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.
Dr Steve Nash
is a writer, lecturer, and musician from Yorkshire. He won the 2014 Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Performer from a shortlist that included Kate Tempest and Hollie McNish, and his first collection, Taking the Long Way Home, is available from Stairwell Books. Steve’s pamphlet The Calder Valley Codex, was released in 2016 and has now sold out, with copies only available in libraries. His most recent collections are Myth Gatherers and Taking The Long Way Home.
You can find him on Twitter @stevenashyorks or https://www.stevenashwrites.com/
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
Originally I think it was something I got interested in at school and it never really left me. Even when I got a little older and started writing music, it’s clear looking back that the lyrics were all part of that same interest in words and what they have the potential to do.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I don’t know if this was the first person to introduce me to it, but a school teacher I had made a massive dramatic deal out of poetry. We were given very special notebooks that we were only allowed to write in once a month. We had to plan and draft, and edit a poem – one poem per month – and then once it was absolutely finished, we were allowed to write them up as neatly as possible into the notebook (and even then, only in pencil in case we made a mistake). It’s strange because now I find all the pompousness that can be ascribed to such things really off-putting, but it certainly had the desired effect on my wee young brain.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I’m not sure I was ever aware of a dominating presence. I did have a habit of seeing their names just as names though. Like they were something mythological and not real people. I have continually been staggered by the down-to-earth nature of the vast majority of established poets I’ve met, and their willingness to give advice, even to hyperactive weirdo like me.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
Due to the rather chaotic nature of my work life, there’s no real opportunity to designate any kind of routine in terms of setting aside a particular time to write. I try to make sure I’ve always got a couple of projects on the go though, so I have somewhere to focus my energies while I’m wandering around, and I always have a notebook with me. So, I guess, rather than a routine, it’s a sustained attempt to keep open to any ideas or sparks that might whip by.
5. What motivates you to write?
This is something I’ve often wondered myself. There are extreme moments that come along in life that of course give you the urge to reach for a pen to, in some small way, respond to or manage the emotions or concerns that are shaken up. Honestly though, it is just something I have always done, for as long as I can remember. I wrote terrible stories that I’d make my older sisters or my parents read when I was a child, and it’s an urge that has morphed over the years but never really gone away. At present I’m writing because I’m lucky enough to have a couple of places want to publish more collections of my work, so I’m highly motivated to get some shiny new stuff ready for those.
6. What is your work ethic?
My work ethic is to push myself to try to write something every day, even if it’s not an actual poem, story, or contribution to a larger narrative. Sometimes it can be lists, sometimes gibberish, but something. These little word doodles, or broken bits of lines help to keep me focused on those projects so they don’t fall too far into the distance, and I’ll often find they can provide me with answers when I’m struggling to complete a line or paragraph elsewhere.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Probably more acutely than I realise. I remember we had an enormous collection of the old Point Horror novels when I was young, and I thought they were the coolest thing in the world. I remember being looked at as a bit of a weirdo by some kids at school because I was always reading about vampires, ghosts, murderers, and werewolves, but I do now still get described as being slightly obsessed with the macabre and horror themes. In addition to that some of my favourite poems and stories from when I was really young would still be in my list of favourite books now. ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go’ by Dr Seuss is still in my mind an absolute tour de force of a poem, and stories like ‘Not Now Bernard’ or ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ still seem to me remarkable works of imagination.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
There are so many that I almost don’t want to answer for fear of the inevitable leaving someone out. That being said, Helen Mort is a writer who repeatedly and consistently breaks me with her ability to craft words and stories in startling but grounded ways. I cannot wait to read her debut novel. I’m currently reading Zaffar Kunial’s ‘Us’ and it really is a remarkable piece of work. He’s lives locally and by all accounts is a super lovely chap, but my anxiety and lack of faith in my own status as a real human being has always made me too afraid to actually chat to him properly. I’m really fortunate to be able to call some of my favourite contemporary writers friends, such as Helen, but also Oz Hardwick, John Foggin, Kate Fox, Gen Walsh, and so many others. These are all huge inspirations to me.
9. Why do you write?
I’ve never known why, but I just have for as long as I can remember. I suppose now it’s because it has become my way of engaging with the world in a way that makes sense to me. I’ve always been better with words than with any other medium, and being an awkward sort of guy, the ability to think about and shape what I say before it just comes galloping out of my mouth in a messy scattered way (no seriously you should ask my students) is a real gift.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I would say – you take this pen and you take this paper and away you go. I know that’s a really facetious answer, but it’s true isn’t it? What is stopping anyone becoming a writer? Becoming a writer worth reading I guess would be the trickier part, and I genuinely don’t know if I would put myself in the category (yet), but read others’ writing, listen to criticism, be open to ideas, and never believe that your way is the only way of doing something. Equally, if anyone ever tells you there is one single right way to write a poem, a story, a screenplay, whatever it might be, ignore them. Read widely, see what interests you, but be yourself. Write the things that only YOU could write.
And don’t let anyone stop you.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I am working on a children’s poetry collection (mostly about monsters, and spooky things), and I have the beginnings of a collaboration that I’m pretty excited about, but that one’s in the very early stages at the moment.