Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Spangle McQueen

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.


Spangle McQueen

is a happy grandma and hopeful poet living in Sheffield. She is proud and grateful to have work accepted and/or published by Three Drops Press; Picaroon; Lonesome October Lit; Bonnie’s Crew; Burning House Press; Dwell Collective Zine; Strix; Awkward Mermaid; I am not a Silent Poet; The Writers’ Café; Foxglove Journal and Sad Girl Review.


The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I have written poetry sporadically since my teenage years, but my recent inspiration is my gorgeous friend Liz Ferrets, who sadly left us too soon in 2016. I became inspired by her energy in writing and performing poetry before I realised she knew she had limited time to get her words out there. I loved drinking tea, talking life, the universe, parallel universes, people, music and poetry with her. I miss our conversations. It was Liz who encouraged me to submit my work and whenever I get a piece accepted I give my thanks to her. You can check her out on Liz Ferrets Poems on Facebook or on I am not a Silent Poet. Her beautifully haunting poem Moon on the Water was published at Three Drops from a Cauldron – https://threedropspoetry.co.uk/2015/10/31/moon-on-the-water-by-liz-ferrets

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I guess I was introduced to poetry by my estranged biological father. I remember having a battered Faber anthology he had given me – a thick book with a yellow cover stuck together with brown tape gaffer tape. I randomly remember it contained The Jumblies and Kubla Khan. However, I’m sure before I owned this book my mum would have taught me all the nursery rhymes …as I now see her teaching my grandchildren…so I’m going to say my mum, my mum introduced me to poetry!

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

I had quite an old-school grammar school education and I also studied Classics so some of my favourite works were very old! I think what I was conscious of was the male dominance in poetry and I used to seek out women writers. I still do.

Nowadays, I’m aware that I am an older presence among the poets who I read and watch perform and engage with on social media. I love their energy and vibrancy. I wish I’d started out younger…but as I Iearnt from Liz, it’s all about seizing the moment.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I have ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) which means I am constantly ‘running on empty’ and I suffer with ‘brainfog’ so many of my days are spent sleeping and doing nothing or very little. So, much as I’d love a daily writing routine and it’s my goal to have one, I accept that I just write bits and bobs when I can. It’s hugely frustrating. A silver lining is that I rarely have the concentration to read novels like I used to, so I get to read lots more poetry and keep in touch with other writers online.

5. What motivates you to write?

Emotions, quite often anger at social injustices. Before I got ill my work involved helping women in the criminal justice system – one of the most disadvantaged and stigmatised groups in this country. I desperately miss being able to work with and support people and advocate for them so I think I channel some of that into my writing.

6. What is your work ethic?

I no longer have a strong work ethic. I do what I can when I can. Maybe that is an ethic?

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

I think everything I ever read and loved (and hated) is under my skin somewhere.

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

Alice Walker – for her writing and her activism. Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful was my favourite poetry book for a long time as a young woman.

And there are lots of other contemporary poets I admire – Fleur Adcock, Joolz Denby, Kate Tempest, Carol Ann Duffy, Patti Smith, Kate Garrett, Serin Thomasin, Amy Kinsman, Alan Summers, Amee Nassrene Broumand, Kate Dlugosz, Salena Godden, Reuben Woolley, Rachel Bower, Hollie McNish, Simon Armitage, Jane Burn, Karissa Lang, Paul Waring, Mike Garry, Richard C. Bower, Nico Solheim-Davidson, Wren Tuatha …..ad infin. All awesome in their own unique way.

9. Why do you write?

I write to put words on paper – or nowadays on screen or in a cloud. I write to express myself and speak out for others.

My admiration for Liz Ferrets grew from seeing her perform her work and I became aware of other great contemporary performance poets. The punk poets were very influential for me … I remember seeing Joolz Denby in the early 80’s and being awestruck by her power. More recently Salena Godden had that effect on me. I envy these performance poets but I am not a performer and so up til now haven’t written for my words to be spoken aloud. I’m trying to get the courage together to read somewhere publicly, In Sheffield we have great nights such as Verse Matters and Gorilla Poetry and I attend when I can and listen. I’m trying to challenge myself to write something with a view to an open mic slot but not quite got the nerve yet!

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

I’m not even sure I am ‘a writer’ yet. Apart from the obvious answer of ‘just write’ I would say take advantage of the communities online and in-real life. Submit to journals that you love or read at poetry nights that inspire you.

The internet and modern technology has made it so much easier to become involved in the world of writing poetry and to find a place in a community of like-minded people. This has been especially vital for me as someone who is chronically ill and often housebound.

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

I’m trying to write a series of poems about ‘the last woman executed in [insert country]’.
I am very anti the death penalty. It scares me not only that countries still use the death penalty but also the reasons why it is used. I am currently watching the media for news about Israa al-Ghomgham, a Shia human rights activist for whom Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty even though charges she faces relate to peaceful activism. I am praying that I never need to write one of these poems for her.

My other fledgling project is more personal. For my 50th birthday my friend Helen gave me a folder full of letters that I wrote to her in the early 80s when she was at uni in London and I was unhappy in Oxford. One of those letters and a photo of me at the time is about to be published in Sad Girl Review’s The Handwritten Issue. I want to write some poems in response to that ‘sad girl’ and let her know that it turns out OK.

Thank you for asking this question and reminding me I have poems to think about!

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