Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Chris Hemingway

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.

Party in the diaryhouse final

Chris Hemingway

is a poet and songwriter from Gloucestershire. His previous books include Cigarettes and Daffodils, and The Future. Chris helps with the organisation of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and the Gloucestershire Writers’ Network. He was once described in Bristol’s Venue magazine as “suffering from hip Sunday school teacher with guitar syndrome”, but that was probably just because of the spectacles…

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

Lyrics and lyricists, specifically hearing “I am the Walrus” and “Life on Mars”, and reading Bob Dylan’s “Tarantula”, all at about age 15.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

So following on from this, it may well have been reading the NME, and Charles Shaar Murray’s illustrated record bios of The Beatles and Bowie (12 inch square books, including reproduction sleeves).  I passed up on English Literature at school, picking technical drawing instead, so I don’t have any formal education in poetry (I haven’t drawn any bolts since 1978 either).

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

Ha, that sounds like a loaded question !  Not so much about age, but I know there’s a poetry establishment, and I’m guessing I’m not that good a fit for it.

4. What is your daily writing routine

I’d very much like to have a regular writing routine….I’ve got a full time job (working in finance and statistics) and have a teenage daughter, so need to fit my writing round these priorities !  I can start off poems in my head (and edit them to an extent), so getting them written down takes up less time.  I find walking and swimming good for starting up writing, and I do have routines for these.

5. What motivates you to write?

I think it’s to be able to articulate something (an idea, feeling or memory) concisely, and hopefully to do so in an original way.  That’s something  I value.  This question also made me think of a Michael Palin interview, where he suggested part of what drove Monty Python was the idea that if they wrote about something, they wouldn’t become it !

6. What is your work ethic?

I like to act on ideas, and see them through.  I’m not a dedicated editor though, I get impatient to move onto the next thing.

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

The writers I was reading (or watching, or listening to) when I was between 14 and 23 definitely influenced me most intensely, and probably continue to do so.  I think the main things I’ve kept with me from these artists are a sense that writing should take the reader to a particular point/ moment, a sympathy and curiosity for outsiders, and that writing can be visual.

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

Probably Simon Armitage, for the range he writes about, and how much ground he can cover in a single poem, and also writers like Anna Saunders, Kate Garrett and Stephen Daniels, for the way they seem able  to really inhabit their poetry.

And outside of poetry, David Peace and Nick Cave, for sheer genius !

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

I like the immediacy of writing (that’s why I’m not a novelist), and the simplicity of using words (I’m also a musician, but not a prolific one).  I invest a lot in my parenting and day job roles, so prioritising writing can only be for specific occasions !

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

That if you’ve started and finished a piece of writing, then you’re a writer. But not to limit yourself to particular forms, or subject matter.  Also, that although you’ll have a good sense about what works and what doesn’t, try and get feedback, from friends, local writing groups, writing classes or workshops.  At that point I’d probably plug the groups I’m involved with  locally, (Gloucestershire Writers Network, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, New Bohemians@Charlton Kings ) and also the Squiffy Gnu poetry Prompt Group, which is on Facebook, so potentially international..


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

I’ve had a pamphlet (“Party in the Diaryhouse”) recently published by Picaroon Poetry, so I’m promoting this (including readings in Worcester, Bristol, Cheltenham and Sheffield coming up, but I’m keen to do more !), and also developing my website.  I’m completing  and sorting poems for my second pamphlet, as well as regularly writing and (fairly) regularly submitting material for magazines and journals.  More links below

Thank you Paul, I’ve enjoyed doing this !

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