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.
Lianne is a spoken word poet from North Wales who is fearless in tackling an eclectic mix of subjects, from the size of men’s waists to the degradation of women in the porn industry; there is no subject out of bounds. Whatever subject matter she takes her pen to, she does so with heart, truth, unapologetic wit, astute observational humour and a rawness that draws you in and binds you to her words…
Lianne was born and raised in North Wales by her single parent mother. As
the eldest of five children, she knows the hardship of being last in the bath on
bath night and the delights of corporation pop and sandwich paste butties.
Growing up on a council estate saw her embrace the calamity of a working
class upbringing, which armed her with the wit, passion and grittiness that she
brings to her writing. She writes with a strong working-class voice that proudly
resonates with audiences because of its astute emotional intelligence and a moving authenticity that people cannot help but connect with.
As well as being a writer and spoken word artist, Lianne is a qualified post
compulsory English teacher and she is currently studying an MA in Writing at
Liverpool John Moore’s University. But before any of that, Lianne is a mum. As a mother of four children, ranging from stroppy teen to tantrum throwing five year old, her experiences feature vividly in her work with a brutal honesty about the moments of triumph and disaster in being mum (and she is confident that there is always far more of the latter). Her honesty about motherhood gives hope to mothers everywhere that they’re not the only ones who have thought about running away at least a hundred times before breakfast. Lianne is currently working on a vibrant collection of contemporary, rhythmic poetry about pregnancy, motherhood, relationships after children and losing yourself in the madness of motherhood. It is raw, funny and often heart wrenching. It is impossible not to relate to the emotions it conveys. Lianne is aiming to complete this collection by the end of 2019.
Lianne is also currently working on a moving collection of memoirs interlaced with rhythmic poetry about her working-class childhood. It is emotionally charged with moments of drama, chaos, pain and laughter. This collection will near completion at the beginning of 2020.
Lianne writes memoirs and evocative traditional poetry laced with imagery and the ability to transport the senses, but she truly comes into her own when performing her almost lyrical, rhythmic spoken word poetry where her frank realism and often dark humour cuts to the core, emotionally shocks and inspires empowerment in equal measures. Since starting her spoken word journey Lianne has gathered a following after her many appearances at Voicebox – Spoken Word where she has performed on open mic alongside poets such as Sabrina Benhaim, Rudy Francisco and the formerYoung People’s Poet Laureate for Wales 2013-2016, Martin Daws. To watch some of Lianne’s performances you can find her on YouTube -https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=lianne+futia
or visit her website where there are also links to her social media.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
In truth, I can’t really answer that because I have been writing poetry since I was about ten years old, maybe younger, and I don’t remember how or why or where it came from, it just happened. I wonder if we had perhaps looked at poetry in school, though I can’t recall if that was the case. I don’t really even remember the first poem I wrote, but once I started it became my safe place if things were tough in life. These days I write poetry because it is intrinsic to my existence, it is instinctive, a compulsion if you like. It’s still my safe place, but also my happy place these days.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
Again, much like the first response, I don’t really recall who first introduced me to it in my younger days, but I suspect it was probably following a task in primary school. I do recall reading Maya Angelou’s poetry later on in high school and feeling something stir deep within; an instant connection with the rhythm of it and the strong, female voice that bellowed from it and after that I started to write a lot more. Come to think of it there was also the poetry of T.S Eliot during my A levels, which spoke to me in a way that I had never felt before. It made me look at life beyond the surface level of things and showed me there was a more abstract way to navigate the world, people and feelings.
I stopped writing for a while when my children were very young because having had the first three children within three years of each other my focus in life shifted solely onto their care. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was losing a little of who I was by ignoring that inner call to write and there was a growing void in my life. Then my art teacher from high school found some of my poetry when she was clearing her belongings from the school in preparation for her retirement. She kept hold of it for a while and then around two years ago she took the trouble of returning it to me. I had left it at the school around sixteen years earlier and forgotten it even existed. When she returned it to me, I read it over and over and then there was a strange moment of clarity; poetry was what I had always loved, and its absence was the growing void, the emptiness. And so, I began to write again, with a fierceness that I’d never had before. As corny as it may sound, I felt the pieces of me slowly come back together. So, I suppose she re-introduced me to poetry and I’ll be ever grateful to her for that.
Not long after I started writing again, I also started going to Voicebox – Spoken Word in Wrexham and reading my poetry on open mic. The first time was nerve wracking, but I think I was so elated to find my way back to writing that I felt it was a case of all or nothing, and I am so glad I did. Voicebox has been an amazing part of my life ever since and I have met some amazing creatives and have a place where my writing can come alive to an immediate audience, which has helped me find my place in the world of poetry – as a spoken word writer/performer. So, all in all I suppose my art teacher bringing back my poems reignited something and inspired me to start writing again, and the people I have met at Voicebox inspire me to continue.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Aside from those I‘ve already mentioned, I wasn’t aware of older poets at all when I was really young and starting to write poetry. Poetry wasn’t something that played a part in my family life growing up. In fact, nobody I knew wrote, read or had any interest in poetry, so apart from what I read in school I had no knowledge of other poets. These days I have a keen interest in the work of Sylvia Plath because its energy and conviction is like a visual representation of the madness, imagination, brilliance and chaos of every writers’ mind, in my opinion anyway.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
As a mother of four and currently studying an MA I don’t really have a daily writing routine as such because life is often rather demanding, so I have to work around many commitments. However, I do try to write something, even if it’s just two sentences, every day. It’s not something I can sit and force though, it just happens when an idea starts to germinate, or feelings niggle away at me, which is usually when I’m too busy to sit and write or when my hands are in the sink washing dishes. When that happens, I either scribble it on anything to hand or I grab my phone and quickly record those thoughts, words, rhymes, whatever it is that’s festering in me. I return to those scribbles and recordings as soon as I can to try to make them into something tangible, if I can. Often, they don’t become more than a collection of abstract, fragmented ideas, but there’s always the chance that they could become something wonderful one day, so I try to never let even the smallest flicker of an idea escape me. I suppose I am ever writing in my head, always.
5. What motivates you to write?
Those niggles that I mentioned in the previous answer, they motivate me. Well, motivate is the wrong choice of word really, they force me, compel me to write. It’s like an itch that I have to scratch, or it won’t go away. I suppose that sounds negative, it isn’t meant to be. It’s just something that I can’t ignore, it’s in me and has been since I can remember. I must write it or those tiny thoughts and tiny feelings bubble away and become uncomfortable. I don’t write for money (though of course it would be nice) and I don’t write because I necessarily want my work to be read or published (though again that would be bloody amazing). I write because I don’t know what else to do with the words that pop into my head at 3am. I write because writing is my place of belonging and the thing that keeps the pieces of me together.
6. What is your work ethic?
I have a very strong work ethic. Growing up as the eldest of five in a single parent family with very little money, I decided very early on in life that I wanted to work my way out of the benefits system and make my mum proud (bless me), so I have studied none stop since. As I mentioned, I’m currently studying my MA at the moment and it’s quite possible that I may continue onto a doctorate after that, but please don’t tell my husband as he’s had to put up with my high stress levels enough while I have been studying the MA and the PGCE I did two years prior.
I think having children has also strengthened my work ethic because I want my children to see that hard work, resilience and passion can achieve things, and if nothing else can give you a sense of purpose. They watch me during times of stress when I have deadlines to meet, they hear me rehearsing for performances in the distance, and sometimes mum is too busy to spend time with them, but they also know that mum is working hard to follow my heart and dreams, which is something I can only hope that they do too, that’s why I work hard.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I have already mentioned Maya Angelou, but to answer this question I need to mention her again because it is her rhythm that sticks with me the most from the things I read in youth. Perhaps it is the reason that when I write I have a natural tendency towards rhythmic forms. I remember reading her poem Phenomenal Woman for the first time as a teen and feeling the beat of it moving through me for days after. Now in my own writing I don’t begin a poem with a fixed form or rhythm in mind, but it seems to organically develop anyway, and I can’t help but think that comes from the influence of Angelou’s poetry. It feels natural to write with rhythm and rhyme and I think this works really well for me given that I write predominantly for spoken word performance, which lends itself to rhythm.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I’m a big fan of Holly McNish. She writes with a lightness of touch that is both humorous and moving at the same time. I suppose it has that relatable nature to it. Likewise, Cat Moran is one of my favourites too. Like McNish, she is witty and raw, which is something that I aim for in my own writing.
I also enjoy the work of Kate Tempest, Margaret Atwood, and Jeanette Winterson, the list could go on, there are too many to mention. They are all very different writers, but the one thing they have in common is the strong female perspective, which I admire and aspire to.
9. Why do you write?
I write for the same reason that I eat or breathe, because I have to. That’s a pretty dramatic answer, but in truth writing really is something that I need in order to exist as a complete, functioning person. During those years that I didn’t write, as I spoke of earlier, I was incomplete, an emptiness was swallowing me. So, in order to avoid being sucked into that void, to keep the pieces of me together, I need to write. And it’s fun, albeit sometimes a lonely, self-indulgent pursuit.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I’m not sure, I’ll tell you when I’ve earned that title. No seriously, that’s a difficult one for me to answer because I am divided in my own thoughts about “becoming” a writer. If by writer you are talking about a career, I don’t feel I can call myself a writer yet because I’m not published, I’m not well known, I’m not making a living from it, so I can’t offer advice on it as a career. But, I suppose if you want to make a living from writing then like any other profession, you must learn your craft either through self-study, a course, a writing group perhaps, you must practice enough to make mistakes and discover your strengths, and then you must keep going, keep writing, work hard. Be resilient and enjoy it.
However, and this is where I struggle, if you mean writer in terms of it being part of you that compels you to take pen to page, then I don’t think you “become” a writer; you are either born to it, or you’re not. If you’re not though, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It’s like singing, some people are born with a raw talent and others refine what voice they have because they want it badly enough. Writing is the same and if you want it badly enough keep at it, but don’t forget to enjoy the process too.
11.Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I am currently working on a collection of memoirs interlaced with contemporary poetry. It is about my working-class upbringing, which was sometimes turbulent, chaotic, traumatic even at times, but it was wonderful none the less. My memoirs will be raw, unapologetically honest and sprinkled with humour and sadness in equal measure. The work will celebrate the working-class voice, female strength and the ability to rise triumphantly from the dirt that life sometimes tries to bury you under. It is called Shaping the Cloth; Memoirs of the Madness that Made Me and I am aiming for its completion by the beginning of 2020.
I am also working on a collection of contemporary poems about pregnancy, motherhood and relationships after children because after having four of my own, I feel I am well placed to navigate my way through those experiences. It is poignantly personal, but it will resonate with women (and men) everywhere and like my memoirs it is raw, heartfelt, witty and will be written in my distinct rhythmic style. The collection is called A Mother Was Born.
I am always working on new material for spoken word events and in 2019 I will be performing at Focus Wales Festival for the second year running. I will also be popping up at various other events throughout 2019, which you can find details on by visiting my webpage http://www.liannefutiapoet.com or you can find me, Lianne Futia, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.