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.
writes poems. Twitter: @Ev3diary
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
I started writing poetry in my teens, as a revolt against the idiotic mechanisms of the patriarchal institutions (family, school, church) into which I had been inducted against my will. The voice of the poem is the voice of desire, anger, anguish. It is a different voice, a voice no one hears most of the time. A printed or spoken poem makes it public, briefly.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I was quite solitary at school (I still am), and would spend break and lunch times sitting on my own in the library. One day, when I was fourteen, I chanced upon The New Poetry, A Alvarez’s anthology of confessional poets. I read Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath for the first time. And that was that. When I studied for my GCSE English I had to read a well-meaning anthology of mostly dull poems, but there was one by Carol Ann Duffy I liked called “Medusa”, and that confirmed me in my interest in poetry. But I didn’t talk about it to anyone. Talking about it would have neutralised its magic.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Sexton, Plath, Eliot, Hughes were monoliths. Even though I admired them, something in me wanted to smash them too. I didn’t know much about living poets until after I left school.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I get up very early – usually 5am – and I sit patiently, with a pen and yesterday’s newspaper. Yesterday’s news is already the stuff of legend. I underline stories and phrases that interest me (often to do with crime). Then I write lines of poetry on the newspaper, wherever there is a tiny space. WIth time, the lines grow into a poem.
5. What motivates you to write?
Public discourse is cowardly; we all say what our audience want to hear. Poetry is the opposite. That’s why I write it.
6. What is your work ethic?
If I can write, I write. If I am too exhausted or depressed, I don’t.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I still admire the hostile directness of writers like Plath and Sexton, the way they threaten to leap off the page and stab the reader to death. But stylistically, my work occupies a different world from theirs. I never write about myself, even when it looks as if that’s what I’m doing, so I never fall into the trap of self-idolatry you find in some of their poems. I’m not worthy of idolatry. No one is.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
There aren’t many. Scherezade Siobhan is amazing, her words are like life forms, germinating and pollinating, riotously. Joanna Walsh is constantly expanding the possibilities of narrative prose. I also admire poets who write without consideration for what is conventional or tasteful. I enjoyed Void Voices by James Knight. But I keep going back to my favourite dead poets, Alejandra Pizarnik and Joyce Mansour. Their poems are knives, laughter, holes punched in partition walls.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
I don’t know how to answer that.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
By writing. A writer isn’t a special thing you become. Just write.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I have written and had published some short, self-contained lyric poems. I’m trying to write a longer sequence now. It’s hard, but the newspapers are helping.