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 poet and musician born in New York but a long term resident of Devon. He has had work published in numerous magazines journals and online ‘zines (including Acumen, Atrium, Avis, Caught By The River, Clear Poetry, The Clearing, Ink Sweat & Tears, The High Window, Popshot, Prole, Reach; amongst many others) and featured on The Poetry Society website.
His chapbook A Fright Of Jays (Maquette Press 2015) was reviewed as “Beautifully crafted poems that sing in the dark of darkness” (Canto Reviews); and “Stories of moonlight and wildlife in the strange small wildernesses of the South West” (Ink Sweat and Tears).
A full collection
Hide Songs’ was published in August 2018 by Green Bottle Press and a further full collection ‘The Tin Lodes’ written collaboratively with well known poet (and Exeter University professor) Andy Brown is currently with publishers, hopefully for release later this year.
Marc is also a remarkable musician. His CD Bluemando is highly recommended.
- What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?
I’ve been writing poetry on and off since I was a child. I recall writing a poem at primary school, aged maybe 7 or 8, which the teacher was very enthusiastic about, and thinking ‘this is it, this is my thing – I’m going to be a poet!’ It was the first thing I ever wanted to be. I didn’t know then that it wasn’t really a career option!
- Who introduced you to poetry?
Hard to say. My father wrote poetry although more satirical verse really, which he used to have published in She (the woman’s magazine) and other journals. I think I picked up on it at school and just ‘got it’.
- How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I was into Blake as a child (The Tyger of course, what kid doesn’t love that?), the whole Songs of Innocence and Experience. Then later A E Housman, Larkin, Betjeman, Edward Thomas, and the War Poets – all fairly straightforward poets that we got presented with at school I suppose. Milton and Shakespeare obviously.
- What is your daily writing routine?
I don’t really have a routine. However I do believe you have to have time alone, which for those who hold down day jobs or have family commitments can be hard. I’ve always found long solo car journeys – with the radio off of course – to be useful times to mull things over.
- What motivates you to write?
Sometimes it’s seeing or hearing something I feel I should write about but mostly it’s just things that jump into my head – often as a response to a visual stimulus from the natural world and a creative process starts to occur.
- What is your work ethic?
I don’t have a structured one. I don’t really force myself to write although if I’m working on a specific project I’ll become quite obsessive about it. I’m certainly not a writer who diligently bangs out so many words a day. I’ll go for periods where I don’t write anything but hopefully the reservoir is gradually refilling during these times. Also I feel it’s important to get out and live – talk to people, do things, and if in the back of your mind there’s a little curator making notes then I believe that’s the truest way to find poetry.
- How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I was taken with Larkin when I was in my teens – not so much his cynicism- although that always seemed so English and relatable – but his attention to structure and form, craft if you like. I still pay attention to that, too much perhaps and more so than many other contemporary writers. It’s a habit I’m working on breaking…
Edward Thomas looms large too.
- Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I read quite widely. Some poets I enjoy for exactly the opposite reason that I enjoy others. For example I admire structure and form but I enjoy reading free verse too.
But to answer the question, recent favourites have included Wendell Berry (he’s still alive so I think it counts!) because he speaks to me of issues I feel connected too; Billy Collins for his lovely light touch, Gillian Clarke for her rural themes and sense of craft, John Burnside for beauty and tautness.
I also enjoyed Sarah Howe’s Loop of Jade and thought the high profile debate about it unfair; and Kayo Chingonyi’s excellent collection Kumukanda for its musicality and voice.
Also my friend Andy Brown’s (professor of English and Creative Writing at Exeter Uni) various collections – most recently Blood Lines. As well as being a truly excellent poet, Andy should also get a mention as a mentor – he’s been a generous, reliable (and occasionally brutal) second opinion and kindly edited/published my Fright of Jays pamphlet.
- Why do you write?
This is one of those questions where I should answer flippantly with ‘I just do’ or similar. In truth I love the idea of creating something beautiful that goes beyond the self. I love it when I start out with an idea and the end result is something altogether different – when the poem takes on a life of its own.
- What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Write. Then read and write some more. Then throw it away, read some more – from a range of places – then write again. Repeat.
Think about who you are, what you want to say, how you’d like to say it. Then ask yourself why would anyone be interested? Ultimately I believe you need to be making a connection.
- Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I went to California last October to take up a two week writing residency working on a project looking at the USA/UK relationship. I was born in New York, my English parents were living there in the 50s and 60s, and I’m exploring their relationship with the US as well. At least that’s the idea but it’s still a work in progress.
I’m also writing a little portfolio of poems dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. I was diagnosed as being in the early stages of this illness a couple of years ago – which came as a shock as well as a wake up call to make each day count. I think perhaps the art with writing about such matters is to avoid self-pitying or mawkishness and find a way of stepping out of yourself. Find a way of communicating so that it connects with the widest cross section of people.
But perhaps that’s true for all poetry?