Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Maya Horton

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 Valley Of Winter
Maya Horton
is an artist, writer and astronomer based in the South East of England. Her chapbook The Valley of Winter has been recently published by Black Light Engine Room Press. She has recently undertaken writing residencies at NES studios in Northern Iceland, and at Allenheads Contemporary Arts in Northumberland. When she isn’t drowning in unfinished projects, she can be found painting, wandering around in the countryside, editing her magazine Until the Stars Burn Out, or even writing her PhD thesis about supermassive black holes.
The Interview

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…

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Paul Robert Mullen

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.

Paul Robert Mullen

Paul Robert Mullen

is a poet, musician and sociable loner from Liverpool, U.K. He has three published poetry collections: curse this blue raincoat (2017), testimony (2018), and 35 (2018). He has been widely published in magazine, journals and anthologies worldwide. Paul also enjoys paperbacks with broken spines, and all things minimalist.
Twitter: @mushyprm35
Website: http://www.paulrobertmullen.com (not live yet!)
The Interview
1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’m a Sagittarius. I’ve always been extremely creative, whether it be writing stories, playing music, painting, drawing. My mind is instantly drawn to the creative process, which explains my lack of practical skills and, to some extent, common sense. At school I always excelled in literature and art, and I found myself keeping notebooks full of doodlings at an early age. I guess I find poetry as a way to connect with my emotions and express myself. It’s a secret and covert process, but ultimately rewarding when you are brave enough to share it and gage a response. It doesn’t feel like a waste if you have something at the end that other people can relate to and indulge in.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Like most people I first discovered poetry as a kid in school. I realised pretty young that the hymns we were singing in assemblies and the songs I was hearing on the radio were poetry of sorts. I found poetry in school a bit stiff. I didn’t like Seamus Heaney or Ted Hughes, although some of Maya Angelou’s stuff was uplifting. I got my first taste of Carol Ann Duffy in high school and realised I liked it because it felt modern. I could understand the sentiment and it made me feel something. At the age of fourteen I discovered Bob Dylan, and used to take myself off into town to hunt cheap second hand copies of his albums – I considered him an extraordinary poet from the first time I heard him, and took great pleasure as a teenager reading his lyrics from the booklets of his albums.

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

I have huge issues with the poetry world. It’s often a world of privilege, and a bit of a private club. I’ve realised that since writing and publishing myself. With hindsight I’m not surprised that there is, and will always be, a dominating presence of older poets. It is the establishment looking after its own. The poets that we are force fed at school are not the poets that speak to our generations with much relevance anymore, in my opinion. I’m thinking of Wordsworth, T.S Eliot, Tennyson et al – brilliant in their own way, but tough for a kid to inhale. I think Roger McGough, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Wendy Cope are much more accessible to a young mind, but they’re still on the inside, if you know what I mean. Part of the establishment. I’d like to see some newer faces from the streets and the coffee houses and the real world featured in syllabuses – poets that talk about contemporary issues with contemporary language.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I write poems every day. There is no specific time I do it, although I work best late at night with some nice music on and no hassle or distraction. I also like to get out into the world; sometimes I spend hours tucked away in the corners of coffee shops or pubs or cafes – places I can keep an eye on what is going on, and use what I see as inspiration. Every day I write at least a poem or two. I like to let them fester for a few days then revisit them at a different time, and with a new perspective. I suffer from intermittent spells of fiction or memoir writing too, but that muse goes more often than it comes, so I just wait and then collect as I go along. I’d say I spend around two hours a day editing, creating, crafting poems. I like to use travel time to write too – trains, planes, buses. I can do that. I’m comfortable writing in that environment, and feel a sense of achievement since my travel time hasn’t been idle. The single most important part of the process for me is reading. I read widely in the poetry world. Without reading I wouldn’t be able to be so prolific in terms of creating new work.

5. What motivates you to write?

This might sound very strange, but it’s a constant battle with the notion of mortality that makes me write. I’ve got ideas and stories that I feel like I need to share before I’m gone. I know that’s weird since I’m only mid-thirties, but I’m very sensitive to the fragility of life, and I get a lot of pleasure out of thinking I’ve created something that will outlive me and potentially connect with people in the future. Writing satisfies that part of my brain that nothing else can. I’m also paranoid about wasting time. When I’m creating I don’t feel like I’m wasting time. I’ve done all that going out and getting drunk and wallowing in my hangovers for days and getting absolutely nothing done, and to be honest I’m sick of it. My motivation is creating, sharing, achieving. I enjoy the Twitter writing community, and have found lots of wonderful opportunities to submit to new magazines, journals, e-zines and anthologies, and have found a lot of success this year with my submissions. I guess a further motivation is to broaden my readership, and keep interacting will fellow poets and writers. I’ve made new friends who have been interesting and helpful and inspiring.

6. What is your work ethic?

Life brings its challenges and disruptions, but I try my best to write at least six days a week. I think it is healthy to have a day off and go and refuel, but the other thing I’ve found is that if the muse is with you, you have to try and cash in. I suffer from writer’s block like everyone else, but my theory to combat this is to just read, read, read. Reading never fails to bring inspiration eventually. Writing has become part of my daily routine, which is healthy for developing, learning, and honing my craft. There is no such thing as a great-line-machine, or a perfect poem, so it is a constant journey uphill towards the peak – working on it every day can only bring me closer. That’s my attitude to writing these days. The more I write, the better I get at it.

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

By the time I got to university I was reading a lot of poetry. People like Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert Creeley. I was wrapped up in that whole Beat Generation thing for a while, which was cool amongst millennial literary types. I liked e.e cummings too, and Sylvia Plath, although her stuff was too dark to read too much at once. The more I looked into the circles of influence the more I found; I love Lee Harwood’s work – intensely personal and ground breaking in terms of form. I found John Ashbery, Robert Shepphard, Wallace Stevens, Adrian Henri, Brian Patten. All poets that I enjoyed and drew from. Many of the above have influenced me in different ways – stylistically, thematically. I’ve always been drawn to the narrative form, or forms that experiment with the way things look. I like poetry that is jagged on the eye – where the passage across the page is a journey in itself.   

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

There are some really good poets around today. I try to keep my eye on the scene and buy new collections, for both the reasons of supporting new writers and also seeing where the market is going. I really enjoyed a collection called In Search Of Equilibrium by Theresa Lola – a profound exploration of grief and loss in a variety of fresh and interesting forms. I thought Andrew McMillan’s Physical was really brave and fascinating. There is a collection by Jo Bell called Kith, which I really enjoyed for its wit and mischief. My friend Kate Evans brought a collection out recently called Target, which is brutal and courageous and at times totally epic. I like anything that strikes a chord, without trying to be too lofty. I keep my eye on certain presses too. Nine Arches Press is a cracker – always innovative and captivating stuff published by them. I like Jonathan Cape too. Andrews McMeel, Salt, and Bloodaxe also put some interesting stuff out. There are some magazines that I follow too, since the stuff they put out is always edgy and provocative: Ghost City Press, Selcouth Station, Under The Radar, Ambit, Agenda, Butcher’s Dog, Heron Clan, Anti-Heroin Chic, Black Bough Poetry, Okay Donkey, Kissing Dynamite, Panning For Poems. There are so many great presses out there these days worthy of your time if you want to keep up with what’s going on.

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

I do lots of other stuff in my life aside from writing – I’m a very keen traveller, have played music in bands and various guises all my life, and also enjoy a game of cricket or squash, and occasionally 5-a-side football in my advancing years. I live an interesting and fulfilling existence, but writing is the most consistent thing that I do. It is natural for me to pull out the laptop, or a notebook, or a book to read and settle down to work on an almost daily basis, which is the difference between writing and the other things I do. Variety is definitely the spice of life, but creativity is my ultimate motivation.

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

There isn’t a definitive answer to that. The circumstances surrounding my own passage to publication was quite bizarre – a lot of fate and luck were involved. I’d advise any young writer to read as much as possible. If you are a chef but you don’t try different foods you can’t be innovative in the kitchen. You have to read to learn. Reading widely inspires all sorts of new ideas and ventures. Also, keep up with the scene. I am a very active member of the writing community on Twitter, as I’ve previously mentioned, and as a new and unpublished writer you can find lots of opportunities on there for magazine submissions, competitions, hooking up with likeminded people to help you edit and share ideas, and keep up with the trends in your specific fields of interest. I submit my work to magazines all over the world on an almost daily basis, and keep an organised log of where I’ve sent things, dates, and records or acceptances or rejections. You need to be thick skinned and tough; rejections can be hard to swallow, but realistically they are going to arrive thick and fast. I’ve been published in 27 different publications already in 2019, but that is as a result of my persistence and refusal to be deflated by rejections. As a poet you need to build your name from the floorboards up, so each acceptance from a different magazine of repute is great for your CV. If you are serious about it, you’ll soon fall into good habits.

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

I released my first collection, curse this blue raincoat, in 2017, and my following two collections, testimony and 35 in 2018, on small American press, Coyote Creek Books. I have several complete manuscripts in the editing stage at the moment, but I have been concentrating more on publishing in literary magazines, e-zines, journals and anthologies of late, to try and broaden my readership (see below a list I have been published in). I envisage another collection towards the end of 2019, including many of my poems that have previously appeared in various publications. I am also ghost writing a memoir for a friend who has lived a fascinating decade, although that is moving slowly due to time restraints on both sides. I have been gradually documenting my Asian odyssey for the past year too, having spent over four years exploring that most remarkable part of the world. I would hope that I could have that completed and ready for publication sometime in 2020. I am also in the process of setting up a personal website completely dedicated to my writing. Occasionally I have time to sleep!

Magazines/E-zines/Journals/Anthologies published in:
Allegro, Anti-Heroin Chic, Bending Genres, Black Bough Poetry, Blossom In Winter, Bonnie’s Crew, Cephalo Press, Cleaning Up Glitter, Constellate, Crossways, Dodging The Rain, Dreamcatcher, Eunoia Review, Four X Four, Ghost City Press, Heron Clan, Light Through The Mist, Mojave Heart, Panning For Poems, Pendora, Selcouth Station, Silk & Smoke, The Canon’s Mouth, The Fiction Pool, The Foxglove Journal, The Interpreter’s House, The Journal, The Mark Literary Review, The Pangolin Review, Three Drops From A Cauldron, Words For The Wild

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Gareth Culshaw

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 Miner

Gareth Culshaw

lives in Wales. He has been published in various places across the United Kingdom and the United States. He is part of the Shrewsbury Stanza group and ventures to many events around the Welsh/Shropshire border.

His first poetry collection is called “The Miner” and can be bought from his website http://www.gculshaw.co.uk/
His second poetry collection will be out in 2020. Again, by Futurecycle. The collection is called Shadows of Tryfan.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/CulshawPoetry

YouTube Channel – Gareth Culshaw Poetry

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

I wrote my first poem way back in 2002. For years I wrote rhymed poetry and songs. The reason I started to write them was Oasis. Noel Gallagher’s songs, especially his b-sides, had an amazing effect on my life. I was 22, not sure what to do with my life and a bit lost. Typical young male. So I used to sit and read his lyrics from the CD album inlets. That’s when I decided to have a go and wrote a rhymed poem. A-B-A-B format, three stanzas, four lines. It was a revelation.

1.1 Why was it a revelation?

When I finished the poem, I felt a surge of energy. Similar to climbing a mountain and you see the world below. I knew right then I had found my place as a human. Unfortunately, it was many years before I settled down. A young male has other things on his mind than writing poetry, and I had no knowledge or like minded people to speak to. I wasn’t mature enough to settle into a routine. It was a good decade, 2011, when I started to take it seriously. But by then, I was in a relationship. I had moved on from being one of the lads. Back then, I used to write poems on notepads, never redrafted, just loved the enjoyment of poetry. Though none of them were any good! There was a simmering passion inside.

2. Who introduced you to rhymed poetry?

For some reason it felt like the thing to do at the time. I had never read poetry, except the stuff from school. So something must have clamped itself onto my brain at some point. And hung there until I needed it. Turning to free-verse was far harder! I really did struggle with it, and never thought I would see the mechanics of the form. The first poets I read were the Romantics. So rhymed poetry was stayer for years.

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

At the time, traditional poets were more known to me. Obviously, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Dylan Thomas, Byron, and Blake. The first poets I read were Byron, Keats and Shelley. Contemporary poetry didn’t hit me for a couple of years. S.Heaney was the first ‘Living’ poet I read. But for some reason, I still went back to traditional poets. I bought their books first. Especially Keats, who had a big influence on me at that time. Seamus Heaney became the main poet after him as I wanted to learn contemporary poetry. But I struggled to understand his work. It seemed a million miles away from Keats.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I believe a poet has four pillars to work off. Writing, Redrafting, Reading and Studying. I try to do two every day. Consistency is key. But also being very honest about your work. If it needs tearing up, you have to do it. Poetry is a way of life but writing is a job.

5. What motivates you to write?

I believe every person has something to give to the world. Poetry is what I live for. Work is something I have to do to pay bills, but poetry is what wakes me up. If school kids were encouraged to find themselves instead of finding a ‘Career’ then happiness would be more bountiful around the streets. If I had found poetry when I was ten my life would have been different. I feel very privileged to do it.

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

Apart from the nature aspect with some of them I don’t take too much from them now. Keats will always be a favourite, but my style has altered so much. But they gave me a start and I do thank them for that. I don’t believe you can read poetry without searching for Tennyson, Wordsworth or Coleridge. They are too important.

6.1 How has your style altered?

It is more condensed now. Also, I have a weakness for simile. I love them! Years ago I didn’t know much about metaphor and simile. Or even making sure every word deserves its place in the poem. Even the power of verbs and getting details into my work. I went to Ty Newydd in 2015 and had some comments about my metaphors/similes. It was a ‘light bulb’ moment. Today my natural instinct in poetry is the images. The hardest part is the rest! You’re only as strong as your weakest point.

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

Helen Mort. Her style suits my own in some ways. I hope there’s a day I can read alongside her, that would be unreal. Gillian Clarke is an immense poet. Her last collection was brilliant. Carol Ann Duffy is a Zen Master of poetry. Incredible lady, she has an aura about her. Michael Symmons Roberts has no waste in his work. Every word deserves its place, I don’t know how he does it!. I know some poets who have talent but maybe have not become nationally known, yet – Graham Attenborough, Julia Forster, Lynne Caddick, Helen Kay, Audrey Adern-Jones, Pat Edwards, Carol Caffrey – these guys are decent folk too. Jess Mookherjee, Miriam Darlington and Ken Evans might do something great one day. Forward Prize level. O! and there’s A.Oswald. WOW.

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

I write because I love it. I do go bird watching, walking, strength training but nothing gets me like writing. It’s amazing. I hope to leave a body of work that is worth searching through when I am long gone. I want to leave my life in a better place than where it started.

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

It’s 24/7. Someone said to me in Ty Newydd ‘You have to want it more than anything’ I didn’t realise how much at the time. Every word has to count. Read every day and find your character. If you have identity in your work, and you put your personality into it, then you are on your way. Success is measured by how many failures you are willing to go through. Some find their voice straight away, others, like me, take awhile.

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

I am currently doing an MFA at Manchester Met. So I am building a poetry collection on Anton Chekhov’s short stories. It may be crazy but you have to do something! I am also doing a form of poetry but 100 poems of it. I am on 46. I am not mentioning the form as people may think I’m crazy. Though it’s not Sistena! I am thinking of writing a book about five years we had living in a cottage. Some amazing things happened in there. My writing life took off in that place. In Manchester I have got to know a composer and we may do something with poetry and music. We have just done one piece and came second in The Rosamond Prize. A Manchester writing school and RNCM project for students.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Wendy Klein

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.

Wendy Klein

Born in New York and brought up in California, Wendy Klein left the U.S. in 1964 to live in Sweden and later, France and Germany. She came to England in 1971 and has lived here most of her adult life.  Failed actress and retired psychotherapist, she began to write poetry seriously in 2002 after completing an undergraduate diploma in creative writing at Oxford University, Continuing Education, Kellogg College. She has been mightily helped to hone her skills by two spells at The Writing School in Sheffield, run by Ann and Peter Sansom of Poetry Business fame. Winner of a variety of prizes (Ware, Buxton, Cinnamon Press Single Poem) she is published in many magazines and anthologies. She has two collections from Cinnamon Press: Cuba in the Blood, (2009) and Anything in Turquoise, (2013), and a third ‘Mood Indigo’ from Oversteps Books. Her writing has been influenced by early family upheaval resulting from her mother’s early death when Wendy was nine months old, her own nomadic years as a young mother, her mixed heritage (Russian secular Jewish immigrants and East Coast artsy-literary Bohemian) and subsequent travel. Brought up in a left-wing family (father a member of the Communist Party during the 1930s), her family experienced terrible stress during the McCarthy witch-hunt, and she never felt comfortable in the U.S. She renounced her U.S. citizenship a few years ago, only to find herself back in the midst of a resurgence of ring-wing populism. Nowhere to hide!

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

Poetry has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.  My cousin and I used to compete with one another memorising poems and reciting them from almost as early as we could read.  Rudyard Kipling and Lewis Carroll were our original favourites, before we moved on to Dorothy Parker and Edna St Vincent Millay.  It wasn’t long before I tried my hand at writing, but I have always been rubbish at end-rhyming, so my early efforts were filed in the wastepaper basket before they saw the light of day.  My mother, who died when I was 9 months old, was a playwright who had had two plays produced on Broadway, so I wasn’t about to try to follow in her footsteps.  My stepmother and my father both wrote short stories, so I tried my hand at fiction first, but they were both such stern critics that I almost gave up writing altogether, though the odd maudlin adolescent angst began to appear from time-to-time in my sporadic journal writing.  Eventually I began to excel at book reports and, at university, essays, but writing fiction was my first choice until I attended the first-ever under-graduate poetry diploma group at Oxford University, Continuing Education, Kellogg College.  The course was broad-based, and we were required to complete assignments in writing plays, writing prose fiction and writing poetry.  As I was working on a semi- autobiographical novel centred on the first two decades of my life, I chose prose fiction for my first assignment.  My efforts were demolished in my first tutorial with the prose tutor, Angela Hassell.  I was determined not to spend another hour in a room alone with her, so after that I began to choose poetry assignments, starting with a theme-linked sonnet sequence.  I had never written a sonnet, or wanted to, but it didn’t turn out too badly, and I didn’t have to face Ms. Hassell again very soon, so I turned my face towards verse.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Well, I guess that’s a toss-up between my grandfather who bellowed Kipling’s ‘If’ at me when I was a naughty nine-year-old and bought me the entire works of Shakespeare in single Modern Library editions, bound in red, when I was 12, and my father, who bombarded me with poems from the time I enjoyed having words read aloud to me.  He had memorised a lot of canon poetry from Shakespeare, Keats, Tennyson to Dylan Thomas and would hold forth on any occasion when he had an audience from one (me), or twenty plus at birthdays, New Year’s Eve parties, picnics, hikes – anywhere, and a poem for anytime.  He was a high school English teacher, and when he was teaching, I was treated to whatever was on the syllabus.  He wrote quite a lot of poetry himself, which I realised later was not all that good.  In the latter part of his teaching career, he began to teach adults and to read more modern and contemporary poetry. It was then I was presented with his favourites:  Carl Sandberg, Robinson Jeffers, Robert Frost, Denise Levertov, and subtly steered away from the likes of Marge Piercy!

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

I don’t think I ever experienced a dominating presence of older poets.  By the time I started writing poetry I was already an older poet myself.  I was daunted by the talent of much younger poets and peer poets who had been writing longer than I, and I had huge admiration for the likes of Michael Longley, Seamus Heaney, and Sharon Olds, who is only a little bit older than I.  No, no dominating presence, though perhaps I was naïve.  I wrote a lot of prose before I began to write poetry, and when I did begin, poetry seemed like more fun, and I thought I had nothing to prove.  I soon learned that the poetry world was just as competitive as the world of short-story writers and rookie novelists, and that I really didn’t know very much at all.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I have drifted away from having a very regular routine.  I keep a notebook, of course, which gets more and more haphazard, and I usually have a poem on the go that I am picking away at.  Revising an earlier piece will sometimes start me in the direction of something new – a germ of an idea in the notebook.  I have a few exercises which I have used to stimulate writing, but more recently this has felt a bit like cheating to me.  Poems that stem from exercises like these tend to feel forced, so I have pretty much stopped ‘chasing’ poems and am more inclined to wait until they find me.  It is perhaps easier to say what is NOT part of my writing routine.  I do not ‘journal’ daily at home, though I have kept travel journals over time which have yielded up a lot of useful material.  At home at my own desk, I can get bored trying to think of things to say. or gloomy going over past difficulties, conflicts, relationships, etc.  Equally I have never found free-writing exercises particularly useful, though I have taken part in them during writing workshops before I became inhibited about reading back first drafts.  Before I was retired, fitting in time to write was difficult.  If I was writing, I was neglecting something else I needed to do, whether it was to do with paid work, house work, tasks relating to offspring, etc.  The fact that I was neglecting something I ‘should’ be doing made writing seem a little naughty and subversive – something I had to sneak away to do and hide afterward.  Once I was retired, I had too much time and found I tended to squander it.  Initially I began to try to shape a writing routine by taking weekly poetry writing classes, which involved having prompts/assignments which were ‘due’ once a week.  That challenge made it necessary to produce at least one poem a week, which I could manage quite easily.  I had a marvellous tutor in the poet, Susan Utting, and her feedback and peer feedback was so useful.  As I began to get some approval from tutors and fellow students, I began to send things out, so part of the time I spent writing was devoted to putting together submissions.  This latter task always takes me way too long, and I get grumpy when I use up my writing time putting together submissions.  Taking time to read the work of other contemporary poets is an essential part of my daily routine, too, and going back to long-term favourites.

5. What motivates you to write?

That’s simple; I don’t know how not to write.  Every job I have ever had I have managed to turn into a vehicle for writing.  As a social worker, my secretaries vied with one another to type up my case notes because they were so interesting – like stories.  They were not meant to be, and I fell foul of my managers.  When I became a psychotherapist, I adopted the ‘narrative’ practice of the Milan group of systemic therapists and the Australian therapist, Michael White, and wrote letters to my clients between meetings reminding them of our ‘conversations’ and slipping in ‘interventions’.  I feel uncomfortable when I am not working on something – a poem, or a poetry project, though I try to forgive myself when it is just not happening for all the wide varieties of reasons daily life demands.

6. What is your work ethic?

What?  I actually had to look this up, a definition that worked.  I fail to see how to make it relate to poetry.  I have just about enough discipline to keep going, and I am dedicated to making my poems as good as I can make them.  I try to behave in a sensible and cooperative manner with other poets even when I feel they may be completely off the planet in what they are trying to achieve.  I enjoy reading and critiquing the work of others, but don’t ask me unless you want on honest opinion.

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

I think the greatest single influence from my reading when I was young was Emily Dickinson.  She showed me the whole underbody of what a poem is.  Looking at her short pieces full of her characteristic dashes for the first time was startling, a little bewildering, then finding the sting of her truths, uncovering ideas before I was old enough to realise how subversive they were.  I am always concerned that my work is too ‘obvious’.  Dickinson reminds me that it is a good thing to challenge readers enough to make them think, but not so much they become irritated and close the book.  I try not to care too much about simply pleasing readers, to care more about stimulating thought and engaging.  If poems do not engender thought or entertain, on some level, why would anyone be interested in reading them?  Why bother?  Poetry is a great form of communication; surely it is the poet’s responsibility to make that communication possible.

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

I still admire Sharon Olds, and more and more as we get older.  Her T.S. Eliot winner ‘Stag’s Leap’ was a tour de force in her particular skill:  a hardcore candour that hunts down details and does not spare them.  I know she is loved and hated equally for this quality.  I love her.  I also admire the audacious Kim Addonizio, another U.S. poet:  poems that sizzle with energy, fearless politics, and plenty of ironic undertones.  For a poet who almost always uses form and end-rhymes skilfully and thereby gets away with it, I think you can’t beat Alison Brackenbury.  I love Mark Doty, too.  He gives me permission to write poems about dogs, but for his self-deprecating humour that, in the words of one reviewer ‘reconciles trauma with grace’.  And oh, the late-lamented Tony Hoagland who says he came to poetry out of a thirst for truth-telling!  Oh and Anne-Marie Fyfe for her rare mixture of clarity and mystery.  This is only a very short list with room for Anne Carson – her sheer daring weirdness!

9. Why do you write?

Because I cannot not write.  Much as some days I wish I could stop writing poems, in particular, I know that I don’t really know how to do that.

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

I think I would ask them first why they wanted to become a writer.  It’s so damned hard, frustrating and brutally lonely.  If they seemed determined, I would say ‘just write and write and write and show it all to peer writers and more established writers and listen to their  feedback and use it, even if at first you don’t believe it; treat it as an experiment and see where it takes you.’ Once you are under way, find a critical group or a mentor you trust.

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

I have been in the process of moving house, or trying to, for nearly two years, and I am very involved with the care of my two youngest grandchildren:  1 and nearly 3, so I never have enough time to write as much as I think I would like to.  On the other hand, maybe that’s just an excuse for not generating much new material at present.  I have three short pamphlets recently finished, which I am trying to place, individually or as a three-section collection if I can unify it under a ‘Three-of’ title.  I am working on a ‘Selected’ for High Window Press, but not entirely convinced that it isn’t too soon after my last collection ‘Mood Indigo’ (2016).  that’s enough to be going on with for the time being, I believe.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: L.B. Sedlacek

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.

L.B. Sedlacek

is an award winning poet and author with poetry and fiction appearing in many different journals and zines. Her latest poetry books are “The Architect of French Fries” (Presa Press) and “Words and Bones” (Finishing Line Press.) She is a former Poetry Editor for “ESC! Magazine” and also co-hosted the podcast for the small press, “Coffee House to Go,” for several years. She teacher poetry at local elementary and middle schools and publishes a free resource for poets, “The Poetry Market Ezine.” In her free time, LB enjoys swimming, reading, and taking guitar lessons.

Here’s her website: http://www.lbsedlacek.com or http://www.thepoetrymarket.com

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

I started writing poetry when I was living in Washington DC. I wrote song lyrics as a kid. After moving to DC, I tried writing short stories and poems. My first poem I wrote was called “Melancholy.” Not sure what happened to that poem, but that may be for the best, lol.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I guess I first learned about it in middle school. The famous Paul Revere poem comes to mind.

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

I didn’t become too familiar with Poets until I started studying poetry on my own and then later on in graduate school. My favorite poet I discovered at that time was Rilke and then later on there were several more. I bought a book of Rilke poems – one I don’t have – at an independent bookstore last night. I have always been a Shakespeare nut too. I’m reading Walt Whitman currently – his story of becoming a writer & poet to me is interesting ….a self made poet. For the most part I don’t care for his poems. I do like William Carlos Williams very much. I find poetry in most everything now that I’m looking!

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I write almost every day for a 2-3 hours in the evening. By writing I mean writing poems or stories, editing, submitting or updating my websites or social media or publishing the occasional blog post. I take time to read someone else’s poem every single day – sometimes more than one. The first thing I do every weekday is to read from a book on writing poetry, 1 or 2 books of poems by other poets, and then anything else poetry or writing related. I think it’s very important to read as much as possible as this helps to improve your own craft as well as to support fellow authors. I try to write 3-4 poems a week depending on whatever project is taking priority at the time. On weekends I’m more likely to spend time on submissions or practicing my guitar or ukulele. Music to me lends a hand in my creative process.

5. What motivates you to write?

Usually an idea. It can be just something I’ve though of and wonder how it would turn out or based on a true story or one of my own experiences. I’m very fluid with my process as I work on several projects at a time which is how I read books too – several at a time.

6. What is your work ethic?

These days I tend to write for a very general G rated audience. One of my poetry books was added to the local 3rd grade school curriculum so those poems have to be readable for anyone more or less. With poetry I never use extremes in language like cursing or sexuality – I don’t write love poetry and I don’t read it either as it’s just not for me. I keep my poems basically clean. I enjoy writing Sci Fi poetry the most and sometimes Horror type poems but those poems of mine tend to focus on the psychological types of suspense and not blood and guts. I don’t watch or read Horror so I don’t try to write it either. For Fiction, I take more latitude with my work with some despicable characters making the pages. For my new psychological thriller book coming out soon (it will probably be a one and done because I don’t know if I can manage these characters again) there’s a lot of questionable characters, awful things they do to each other, language etc. For non-fiction, I try to write to a general audience with articles that can be published every where read by anyone. I tend to cater my writing ethic, I suppose based on what I’m writing. I’d say its most flexible with me with Fiction.

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

Today, I admire them, their careers and try to keep persevering more or less as they did. I read JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and mysteries by anyone. Funny thing I never dreamed of being a writer when I was young – I wanted to be a singer!

7.1. How have they influenced your work?

I would say they’ve inspired me as a writer – I don’t write the same kind of books but their work and originality gives me hope and inspiration for my own works.

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

Dani Shapiro is one of my favorite authors – she started out with fiction and now does memoirs. I really liked her style of writing – the way she’d weave narrative with prose in her books. Ted Kooser is one of my favorite poets. He can take the most ordinary thing and turn it into something amazing. I also like to read the poetry of local poets and/or attend their readings to get a different perspective on how someone else’s process works.

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

I write because I must – even if no one else reads what I write I still have to write or some form of writing. Writing for me is akin to breathing. I feel that way about swimming too – that’s probably why I’ve written several things about water. I’ve tried other things and I’ve found I’m just not that good at anything else.

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

I’d tell them to 1) read 2) read some more 3) read in the genres they’d like to try writing in, 4) attend readings and author events, 5) join a writers group online or in person, 6) buy or check out from the library books or ebooks on writing – just one at a time, 7) check reference periodicals, 8 – search online for articles on writing, 9) talk to writer who has been published- they don’t have to write in the same genre.   There is an educational aspect to it – study form, structure, grammar, vocabulary , all those things schoolteachers make you do when you take an English or Reading class.  Also you can try an online or local college writing course as well.  After you learn about writing, practice writing.  After you practice writing, read your works out loud for others.  After you share your writings, share them again on paper or online – don’t share online if you plan to actually submit that piece so you don’t run into “no previously published submissions” when submitting. Next re-read, edit, re-draft and read again.  After that try submitting to a zine or journal or your newspaper.  You can start with a simple Letter to the Editor or post in an online writers forum to get a feel for it.

11. Tell me about writing projects you’re involved in at the moment.

Sure!  I just recently had 2 chapbooks published:  “The Architect of French Fries” from Presa Press and “The Adventures of Stick People on Cars” from Alien Buddha Press that I’m currently publicizing.  I have a new beach poetry chapbook coming out soon.  Plus I’m working on a sequel to my award nominated mystery “The Glass River.”  I’m also editing a prose poetry book written over an entire year broken out by month.  It seems I always have a lot going at once!

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Elisabeth Sennitt Clough

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.

 

Elisabeth Sennitt Clough

grew up in Cambridge, England. She has had three books of poetry published. Glass, her debut pamphlet won the inaugural Paper Swans Pamphlet Competition and the 2017 Saboteur Award for Best Pamphlet. Sightings, her debut full collection, written during her MFA at ManMet, was awarded the Michael Schmidt Prize for Best Portfolio. A poem from Sightings was also highly commended in the Forward Prize and published in the Forward Book of Poetry 2018. Elisabeth’s second full collection, At or Below Sea Level, is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and a poem from the book won the 2018 Shooter Literary Magazine Poetry Prize.

Elisabeth was a recipient of the Arvon/Jerwood 2016/17 mentorshipthe Toast Poets 2017/18 mentorship and two Arts Council ‘Grants for the Arts’ Awards (2016 and 2018). She is a Member of the Society of Authors and the ALCS. She is also founder of the Ely Poetry Society Stanza Group.

Elisabeth is editor of The Fenland Reed. Initially approached to guest-edit Issue Six, Elisabeth is now a permanent editor of the magazine, alongside Jonathan Totman and Mary Livingstone Totman. Additionally, Elisabeth reviews poetry chapbooks and full collections; her reviews have appeared in The NorthSphinxInk, Sweat & Tears and Bare Fiction to name a few.

In 1998, Elisabeth studied English and Sociology at Anglia Ruskin University (formerly APU) for her BA. In 2001, she went on to complete an MA at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. She obtained her PhD from the Open University in 2010, where she studied under the supervision of Professor Dennis Walder. In 2013 she undertook a second MA – in Creative Writing with Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she graduated with distinction.

Elisabeth has lived and worked in Jakarta, Indonesia; Panama City, Florida; Fresno, California; Reykjavik, Iceland; and Maastricht, Netherlands, where she was a member of the Maastricht Writers’ Group.

Elisabeth counts Antjie Krog, Dorianne Laux, Corinne Clegg Hales and Les Murray among her poetic influences. She writes poetic memoir and narrative poetry, sometimes with a domestic theme. Yet, as Rebecca Goss suggests, ‘you will not find anything benign or cosy here. Sennitt Clough makes us look at things, not always comfortable things, using language that startles and excites.’

Publications include Glass (2016, Paper Swans Press), Sightings (2016, Pindrop Press) and At or Below Sea Level (2019, Paper Swans Press). Elisabeth has had poems published in The RialtoNew Welsh Review,MsLexiaPoemMagma, the Bloodaxe anthology, Hallelujah for 50ft Women, the Forward Prize AnthologyStandOther PoetryInk, Sweat & Tears and The Cannon’s Mouth (see Publications for a comprehensive list). She has won, been placed or shortlisted for a number of competitions (see Competitions).

Elisabeth Sennitt Clough’s book-in-progress is titled The Cold Store. Similar to her previous two collections, The Cold Store examines the pyschogeography of the Fens, but through the metaphoric lens of one of the largest cold store facilities in the nation, located in the flat landscape of the Fens. The Cold Store is dark, haunting and unapologetic in its exploration of power relations.

 

Her website is http://elisabethsennittclough.co.uk/

 

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

I’m inspired by the landscape in which I grew up: The Fens. Many people comment on its flatness, its monotony, but to me it’s a springboard for the imagination. There’s also an ecological side to my work. From the C17 when The Fens were first drained, agriculture has become the defining feature. This has brought with a great deal of ecological destruction, with visible subsidence. A phenomena that I’ve written about: ‘the Fen blow’ is a result of loosened topsoil and the ensuing wind erosion. Keeping the land drained artificially has resulted in the shrinkage and drying-out of peat. In my forthcoming book, I include poems dedicated to raising awareness of such eco-issues.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I’d finished my PhD and decided to take an Open University Creative Writing course (online) as a way of dealing with thesis burnout and was fortunate enough to be taught by Caron Freeborn.

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

I can’t say that I was aware of a dominating presence of older poets. I was living in California when I began to write poetry and the public library (next to my house) had two aisles dedicated to contemporary American poetry, so I immersed myself in there.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I try to write every day or at least do an activity related to writing every day. I get anxious if I can’t write (during school holidays, for example).

5. What motivates you to write?

I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration from newspaper articles lately. The Guardian has lots of interesting material; it is there that I saw the photo essay that inspired my rondeau redouble about reindeer herders (published in Mslexia). I also still gain a lot of my inspiration from the Fen landscape.

6. What is your work ethic?

I am quite tough on myself. If I set aside time to write, I don’t slack.

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

The first poetry book that I purchased was by Seamus Heaney and his interest in the land — and a certain landscape at that — told me that poetry affects me most when it is rooted in the specific. I also studied Les Murray as a twenty-year-old undergrad and his poems had a similar impact on me. I can still visualise the landscape in ‘Driving through Sawmill Towns.’

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

I admire greatly what Liz Berry has done for regional poetry. I can say without hesitation that if it wasn’t for Liz Berry, I wouldn’t be as comfortable writing about my region.

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

Similar to many others, I write to make sense of the world, but I also feel that it has a healing dimension too.

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

I don’t think you become a writer; you’re either a writer or you’re not. As with most things, success comes through hard work and long hours. If the passion isn’t there, it will soon be evident. I think I always sensed that I was a writer because of the way in which I saw the world.

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

I am writing my third collection (fourth book) titled The Cold Store.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Victoria Richards

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.

Primers

Victoria Richards

is a journalist and poet. In 2017/18 she was shortlisted in the Bath Novel Award and the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize, was highly commended for poetry in the Bridport Prize and came third in The London Magazine Short Story Competition. She was also longlisted in the National Poetry Competition.

Find her on http://www.twitter.com/nakedvix or http://www.victoriarichards.co.uk1.

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

Having children sparked a burning need to write. I found myself turning to poetry at 3am, whilst feeding my first baby, at the time of night where it feels like you’re the only person awake in the world. I didn’t know where to put all of the intense emotions sparked by motherhood, and poetry provided an outlet.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I’d never written a poem before starting a creative writing MA at Birkbeck, University of London. I did a poetry module and was taught by the poet Martina Evans – and became instantly hooked.

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

‘Poetry’, in the sense of the traditional canon, belonged to old, dead, white men – or so I thought from what I was taught at school. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. I am constantly overwhelmed by the dazzling talent from the growing cohort of contemporary poets: many of them young, female, from BAME or LGBTQ+ backgrounds.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I have one day a week set aside to write creatively. I do the school and nursery drop-offs first, then I head home to my ‘writing cave’ which is my special space. I might edit some poems, or start something new, or critique someone else’s work, or add something to my novel-in-progress. I work until 4pm, when I do the school and nursery pick-ups in reverse.

5. What motivates you to write?

Intense feeling: be it sadness, exasperation, worry or a dizzying sense of joy. When I feel something strongly, my first thought is to write it out. It’s both catharsis and a source of creativity.

6. What is your work ethic?

When I’m inspired by something I find it very hard to stop myself from working. This means that my writing routine is not entirely consistent – because I can go from ‘spilling out’ 20,000 words in one week, as I did while I was writing my first novel, to weeks where I don’t write but instead read and edit and wait for that burning desire to come back again.

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

I was a prolific reader as a child – I probably didn’t do enough playing outside, because I always preferred reading. I was a total bore on holiday with my family because I wouldn’t want to do any ‘beach games’ or sports… why would you, when you’ve brought 14 books away with you for a week in the sun?! I loved Christopher Pike and Stephen King. I don’t write horror, but reading that genre in my youth taught me about pacing and how to tell a great story.

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

I’m floored by Sally Rooney, whose astute observation of what makes us human shines off the page. Ditto Deborah Levy – I would read anything she has to say, be it a novel, memoir or short story. Both writers have the ability to bring empathy, understanding and pathos to every line.

9. Why do you write?

Happiness. For me, writing is crucial to being happy. If I can’t write – if I don’t give myself that head space to think creatively – I find myself becoming glum and irritable. It’s a ‘need’, rather than a choice.

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

The first thing you need to do is: actually write. So many people say they’d ‘love’ to write a book, but the key is dedicating that time to doing it. Writing is a dream, but it’s also a discipline – and it’s hard work. There are days when the very last thing I feel like doing is writing, but I force myself to do it, to keep it all ticking along. Even if it’s only a few sentences. Writing competitions can also be a great way to get yourself on longlists or shortlists and to start getting noticed for your work.

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

I’ve just had my first poetry book published by Nine Arches Press – I was one of three lucky winning poets selected for the Primers IV anthology. We have a programme of launches and readings taking place over the next few weeks, and the book is available here: http://ninearchespress.com/publications/poetrycollections/primers%20volume%20four.html.

My debut YA novel is out on submission via my agent, Julia Churchill at AM Heath Ltd, and I’m working on another.