Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Claire Trevien

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.


Claire Trevien

Trévien is an Anglo-Breton author. Born in Brittany in 1985, she has resided in the UK for nearly two decades and performed her work internationally, from South Africa to New Orleans. She is the author of  the pamphlet Low-Tide Lottery (Salt, 2011), and two collections The Shipwrecked House (https://www.clairetrevien.co.uk/books) (Penned in the Margins, 2013), and Astéronymes (Penned in the Margins, 2016). She was a module leader on LCCM’s Creative and Professional Writing degree. She has now moved back to her native Brittany.

Most recently, she was commissioned by the Museum of Oxford to create digital poetry-postcards of the city, interviewing its citizens and creating film poems from them.

The Shipwrecked House was longlisted in the Guardian First Book Award and highly commended in the Forward Prizes. It was co-commissioned as a one-woman show by Ledbury Festival and supported thanks to Arts Council Funding. It toured the UK in , reviews of the show can be found here. (https://www.clairetrevien.co.uk/events–workshops)

Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications including POETRY (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/57492/the-evening-after), The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Magma, Under the Radar, Poetry Salzburg, The Forward Book of Poetry 2014 and Best British Poetry 2012. She recently won third place in the 2018 Verve Poetry Competition with her poem ‘Brain as City.

She founded Sabotage Reviews, co-edited Verse Kraken, and co-organized Penning Perfumes. She co-edited with Gareth Prior Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History. She was Annexe Magazine’s poetry editor in 2015.

In November 2013, she was the Poetry School’s first digital Poet-in-Residence.

Claire is available for manuscript feedback, workshops and mentoring (details here, (https://www.clairetrevien.co.uk/workshops-and-mentoring)

Click here for Claire’s academic website.

Click here for Claire’s marketing website
‘Luminous, tender, and frightfully emotionally accurate, Trévien will be a household and classroom name in years to come’, Abriana Jetté.

The Interview

1.       What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I started focusing on poetry – like many writers I was first an avid reader, and writing happened organically over a period of some years. I started getting more serious about in the sixth form, but in a terribly emo way. I would scribble lines on notes, then scrunch them up and leave them on the classroom floor in the hopes of it being ‘discovered’ (thankfully they weren’t). I also found myself an online community in the form of a message board, where I posted poems and learned to give feedback on other people’s work. It was a really formative experience, marred unfortunately by a predatorial older man whose influence I fell under for a number of years. Whilst I wish the psychological damage hadn’t occurred, I do still have fond memories of that community

2.       Who introduced you to poetry?

School did! I grew up in France and learning poetry by heart to recite in front of the classroom was a standard thing. I discovered one of my favourite poems that way, including Rimbaud’s ‘Ma Bohème’.

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

If you mean in the current scene – I think it took me some years to understand the structure of the poetry world – it felt quite impenetrable and intimidating for some time.

4.       What is your daily writing routine?

Inconsistent. I do go through periods where it’s more structured, but if I’m honest it tends to be more of a “ok, this poem is interrupting other stuff in my life, going to have to stop and pay attention to it” situation.

5.       What motivates you to write?

Anger. An unhealthy obsession with replaying the past. Whimsy. Playfulness.

6.       What is your work ethic?

Depends for which kind of work you mean. I am trying to move towards a better work balance – I have tried this for some years unsuccessfully, so we will see if it ever happens. I define myself too much by how useful I am to others, and that’s not healthy, because you can’t put your value in the hands of other people. So you could say my work ethic is going through a process of transition.

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

The decadent poets will always have some pull on me I think – reciting their poems embedded their metrical music into my veins.

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

I admire so many poets, so it’s difficult to narrow that down. I’m going to take this space to recommend someone your readers might not have heard of. Her name is Vangile Gantsho, I met her in South Africa a few years ago, she is a phenomenal poet and has also co-founded a new pan-African feminist press called impepho press. As she puts it in this interview, (http://bookslive.co.za/blog/2018/08/23/we-are-seeing-that-there-is-more-to-poetry-than-the-dead-white-men-of-high-school-textbooks-a-qa-with-poet-and-cultural-activist-vangile-gantsho/)

“you have to knock, or break the doors down yourself.”

Two of their titles, including Vangile’s stunning red cotton can be ordered to Europe through the African Books Collective website (http://www.africanbookscollective.com/publishers/impepho-press). The UK poetry scene is still blinkered geographically – it’s great to see more USA writers getting coverage in the UK but there’s so much more out there, and poets like Vangile

9.       Why do you write?

Anger. An unhealthy obsession with replaying the past. Whimsy. Playfulness.

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

Read read read until you get a notion of what kind of writer you want to be. Accept that ‘becoming’ a writer isn’t a tidy diploma but an ongoing process.

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

My next poetry pamphlet ‘Brain Fugue’ will be published by Verve Poetry Press in February 2019 – it is open for pre-orders now. (https://vervepoetrypress.com/product/claire-trevien-brain-fugue-pre-order-free-uk-pp/)

I am also collaborating with Tori Truslow (who I also run writing retreats with (https://www.clairetrevien.co.uk/writing-retreat)) on a poetry/art book revolving around maligned animals.

One thought on “Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Claire Trevien

  1. Pingback: Wombwell Rainbow compliments red cotton – impepho press

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