Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Timothy Tarkelly

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.

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Timothy Tarkelly

Timothy Tarkelly’s work has been featured by Cauldron Anthology, Back Patio Press, Philosophical Idiot, Tiny Essays, GNU, Rusty Truck Zine, Sludge Lit, and others. His book, Gently in Manner, Strongly in Deed was published by Spartan Press in April, 2019. When he is not writing, he teaches in Southeast Kansas.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I have been writing since childhood. I have always connected to poetry and music. When I was in the third grade, my favorite book was A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Almost immediately, I started writing my own poetry and stories. I’ve worked a lot of different jobs and have changed my life’s direction several times, but being a writer of some kind has always been my primary ambition. Poetry has always been my favorite medium, but never in a serious way until the last five or six years.

I am inspired by a variety of subjects and have been moved to write poetry about my own life experiences, dead presidents, medieval warriors, vampires, Japanese mythology, politics, and just about everything else.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

While I connected with poetry at an early age, I had no concept of how vast the world of poetry really was. After I discovered A Child’s Garden of Verses in my elementary school library, my father bought me a book of Edgar Allen Poe’s collected works, as well as Shakespeare’s sonnets. Then, a few years later, my stepfather gave me a collection of Shelley. My senior year of High School, my English teacher introduced me to Petrarch and Donne, and challenged me to write sonnets for the first time. I didn’t even really discover the breadth of contemporary poetry for a while after that.

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

That was all I knew for such a long time. And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the introduction and still have a deep appreciation for the old poets (Petrarch and all the graveyard poets especially), but living in a small town in Kansas, where there is no literary scene whatsoever, I simply was not exposed. Even in my juvenile forays into the google-sphere turned up very few results that weren’t inundated with “These are the poets you MUST read.” I was in my twenties before I discovered the beats, and it wasn’t until then that writing poetry became more than just a weird hobby I didn’t tell people about.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Anymore, my writing routine involves me setting aside time to write and then doing anything else instead. When I try to write poetry, I am either spending hours scraping the inside walls of my skull for words that barely make sense, or I am writing ten poems inside of an hour. I know no middle ground.

5. What motivates you to write?

This is a tricky question to answer because my interests are so all over the place. I have always wanted to write and I simply can’t imagine not doing it. I’m not sure it’s more complicated than that. I would like to say that it’s about sharing a certain message, or a deep love of the process, but honestly the process sucks and I write about everything. I write poetry, plays, films, sad stories, essays, and steamy romance novellas. One day, I’ll be working on a 300+ line poem about love in medieval England, then I’ll be working on a romance set in modern day, war-torn Istanbul. I am also the official poet for Altcoin Magazine, where I publish poems about cryptocurrency.

6. What is your work ethic?

When I’m in the zone, I can’t be stopped. However, when I’m not, I can’t be moved to write at all.

A lot of writers will say things like “there’s no such thing as writer’s block. That’s just a fancy way of saying I don’t feel like writing.” Well, I’m glad their brain works in such a singular fashion. Call it laziness if you want, I get writer’s block often and in a very bad way. I haven’t written anything in a month. Which in a way is good, because I get to focus on revisions for another novella I have coming out. I’m struggling now, but last month, I wrote 26 poems. So, who knows?

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

I think the content holds true a lot of the time. I don’t write like Thomas Parnell, or Ann Radcliffe, but I am drawn to gothic imagery and it comes out in a lot of my work. Just like the old guard, I make way too many allusions to Biblical and Mythological themes and characters.

I also still use a lot of old forms. The majority of my work is “free verse” (I hate that term), but in the Eisenhower collection, I use Petrarchan sonnets, haibuns, trochaic tetrameter, and other relics from my childhood canon.

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

There are so many, TOO many to really include them all, but I’ll try to name a few. The poets I read the most right now, the ones I can’t stop re-reading are Safiya Sinclair, Joanna C. Valente, Ada Limón, John Dorsey, Kat Giordano, Shawn Pavey, Jason Baldinger. Really, the entire catalogue of Spartan Press and everything Cauldron Anthology, Luna Luna Magazine, and Trailer Park Quarterly publishes.

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

No matter what my job has been, or any situation I have been in, I have always found a way to turn it into some sort of writing project. I don’t understand how you can read and learn, and not want to turn it into work of your own. Eisenhower is a perfect example. The more I learned about Eisenhower, the more I wanted to create something with all of that knowledge, interest, and passion. While it might not have the widest audience appeal, I care deeply about it, and anything or anyone I care about is eventually going to find itself in a google doc, or scribbled inside of a notebook.

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

First and foremost: find people who support you. I took a lot of writing courses which were all helpful in their own way (even in the sense of learning what kinds of people/advice to ignore completely), but you do not have to go to college or get an MFA to be a writer. HOWEVER, what I got from college and being in an MFA program, is people who believed in me without question. If you are not around creative people, you will feel discouraged and likely spend years not applying enough energy or focus to your craft (like me). The first time I got a story published, I excitedly told someone at work about it. Their response was, “Why?” Why. Why did I write a story and have it published?! To some people, like the population of Chanute, KS, creative endeavours are such a bizarre waste of time that even when you find success, they still don’t get it.

Find your community. Find people who will nod in understanding when you say you’re a writer, even if you haven’t published anything yet, even if your writing only exists as scribbles in a notebook. Online, or in person, I would have never taken a single chance with writing if I hadn’t finally found a group of supportive people.

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

I am in the revising process for a romance that will be published by The Wild Rose Press. I can’t say much, but it is set in a monastery in Western Kansas, and is being published under their mystery line.

As far as poetry goes, I have been working on a series of prose poems, which is new territory for me and I like it so far. I am also doing research in a lot of areas to finally settle on what my next big project is going to be. I had a lot of fun writing the Eisenhower book and want to do something similar, but in a much different area. So far I am considering a book of poems about: the Moorish conquest of Spain, Fat Mike from NOFX, Mathematics, the history of Fort Scoot, Laura Dern, or something else entirely.

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