, called Maiden Flight) up to my first book  A Stirring at Dusk being published, so one should never be too rigorous with time-frames, which is not too say there shouldn’t be discipline involved either; like everything in life, you do need standards in some way or another. I always tell people to put everything on paper, no matter how bad their initial piece may seem to them, they have to keep chipping away. I believe that the muse will eventually find them. Patience, gratitude, and sweat are key factors; that may sound mechanical, but I know that from experience. And be thankful of those around you, and those divine or/and scientific forces that surround you as well.

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

I sent away my third poetry collection to the publisher recently, so hoping to hear some good news soon, and I am also about 90% though my fourth poetry collection, which I am chipping away at. I am trying to write prose and short stories, though it is a much more complicated beast to tame than poetry is, and I am being very hypocritical in terms of telling budding writers that they need discipline, whilst being very lazy about it myself…

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