Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Ben Armstrong

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.

Ben Armstrong

is a poet, musician and technical writer from the Black Country, UK. Known for his love of surreal and hyperreal imagery, he often eschews other, more sensible aims to hurtle blindly toward this end. Often times, this has led to a complete lack of interest in his work though he occasionally writes ‘the hits’. He is a student of David Morley’s Warwick Writing Programme and his poems have featured in a number of online journals and zines, the editors of which have superb taste. His first collection of poetry, Perennial, is out early 2019 (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2018). He is currently working on a sequel.Website: adlibion.wordpress.com Twitter: @BenArmstro_

The Interview

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
1. What inspired you to write poetry?

My circumstances, more than anything I’d say. It’s difficult to pinpoint one factor but I remember that I was at University and I used poetry as a way to distance myself from the world I found myself in. It allowed me to build a new place to inhabit, mentally, and provided me the space seldom granted by my situation. Mostly it was a form of escapism and I’ve always been a writer, so it made sense. I enjoy colourful language and clever wordplay, but I like to dip in and out of things. Poetry just made a lot of sense – I fell into it.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My first real exposure to modern poetry was through my flatmate, Alistair. He’d recently taken a course at University, taught by Jane Commane (Editor, Nine Arches Press) and George Ttoouli (Editor, Gists & Piths) and his enthusiasm for the subject rubbed off on me. We spent many hours reading poetry in our kitchen and after a while, I decided to see if I could write something to a fair standard. He was my spirit level in those early days – I wrote mainly to improve upon the previous work I gave him. After that, I started performing at open mic nights in Leamington Spa and had a wider audience to practice with.

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

I’ve always been aware of poetry. It was a key part of my school syllabus so I read all the classics when I was younger. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, etc. I always gravitated more toward the experiment style of T.S. Eliot than the lyrical verse of the romantics though. I like that harsh, descriptive American style. I could never relate much to older poets, even though I do admire their work.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t really have one. Some days I actively experience or recall things which could turn into poems. Other days I write them down. In my more editorial moments, I’ll dive in and restructure a poem or a collection of poems. I like to think of my poetry as an extension of myself, and in the same way that whole days of my life are lost with no clear point, I don’t tend to write something everyday either.

5. What motivates you to write?

I need to get things out. I’m not really sure why. It’s like any other urge. You do it, you feel better. I also like having an impact on someone in some way. You know, when someone reads one of my poems and really takes something away from it, I feel like it was worth writing. It was worth writing once for me, and then it achieves another, second life with them.

6. What is your work ethic?

I usually work in short bursts, writing each poem in one session. I find that the idea remains purer that way. I wrestle with the language until I’m happy. If I don’t end up liking it, I’ll break it down into a few lines which I think have potential and save them for another day. I will write diligently and with focus if I have an idea which I think merits a voice.

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

In countless ways, many of which are probably too subconscious to properly discuss. I’m the sum-total of my influences, configured in a way that makes my writing mine, I think.

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

I always find having met someone and spent time with them, that it’s much easier to get inside and appreciate their work. David Morley was my tutor during my time at Warwick University and he is a truly fantastic poet, mentor and human being. I carry things he taught me everywhere. Luke Kennard is my favourite modern poet, for sure. His writing is hilarious, moving, intellectually sharp. I highly recommend reading The Migraine Hotel.

9. Why do you write?

I touched on this in a previous question, but it’s mostly for my own enjoyment – with a secondary benefit of creating something for others to enjoy. I’ve always just loved writing. A poem feels like home. I usually carry a book of poetry with me in my rucksack – like you would a phone charger or your keys. I think poetry is very important.

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

To become a writer, all you need to do is write. Unless you’re looking at it as a profession, I think you become a writer precisely at the moment you decide you are one. My biggest piece of advice is to network, socialise with writers, and share ideas. Doors open that way.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

Currently, my first collection, Perennial, is in its final stages and is scheduled for release by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press in January/February 2019. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out and it’s a real honour to be in such great company. I wrote the majority of the collection between 2010 and 2016 whilst out travelling. Specifically, I drew a lot of influence from North Berwick, a small coastal town near Dunbar in Scotland, and Scheveningen, in The Hague, Netherlands. There’s a bizarre sci-fi/romance story underpinning all the poems – it’s not overt, but it is there. I’ll be going into more detail on it when I perform live in support of the book.I’m also looking into co-authoring a book with a friend, James. His work is excellent and I feel like our styles complement each other’s well. Apart from that, I’m busy writing more poems which will form the basis for my next collection.Thanks for the questions, Paul!

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