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.
lives in Belfast with her husband, daughter and dog. In October 2018, she had a micro pamphlet, ‘Circling the Sun’, published by Hedgehog Poetry Press. Gaynor has also had work published in various journals and anthologies in the UK, Ireland and America. She is now working towards her first full poetry collection with the support of a grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
1. What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?
I’m a very late starter. I left school at 17 and went straight into employment in an administrative role. I undertook a diploma in administrative management in my early twenties. At 24 myself and my husband project managed the building of our own house. I had my daughter when I was 30. When she started nursery school, I took a career break and had a go at renovating a house. When I went back to work, I also started a night class studying Psychology. I still spend four days a week working in an office as a manager of a small team. When I turned forty, I decided to do a degree with the open university. I signed up to a broad humanities degree and went through it picking modules that appealed to me. They included: Children’s Literature; Myth in the Greek and Roman Worlds, World Archaeology and Reading and Studying Literature. I wanted to end with a module for pleasure and kept Creative Writing as my final module in 2015/16. To prepare, I enrolled for some poetry workshops and that’s where it all started. As you’ve seen from the list above, I jump about from project to project, so I was worried that my writing might just be a temporary thing, but it seems to have stuck and over the last couple of years I’ve been setting writing objectives to keep me learning and progressing.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I grew up in a working-class family. There were no poetry books in our house, actually there were very few books at all. The Belfast Telegraph was delivered every evening for my Dad. So, school played a big part in my introduction to poetry. I became a school librarian and that gave me easy access to whatever I wanted to read. Of course, that was limited and was mainly canonical.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I don’t think I’d really thought about it until I joined the organisation Women Aloud NI. Founded towards the end of 2015, by Jane Talbot, its main objective is to raise the profile of the womens’ writing scene and to give female writers a platform to showcase their work. It was then that I became aware of the dominating presence of male poets. The recent Cambridge Companion of Irish Poets instigated another debate around the need for a more representative gender balance. I also think there are many experienced poets around who want to help emerging poets out. I’m very grateful to Moyra Donaldson for her encouragement and support. She has passed some great opportunities my way and is always willing to offer advice and guidance.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I know I should have one but, unfortunately, I don’t. Like lots of writers I struggle with juggling work, family commitments, social commitments and finding time to write. Sometimes I find deadlines a great motivator and I attend a writing group fortnightly which I try and take new work to. I do carry a notebook about for whenever inspiration might strike, and I use notes on my mobile phone if I can’t get to a notebook. I find it very difficult to force myself to write. I’ve tried, and failed, to incorporate daily writing to my routine. Poems tend to present themselves to me when they are ready. By that, I don’t mean that they are fully formed but a first draft will sometimes be written in one sitting. Usually, the idea will have been in my head for a while before I have anything that I can put on paper. Sometimes this is a conscious process where I am aware that I’m thinking about it and will make mental notes of words and images and sometimes it is more covert.
5. What motivates you to write?
Deadlines and challenges. I love the pressure that they put you under to write something within a timeframe and/or about a specific topic. I still enjoy going to poetry workshops/classes as I usually come away with something to work on. In December of 2017 I subscribed to Hedgehog Poetry Press. The editor, Mark Davidson, has affectionately called it The Cult of the Spiny Hog. As part of the membership you get free entry to a number of competitions and he also provides challenges and inspiration. You can find out more about it here: https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/the-cult-of-the-spiny-hog/
I am also motivated by my past experiences and memories and I write about my family, past and present. I really appreciate when someone says that one of my poems has resonated with them. I feel very privileged to know that my words can have an impact on someone else.
6. What is your work ethic?
I feel that it’s important to give back to the community. I’ve been volunteering for the EastSide Arts Festival for the past five years. I’m on the committee of my local writing group. I have also been on the Non-executive Board of Women Aloud NI. In addition, I try to regularly attend the Purely Poetry Open Mic Nights at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast and to get to as many book launches and other literary events as possible.
For a long time my Twitter Bio read ‘part-time poet’ but I want to be considered as a professional poet now (even though I can’t afford to leave the day job). Just as I have annual objectives set for my administrative work, I set writing related goals for myself. I review these periodically and set new ones. This year I applied to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for a grant under the Support the Individual Artist Programme. I am very grateful to have received an award for mentoring and to allow me time to write poems for inclusion in my first full collection.
7. Why do you write?
For various reasons. Some of my poetry is about events, or individuals, that should have featured more prominently in the pages of history and I write their stories to give them a voice. For example, my first pamphlet, published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in October 2018, is about the early female pilots. These aviatrixes were courageous, progressive and self-assured. I felt that more people needed to know about some of their challenges, experiences and qualities. The micro collection is now available as a free download and can be found here: https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/product/stickleback-gaynor-kane-circling-the-sun-free-download/
My more personal poems have been written because I’ve found the process cathartic. Getting the thoughts and feelings on to the page has been a release and a way of working through the issue or experience.
8. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Write. Try to have a writing routine, though this is not essential. Jot down ideas for stories and poems and keep these organised and retrievable. Learn the rules but also know that the rules can be broken. Find a writing group, or group of trusted friends, to share your work with for constructive critique. Learn to listen to, and consider, the feedback offered.
It’s important to stimulate ideas and these can come from reading, walking, attending events, going to galleries and museums, watching documentaries and films. Reading is important, particularly critical reading and asking yourself why you like a specific piece of writing. Asking questions about the decisions the author/poet has taken. For example: What form has been used? What techniques work well? Why has the poet used the motifs and metaphors chosen?
9. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
At present I’m trying to complete my website, gaynorkane.com, so that readers have easier access to some of my poetry that’s scattered on various online journals but I’m finding it somewhat challenging. I’m hoping to publish a pamphlet of poems about death and funeral practices in 2019 and I need to finish writing and editing those before moving on to putting together my first full collection, which I would hope to have published in 2020 (the year I turn 50). I’ve been lucky enough to receive an Arts Council NI grant to allow me to go on writing retreats in 2019 in order to focus on writing lots of new work and to procure some mentoring to assist in the editing process. Here’s hoping it all works out…