The Wombwell Rainbow: Chad Norman

The Wombwell Rainbow

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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Chad Norman, Truro, NS, Canada

His poems have appeared for the past 35 years in literary publications across Canada, as well as a number of other countries around the world.
He hosts and organizes RiverWords: Poetry & Music Festival each year in Truro, NS., held at Riverfront Park, the 2nd Saturday of each July.
In October 2016 he was invited by the Nordic Assn. for Canadian Studies to give talks on Canadian Poetry and read from his books at Borupgaard Gym in Copenhagen, and Risskov Gym in Aarhus, as well as other readings in both cities and Malmo, Sweden. Because of that tour Norman has started the manuscript, Counting Coins In Denmark And Sweden.
His most recent books are Selected & New Poems, from Mosaic Press, and Waking Up On The Wrong Side of The Sky, from Grant Block Press, and a new book, Squall: Poems In The Voice Of Mary Shelley, is due out Spring 2020, from Guernica Editions. Recently, he completed the manuscript, The Black Rum Poems, and presently works on a new manuscript, A Small Matter of Inclusion.
In October of 2017 he read at various Eastern Canada venues in Kingston, Ottawa, and Montreal. And in the Fall of 2018 Norman will undertake a speaking/reading tour of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, as a celebration of literacy and Canadian Poetry.
His love of walks is endless.

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

In my mid-teens I had a very troubled relationship with my father, and at that point we had moved across Canada several times
due to my parents unsettled marriage. You see my mother is from Nova Scotia, and my father from British Columbia, so I was dealing with the two coasts of Canada. To get back to that relationship really does mean a beginning of sorts, you see my father was a very
consistent workaholic, so that meant he always had jobs for me to do, and they were posted on the fridge each day I came home from school, and they were jobs in addition to what I had to do in order to keep our orchard and ground-crops watered and free of weeds.
But it was because of this situation I began to leave post-it notes for my father, and with those I quickly understood the power of words,
and how we could communicate. But it wasn’t until a number of years into the future I began to write what I actually believed to be poems.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I had always known about poetry through song lyrics, but it wasn’t until I started to listen to the Caedmon recordings, mainly Dylan Thomas, that I really heard words by themselves so to speak, no instruments other than the voice. So as to who introduced me to poetry I’d have to say myself for one, and Murdock Burnett, a Canadian poet who used to work at a bookstore in Calgary, Alberta,
who was responsible for ordering my Caedmon choices. He also encouraged me to attend some open mic evenings, and shared a title of his own with me.

3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

I became aware of them quickly because I knew the importance of being led by what I eventually called “my elders”. But I never felt they were any type of dominating presence, just that I could begin my own path by being led, paying attention to their paths, and that,
now nearly 40 years later, continues to be my way to honour and follow. Both extremely important for the path I look down and see I am on.
4. What is your daily writing routine?

. As for a daily writing routine I don’t really have one, due to having to chase the almighty paycheque, so I have 12-hour days and nights when I am working at a manufacturing plant. However, and thankfully, those days are only 16 each month. So that gives me the other days to either be tinkering on poems in early stages, or right into preparing submissions for magazines, or preparing manuscripts for presses. But I always keep a small notepad and trusty pen in my pocket no matter where I am, especially when out on my walks. I feel the writing process for me is on-going even though I may not be actually physically writing or typing…there always seems to be poems working within me to find their way to the page and stage.

5. What motivates you to write?

I am motivated to write mainly as a way to stay sane, to stay active in my life as poet, husband, father, and employee. But to say what causes poems, well, over the years human behaviour, nature,
poverty, war, love, sex, I could go on, but it can be summed by saying, simply, I am alive, and I want to say I am, I am living
on our tolerant planet. Too many have lived and died and not left us their proof, their stories of enduring life.
6. What is your work ethic?

As for my work ethic, I had a time when younger I worked on the family dairy farm, it was there I discovered what would become my life-long work ethic, and fortunately I have been able to apply it to the writing of poems throughout my writing life. As for what it is I keep things open to the mystery, open to not knowing where the poems come from, why they come, but be the “reliable vessel” as Whitman advised poets to be. When it comes time be part of the poem’s longing, or that “irresistible disturbance” as I call it, I am
then with my notebook and pen, or at the keyboard to settle
in for capturing the poem, and having a very sharp eye and ear
for editing.

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

The writers I read when I was young seem to come back to me more as I grow older. As for their influences, mainly, all of them end up saying pretty much what they said in the beginning, “Believe in your need to speak and capture, go on and move deeper into your love of words, and keep developing a way to have your poems say
something to someone.” I am always appreciative when one of them calls to me again.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I have so many poets around the world I admire, but if I must single any out for the moment it is some of the poets from the UK I
recently read with during my Fall speaking/reading tour, Live The Reading Life, 2018, poets from Ireland like Kevin Higgins and Maria McManus, from Wales like Rhys Owain Williams and Emily Blewitt, and from Scotland like Ray Evans and Kathryn Metcalfe. I admire them because they all have the courage and need to live as poets today. Not an easy life.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I write to stay sane. To say I was here, like Kunitz, the American poets once titled one his collections, “Passing Through”, I want to say I too have passed through, saying it with my poetry.

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

You become a writer by dealing with the mysterious feeling in your gut, that endless almost painful thing, that will travel throughout your body until the need to speak by writing down the voices the poems send. And never again not hearing or honouring them.

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

At the moment I am writing a manuscript called, A Small Matter Of Inclusion, where, through poems, I am exploring how I feel and what I think of peoples who have to uproot themselves from their homelands, and make a decision to move to my homeland, Canada, all the time knowing this is happening around the world as well. The other manuscript I am working on is called, A Small Parental Forest, poems which deal mainly with some kind of connection to the natural world. You see, I have a small forested lot in a local suburb I use as a short-cut, to the plant where I earn the pay-cheque, a lot where I contiue to receive poems, and the other wonderful types of disturbances that are sent to me from my own yard surrounding my home here in Truro, Nova Scotia. I also have a second children’s book on hold, as well as two chapbook types of collections also patiently waiting for my return. I am blessed, but I have earned it. To know this keeps me writing.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Alan Toltzis

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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Alan Toltzis

is the author of two books of poetry, 49 Aspects of Human Emotion and The Last Commandment. He has published in numerous print and online journals including, The Wax Paper, Hummingbird, IthacaLit, North of Oxford, and Right Hand Pointing. Find him online at alantoltzis.com and follow him on Twitter @ToltzisAlan.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

In college, I took a course on modern poetry that was taught by the Irish poet, Thomas Kinsella, and I was hooked. I’m a learn by doing kind of guy and once he taught me how to read and understand a poem, I wanted to try my hand at writing and took two creative writing courses from him.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

When I was a kid, my grandmother loved poetry. Old fashioned, rhyming kind of stuff that was in a black leather-bound volume that looked more like a bible than a book of poems. That was probably my first association with poetry. But as I mentioned above, I got my start with Thomas Kinsella. I had no idea how lucky I was. He really taught me that poetry was very specific and precise and that the best poems stand up under in-depth analysis, providing the reader with more and more with each close reading.

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

The first poets defined a society’s culture, its norms, its ethos. The poems themselves were part history and part theology. As for the “dominating presence”—just think about sections of the bible that are written in verse that people still read and use in their lives today. The psalms are ancient poems that are read/recited by many people even today. We don’t always think of this as poetry but that’s exactly what it is.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t separate reading from writing in my routine. For me, it’s always part of the same process. My reading is a combination of poetry and religious texts that I use as a way to think conceptually about the world and my place in it. It becomes a lens through which I experience the world. It’s a meditative process for me that allows me a way into my writing. The connection between my finished poems and how it started isn’t always easy to discern, and it is not at all necessary for the reader to know it to fully understand the poem. The beginning and having enough of an idea or image or words to work with is the hardest part for me. From there, it’s an intense writing and editing process (which I think of as more of the mechanics of writing the poem) and many drafts until I’m satisfied.

5. What motivates you to write?

Writing seems like a natural outgrowth of observing the world, how it relates to me, and how I relate to it. I also try to write in books and themes so I have a set plan for extended sequences of poems, which give me an incentive to move forward through the process.

6. What is your work ethic?

I try to be very disciplined about my work. Spending anywhere from 3 to 6 hours reading/writing daily. And I always make sure I finish the poem I’m working on before moving on to another. It’s a way for me to get the poem done and not be left with fragments.

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

I have my favorites who I have learned from and always go back to. The two that I depend on are John Donne and Theodore Roethke. I loved the precision and pacing of Donne’s work. His willingness to lay out the logic of his thinking for the reader. You see it very clearly in the metaphysical conceits in his work. He won’t rush. As for Roethke, I am very at home with his imagery and how he connects his inner self with nature.

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

I love reading Christian Wiman for the intensity of the language and how he uses faith in his work. As soon as I started reading his poetry, I realized how much it felt like a modern-day Gerard Manley Hopkins. The language is always intense and precise and the emotion gut wrenching. Wiman also has the ability to use rhyme so deftly that it can go unnoticed while adding to the complexity, meaning, and beauty of the poem. His language pushes his poetry to its extreme so that he can wrest as much meaning and emotion out his work as possible.

9. Why do you write?

The desire or need to write flows naturally. I am able to lose myself in my writing/reading providing me with the most intense, meditative, and focused experiences of my day.

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

One word: Read. Once you’ve read enough and deeply enough, you’ll know what to do when you have something to say.

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

My second book, 49 Aspects of Human Emotion, was published in August and I’m working on a book of poems loosely inspired by blessings—not as a way of showing thanks in the traditional way, but as a way for me to understand the many blessings we all have in the world and their meaning. I’ve written about 40 in the series so far and 15 have been published in literary journals.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Antony Mair

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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Antony Mair

After a degree in English from Magdalen College, Oxford in the 1960s, Antony spent a year in Germany teaching in Heidelberg before entering a Benedictine monastery for three years. This was followed by a job as manager of a shop in New Bond Street in London’s West End, and then training as a solicitor, which led to a career in the City as a commercial lawyer, specialising in international transactions and European Community law. He left the City in 2005 and moved to the Dordogne, where he ran an estate agency with his partner Paul McQuillan for seven years, returning to England in 2012 to live in Hastings. Having completed five unpublished novels over several decades, Antony turned to poetry, his other love, and completed an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. After being published in a number of poetry magazines, he had two collections published in 2018 – the first, Bestiary and Other Animals, by Live Canon, after it had been shortlisted in the Live Canon First Collection Competition 2017, and the second, Let the Wounded Speak, by Oversteps Books.

The Interview

  1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

It’s only recently that I have regarded poetry as something to specialise in, rather than as something that I wrote in addition to anything else. My first writing was as a child, when my father gave me a model theatre: I wrote small plays which I acted out on the tiny stage with characters on rods, in front of my family, who must have been bored stiff. Our house was full of books – my grandmother was an avid Dickens reader, and introduced me to him at a young age. I was reading War and Peace at the age of eleven, I recall – probably without understanding much of it.

I came to poetry in my teens. I still have books given to me or bought in my schooldays – the Penguin Modern Poets series, Charles Causley, Ezra Pound – a miscellaneous grouping. I remember wallowing in Tennyson’s In Memoriam as a teenager. That was the time I first started writing my own poetry. I used to have it published in the local paper, the Reading Mercury. I suspect that, for reasons too complex to go into here, poetry was a way of discovering my identity as an outsider. At the 2018 Torbay Poetry Festival I won the Festival Challenge with a poem that gives a bit of a clue to my thinking at the time:

MATERIALS FOR A POETRY QUIZ

A traveller knocked at my childhood’s door
and a mirror cracked from side to side.
Hiawatha wooed an Indian squaw
and a knight-at-arms loitered before he died.

Then Prufrock, Prytherch and Ezra Pound
appeared in my dreams, arm in arm with John Donne,
later joined by some wilder friends I found,
like Swinburne and Ginsberg, and then Thom Gunn.

“Come join us,” their voices seemed to say,
“in Tara’s halls and in caves of ice,
in a Wicklow shed or in old Cathay,
and you’ll taste the nectar of Paradise.”

“For we’re the skylarks whose blithe spirits sing,
the nightingales perched in enchanted trees.
Come and drink from the well of Mount Helicon’s spring
and we’ll teach you to warble with full-throated ease.”

So under my old friends’ watchful eyes
I took my pen, like Seamus, and dug –
not yet, perhaps, for a Nobel prize
but some kindly words and a Festival mug.

2. Who bought or gifted you the books?

I bought them out of pocket money – I was given a fixed sum each week that included bus fares to school, but I used to walk to school, so saving money for books. Some I got as school prizes, some as Christmas or birthday presents from family.

3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

The quick answer to that question is: very much. A number of the poems in my two books are intertextual – for example, “N” in Bestiary, which stands for Nightingale, refers to Keats and adopts the stanza and rhyme structure of his “Ode to a Nightingale”, as well as incorporating some of Keats’ wording. My hesitation, though, in answering your question, arises from your word “dominating”. I don’t feel dominated by the great poets – it goes without saying that I shall never rise to their stature, but at the same time we have a lot in common in the creative process. They are faced with the same challenges as the rest of us – it’s just that they meet them better! We swim in the same pond, even if I’m a minnow and they’re a magnificent trout.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I wish I could say I have a daily writing routine. But I don’t find it works like that. Poems depend on an idea rising, and then gestating. I am currently working on a book-length sequence of poems that will cover the life of Mary Queen of Scots. This requires a series of preparatory steps: doing the basic historical research; deciding on the event to cover in a poem; deciding on the “voice” to be used in the poem – e.g. some are done in Mary’s voice, others in the voices of courtiers or attendants – all before pen is put to paper. Quite a lot of this development happens in the background of the mind, I find.
I try to do something involving poetry each day – it may be simply reading other poets, or it may be writing, or submitting to magazines etc. Probably at least an hour or so, sometimes more – often in the evening.

5. What motivates you to write?

It seems such a simple one, doesn’t it? But the quick answer is: I don’t know. What happens is that an idea comes into my head – it could be because of something I’ve experienced, something in the news, something in a book I’m reading – and it starts nagging at me until I have to put pen to paper. I don’t write to achieve recognition or status, nice though these are when they come. It’s just a reflex that is part of my nature. Not a very satisfactory answer, I know, but that’s the way it is.

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

I’m not sure that they do. To take Keats as an example: I recall wallowing in his lushness as an adolescent, without really analysing the craft. When I did a poem called “Nightingale” in my Bestiary I followed the stanza and rhyme structure of his Ode for all of two stanzas, which was an interesting exercise, and made me appreciate how skilled he is. Equally, if I now try to translate something by Baudelaire, for example, I appreciate his talent in quite a different way from the comparatively superficial enjoyment I had as young. Exercises like this don’t so much give rise to them influencing me, but are very illuminating in showing the shared challenge of strict forms. There is much in the creative process that is common to all poets, and binds us all together even if we are on very different levels. When it comes to influence, I was probably quite strongly influenced at the outset by Thom Gunn, whom, again, I first read when I was quite young. However, I only discovered Seamus Heaney about ten years ago, and the poets I most admire and am arguably most influenced by are people I have read in the past decade.

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

Where do I start. By “today’s writers” I assume you mean people alive – otherwise I’d have put Seamus Heaney at the top of the list. But, staying with Ireland, I have to put Derek Mahon just behind Seamus. A very different poet, but a master of form. I like his culture and his cosmopolitanism. I like the early Muldoon very much – less so with his clever-clever later stuff.
John Burnside for his extraordinary atmospherics. Robin Robertson – his Man Booker shortlisted verse volume The Long Take is extraordinarily powerful. I admire Liz Berry for the power of her writing, and its mix of folklore and modern. Alice Oswald for her ability to create a magical atmosphere. I didn’t care for Simon Armitage a lot, but his last collection – The Unaccompanied – has made me revise my view completely, and I am a convert.
I like poets who create an emotional resonance – I’m not particularly interested in those who are obsessed with language or who write poems that, on closer examination, have little emotional content.
8. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

The quick answer is: because I have to. That, however, only takes the matter one step on. Let me say, rather, that it’s an inner compulsion. When I look back over my life, it has always been there. An idea will come into my mind, like a shape pressing against a curtain: indistinct, but insistent. It has to find a shape, literally a definition. That shape may be prose or poetry.

I have a vivid recollection of doing an essay for my English teacher at the age of eleven or twelve. I can’t remember the subject, precisely, but I invented some fictional scenario with invented characters. What I remember most clearly is the teacher saying “Where do these people come from?” The answer is now as it was then: I don’t know. They are part of me, and I carry them like children waiting to be brought into the world. Nor is it just characters of this kind – it may also be an experience, a moment caught like a photograph, needing to be developed and shared.

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

I’m not sure I can answer this. I would start by taking refuge in definitions – what do you mean by “a writer”? is it someone who earns their living from writing? Or is it someone who simply has writing as the predominant activity in their day to day life? Or is it something else altogether?
The answer to the original question will depend on the answer to these subordinate ones. I suppose the quick answer is:
– Take your pen or your laptop and write something (if this is too hard, there are prompts and techniques that can be found on the net)
– Learn techniques – read some of the increasing number of books written for students of creative writing, attend classes, courses and workshops
– Get feedback – from your peers, teachers and editors
– Be very patient and don’t be discouraged
– Start again at the beginning of the list – I.e. take your pen or your laptop etc.

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

I have been working for a year, now, on a sequence of poems that cover the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. They are written in a variety of forms and in different voices – sometimes Mary herself, sometimes a servant or bystander, sometimes an omniscient narrator. The intention is to do between fifty and sixty poems in all. I think it will take me another year to complete. The process is quite laborious: I do the research as I go, then decide on which moment to cover, then the voice and the form, trying to preserve the reader’s interest by maintaining variety. I have reached the stage where I am going to have to submit what I have done so far to one or two people to make sure that I’m on the right track. Having said that, it may all turn out to be unpublishable.
I have also been intending to have another look at some of my unpublished novels, to see whether they could possibly be revamped or revived.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Janet Sutherland

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.

Janet Sutherland Home Farm jpeg

Janet Sutherland

was born in Wiltshire and grew up on a dairy farm. She has an MA in American Poetry from the University of Essex. Her poems are widely anthologised and have appeared in magazines such as Poetry Ireland Review, The New Humanist, The London Magazine, The New Statesman and The Spectator. In 2018 she received a Hawthornden Fellowship during which some of the poems in her new collection, Home Farm, were written.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’d seen that in the finest poetry poets can go beyond what is ordinarily sayable.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I went to a catholic school for a couple of years between the ages of 9 and 11, in those days we had handwriting lessons, taught by copying. You could choose a sheet each day to copy and most of them were poems. I remember copying The Way Through the Woods by Rudyard Kipling when I was 9 and memorising The Snowflake by Walter de la Mare, because I liked it. We were also taught songs, heard tracts of the poetry of the old testament, spent months studying The Journey to Samarkand by James Elroy Flecker with a student teacher, and we performed The Song of Hiawatha by Longfellow as our end of year performance having sung and it and read it and talked about it for much of the year. We wrote poems too, my first was about the blue flower Scilla when I was nine.

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

I wasn’t aware of that when I was very young but gradually became more aware through school and into University. Rather than a dominating presence of older poets I’d say for me it was and still is a process of discovery, of delight in finding the voices that speak to me through time from Chaucer to Donne to Yeats and Pound and Bishop and so to poets writing now.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I sit at my desk pretty much every day and go for walks in between stints at the desk. My routine varies according to what my current projects are. Now there’s a lot of admin around my new book, Home Farm, and the initial research stages of my next project about a journey my great great grandfather took in 1846/7, which I’ve been working on for the last few years, in between other projects. When I start writing more creative pieces towards the new work I’ll also be thinking about structure and how the thing might fit together. The general process is to write then edit and keep editing through many versions. To try out the new work on writing friends. At the writing stage of the project it’s in my head most of the time whether I’m at the desk or not.

5. What motivates you to write?

It’s like a thought itch— for instance I saw a blue boat on the river near where I live, it was half submerged and as the river is tidal it was keeping up with me as I walked. That image stayed with me and became a poem in which the blue boat was like a soul drowning:
https://www.maryevans.com/poetryblog.php?post_id=4482

6. What is your work ethic?

To keep at it even when it’s hard. To keep at it even when it doesn’t work. To go for a walk or just away from the desk when I’m stuck. To keep editing until it’s finished and when it is to send it out.

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

They form the bedrock to everything. In my 20’s I loved Reznikoff, Pound, William Carlos Williams, Oppen, Eliot, Robinson Jeffers, Wallace Stevens.

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

I admire Anne Carson hugely. She is a tremendous writer and very innovative, very clever, playful, learned, joyous with language, deep. Reading her is a complicated adventure. My favourites of hers are Autobiography of Red and Nox. I have also recently enjoyed Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, an extraordinary first collection. I love the work of Lee Harwood who died in 2015. I could name so many others…

9. Why do you write?

There are things I want to say that I can’t say in any other way. The process of writing is helpful in sidling up to it.

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

Read as much as you can and find out whose writing excites you then read to challenge yourself and find out why other people like the work of writers you don’t like. Keep reading as widely as you can and develop your critical eye. Then write, if it helps start with some free writing for flow, and edit, edit, edit. Be critical of your own work. It’s helpful to find support from other writers through groups or by exchanging writing with writing friends, or by going on courses if you can afford it or using books on writing practice. But the most important thing is to think (and dream) and write and edit and to do this regularly.

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

I’ve just finished a collection of poems which comes out in January which is called Home Farm. These poems explore the farm where I grew up. You can read a sample of it here:
https://www.shearsman.com/store/Janet-Sutherland-Home-Farm-p123552365?forcescroll=true
I’m currently working on my next book which will be about a journey my great great grandfather took from London to Serbia in 1846 and 1847. His name was George Davies and he travelled with a Mr Gutch who was a Queens Messenger delivering government documents. I have his journals which document each day of his travels by steam boat, train, carriage and on horseback. I travelled part of the same journey last autumn and made my own journal.

my website is here: https://www.janetsutherland.co.uk/

 

On Fiction Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Kristina M. Serrano

On Fiction 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 fiction writers you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

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Kristina M. Serrano

After starting college at 16, Kristina M. Serrano earned an Associates Degree in Arts, BFA in Fiction, and a Certificate in Publishing by the time she was 20, which she regretted because she loved college and wanted to stay there longer. She rode horses for 10 years, sang the national anthem at four large events, and gave up her title as Executive Editor of a literary magazine for more time to pursue her writing career. When not writing, you can find her reading novels and manga, watching anime, tending to her pet fish, or snuggling her fluffy bichon frisé. More about Kristina and links to her books and social media can be found on her website:

http://kristinamserrano.wixsite.com/author

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write fiction?

Mostly, I love writing to escape, like so many others. I guess you could say my inspiration stemmed from a desire to find both wonder and realization, to take a break from mundanity while learning about the real world through fantasy, kind of like astronauts observe Earth from space to study it.

2. Who introduced you to fiction?

Well, I’ve always loved reading and writing ever since I was a little girl. I don’t even remember learning how to read; I just always could. So I guess I kind of introduced myself to fiction, haha.

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

Oh, it’s always intimidating to think of just how many writers there are out there who are better and more experienced than me, but I’m grateful for them because their success stories offer valuable encouragement and advice.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I used to write just about every day. Not really a routine; I just had to write because I loved it so much, and I still do. But over the past year or so, I haven’t written nearly as much as I would have liked because of battling mental health issues: severe depression, OCD, anxiety, and insomnia, comorbids of my autism, which I was diagnosed with only this year. I’m slowly working on reviving my past write-as-often-as-I-can habit as I continue therapy.

5. What motivates you to write?

Lots of things. I get an idea for a story, and I want to see what happens. Or maybe I have something as small as a specific scene in mind that I’d like to jot down to see how it develops. Or maybe I have another world or worlds spinning in my mind, and I want to explore them, so I design them and creatures and such; these are usually alternate dimensions. Or maybe (because I love romance), I get an idea for two characters and I want to see how they meet and/or interact, and how their relationship develops through facing obstacles. There are so many wonderful things about writing and stories that I could probably list things that motivate me all day!

6. What is your work ethic?

When it comes to publisher deadlines, I try to finish edits and revisions as quickly but efficiently as possible. I actually enjoy this process because it reminds me of homework, which I miss dearly!

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

When I was a child, I read pretty much nothing but horse books. My two favourite series were Pony Pals by Jeanne Betancourt and Heartland by Lauren Brooke. I’m sure the former first taught me about adventure in fiction, and the latter introduced me to light romance in books. I remember reading them over and over again, so I’d also say they taught me how to recognize my favourite themes and elements in stories.

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

Wow, this is a hard one because I’m looking right now at so many good books and authors I’ve read on my shelves trying to choose. J. K. Rowling is obvious. I actually first read the Harry Potter series as an adult because I was so obsessed with horse books as a child that I didn’t read much else. I remember admiring her when I first learned her story because she clung to her love of writing despite so many challenges, and, well, everyone knows how awesome the Harry Potter books are, so I don’t need to elaborate on those. I also admire Tite Kubo, the mangaka of Bleach, for his expert blending of plot and subplots, settings, characters, and backstories.

9. Why do you write?

I don’t know where I’d be without writing. It’s my special interest, my life. I write because I love it, because it’s therapeutic, because it gives me a sense of accomplishment, and just for fun.

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

Think of all the things you could write, then narrow those down to the things you would want to write, then write those. Sure, you could write anything whether you like the topic or genre/et cetera or not, but I believe it’s important to write what you love, because a writer is someone who writes, and it’s hard to keep doing something you don’t enjoy.

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

Dozens, haha. Pretty much all YA paranormal and fantasy romance. I definitely need to finish the last book in my published series, Post Worlds, about an Egyptian-goddess descendant who finds love with a boxer despite supernatural challenges prying them apart. I would also like to complete a science-fiction book one day, but mostly I’ve just been working on those scattered YA ideas.

Collected Poems Volume 1 by Peter Riley (Shearsman Books)

Excellent review of an excellent poet.

Tears in the Fence

Peter Riley’s two volumes of Collected Poems weighs in at about 1200 pages and they need to be reviewed. There is no way that a short piece here can do justice to the wealth of this work and so I shall write three or four reviews covering the chronological development of a poet whose voice is a labour of “calm close attention” (‘All Saints’, a short prose piece from the opening section of Volume 1, pieces written in London between 1962 and 1965). When I gave a Paper at a Conference in Birkbeck devoted to Riley’s work I focused on his editing of the magazine Collection. The Paper was written up for PN Review 207, some six years ago and it began rather mischievously. Now that we can see more fully the quality of Riley’s early work from the Sixties I wish to repeat that mischief by…

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Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Alexis Rhone Fancher

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.

Fancher

Alexis Rhone Fancher

Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Rattle, Hobart, Verse Daily, Plume, Tinderbox, Diode, Nashville Review, Duende, Wide Awake, Poets of Los Angeles, and elsewhere. Her books include: How I Lost My Virginity to Michael Cohen & other heart stab poems (Sybaritic Press, 2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies (KYSO FLASH Press, 2015), Enter Here (KYSO FLASH Press, 2017), and Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), the story of her first, disastrous marriage. Her photographs have been published worldwide, including the covers of Witness, Nerve Cowboy, Chiron Review, Heyday, and Pithead Chapel. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. She lives with her husband on the cliffs of San Pedro, California, a sleepy beach town 20 miles from her former digs in downtown L.A.  http://www.alexisrhonefancher.com

Links to purchase her books on Amazon:

Junkie Wife- (https://www.amazon.com/Junkie-Wife-Alexis-Rhone-Fancher/dp/0997483741/)

Enter Here (https://www.amazon.com/Enter-Here-Alexis-Rhone-Fancher/dp/0986270377/)

State of Grace (https://www.amazon.com/State-Grace-Alexis-Rhone-Fancher/dp/0986270326/)

How I lost my Virginity to Michael Cohen and Other Heart Stab Poems (https://www.amazon.com/How-Lost-Virginity-Michael-Cohen/dp/1495123197/)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alexis.fancher

Website: http://www.alexisrhonefancher.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write?

I’ve written poetry since childhood. It has always been my passion and my form of choice.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My father. My first poems were nursery rhymes he read to me. Additionally, there was always music in our home; my father had a beautiful singing voice. He taught me the lyrics to popular musicals, Gilbert & Sullivan, folk songs, and rock and roll. He took me to the opera, to see West Side Story, and to hear Johnny Cash live. I inherited his voice and love of music. We often harmonized together. Music may well be a gateway drug to poetry.

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

I never felt “dominated” only inspired. Maybe I got lucky. As an “outsider poet” (no MFA or PhD in Poetry – I have a BFA in Theatre, with an Emphasis in Acting from UCSB), I had the usual literature classes in high school and college, read Sappho, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Eliot, Dickinson, Millay, Sexton, Plath, Houseman, etc.. But by majoring in Theatre, I ended up finding my own path to poetry, reading poets I discovered through friends or in bookstores or in workshops. I studied for five years with the great poet/teacher/mentor Jack Grapes, and he turned me on to everyone from Catullus to Frank O’Hara, Marie Howe, Dorianne Laux, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I’m a creature of habit. Up every morning at 5:30 am. A 10-minute meditation, then a fresh-brewed mug of French Roast coffee, and I’m at my computer, writing, by 6 am. I write for a minimum of four hours. Often longer.

5. What motivates you to write?

Writing is my purest form of communication. I cannot not write. It’s like breathing; it’s how I process. I consider myself a storyteller, and most often those stories are about my life. Writing poems is like a second chance – an opportunity to go back into my life and explore it, from the point of view of time and distance. I like to think my readers find something of value in what I discover – a shared moment, a memory, a feeling of oneness in our alienating world.

6. What is your work ethic?

My motto is: “Ass In Chair.” (Stolen from prolific author, Nora Roberts.) I write seven days a week. A minimum of four hours a day. Then I switch to editing. I have several clients whom I work with. After that, I like to read. I also submit my work for publication on a weekly basis, often daily. It’s a numbers game.

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

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Coney Island of The Mind was a huge influence on me as a young teen. I carried that book with me everywhere! But I read mostly novels, one writer leading me to another; Henry Miller to Anais Nin, Laurence Durrell to Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, like that. I fell in love with John Fowles, and Isaac Dinesen. And Truman Capote, and John Kennedy Toole. I read five novels a week on average, for decades. Not to mention poetry and plays and philosophy! I was insatiable. These writers shaped my worldview. And it was wide. And sexy. Nothing was off limits. I credit my parents for that freedom.

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

I’m a big fan of the American novelists, like Lauren Groff. I adore Ann Patchett and Donna Tartt. All three weave a fabulous tale. Poets? Michelle Bitting, author of Broken Kingdom, and The Couple Who Fell To Earth,” is not only a great poet who mines her life, popular culture, and mythology for material, but a close friend. Her work is brilliant. Dorianne Laux is a favorite of mine as well. She showed me what was possible in poetry when I first started writing seriously, back in 2012.

9. Why do you write?

I write because I have to. Writing is hard, lonely work. Excruciating and exacting. And these days, mostly unpaid. Why would anyone want that job if they had a choice? That said, except for my marriage, it is the thing in life that gives me the most joy.

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

I would say “read.” Write every day. Edit. Edit. Edit.

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

I’m editing my third, full-length collection, which will be ready for submission this spring. The Dead Kid Poems, my follow up chapbook to State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies (KYSO Flash Press, 2015), will be published in March of 2019, and a New & Selected volume is due out in 2019 from New York Quarterly. I’ll be doing a number of readings, including one with great poets Kim Dower and Francesca Bell, in June at Beyond Baroque. Check my website, http://www.alexisrhonefancher.com  for details and updates on my whereabouts. You never know where I might turn up.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Gary Glauber

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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Gary Glauber

is a poet, fiction writer, teacher, and former music journalist. His works have received multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. He champions the underdog to the melodic rhythms of obscure power pop. His two collections, Small Consolations (Aldrich Press) and Worth the Candle (Five Oaks Press), and a chapbook, Memory Marries Desire (Finishing Line Press), are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from the publishers.

Here is a link to his Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Gary-Glauber/e/B012BMLL3E/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

The Interview
1. What inspires you to keep writing poetry?

A noble insanity compels me to continue this difficult quest even when only a dedicated few may wind up reading (or less, if it never gets published).  There is an inherent love of language, of the vocable tradition, of storytelling, and flashes of confidence and intelligence that are my pilot lights even during long winter nights when the elusive poetic muse has absconded. I cannot help but write, and for the past several years, poetry has been the medium of choice. I read and write, experience the tragedy and comedy that life has to offer, and must at times remind myself that creativity is its own reward. The odds are long, longer, and longer yet. But this is not a numbers game. Bask in the good life of this semi-obscurity; it does not last forever.

2. Who first introduced you to poetry?

Sounds like a criminal interrogation here.  Who was it?  Come on, name names. Was it that Dr. Seuss guy, Hugh Prather, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Bukowski, Catullus, Wordsworth, Shelley, Dorothy Parker, Ogden Nash, Browning, Tennyson, Ginsberg, Hopkins, Shakespeare?  ‘Fess up, boy.  We can find out. Well there is a picture of me as a toddler carrying a copy of R.L. Stevenson’s A Childhood Garden of Verses – so that might have been my first literal introduction. However, my existence is forever intermingled with popular music – so lyrics were my poetry long before any real academic how-do-you-dos. Truth: every time I read something new, I am hoping to be re-introduced all over again.

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

I am a teacher, so such domination is inescapable (and at times, most welcome). In any five-day poetry forecast, there’s always a front of past older poets approaching (some causing greater storms than others).  Some provide inspiration, or perhaps stylistic challenges. For instance, this past April I wrote something on this hypothetical premise: what would Gerard Manley Hopkins have written if his obsession was graffiti artists. Let those who came before help guide you on your own path of words and phrases (and see if it will indeed make all the difference).

4. What is your daily writing routine?

During the school year, it is extremely hard to keep to any daily writing practice. Instead, the poetry builds up inside until such time as I have to make time, discover the magic of creation anew, and of course then follow through with edits, revisions, and the oft-lengthy process of submitting and re-submitting. I try to challenge myself to send new work out for submission at all times and always to read more than I could ever write. I am fortunate to teach literature to others, so I am living in the world of words and thoughts always.

5. What motivates you to write?

An innate desire to tell stories and an ego that sometimes convinces me they are worth sharing with others.

6. What is your work ethic?

Learn from others always – challenge yourself to try new things in your writing – never settle for less – believe what resonates from the criticism and praise you might accrue along the journey – and listen carefully to what those voices in your head are saying.  Trust them – they might be muses.

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

That is hard to ascertain. I still read as much as I can, for no influence is wasted — and the more you experience, the better your own writing will be. I try to revisit my favorite writers when time allows.

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

There are too many to list here, but I will state why I admire them.  Many of them are brutally honest and unafraid, and can find ways to convey humor and humanity through powerful and playful communication. Poetry is the new journalism. We can relate the world’s problems through beautiful precise language – and perhaps get closer to understanding this life through discovering solutions that first untie us, then unite us.

9. Why do you write?

It is not a conscious choice – it is what I have always done – non-fiction, short stories, poetry, playwriting, songwriting, and more – there is no why.  Writing lets me slay the inner demons, explore the fantastical notions, show aspects that might remain hidden otherwise, and play. I experiment, I grow, I incorporate, I create.  It’s a coping strategy to educate, entertain, interpret and translate. It’s a means of survival. I like to write; I have to write. It is who I am.

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

You write. If you have to ask that question, perhaps you are not cut out for this. It’s a process. Read always, write, edit, never give up on yourself. Remember that every rejection brings you closer to the next acceptance. Work hard and be lucky. Enjoy!

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

Currently, I am assembling my next full-length collection, hoping to find a press that believes in my particular brand of expression. The years have been kind and I am still growing and learning as a poet. Recently, I crossed the threshold of having my 400th published poem. That’s a good start. I remain eager for what comes next.

 

 

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Hannah Brockbank

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.
9781910834640

Hannah Brockbank

is published in a variety of journals, magazines and anthologies including: When Women Waken journal, The London Magazine, Envoi, Sarasvati, Atrium, and Raving Beauties (ed.) Hallelujah for 50ft Women anthology (Bloodaxe), Chalk Poets anthology (Winchester Poetry Festival, 2016). Her debut pamphlet, Bloodlines is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing. She is studying for a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester.

The Interview
1. What inspired you to write poetry?

Poetry grew out of a period of grief, isolation, and silence. I started writing for a short amount of time every day and I cherished those moments of focus and expression. It felt as if I’d found my voice again and could be heard, even though no one read it. It provided a great deal of solace. I started reading poetry too and I was curious to learn more about it.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My first memory of poetry was a bright pink paperback copy of John Betjeman’s Collected Poems that my mother had on her bookcase. My mother started reading it to me after school. My favourite poem was ‘The Licorice Fields at Pontefract’, particularly the lines, ‘And held in brown arms strong and bare/And wound with flaming ropes of hair.’ I wanted to have ‘flaming ropes of hair’ more than anything. At the time my hair was a shortish mass of dark curls and not rope-like in the slightest.

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

As a child, I was more aware of male poets, but as I got older and went through the school system, I encountered more women poets, but there was an imbalance. It was only when I did my undergraduate English degree at the University of Chichester, that I really got a good and broad exposure to poetry.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

It’s rather chaotic, but as a general rule, I try and write for two hours a day or night. I’m a terrible insomniac, so I have to be flexible about when I write and when I rest.
Up until recently, my writing place was at the kitchen table because I felt I could still be part of the family environment and needed to be accessible, particularly when the children were very young. Now they are older, we’ve built a writing shed in the garden which the children call ‘Narnia’. It’s where I disappear to.

5. What motivates you to write?

Pleasure is the main reason we should write, in my opinion. There are of course, many moments of frustration when things are difficult to express, or I can’t find the right words, but overall, creative writing nourishes me.
I’ve started writing more critical pieces as a result of my Ph.D.’s accompanying study on matrifocal narratives. The driving force for me, is the possibility of promoting other maternal voices and creating awareness for positive social change.

6. What is your work ethic?

I have a strong desire to work hard and I often don’t get the balance right. I’ve realised that it’s very important to allow life in and not always be sat in front of my laptop. I make sure I include other creatively nourishing activities into my day. I’m fond of painting, gardening, yoga, walking, and crochet. In fact, I’ve made stacks of crochet blankets over the last couple of years. They are incredibly relaxing to make, and I often devise poems whilst working on them. I think the process of making one, dispels excess energy and focuses my mind.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I’ve realised that I have an urge to self-censor my writing. Reading poets like Sharon Olds and Vicki Feaver gave me a sense of permission, so I now feel braver to write about life as I find it.

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

If I had to narrow it down to poets only, I would choose: Vicki Feaver, Robin Robertson, Margaret Atwood, Les Murray, Stephanie Norgate, Elizabeth Bishop, Sujata Bhatt, Mimi Khalvati, Anne-Marie Fyfe, Selima Hill, and Medbh McGuckian, but there are many more I admire too. I think the ability to write a good poem is an admirable quality in itself – it’s certainly not an easy thing to do.
I think with all these poets, it’s their fine ability to distil emotion so skilfully that I admire the most.

9. Why do you write?

The feeling of pleasure I previously spoke about, plus the opportunity writing gives me to explore human nature and my own sense of place. I’m intrigued by that.

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

Becoming a writer evolved organically for me and I imagine that is a fairly common experience. I think it begins through a strong curiosity for our environment, the people around us, and the language we use. Our experience and the need to pay witness to it, is what compels us to write.
Of course, deciding to write and then make it public through publishing it, is another thing altogether, and it’s worth noting that writing for the self is a fine and laudable pursuit too. If the drive is there to make public and publish, then it’s always wise to seek advice and educate oneself, so what you write is as polished as possible.

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

Currently, my main focus is writing the accompanying study to my Ph.D., and also, polishing my new collection of poetry about my experience of mothering. The collection includes themes of pre and postnatal physical and psychological transformation. I will then look for someone to publish it.