Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Glen Wilson

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.

An Experience on the Tongue stacks-image-51d4405-794x1200

Glen Wilson
lives with his wife Rhonda and two children in Portadown, Co Armagh.  He is Worship Leader at St Mark’s Church of Ireland Portadown.  He studied English and Politics at Queens University Belfast and has a Post Grad Diploma in Journalism studies from the University of Ulster.
He was part of the Millennium Court Arts Centre Writers Group for over 5 years.
He has been widely published having work in The Honest Ulsterman, The Stony Thursday Book, Foliate Oak, Iota, the Interpreters House, Southword, The Ogham Stone, The Luxembourg Review, RAUM and The Incubator Journal amongst others.
In 2014 he won the Poetry Space competition and was shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize.
In 2015 he was shortlisted for the The Universal Human Rights Student Network (UHRSN) poetry award for his poem Show and Tell.

He was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2016 and The 2016 Wells Festival of Literature.

He won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2017 for his poem The Lotus Gait and the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award in 2018.

In 2018 He was shortlisted for the Mairtin Crawford Poetry Award and the Hungry Hill Poets Meet Politics Competition, Clodhorick Poetry Competition, Leeds Peace Poetry Prize, and was highly commended in the iYeats Poetry Competition.

In 2019 he won the Trim Poetry Competition, was shortlisted for the Strokestown international Poetry Competition, Doolin Writers Weekend and was highly commended in the Oliver Goldsmith Poetry Competition.

He has also been longlisted and commended in The National Poetry Competition, The Plough Prize, Segora Poetry Competition and the Welsh International Poetry Competition
His first collection of poetry ‘An Experience on the Tongue’ is available now with Doire Press.

 

http://www.doirepress.com
https://glenwilsonpoetry.wordpress.com/
Twitter @glenhswilson
glenhswilson@facebook.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’ve wanted to write ever since I was at Primary school and in poetry I found a form that to me offered both a succinct yet multi-layered way of writing, poetry has always felt like a natural fit.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My family are all voracious readers and we always had books from a wide range of genres in the house but I really focussed in on poetry in my last year of University when I took two creative writing modules in Poetry and prose with Glenn Patterson and Medbh McGuckian.

I learned a lot in that semester in particular and I feel that I bring a narrative element akin to short stories into my poetry. After university I became part of a writers group in the Millennium Courts Arts Centre in Portadown under Adrian Fox who I feel was responsible for challenging me to write better and better.  It was a great group of people who shared ideas and gave fantastic feedback.

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

Growing up in Northern Ireland I was always aware of Seamus Heaney and I love his work and we have a long history of great Irish poets, Yeats, Kavanagh, McMahon, Longley. However in recent years I have enjoyed finding out more about Irish woman writers who were underrepresented such as Eavan Boland and Edna O’Brien, there are a lot of great poets in recent years that are helping to redress this imbalance such as Moyra Donaldson, Breda wall Ryan, Amanda Bell, Annemarie Ní Churreáin and Jane Clarke.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I try to aim to write or edit a poem a day, I’ll often prepare a weekly list of things that need done in Life; music lessons Tuesday, pick up groceries etc. and include a section for writing goals. Sometimes I meet these targets sometimes not but it gives me a framework to work within, for instance if inspiration is running dry I try to switch to editing mode and look at some older poems I’m working on, I enjoy crafting poems so it doesn’t feel like a chore!

5. What motivates you to write?

I suppose I write as a search for meaning, writing helps me clarify my own thoughts even if it is fictional, poetry has a great capacity to crystallize difficult experiences and attempt to answer the hard questions of life.

6. What is your work ethic?

My work ethic is a balancing act, in many ways I’m very driven to write and it can be all-consuming but I try to leave time to rest and spend time with family and friends. I’m often struck by ideas, an overheard conversation, a startling image, a moving piece of music so in many ways I don’t switch off from being a writer.

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

I was always struck with a sense of wonder by Roald Dahl’s work when I was growing up and alongside the likes of C.S.Lewis and JRR Tolkien I still try to balance out a healthy cynicism with the wonder and optimism of childhood, sometimes it happens sometimes it doesn’t.

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

For poetry I really recommend Ron Carey who has two fantastic collections out, a great poet and a true gent, Colin Dardis who is a great encourager of poets as well as being a fantastic poet himself, Stephanie Conn whose work has such beauty and depth, Anne Casey for writing poems of such honest grace, Linda McKenna for her evocative description and for sheer ingenuity Stephen Sexton, recently shortlisted for the Forward Prize.  There are many others and I apologise for not mentioning more!

Outside of poetry I have enjoyed A Song of Ice and Fire by JRR Martin and the contrast with the HBO Game of Thrones has been interesting to follow, books always win out though!

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

I’ve always found writing the most natural way to deal with complex issues both in my personal life and also to make sense of the world around us, by nature I like to take my time and reflect and writing is really an extension of that.

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

I think if you genuinely have a passion to write your own stories or poems or whatever you are on the first step on that road. The next part is a willingness to learn and improve your writing, you need to read widely, put yourself up for critique and use what constructive feedback to improve your craft. Writing is largely an isolated pursuit so finding a writing group or friends who can give honest and helpful feedback whilst also encouraging you can accelerate the quality of your writing and help spur you on.

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

My debut collection An Experience on the Tongue is available now with Doire Press http://www.doirepress.com and I am also looking ahead to the next collection and also an EP of songs that I am working on for my Church.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Mary Mackey

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.

The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams by Mary Mackey

Mary Mackey

New York Times best-selling author Mary Mackey became a poet by running high fevers, tramping through tropical jungles, dodging machine gun fire, being caught in volcanic eruptions, swarmed by army ants, stalked by vampire bats, threatened by poisonous snakes, making catastrophic decisions with regard to men, and reading. She is the author of 14 novels, one of which made The New York Times bestseller list; and 8 collections of poetry including Sugar Zone, which won an 1012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence, and The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018, (https://www.amazon.com/Jaguars-That-Prowl-Our-Dreams/dp/0996991123/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1529199139&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Jaguars+that+prowl+our+dreams&dpID=51NetZ9HU5L&preST=_
SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch)which won a 2018 CIIS Women’s Spirituality Book Award and the 2019 Erich Hoffer Award for the Best Book Published by a Small Press. Mary’s poems have been praised by Maxine Hong Kingston, Wendell Berry, Jane Hirshfield, Marge Piercy, D. Nurkse, and Al Young for their beauty, precision, originality, lush energy, and extraordinary range. You can contact her at https://marymackey.com and hear her read 26 of the poems from Jaguars (including the ever-popular “L. Tells All”) at http://voetica.com/voetica.php?collection=5&poet=890

The Interview

1. When and why did you begin to write poetry?

I made up rhymes, songs, and  poems before I could read, but I first started writing poetry when I was eleven. That year, inspired by a geometry class, I composed a series of poems about the shapes of leaves—obtuse, congruent, angled, blown, and fluttering. I subsequently went on to write about 30 more poems on other topics, which I sewed into a small booklet dedicated to my parents. This booklet is now archived with my literary papers at Smith College.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I think I was about three or four years old when my parents began reading poems to me from A.A. Milne’s collection When We Were Very Young. I loved these poems, as did my brother and sister. All three of us can (and often do) quote lines from them. My favorite poem in the collection was “Disobedience,” which probably tells you something about my attitude toward life and poetry.

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

I was almost entirely unaware of the dominating presence of older poets for several reasons, most of which stem from the fact that I am female. At my college (Harvard) the Poetry Room, where all readings took place, was located in the Lamont Library (the undergraduate library) Women were forbidden to enter Lamont, so I never was able to hear any of the famous poets who came to Harvard including Allen Ginsberg.
Women were also not welcome in Harvard’s sole creative writing class. Entry was by competition. My junior year, I was the only woman at Harvard allowed to take Creative Writing, so it was me and nineteen male undergraduates. I had no mentors and no systematic education in contemporary poetry except the education I gave myself.
For many years, I felt left out and deprived, but as time has passed, I have begun  to see  that the exclusion on the basis of gender was actually a gift. If I had been mentored, allowed to enter Lamont and hear great poets read, and even allowed—as the men were–to have dinner with them, I would have probably been shaped into an academic poet who wrote – or at least tried to write—like the dominant older poets. Instead, excluded and ignored, I developed a style uniquely my own. I don’t write poetry that is like the poetry of most other poets. I write in my own voice, and I have Harvard’s official policy of discrimination against women to thank for that.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I write in the mornings when I am closest to my dreams. I rarely write for more than four or five hours at a time, because my energy tends to decrease as time passes. A poem can’t be forced into being. You need to be fresh, alert, and in touch with your conscious and unconscious, posed, as it were, on the threshold between imagination and craft.

5. What motivates you to write?

I have no idea. I simply enjoy it. I love words, love how they move through my mind and take on form and substance. I have no goal when I write except to create something I like, something that seems whole, perfect, lyrical, and coherent; yet at the same time something that trails into the unknown and the unspoken.

6. What is your work ethic?

Writing poetry isn’t work—at least not for me. It’s the highest form of play. I do it because I enjoy doing it. In other aspects of my life, I am, and always have been, hard-working, highly organized, and meticulous about the details of life and art.

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

The rhythms, metaphors, ideas, mystical experiences, flow and rhythm of the poems I have read remain somewhere in my mind like a subdued concert. I can call on the form of them, if not the content, when I am writing. I believe they give my work depth and solidity and connect me to the past and the world at large. The writers I read when I was young have served as constant inspiration and have motivated me to do things that have substantially influenced my own poetry. For example, When I was nineteen, I learned Spanish so I could read the poetry of Saint John of the Cross in the original. When I was twenty-three, I learned  Russian so I could read various Russian poets including Osip Mandlestam and Sergei Yesenin.
That said, fever and jungles (https://marshhawkpress.org/mary-mackey/) have influenced my poetry more than the work of other writers. On multiple occasions,  I have run fevers approaching 107 degrees. During these experiences, I have heard voices, had hallucinations, and seen the world in a way that I never see it when I am healthy—a veiled, strange, inexpressible world. For six years when I was in my twenties, I lived in the jungles of Central America in a remote biological field station. Later I spent time exploring the jungles of the Brazilian Amazon. Many of the mystical and surreal elements in my poems stem from these experiences. As a result, I am particularly drawn to the work of mystical poets like Blake, Mirabai, Rumi, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Basho. By the way, it’s interesting to note that Saint Theresa had her first mystical visions when she was in the throes of malaria.

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

I admire a wide range of contemporary writers, some famous, some not well-known. I am not going to name them, because that would exclude other writers equally worthy of admiration.

9. Why do you write?

I don’t know. When I was teaching graduate and undergraduate Creative Writing courses, I used to ask my students the same question. Often they said they wrote “to be published,” “to become famous,”  to be “real writers,” or (on more than one occasion) “to attract romantic partners.” But the best answer, the answer that I discovered marked writers who would have the persistence and talent to mature, develop, and keep on writing was: “I don’t know.” If you don’t know why you write, if you are willing to keep writing even though you never get a single poem published, if you would write for an audience of penguins if stranded in Antarctica, then you are a born writer. With luck, you will also have talent and will develop a mastery of your craft. But in any case, you will no more be able to stop writing than stop breathing.

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

I would say: “Write. Write. Write. Keep Writing. Teach yourself how to revise. Master your craft. Set high standards for yourself and your work. Don’t inflict rough drafts and unpolished material on your audience. Make your poetry more than autobiography, more than a sermon, more than a political tract. Make it beautiful, coherent, haunting. Connect to worlds seen and unseen. Read constantly. Know what is going on in the world around you. Develop empathy and compassion. Look into all the dark places in your heart. Ask yourself what you want to leave behind when you are dead. Take each poem as a gift and be grateful for it.”

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

At the moment I am writing the last novel in my Earthsong Trilogy and a series of new poems, some of which are centered around a modern version of the Greek prophet Cassandra. I believe Cassandra—who speaks the truth about the future, yet is never believed– is the perfect spokesperson for a world caught up in climate change and rushing headlong toward disaster.

Longer Biography

is Professor Emeritus of English and former Writer-in-Residence at California State University, Sacramento. Related through her father’s family to Mark Twain, she graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan.
Her published works include fourteen  novels: Immersion, Shameless Hussy Press, McCarthy’s List, Doubleday; The Last Warrior Queen, Putnam; A Grand Passion, Simon & Schuster; Season of Shadows, Bantam; The Kindness of Strangers, Simon & Schuster; The Village of Bones: Sabalah’s Tale, Lowenstein Associates.; The Year The Horses Came, Harper San Francisco; The Horses at the Gate, HarperSanFrancisco; The Fires of Spring, Penguin,  The Stand In, Kensington Books, Sweet Revenge, Kensington Books; The Notorious Mrs. Winston, Berkley Books; and The Widow’s War, Berkley Books. Her two comic novels, The Stand In and Sweet Revenge (Kensington), were written under her pen name “Kate Clemens.”
Mackey is also the author of eight volumes of poetry. Her current collection, The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018, recently won the 2019 Eric Hoffer Award for the Best Book Published by a Small Press and a California Institute of Integral Studies Women’s Spirituality Book Award. It was also chosen as a Finalist for the 2019 Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize. Her other collections of poetry include: Travelers With No Ticket Home; Sugar Zone, winner of the 2012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence and Finalist for the Northern California Book Reviewers Award in Poetry; Breaking The Fever; Split Ends; One Night Stand; Skin Deep, and The Dear Dance of Eros.
Mackey’s books have appeared on The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle bestseller lists, sold over a million and a half copies, and been translated into twelve foreign languages including Japanese, Russian, Hebrew, Greek, and Finnish. Her poems have been praised by Wendell Berry, Jane Hirshfield, Dennis Nurkse, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ron Hansen, Al Young, Dennis Schmitz, and Marge Piercy for their beauty, precision, originality, and extraordinary range. Besides winning numerous awards, her poetry has been featured four times on The Writer’s Almanac.
A screenwriter as well as a novelist and poet, Mackey has also sold feature-length screenplays to Warner Brothers as well as to independent film companies. John Korty directed the filming of her original award-winning screenplay Silence.
Mackey’s nonfiction, scholarly works, and memoirs have appeared in various journals and anthologies. She has reviewed books for The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, the  American Book Review, and a variety of other publications; has lectured at Harvard and the Smithsonian; and has contributed to such diverse print and on-line publications as The Chiron Review, Redbook, and Salon. A fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she is an active member of  the Children’s Literature Committee of the Northern California Book Awards, the National Book Critics Circle, The Authors Guild, and The Writers Guild of America, West.
After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, she moved to California to become Professor of English at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) where she became one of the founders of the CSUS Women’s Studies Program. She also founded the CSUS English Department Graduate Creative Writing Program along with poet Dennis Schmitz and novelist Richard Bankowsky. In 1978 she founded The Feminist Writers Guild with poets Adrienne Rich and Susan Griffin and novelist Valerie Miner. From 1989-1992, she served as President of the West Coast Branch of PEN American Center involving herself in PEN’s international defense of persecuted writers.
During her twenties, she lived in the rain forests of Costa Rica. Recently, she has been traveling to Brazil and incorporating her experiences in the tropical rainforests into her fiction and poetry. At present she lives in northern California with her husband Angus Wright, Emeritus Professor of Environmental studies. To learn more about her and her work, you are invited to visit her website at: https://www.marymackey.com and sign up for her quarterly newsletter at http://eepurl.com/CrLHT
Mary Mackey’s literary papers are archived in the Sophia Smith Special Collections Library, Smith College, Northampton, MA. Her collection of rare editions of small press poetry books authored by Northern California poets is archived in the Smith College Mortimer Rare Book Room.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Kushal Poddar

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.

Kushal Final Cover

Kushal Poddar

Edited the online magazine ‘Words Surfacing’.
Authored ‘The Circus Came To My Island’ (Spare Change Press, Ohio), “A Place For Your Ghost Animals” (Ripple Effect Publishing, Colorado Springs), “Understanding The Neighborhood” (BRP, Australia), “Scratches Within” (Barbara Maat, Florida), “Kleptomaniac’s Book of Unoriginal Poems”  (BRP, Australia) and “Eternity Restoration Project- Selected and New Poems” (Hawakal Publishers, India)

Author Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/KushalTheWriter/

Twitter- https://twitter.com/Kushalpoe

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

– I began writing at the age of six; hence it was mostly about what I read, or about summertime or even about my favourite sweets. Nowadays it is my skirmish with outer reality, society, about stoicism, my daily life, my wife, our love, my daemons etc.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

– I wish the answer were as simple as ‘my mother’, ‘school curriculum’ or ‘my uncle’. It is a mixture of them all and my curiosity. I found some poetry books in my uncle’s possession and although he would say “These you cannot understand” I went on to read those and comprehend those. They took me to an alternative reality. I realised- this is my calling.

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

– I shall not say, dominating. I shall say, inspiring. They even inspire to contradict themselves. If establishments were not present then anti-establishment was not needed.
I am grateful for the influence of O’Hara, Bishop, Ashbery, Simic, Wright, Strand, Hoagland and Doty on me.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

– I begin my day with toasted news and then further reading of books and even comic books. Reading usually sparks certain thoughts. Sometimes certain word someone used in his essay or in his fiction ignites a complete poem irrelevant to the actual reading I was meandering through.
Even a dialogue written for Batman’s Joker may have sparked a poem on the philosophy.
It happened that I am watching a movie with my wife and I had to pause it to write something. It comes urgently, and if I delay in penning down an emotion it wanes. I try to write at least one poem a day. It keeps my doctors at bay.

5. What motivates you to write?

– Nothing is too sacred to write; nothing is too low. Motivations are alive just like my mind. My old room that had a failed window was an inspiration to dark subjects. The park nearby and any body of water motivates me. A lone walk or a random conversation with any animal, injustice or an act of kindness all motivates me.

6. What is your work ethics?

– I believe that I bear the cross of writing my head out, every day, each excruciating one, and that I shall never write anything endorsing a communal violence or in favour of a religious or extremely right wing politics. I don’t write anything that will sound obscure to even a well read poetry lover. A part of any work of mine should have something for everyone.

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

– I learned rhyme, rhythm, meter and beats through reading. The writers I read framed a mind-set. I do sometimes break this frame but since I do it consciously their influence actually remains there.
From the critical essayists I learned restrain.
From the novelists I learned to open my experience. Anything is true when it is written well.

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

– Today is abstract. Amongst the living writers I admire Rae Armantrout for her clear brevity. Kevin Young and Ilya Kaminsky for their skills with the language and usage to do their wide ambit of subjects full justice. Aimee Nezhukumatathil or Melissa Studdard for their rich perspectives and metaphors.

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

– Other things, chores or jobs cage me, choke me. Writing is the key I drew from my birth pool that opens my existence.

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

– I am writing a book of poems rather experimental for me as well as a book of flash fictions. They may surprise my usual readers.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Natalie Holborow

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.

And

Natalie Holborow

is a Swansea-born writer of poetry and fiction. In 2015, she won both the Terry Hetherington Award and the Robin Reeves Prize, and in 2016 was named as runner-up in the Wales PENCymru New Voices Award. She has been commended and shortlisted for various others including the Bridport Prize and Hippocrates Prize. Natalie’s work has recently appeared in The Stinging Fly and the New Welsh Review.

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

I think this began in my GCSE English Literature class, when my teacher introduced us to Seamus Heaney’s Mid-Term Break. She taught it with passion and all of a sudden, after only having been exposed to poetry that was rhyming and archaic and (in my opinion) relatively inaccessible for teenagers, I felt myself becoming totally struck by the effect poetry could have on human emotions. I remember the impact of the speaker’s mother as she held his hand and “coughed out angry tearless sighs”. So much raw grief condensed into one sharp image left me reeling. I wanted to do that then. I wanted to make people feel things through words – to create beauty out of emotion.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

As mentioned above, this was my GCSE English teacher Mrs Gill and A level lecturer Judith. A lot of my teachers have been huge positive influences for me just through their passion for poetry and support of my writing. Lecturers such as Nigel Jenkins and John Goodby also inspired me with their own work and their valuable feedback. A good teacher really can open doors to exciting worlds – and the world I was drawn to was poetry.

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

I don’t think it was ‘dominating’ as such – that has negative connotations. In fact, the Terry Hetherington Award for young writers, the Swansea poetry community (which has a total mix of ages and backgrounds), as well as unfailing support from teachers and peers meant I never felt like I was “too young” to try seriously in getting my work out there. I think the Welsh writing community in particular is very supportive and encouraging of young writers, and is overall genuinely excited by new talent.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Daydream. Lots. Try and talk to me when I’m in that beautiful half-dreaming, half-awake state at five in the morning when I’m off for a run and you’ll be met with a glare only Medusa could muster for pulling me out of my most creative time of day. I sometimes get to work extra-early so that I can get some notes down before I start my content-writing job at 9; that way I’ve got something to work on later and it won’t be eating away at me while I’m trying to focus on work. Then I’ll take my notebook out at lunchtime, read, write, and then if I’m feeling creative after I leave the office I’ll get to my writing desk and work on the ideas I thought about earlier in the day.

5. What motivates you to write?

I work best under pressure. It’s why I keep myself so busy. I’m also driven by my need to connect with others through my writing in the same way I get so much joy myself from reading poetry.

6. What is your work ethic?

The busier I am with other things, the more I see working on my poetry manuscript as a reward rather than a chore. My idea of hell is to be a full-time writer only working on my creative work; without my other career in writing for learning and development, my creativity would fizzle out. The two complement each other perfectly and I love them both. I also volunteer and do freelance writing and editing, so I’ve always got a varied workload to keep me inspired. Whenever anyone asks me if I’m a full-time poet (try asking about that one at the job centre…), I get this image of myself weeping into a glass of bourbon and covered in cats, surrounded by unpaid bills and hopeless manuscripts. Not for me.

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

They’ll always have an influence, as it’s how I first found my ‘voice’ in writing. It’s how we learn to do things as children, such as learning to speak; we mimic others first before we’re fully able to do it autonomously. Seamus Heaney, Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath (Plath especially) will always make their echoes known when I’m putting the words to paper. Those who influenced you can almost leave a sort of palimpsest – a ghost of their style forever subtly layered behind your own.

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

Oh, I hate this question! I have too many to possibly pick one. I adore Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red and Red Doc> in particular; she has an unbelievably sharp eye for detail and is incredible at her craft. As for local writers, we’re spoilt for choice in Wales. More recently, Rhian Elizabeth, Rhys Owain Williams, Mari Ellis Dunning and Jonathan Edwards have released some truly brilliant collections worth looking at. As for ones to watch in the future, keep your eye out for Lee Prosser, Rhea Seren Philips and Emily Vanderploeg.

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

Be authentic, first and foremost. Don’t try and be someone you’re not; you’ll fail to connect with your readers. We already have Dylan Thomas and Tolkien, Maya Angelou and JK Rowling; what the world needs is the only you there is. Enter competitions as well as sending submissions to good journals. Get yourself a copy of The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook to find a comprehensive list of where to send your work. Read those journals too. In fact, never stop reading. Go to spoken word and open mic nights; we’re all (usually) drunk and all (forever) supportive so take a deep breath and get up there. The feedback can be invaluable. Form writing groups. Give honest and constructive feedback and receive it graciously. EDIT. And don’t reward yourself with a cat video for writing the title of a poem; do it at the end. I don’t care if it’s fluffy and eating a strawberry ice cream.

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

I tried to do more fiction at the start of the year, so I have a terrible novella I need to look at again but can’t bear to. It’s like tugging a plaster off a disgusting wound to see how bad it is underneath. I also have a comedy novel in the works, but at the moment that’s on the back burner while I finish my second poetry manuscript. It’s about 75% done – it’s something different to the last and I’m excited about it. I’m also collaborating with writers and artists on various poetry and arts projects, so watch this space!

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Patrick Chapman

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.

Open Season On The Moon

PATRICK CHAPMAN

is an Irish poet. His latest collection is Open Season on the Moon, published by Salmon. He has published seven previous poetry collections since 1991, as well as a novel and three volumes of stories. His other work includes a short film, television for children, and audio dramas for Doctor Who and Dan Dare. He produced B7’s dramatisation of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles for BBC Radio 4. With Dimitra Xidous he edits The Pickled Body.

Link to Open Season on the Moon at Salmon Poetry:

https://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=486&a=93

Link to Anhedonia at BlazeVOX Books:

http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/Shop/fiction/anhedonia-by-patrick-chapman-526/

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

The facile answer is that I started writing poetry because I thought it would take less time than fiction. Also, I was attracted to poetry in school. Kubla Khan made me dream. The fact that it was interrupted, gave it the quality of a fragment from some widescreen adventure. A poem was a window into a larger world. Shelly’s withered statue in the desert, too. That one felt like a movie.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Poetry was on the school curriculum of course, but our teacher went off-piste to teach us basic form – metre, rhyming, types of sonnet. As well as introducing the poems of Dylan Thomas, Yeats, Kinsella, Dickinson, per the schedule, he read to us The Ballad of Reading Gaol simply because he thought we should hear it. When I asked him why Oscar had been imprisoned, he replied “tax reasons”. In the quasi-theocratic Ireland of the day, some things were more unspeakable than others, not to mention illegal. That teacher also read us Edmund’s ‘bastards’ speech, which had been excised from our texts of King Lear. A few years later at Eavan Boland’s workshop in Dublin, I discovered Life Studies. That was a turning point.

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

Not at all. I never wanted to be the next Kavanagh, as that job had been taken. Besides, it didn’t seem to be the thing to try and work in anyone’s shadow. Neil Jordan, when he published Night in Tunisia, was asked how he avoided the influence of Joyce. His reply that he’d “never read him” is a legitimate response, even if it sounds like Jordan was kidding. There’s everything to be learned from what has gone before but growing your own voice is what matters.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a daily writing routine. Poetry happens when it happens. That can mean slipping away for a moment to note some new thought, or it might mean stealing hours from a perfectly good afternoon, especially when there’s a book on the go. In olden times, I used to compose for days on end; I’d write until I dropped. Nowadays that sort of epic self-harm is neither possible nor polite.

5. What motivates you to write?

Anxiety plus an idea. That usually does it. Even without an idea, when the urge to write comes, I get tense if I don’t act on it. At the moment, after this last book, my poetry has entered a latency period. If I never write another poem, that would be fine. If I do, I hope it will be fine.

6. What is your work ethic?

My work ethic is to write when I’m writing but not to bang my head against a wall, so to speak, if a poem is frustrating me. Martin Amis’s advice seems good: walk away if a piece is not working, come back to it later. When you return, your subconscious will probably have solved the problem. To me, every poem I receive is a windfall for which I’m grateful; at its best the process is playful and possessive of my consciousness. When I’m working, it seems that the trick is to chisel away at the letters until all that’s left is a poem. The other trick is to know when that has happened.

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

Early influences that still resonate: J. G. Ballard gave me an outsider’s perspective on humanity. Douglas Adams taught me the value of absurdity. Bishop, Moore and Lowell showed how poetry could be personal as well as political. Eavan Boland revealed the domestic and the intimate as proper subjects for poems. E. E. Cummings opened my thinking on messing about with form and flow. Rilke, in Stephen Mitchell’s translation, has stayed with me. To anyone starting out, I’d recommend his Letters to a Young Poet.

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

Aside from those with whom I’ve worked, or who have reviewed my stuff… I admire Bret Easton Ellis for American Psycho. What a book, hilarious and still relevant. Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory and The Bridge are favourites. Julian Barnes I admire for his non-fiction as much as his novels. Levels of Life is humane and beautifully written. Doireann Ní Ghríofa is an outstanding poet in Ireland. Her collection, Clasp, is recommended. I enjoyed Tara Bergin’s This is Yarrow. Kate Clanchy’s Newborn is raw and powerful.

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

It seems to have always been with me.

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

Remember the Field of Dreams principle. “If you build it…” My main advice would be to show up, give yourself permission to write, and know that early drafts are supposed to be bad. Perfection is a mirage. Messy is good. Consider how a cake is made versus how it is served. Look up John Cleese’s theory of the ‘open’ and ‘closed’ mode. Find where the words are and be there. Woolf’s ‘money and a room of one’s own’ would be ideal but not everyone has that luxury, so do what you can to get time, space and energy to write. Your library is your friend. In an ideal world, a writing space can be like a Quaker meeting for one.

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

Late last year BlazeVOX published my collection of stories, Anhedonia. That was the original title for Annie Hall. My new poetry collection, Open Season on the Moon, is just out from Salmon. It skates into the arena of concrete but is very readable. It’s about love and pornography (the old stuff); space travel and death; religion and politics. All the subjects you shouldn’t bring up in company unless you have a napkin to hand.