Wombwell Rainbow Interview
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.
‘How interesting that one of the finest books on NIetzsche should be a novel’ – Jason Wirth (Seattle University)
has been furniture salesman, accountant, TEFL teacher and university lecturer. He got his three degrees from the University of Sussex and has since taught at the universities of Sussex, Essex and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he was a Lady Davis Scholar. His doctoral thesis was published as: The Poetry of Keats: Language and Experience (Harvester and Barnes & Noble). He has also published A KWIC Concordance to the Harvard Edition of Keats’ Letters, a novel, Nietzsche’s Footfalls (Self-published) and five volumes of poetry, patricides, Risk of Skin and Self-Portraits (all from Waterloo Press), bedbound (from Perdika Press), Finis-terre (from Agenda) and Three Artists (from Lapwing Publications). He has translated from Gallego, French and German. He has also been published in other volumes and in learned journals and many reputable poetry magazines. He divides his time between Brighton on the South coast of England and a village on the Rias of Galicia.
There is a substantial article on his work which appeared in Research in Phenomenology and which can be read here
Further information can be found at
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
I have written poetry all my life but think I might be a rather better critic than a poet. I used to put my scribbles away and come back to them a couple of months later only to be dismayed by their lack of promise and chuck them in the waste-paper basket. This continued until about a dozen years ago I sent a couple of pieces off to Simon Jenner at Waterloo Press who immediately came back to me with a promise to publish. With this encouragement I stopped throwing everything away.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
Well I came to it late and have to thank my English teacher, John Middleton Murry, son of the famous critic, who made me love Wordsworth and Shakespeare at school and was a great encourager. I recall his immense patience as he read through my meandering teenage Romantic wanderings about sex and death – about which I knew precisely nothing – and quietly correct them. He finally put his arm round my shoulders and told me ‘David, go away and write a sonnet’. Good advice indeed.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets? Not too much. I was schooled in the Romantics and did my PhD on Keats although T.S Eliot was there along with Emily Dickenson wordsmiths like Tennyson.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I don’t really have one. Being retired and having a pension, I can please myself but I do sit at my desk and deal with questioneers like this and then look at an essay I am working on and write a few words. I am essentially lazy. I do some Book designing for Waterloo Press which also takes up time.
5. What motivates you to write?
This rather depends on the kind of writing. Poetry either comes or not. It is a question of inspiration. Poetic creativity is based in the failure of language. It is when the word withdraws itself that the poet can listen into the silence in the hope that the word will grant itself. This withdrawal of language is itself the greatest gift that language has to offer and it is this gift that the poet faces. The poet accepts gratefully the hint which language grants him in its withdrawal and, turning towards the hiatus thus given him, maintains himself within it. Refusing to accept any alternative, he recognises the fact (exactly the reverse of what is generally thought true of the poet) that, far from being a particularly gifted user of language – the one who, above all else, has language under his control – it is language that controls him.. I have to wait for this gift. Sometimes it comes, sometimes not.
6. What is your work ethic?
‘Work ethic is a rather WASP notion. I don’t really have an ethic relating to work. In the case of prose composition, reviews and such like (what I might consider work) I sit at my desk and think the subject over in the hope that something vaguely original might come out of it.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Just as painting is looking so writing is reading. I read Shakespeare through T.S. Eliot and Dostoievski. I even read Dostoievski through Dostoievski. You bring your reading history to whatever you do. You can’t help it. Wordsworth was damned by Keats’ calling him ‘a poet of the egotistical sublime’ but I love him nonetheless and, of course, Keats himself to whom I devoted my doctoral thesis. I was resident Romanticist at the Hebrew University for a year.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
It’s a pretty long list buts here are the headers: Carlos Fuentes, Alejo Carpentier, Marguerite Yourcenar, Edmund Jabès, Maurice Blanchot. For the beauty of their writing style and the depth of their thought. Earlier: Heidegger and Dostoievski, Thomas Mann, Hannah Arendt who all drag you back to yourself and make you think afresh at each reading. John Sallis is currently occupying me as a (what might you call him?) post-aesthetician. Of poets: Neruda, Wallace, Celan, Jabès, Oppen, Crane, Ashbery. It’s a long list.
9. Why do you write?
You write because the words are given and it would be such a waste not to write them down. I follow Keats in thinking that forced labour produces second-rate work. Without the 10% inspiration you are lost. Its all about negative capability.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
If someone asks that question then they are, it seems to me, unlikely to become a writer. If you need to read my book, you will never understand it. If you understand it, clearly there will be no need to read it.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I am currently working on two projects: one is my next book of poems provisionally called ‘Broken Voices’ which will hopefully be out early next year from Waterloo Press and the other is a prose text examining self-portraiture which is rather longer term and probably impossible to publish because of the number of costly illustrations. I wrote a book of poetry called ‘Self-Portraits’ which is a set of 88 artists imaging (imagining) themselves and each poem relates to a self-portrait. This new work is really a continuation of that interest but in prose. On the back boiler are work on Blake and Nietzsche (a continuation of my ‘Nietzsche’s Footfalls’) and on Shakespeare.