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.
 

 

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