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.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
I’m not sure. It’s just always been a part of my life. There were long patches where I didn’t write, but I always came back to it, usually without much prompting.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
Again, I’m not sure. I don’t consciously remember anyone teaching me, it was just always there. Having said that, I remember a few English teachers playing a key role, and my grandparents read to me a lot. Also, I am often introduced to a specific poem or poet by people around me. So I suppose it isn’t always a one-off thing, but more of a constant process. Even if someone dislikes poetry, you can probably introduce them to an author they would appreciate.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Once again, I’m not sure. I read a lot of classical poetry before I was introduced to contemporary work. I probably had an idea in my head about who was ‘worthy’ until I started reading work from the same century as me. Even then, the first contemporary writers I was exposed to were already established in their careers. I wasn’t conscious of this until much later, when I started connecting with other poets.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I am always writing. I’ve been known to stop halfway through breakfast in order to write something down, or to pull over on the drive to work so I don’t forget something. Whatever pops into my brain I try to store it somewhere. I write more than I edit, though, which is a big problem.
5. What motivates you to write?
I write to explore ideas. I usually don’t know how I feel about something until I write about it: it is how I process my emotions and my experiences. It’s nice to be read, but sharing is more of a byproduct of the process for me.
6. What is your work ethic?
Haha! In constant revision, I might say. When I set my mind to do something I sit down and do it. I can sit still for hours if I want to get something done. However, if I don’t have a clear goal or project, or if I’m doubting my ability, I often struggle to get anything done.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I’ve had to unlearn a lot of what I was taught. Nobody likes it these days if you write like Wordsworth. A lot of my early poems contained words that hadn’t been in use for a couple of centuries. I had to fight hard to become clearer. Now I find myself longing for some of those traditional structures, and I try my best to incorporate both.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I’ve been binge-reading Jacqueline Saphra, whose work feels at once both personal and yet expressing something universal. I love Fran Lock and Helen Mort, and the otherworldliness of Katie Metcalfe. Huge fan of Lemn Sissay: I admire not only his writing but the way he makes his life a story to support and inspire others. He’s a huge inspiration to me. I’m also a massive fan of George Szirtes. All very different writers, but they have all successfully found their own avenues for expression.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
The short answer is that I can’t not. I’ve tried everything…
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
The first thing is you have to write. Sounds obvious, right? Unfortunately we all know someone who wants to be a writer but never starts because of a fear of failure or success. Buy a book of writing advice. Attend a workshop. Network with fellow writers in your town or online. But above all else, write something. Find people to celebrate your journey. Cringe at your terrible first drafts, then write a second slightly better one. But always write, write, write.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
Three novels, six short stories, two research papers, a PhD thesis, two full collections, and eleven finished pamphlets / chapbooks I need to find homes for. Remember what I said about how I write a lot more than I edit? Yes, well. It’s a serious problem. Moving on…