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.
is an English Education student at The Ohio State University after 20 years in the corporate world. He balances far too many hobbies with writing, school, his three sons and being a taste-tester for his wife, a chef. Ty’s writing can be seen at Black Bough Poetry, Neologism Poetry, Columbus Alive, Fourth & Sycamore.
1. When and why did you start writing poetry?
I started writing when I was about 16. I copied styles of poems I liked and they were all pretty terrible. When I was in my mid-20s, I was frequenting open-mics, featuring here and there, and publishing nonfiction. I have only started publishing poetry in the last year. I’ll be 50 this June.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
You know, I was an awful student. I was terribly unmotivated in school and consequently, I was on punishment quite often. So, I sat in my room and read. I always loved language and enjoyed reading. My 10th and 11th grade English teachers are who really encouraged my reading, introduced me to different kinds of poetry and encouraged my writing, even though it was bloody awful at the time. In 11th grade, I was invited to represent my school at the Young Authors’ Conference and that’s where I first heard published poets read their own work, not famous dead people in well-published anthologies. From that point, I was hooked.
2.1 Who hooked you at the Young Authors’ Conference, and why?
There was an English professor and poet (now retired) from Ohio University named Peter Desy. His work was very melancholy, which appealed to a brooding teen, but also very honest and not trying to BE poetry. It just WAS without being contrived. One particular poem he read blew me away: “My Father’s Picture on the Cover of a Buffalo Bison’s Hockey Program for 1934”. You can find it on the internet. I had a rocky relationship with my father, but always longed for approval and affection, like any normal child, and hearing this poem just completely knocked the wind out of my lungs. (I also am a big ice hockey fan) It was gut-wrenching and beautiful. I’ve been trying to write a poem like it for decades.
3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?
I’ve always been very aware of the presence of traditional and contemporary poets, though I readily follow more contemporary writers. I have and do constantly read poetry, partly out of enjoyment of the art and partly to learn how other poets execute their craft. I’ve never been in a bubble where wasn’t aware of contemporary writers in some form.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
My days are so hectic, I wish I had a daily writing routine! I am a student, I care for my 2 year old during the day, work with kids at the local library in the afternoon and evening, then study for school at night after everyone is in bed. All of that dominates my routine, and sadly, writing happens when it happens. I wish I had a more inspiring tale of how I balance all of those responsibilities and still discipline myself to write or revise a poem every day!
5. What motivates you to write?
Mostly fear and sadness. My wife keeps asking me why I don’t write poems for her. I try to explain that my poetry doesn’t come from a happy place. It’s me wrestling with my fear of death or working through childhood trauma or abusive relationships. I can’t seem to write sunny, complimentary, romantic poetry. So, I guess my writing comes from a desperate need of therapy.
6. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I read different writers now. When I was young, I read Whitman, Frost, Kerouac and due to an obsession with The Smiths, Keats ,Yeats and Wilde. These days, I read a lot of anthologies and lit mags, and I read a of local (Ohio) writers. I like to keep up on new writers, and to see what is attractive to publishers and readers. Ohio has some fantastic poets, as well, so I immerse myself in their work. I still read that Peter Desy poem often, though. It’s one of my landmarks of poetry that moves me.
6.1. How did The Smiths, Keats, Yeats and Wilde influence your early poetry?
Well, I haven’t read Keats, Yeats in ages. I don’t think I have much, if any, of my writing from that time, so I’m not sure how much of a direct influence they had on my work. I did try a bit too hard to be an intellectual, and that’s where the Morrissey influence came in. Soon after, I related much more to Joe Strummer and Chuck D. My influences and my work have changed quite a bit over the decades.
8. Whom of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Ohio has an incredible wealth of talented and accomplished poets- many in my hometown of Columbus. Recently, I have been reading the greats from my state and city: Bianca Lynn Spriggs, Scott Woods, Ruth Awad, Maggie Smith (American writer, not Dame Maggie Smith), Rachel McKibbens, Jim Dwyer, and Hanif Abdurraqib. There are many others, too, but these folks are accomplished poets who live in my area. A couple of them, I know personally. I enjoy hearing these artists create and write about their experiences and stories of living here in Ohio. This used to be a place everyone was trying to escape, but now people stay here and sometimes even seek Ohio out as a place to settle and make art. I relish that and I savor the work that these folks have put into the world.
9. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
The complicated answer is, “What kind of writer do you want to be? Do you want to be published often? Do you want to be paid for writing? Do you want to be able to earn a living from writing?”
The short answer is, a writer is simply a person who writes, whether that’s in a journal next to your bed, or in The Paris Review. So, the first step is to simply write. Write everything that comes into your head. Save all of your writing, whether it’s brilliant or rubbish. Your opinion of that same writing will change from day to day. Now, if you are interested in improving your writing, go to workshops. Go to open mics. Get on apps, like Meetup, to see when there are writing circles and workshops in your area. Talk to published writers and ask them all the questions they can handle. Don’t forget to READ. Read as much as you can. Read work that is similar to what you want to do. See what passes for “good’ or “great” writing in literary journals, in anthologies, in your chosen genre at your local bookstore. Write all of your ideas down. Go back to your “failures” and rework them. If you are at a loss as to what to write at any given time, there are websites and Twitter accounts that have nothing but writing prompts. Practice your craft as often as you can. Read, read, read, write, write, write.
10. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I am currently putting together my first honest-to-goodness chapbook. I have done the cut-paste copy-shop versions in the past, but I’m self-publishing a bound, proper chapbook this time around. I have a feature coming up in September, here in Columbus, that I’m really excited about.-my first major feature since the 90s. I’m working on a goal of 100 literary submissions in 2019. I’m at about 35, so I’m behind a bit, but plenty of time to catch up. 2019 has been a year of several small victories with my writing, so, I’m determined to keep it moving, keep writing, keep learning, keep workshopping, keep publishing.