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.
Benjamin Guilfoyle: The Woolly Hat Poet
is a woolly hat wearing performance poet. His unique brand of wonderfully warm, woolly and often silly words has seen him headline poetry nights all across the North of England. His poetry covers all bases from ‘loud cinema eaters’ to the life teachings of his hero, Mr Brian Blessed. He has two poetry publications; ‘Level Up’ from 2015 and his first poetry collection ‘Please insert disk 2’ from 2019.
Benjamin loves nothing more than to perform his poetry to a live audience and in 2019 is taking his poetry on the road with ‘The Wandering Poet Tour’. The tour will be to raise money for the Lancaster Homeless Shelter and the Lancaster Children’s Library. Benjamin will walk from Lancaster to Brighouse performing poetry in twelve towns along the way with support from local poets and performers.
As part of his other poetry projects in 2019 Benjamin is working with the Morecambe Exchange to make a short film from one of his poems all about ‘Pilates’. He is also animating some poetry with the help of Cumbrian animator Hannah Fox.
In 2018 Benjamin entered his first poetry slam and became the Morecambe Fringe Festival slam champion which was a lovely surprise as he doesn’t usually go in for poetry competitions.
He is also a primary school teacher specialising in the early years.
- When and why did you start writing poetry?
I have always loved words, rhythm and rhyme. My mum used to read me and my sister poetry and heavily rhythmic books when I was very young so I think I always had an ear for patterns, sounds and rhythm.
When I was in college, many moons ago when Eminem was big, me and my mate Steve made a pact to be the world’s next big rap superstars. That was obviously a terrible idea as we were, or at least I was, the nerdiest, goofy looking ‘wanna be’ type kid. Kind of like the kid in the ‘Pretty Fly for a White Guy’ video by The Offspring. Steve was way cooler than me. He had a rap name and everything. He was called ‘MC Heat’. I regret nothing. We had an insane amount of fun.
When I moved to Lancaster in 2014 to pursue a career in teaching I was taken to an open mic night in town and that’s where I saw proper performance poets for the first time and I kind of fell in love with what I saw and heard. Until then I’d never thought of poetry as something that could be so hip and funky. I remember thinking to myself “I can do that”. So I went home and wrote a poem. I took it along to the next open mic night and read it off of A4 paper. I was terrified. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking, but people clapped. I went home and wrote more.
I fell in love with poetry and since then it has gotten out of control.
2. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?
I was very aware that there were other poets on the scene. I was also aware that nearly every other poet had a lot more experience than I had. It was pretty daunting at first to try and get up onstage with people who had been performing a lot longer than I had but I use every performance, whether I’m watching or performing, as an opportunity to learn from other performers. I always find things that I like in other performances and watching and talking to other poets has helped me to grow as a writer and a performer. I still have lots to learn.
I thinks that’s my favourite thing about poetry now, it’s that anything goes. If you want to perform it and you enjoy it then good for you. Poetry is a different beast for different people and no two poets are the same. The fact that performers will to take to the stage and read their own thoughts and feelings in front of strangers is one of the bravest things anyone can do.
So, as for a dominating presence, um, I wouldn’t say it was dominating, I just had to be brave and use every opportunity to learn how to shape my writing and performance.
3. What is your daily writing routine?
I don’t have one. I don’t have time fit a writing routine into my daily life. I’m a teacher. I’m too busy. I just write when I have something to write about. I often carry ideas and words in my head for ages and eventually I find the time and words to make something out of it. I try to write from a place of happiness. I look out for the small things in life that people might gloss over in their everyday life. My emotions occasionally play a part in my writing but I also want my poems to entertain so I try to think about things that people can relate to as well
4. What motivates you to write?
I am motivated by lots of things. I think the main themes I keep returning to are childhood, growing up and having courage. I like to write about nature as well. I quite often draw on my personal experiences from the past and use elements of those experiences to write poems that have a narrative. But on the other hand I have written a poem called ’12th Century Shower Scene’ which is all about that scene in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves where Kevin Costner is completely ‘starkers’ under a water fall so I’ll write about anything.
Songs. I’ll also take inspiration from songs. The words of Ben Folds have been a huge influence in my writing.
5. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I have inherited a love for rhythm and rhyme from the poems and books I read and was read as a child. The copy of ‘Noisy Poems’ – collected by Jill Bennett and Nick Sharratt – in our house had worn out pages. The first rhyme in the book rhymes Dorchester with orchestra and the book just gets better and better from there. There is also ‘Song of the train’ by David McCord in there and when read it has the rhythm of a train and you feel like you are the train. It’s superb. Repetitive, but for a young child it really is excellent writing. We read lots of A.A. Milne poems and I think they have been a huge influence on me with regard to adding a narrative in to my poems. Books like Hairy MacLary and the Shirley Hughes poems and her ‘Alfie’ stories were also read a lot.
I have my mum to thank for all that.
6. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I feel as a poet I really should know more modern poets than I do. I’m pretty useless in that regard. There are poets that I have met and seen perform and they have really blown me away with the energy and passion that they bring to the stage. That’s what I love the most. Energy and passion and to see the performer believing in what they are saying. Of poets that I have either seen perform or have had the opportunity to know in some fashion I would say my favourite poets are Dominic Berry, Alex Slater, Rosie Fleeshman and ‘Th’Owd Chap’ George Melling. But really, I admire anyone who will get up on stage and perform their own work and for me that’s the beauty of poetry these days. There is so much great poetry out there. Some I will like and some I won’t but I admire anyone who will read their own work.
7. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
Poetry was, when I first started writing properly, really a place where I could empty my head and try and make some sort of sense of life at a time when I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I had just moved to Lancaster and left all my friends and the majority of my family back in Yorkshire. Poetry helped me to get my thoughts out and keep me sane. To a point I still use poetry in much the same way. I sometimes find in conversations I am stuck for the right words or I feel I should be able to talk about things much more eloquently than I actually do. Poetry gives me the chance to take my time and find the right words to get my point across. I wouldn’t say I do it as opposed to anything else. I’m never bored and always have little projects going on and poetry has just become one of my many hobbies that I am lucky enough to be able to share with people.
8. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Just start writing and don’t care about if it’s good or not. Just write. Probably about something you’re interested in at first and eventually you will find a writing style and themes that suit you. Every writer is different and that’s what’s so exciting. Every writer will do work that is fantastic and every writer will write pieces that are absolutely rubbish. Don’t be afraid of feedback. If it’s negative then it’s constructive. Use it to learn and develop your writing. Don’t share writing that you aren’t happy sharing. Just write and write and write. And read. You’ve got to be a reader if you want to be a writer.
9. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I am currently preparing for my first poetry tour which will commence on 21/5/19. The tour is called ‘The Wandering Poet Tour’ and is in aid of two local charities; the Lancaster and District Homeless Action Service and the Lancaster Children’s Library. The tour will see me walking 110+ miles from Lancaster to my hometown of Brighouse in West Yorkshire. I will be passing through Garstang, Preston, Wigan, Bolton, Prestwich, Salford, Oldham, Littleborough, Hebden Bridge, Halifax and finally Brighouse. I will be performing each night with support from poets local to each area. Because the tour is in aid of the homeless shelter I will have no place to stay. I will just rely on the kindness of my audiences to put me up for the night or risk becoming homeless myself. More information on the tour can be found at the Woolly Hat Poems Facebook page -> facebook/woollyhatpoems
I am also working on my first poetry collection. ‘Please insert disk 2’ is comprised of 42 poems with themes of childhood, love, happiness and survival. It is very close to completion and I am having to be careful not to rush in the final stages. I will be posting more about my collection in the very near future on the Woolly Hat Poems Facebook page.
Full tour dates and venues:
Lancaster – The Gregson Community Arts Centre – 21/5/19 – 7PM
Garstang – Garstang Library – 22/5/19 – 7PM
Preston – Vinyl Tap – 23/5/19 – 7PM
Wigan – The Old Courts – 24/5/19 – 7PM
Bolton – Bolton Library – 25/5/19 – 2PM
Prestwich – Prestwich Library – 26/5/19 – 1PM
Salford – The Eagle Inn – 27/5/19 – 7PM
Oldham – Oldham Library – 28/5/19 – 7PM
Littleborough – Ebor Studio & Gallery Frank – 29/5/19 – 7PM
Hebden Bridge – Nelson’s Wine Bar – 30/5/19 – 9PM
Halifax – The Book Corner – 31/5/19 – 7PM
Brighouse – St Martin’s Church – 1/6/19 – 7PM
The poet is available for interview.
Available on request OR Attached to this email
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org // Phone: 07792660866 or 01524 752837 // Twitter: @woollyhatpoems