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.
is a freelance writer, arts consultant and lecturer based in West Yorkshire. She has published a pamphlet: Slug Language (Happenstance) and two collections of poetry: Talking with the Dead and Painting the Spiral Staircase (Cinnamon Press 2014, 2016) and written for/edited a collection of creative non-fiction: Some Girls’ Mothers (Route, 2012). She is currently working on a new collection of prose poetry and editing an anthology of writers from the UK in this genre, which will be published by Valley Press in 2019, funded by the Arts Council. As well as tutoring for the Open University’s MA in creative writing, Anne is studying for a PhD at the University of Bolton. Her research has prose poetry and the idea of North as its focus and she has a strong interest in identity, place writing and eco-poetics. She is also part of a five-year, international prose poetry project co-ordinated by the University of Canberra.
1. What inspired you to write poetry
I have always written, from being a child. I had a brilliant junior school teacher called Mrs Bestwick who got her class to write poems every day. Isn’t it strange how you can always remember a good teacher’s name! In later life, I think going to the University of East Anglia as an undergraduate was very inspiring when it came to writing.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
The teacher above, who I have already mentioned, and then at University I met and worked with Fleur Adcock, Hugo Williams and Margaret Atwood and other visiting poets. What a brilliant group of writers to be in contact with at such a formative age!
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
When I left UEA I did not write for over two years because my head was so full of other voices. It took me until I turned 40 and did an MA in poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, to begin to gain enough confidence to send out work and get published. My mother had died, and I just thought, come on, Anne, you have always wanted to take writing more seriously. Time is running out. Now is your chance.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I don’t have a daily routine, but I do write on a regular basis with a writing friend and another group of two poets. These workshop meetings give me deadlines to produce material and fresh inspiration. I am also part of an on- line prose poetry project run by the University of Canberra. This is a group of over 30 international writers sharing work often on a daily basis via a group email and has proved really fruitful. IPSI – https://www.axonjournal.com.au/issue-c1/prose-poetry-project
5. What motivates you to write?
Often the usual big poetry themes – love, sex, death and our relationship with the environment around us. However, my next manuscript has been inspired by a sense of place and the politics of identity. I have written a new collection of prose poetry on the theme of ‘The North’, and it is currently with a publisher. I think I am using writing to try and make sense of the world, voice opinions, and delve beneath the surface to see what is concerning me, beyond the conscious mind. I am also increasingly writing about environmental issues. This has always been a strand in my writing but now feels very urgent indeed. I often think of the image of poets like canaries in a mine when it comes to voicing ideas and issues that need to be spoken about.
6. What is your work ethic?
I seem to have inherited a rather puritanical work ethic from my parents, – Scottish Presbyterian and Lancashire Baptists – so I have always got too many projects on the go. I am trying to address this at the moment, but it is very ingrained!
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I have gone back and re-read a lot of my early influences recently, such as Ted Hughes, the Bronte sisters and modern American poets such as William Carlos Williams. I think they still influence how I shape poetry, cut out wordiness, try not to be pretentious or flowery and concentrate on good craftsmanship.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
My son gave me Ocean Vuong’s collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds for Christmas this year. I love the confidence and wide-ranging subject matter of this book. I have also been editing a new collection of prose poetry for Valley Press, alongside Oz Hardwick. So, I have been reading a huge wealth of writers working with this genre. The process of editing has given me a real insight into a new bunch of talented writers. (https://prose-poetry.uk/events). The anthology will be out in the summer, and features writers like Carrie Etter, Helen Mort, Luke Kennard and Simon Armitage as well as newer voices.
9. Why do you write?
What a difficult question to answer! I think it feels like a useful emotional safety valve. I always feel much better after having written.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I think I had not realised when I was younger that connections with other writers would be so important, and that a sense of a community is needed to give you the confidence to begin to call yourself a writer. It is not something you can do in isolation, even if the act of writing is a solitary one.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I have already mentioned the Prose Poetry project, which is funded through the Arts Council. We are launching the new Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry in July 2019, and other writers are very welcome to come to the Leeds Trinity symposium and launch. https://prose-poetry.uk/events
I am also working with Hoots, an organisation based in Huddersfield, who work with people with mental health issues. I have just started a writing/visual arts project exploring with a writing group, the wonderful Ted Hughes archive at the University of Huddersfield. Visual artist Sally Barker and I are working towards an on-line gallery of participant’s work and exhibition later this year.
Personally, I am doing a PhD in creative writing, focussing on the prose poem. I am about half way through, so I am writing creatively and critically for this doctorate. It is the most sustained piece of research and writing I have done, and is exciting, exhausting and challenging all at the same time!
Twitter: @UkProse and @caldwell_anne