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.
poetry has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, performing her poetry widely. In 2014 she published her first pamphlet Taking Responsibility for the Moon with Mudfog Press. Her first novel Vermin was published by Flambard in 2000. Her second novel Controlling Aphrodite was shortlisted for the Virginia Prize 2009. Her third novel The Kiss is published on kindle. She has previously produced two poetic sequences, Flight Path and The Fibonacci Sequence. She is a featured poet in 2018 collection by six women poets Vindication (Arachne Press). She has worked in mental health and community education, including teaching creative writing.
- What inspired you to write poetry?
Something in my DNA, I think! I’ve been writing almost as long as I can remember. I wanted to express myself as a teenager and I loved words. My brother inspired me to write my first full poem when I was stuck on a homework exercise. It was about a river. I discovered I liked the process.
- Who introduced you to poetry?
Teachers. Especially a funny little man (one of only two male teachers in an all-girls’ school) who was new and took some of the literature lessons when I was sixteen…I discovered a passion for the expressed word – Owen, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Auden, Eliot… Prior to that I’d been an avid novel-reader.
- How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I think I had a prejudicial yawn against pre-twentieth century poets…I wanted avant-garde, post-modern, crazy, rebellious voices…So, yes, I was aware of them, but I think I should have kept a more open mind before casting them to the wind. Unfortunately I associated Coleridge with dreary rows of wooden desks with ink wells and few windows (early grammar school). You can only grow your mind if you keep it open.
- What is your daily writing routine?
Ha! At one stage (luxury!) I was writing between 9 to 1pm most days of the week, then lunch and walking. But of course, like many people, I had to earn a living. So I fit my writing in on those special days available to me, and the rest of the time I do whatever I can to earn a crust.
- What motivates you to write?
My favourite question…because this is the spring barrel of what makes me tick! I have to write. Like breathing. It reminds me of who I am and of my humanity. I love the process. There is nothing more satisfying or peaceful than having passed a couple of hours in a creative zone. It is satisfying to stir around in all that dross inside yourself and arrange it into words, ideas and a poem or story in a way that you didn’t even know was there! Also, it’s a way of processing all that anger about the inequalities and wrongs in the world around us, with a hope that a poem might just touch someone else to want to do something positive about it. But maybe that’s too much to wish for…
- What is your work ethic?
To write about the world, but not to libel anyone. To tell the truth, but in creative ways. Never to write about real people without their knowledge (so, actually, never…) though that’s not to say I don’t write in composites. To write about the world in a literary way, so it’s Art and to be enjoyed as Art. Never to let my writing get in the way of caring about the people I love around me, i.e. if someone needs me, I’m there for them.
- How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
They influence me all the time, and I still go back to them. Wilfred Owen for speaking out against the horror of war, Eliot for challenging how poetry and ideas are expressed, Auden for his dogged philosophy. And many others, I absorbed via osmosis and I carry them in my heart.
- Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Difficult because there are so many. Alice Oswald and the late Mary Oliver. Graham Mort. Billy Collins has to be one of my favourites because of his casual style. I love the American poets from that point of view. The informality. The way something can be expressed in a personal, accessible way and yet refer to something in the classics, and have those layers. They’re warm and they touch you. So important in a poem, I think. And yet they turn things on their head.
- Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
It gives me “Me time”. It’s almost a meditation, but you are creating something and you’re giving vent, even to something soft and non-aggressive like love. It’s a time to enjoy, to feel at peace, to remind yourself you’re human. It’s quality time. But I think it has to be done in balance with the rest of your life. People are important to me as well.
- What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
That is so tricky! Because, when does someone become a writer? Many of us are writers at heart. For many of us the writing process is vital to who we are. I was born a writer. But I have not made a living out of writing. I haven’t paid the mortgage by it. I have published and still publish, but if someone wants to become a professional writer who wants to be able to pay for the beans on toast by it, I would say that you have to be prepared to do all those business things that creative people very often prefer to steer away from – social media, networking, pitching, developing a writing platform, readings, etc , etc. All those things which draw you away from that valuable writing time. On top, I think you have to be prepared to do those periphery jobs, too, which actually are very enjoyable in their own right, i.e. writing workshops, teaching, mentoring, copywriting, editing, proofreading (if you can get it – it’s competitive), apply for residencies, join NAWE. And keep your fingers crossed! Also, you need dedication and persistence – it ain’t going to happen overnight, No, Sir!
- Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
Well, I’m trying to bring herbs into the twenty-first century by writing poems about them! So it’s a pretty bonkers project. I love the way good writers layer centuries of history in with modern concepts, and this is what I’m trying to do with herbs. They have been used as cures, as salves, in folklore and in myth for as long as civilisation has existed, and yet they are almost forgotten, except for the odd bit of basil on the marguerita. So I’m writing a series of poems which combines today with old concepts of cure. I’d like to find a wacky illustrator to provide some herbal illustrations, rather in the mode of William Blake Songs of Innocence and Experience!!
Otherwise, I’m writing a few poems imbued which gentle woodland philosophy…who knows which forest path that will go along? Oh, and possibly a novel in the offing…