Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Graham Norman

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.

POE SIE flyer[18445]

Graham Norman

After a career in Local Government as a chartered surveyor he retired in 2008 and pursued his lifelong interest in writing taking a higher national certificate in creative writing at Leicester University and an M A in Creative Writing at De Montfort University. He has written poetry for the last 20 years and it remains his first love. Now, he writes short stories, plays, essays, travel writing and blogs. He writes of man the animal, the evolved primate. His roots are deep in the good earth of science and the rational world and he strives to draw up truth to the airy branches of public perception where it may burst into the leaf and flower of poetic enlightenment. He really means this but lest he sound too pretentious, let him add that he writes with humour and satire sitting by him on the park bench. In no contradiction of his faith in Charles Darwin, he is a Christian in the Church of England and writer the poetry of the Passion as willingly as the poetry of Evolution.

He was chair of the Leicester Poetry Society from 2007 to 2009 and was a regular at Word! Leicester’s famous open mic event until he moved to Southampton in 2013.

He likes to share his ideas and skills and  lead poetry workshops and has given talks to a number of social groups.

He was a panellist on the forum discussion ‘Page v Stage’ at the Lyric Lounge in 2009

The Interview

  1. What inspired you to write poetry?

More a ‘who’ than a ‘what’. Miss Rosevere my English and Latin teacher in sixth form, 1965, challenged our class to write a sonnet. Despite plagiarising Homer, ‘wine dark sea’, I wrote a passably good one which she got me to read out in class. The two drugs of praise and performance were then in my bloodstream.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My father, school and my curiosity. In my teens I discovered Robert Graves autobiography, Goodbye to All That, which led me on to his poetry and The White Goddess. Wilfred Owen and T S Eliot followed. I was daunted by their technical skill and had little confidence in my own writing as a result. I wrote for myself in my twenties and gave up in despair by the age of thirty. Funny that I have always considered my vocation is to be a poet!

I started writing again in 1998, humorous verse to amuse my work colleagues. The drug addiction kicked in and I was soon being asked to write and perform for special work occasions, leaving dos, Christmas parties, Carol Services etc. At the same time, I was going on long weekend walks in the Leicestershire countryside and composing perambulations and reflections. In 1998 I joined the Leicester Poetry Society and put my work forward for scrutiny by peers. I survived that! When I retired in 2008 I decided to study Creative Writing and achieved an MA in 2012, with a poetry collection, Swerve. Thank you, Dr Kathy Bell of de Montfort University for making me jump higher and higher hurdles!

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

Dead poets have been a huge influence: John Donne, John Keats, Emily Dickinson, John Clare, Robert Graves, T S Eliot, Sylvia Plath to name some favourite companions. I am an older poet aged seventy and three quarters – not a dominating presence though.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have one. I write when the poem jumps out of the bushes and startles me. I write when life let’s me. I write when I am commissioned to write. I write when the withdrawal symptoms become so painful that I need a hit of poetry and nothIng else will do.

5. What motivates you to write?

Mortality, the state of the world, curiosity, conversations with God and Charles Darwin, being alive.

6. What is your work ethic?

I have, by accident of upbringing and personality, been at service more than self seeking and have always enjoyed hard physical work and found mental effort easy and rewarding. I follow a Benedictine rule of life which balances physical labour, spiritual endeavour, service to family, friends and society, cemented with love. Poetry is the word of God. Luckily, she’s a lazy cow who gives herself duvet days and not just on Sundays either.

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

I am beyond influence but open to persuasion.

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

How many poetry writers are there in the world today? Too many to read, that’s for sure. I don’t find admiration comes easily to me, preferring the companionate equality of travellers on the dusty road. We meet, walk a while, part, slip back into our quiet thoughts. I think that admiring and being admired is a rather juvenile thing that I’ve grown out of. If I had to name someone it would be George Szirtes, a Facebook friend whom I bought a pint for about ten years ago. He doesn’t know that I admire him.

9. Why do you write?

Bad question, but here’s an answer.

Drift mine

This eye that is the outside;

this mind that toils at rock face,

lusts for the golden seam.

The adit, though, elides

open day, its gleam.

These hands that scrabble, break nails,

not to escape, but take,

should stop, ease and release their pick,

drop, pause to balm that face

with a dry wash of unrequited palm.

then fingers turn their tips,

unpocket pencil, poise,

feel, though blind to light,

the upland breeze, scented,

soft on those sullen lips;

sneer, if you must, but write

what you have seized, here,

inside the mine and out.

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

If you have to ask the question you are probably not a writer. On the other hand I might pass on the joke:

The maestro was racing up New York’s Seventh Avenue to a rehearsal, when a stranger stopped him. “Pardon me,” he said, “can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Yes,” answered the maestro. “Practice, practice, practice.”

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

I am currently completing a set of poems for performance in a meditation experience called POESIE. It’s a reflection on Genesis.POE SIE flyer[18445]

I am developing (slowly) a self-publishing venture with my friend Trevor Amos – https://writerunlocked.co.uk we intend to publish more work in 2019, in my case two novels already written, a play, and several collections of poetry.

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