Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Andy Armitage

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.

andy armitage

Andy Armitage

is a poet and editor from Leeds, West Yorkshire. His first book, ‘Letters to a First Love from the Future’ was published by Half Moon Books in 2018.

Andy won First Place in the Leeds Museum Poetry Competition (2017),  was Highly Commended in the York Literature Festival Competition (2018) and Commended in the Elmet Poetry Prize (2018).

His website is: www.andyarmitage.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I kept on reading poems that had a powerful affect on me. I could see how some of these poems seemed to work and poems seemed like quite simple things, made up of so few lines on the page and I thought – I bet I can do that. I just started by imitating other poets. It’s like watching a great footballer and then kicking a football. You understand what can be done you just have to work out how.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I remember reading Keats and Shakespeare as a teenager but struggling with the language and getting frustrated I couldn’t understand everything. I was more into song lyrics, which seemed less pretentious at the time.  When I went to university and learned some strategies for reading poems I was hooked quite quickly.

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

I don’t feel that this is a problem. Earlier poets are there to show how to write great poems (or how not to) and to inspire rather than oppress. I rarely read a poem and think ‘I could never write as well as that’; more often I think ‘I want to write as well as that’.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I’m not a morning person but I usually write first thing in the morning for an hour before I’m dressed as it’s the best time to catch myself off guard and get past the censors.

5. What motivates you to write?

I enjoy the feeling when something I write surprises me. It feels as though I’ve made a discovery about myself, or about whatever I’ve been writing about, that I would not have made without the poem – it’s like a gift.

6. What is your work ethic?

I try and write an hour a day. If I have an idea that’s exciting me then I think about it and make notes all day and return to it on an evening.

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

W. B. Yeats and Ted Hughes have had a tremendous influence on my writing and on my understanding of what makes a great poem. But whenever I encounter a new poem that interests and surprises me, my idea of what makes a great poem evolves.

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

David Constantine would be the poet I most admire, if only for his first book ‘A Brightness to Cast Shadows’ which is a masterclass in lyrical Romanticism. Of the emerging poets coming through, I really admire Tom Weir who has such a delicate control of language and of images and ideas; his poetry illuminates the most ordinary objects and events.

8. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I like the egalitarian nature of writing. You don’t need any specialist equipment, you don’t need a race car, you don’t need a guitar and an amplifier, you just need a pencil and paper.

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

You just write. When you stop, you stop being a writer – so just keep writing as often as you can manage. To be a good writer you also need to read other poets.

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

I’m still promoting my first book ‘Letters to a First Love from the Future’ a sequence of poems that came out last year with Half Moon Books. I’m not writing new poems about love or any theme in particular. The last thing I wrote was about the Yorkshire Ripper.

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