Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Hiram Larew

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.


Hiram Larew

According to Oregon State University

“Distinguished” agricultural scientist, Dr. Larew is an accomplished and decorated poet.

From a recent interview with Grace Cavalieri,host of “The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress”, she provides a synopsis of his work as follows: “Hiram Larew’s poetry has appeared in more than 100 journals and books such as Rhino, Ars Poetica, Poet’s Corner, and Innisfree. His poems have received numerous awards, including three Pushcart nominations and first prizes from Louisiana Literature, the Washington Review, and Baltimore’s ArtScape festival.””

Link to Podcast “The Poet and the Poem” from the Library of Congress hosted by Grace Cavalieri:

His fourth collection, a chapbook titled Undone, was published in 2018 by FootHills Publishing. He has written and revised poetry while at the Weymouth Center in North Carolina, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Rope Walk, the Catskills Poetry Conference, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and he has organized a number of poetry events that feature the diversity of voices in the greater D.C. area.  He is a member of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Poetry Board, and his poetry papers are held in the Washington Writers’ Archive at George Washington University’s Gelman Library.”

He is on Facebook at Hiram Larew, Poet and Poetry X Hunger

The Interview

  1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

In so many ways, I started writing poetry tomorrow. What I mean by that is that each time I begin to write a poem, the terrain ahead feels wholly new, untamed, a wilderness. Surely, I use tools that I’ve used over the years.   And, the internal motivation is a constant – to discover.

But, in so many respects, I’m a poetry first-grader. Tomorrow’s poem will re-teach me to write.

Rarely is the outcome or ending of a piece known at its outset or middle. I may begin with a phrase, a blink or a twist. But soon enough, the path becomes paths or meandering streams. All too quickly, I’m not so much in control as I am a hostage to the piece’s will. Pacing, tone, rhymes – even the structure – are all unknown, often daunting, at a poem’s start.

So, truly, with each piece, I’m a beginner.

Time being the wonderful critic that it is, I set pieces aside for a while to make sure that my initial compositional burst of warm enthusiasm seems worthwhile in later’s calm, cooler mode.

As mentioned, over the years, I’m in love with poetry for discovery.   If, as a result of encountering a poem – someone else’s or mine – I’m changed even a smidgen, then yes, my partnership with poetry becomes that much more fulfilling.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My paternal grandmother wrote poetry and shared her work with me when I was a kid.

3. How aware were and are you of the dominating presence of older poets? Many of the poets who came before are ever-present in my work. For example, I’ve said that if I could just be one of Emily’s dashes, I’d be happy. I tend to especially enjoy those poets who wrote poems that nearly sing with sound, and those who, by their work, showed me what is possible in poetry with unexpected loops, leaps and twists.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I tend to write before heading to bed. Or when I’m on a subway (I live in Maryland, outside of Washington, DC.) Or, when (if I’m so lucky) I’m in Ireland!

5. What motivates you to write? Coffee. Surprises. Walking at night. Hearing a wonderful speech or sermon. And, broad vista landscapes.

6. What is your work ethic? Now that I’m retired, I work on those things that make me grin. These include not only writing poetry, but reading it, sharing it, commenting on it, and organizing activities around it. Of late, I’ve launched Poetry X Hunger (on Facebook) to advocate for poetry that responds to the scourge of hunger in the U.S. and around the world.   And, to increase the visibility of poetry, I developed the Poetry Poster Project that displays poetry by a diversity of wonderful nearby poets as framed artwork.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today? Poets who blazed trails by leaping from a stanza here to a stanza way over there showed me early on how poetry can, in fact, connect disparates, and as a result, surprise with amazingly powerful insights. Poets who suggest of imply, rather than lead or declare have also left their mark on me.

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

As an active listener, I thoroughly enjoy hearing poets read their work – online or in person. And so, some of those who I admire most are those who contribute to community-based readings or showcases.  Rick Lupert comes to mind. I also admire news accounts, thoughtful radio programs such as On Being, and compelling histories and biographies as they all provide important prompts.

9. Why do you write?

I write to ask questions. Not so much to answer them, but to ask them.

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

The fundamental question is Why should I become a writer? If the answer compels you with insistence, then the How do I become a writer? will pretty much follow.   And, by watching, listening to and learning from other writers, most aspiring writers will find their own path.

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

In recent months, I’ve been teased by a strong sense of gratitude. And so, while not deliberately working on pieces themed to gratefulness, I’m freely allowing expressions of gratitude to pop up in my work with the notion that a collection of such grins might one day result.

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