Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Anne Tannam

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.

Anne Tannam

is a Dublin poet with two collections- Take This Life (Wordonthestreet 2011) and Tides Shifting Across My Sitting Room Floor (Salmon Poetry 2017). Her third collection is forthcoming with Salmon Poetry in summer 2020. Anne’s work has been widely published in literary magazines, journals and anthologies and has been featured in The Irish Times, RTE, UCD’s Irish Poetry Reading Archives and The Poetry Jukebox.
A spoken word artist, Anne has performed at festivals and events around Ireland and abroad including Electric Picnic, Lingo, The Craw Festival in Berlin and the International Poetry Festival in Kosovo. Anne co-founded the weekly Dublin Writers’ Forum in 2011, which provides a welcoming and inclusive space for writers of all genres, styles and levels of experience. Anne also offers practical and effective support for writers through her business Creative Coaching www.creativecoaching.ie.



The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

Though I enjoyed poetry in school and really enjoyed it in college (despite the fact that at the time we had very little opportunity to study female poets as the canon was so heavily weighed in the other gender direction), I never dreamt I could actually write the stuff myself! Song lyrics had a big influence on me too, as I was raised on a diet of music from an older brother. I think it was my best friend who inspired me to write, when she gifted me the anthology ‘Poem For The Day’ edited by Nicholas Albe. From that moment I began to daily read poetry so that when eventually I plucked up in the courage to write when I turned forty, poetry was the natural choice for me.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I remember one professor in college who really opened me up to what poetry could achieve in such a short amount of time and space. I’d always sensed there was a magic to it, but he allowed me to see behind the curtain.

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

I came from a background of readers but absolutely no writers. The idea that I could actually myself, that it was within my power to take up a pen, or click on the keyboard and create a poem, was beyond the powers of my imagination. At the time, I wasn’t aware there were wonderful Irish female poets like Eavan Boland and Paula Meehan blazing the trail for me.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I’m writing now for thirteen years and my routine has changed many times over those years. Like nearly all poets I also work to pay the rent so writing has always been a part-time activity. In my first year of writing I religiously wrote for an hour every day first thing in the morning, but now I write for half an hour a few times a week and try and give over Sunday morning to it. I also co-run a weekly writers’ forum on a Thursday evening so the writing gets to go dancing on a weekday night!

5. What motivates you to write?

The joy of playing with language and articulating what I need to say. There is nothing like the feeling of capturing complex emotional experiences in a few short lines. When the work is shared with others I’m hugely encouraged and motivated when people tell me that a particular poem names their emotional truth, and that they feel somehow heard too. It’s the universality of the emotional truth behind our very personal experiences that poetry captures so beautifully.

6. What is your work ethic?

Some weeks I’m very industrious and others not so but looking at it over a longer period of time I can say that I always turn-up in some form or other to the writing, and I’ve been faithful to my craft since I began. I’m always learning more about myself as a writer and learning from other poets who are masters of their craft.

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

The poet that influenced me the most growing up was Patrick Kavanagh and his work still resonates with me, but there are so many amazing modern poets now clamouring for my attention, that I don’t pay too much attention any more to the poets I grew up with, apart from regarding them fondly when I come across them again.

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

That’s too hard a question to answer! I read across a wide range of genres, though of course poetry is always in the mix. I’ll cheat by sharing the last three writers I’ve read and why I admire them.

Helen Tookey ‘City of Departure’ (Poetry) – such a confident and accomplished writer and how easily she moves from a complex idea, to how that idea plays out in our ordinary lives.

Kevin Barry – ‘Night Boat to Tangier’ (Novel) – his incredible mastery of language which he uses like a keg a dynamite.

Lucy Sweeney Byrne – ‘Paris Syndrome’ (Short Stories) – a debut collection that I wish I could have read when I was young. Brilliantly written, it unflinchingly describes what it means to navigate the world when you’re not tied down with notions of ‘nice’.

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

Because I can’t draw! Seriously, I so admire artists who can express what it means to be human through visual art. I write because I discovered late in life that I could. I write because when the words are flowing, I feel aligned and there is no other feeling in the world like it.

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

It’s a cliché, but I’d simply say you become a writer by writing. Ignore the voice in your head that is holding you back and write.  Find your own voice by writing your way to where it’s been hiding. Write regularly and read all the time.

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

I’m currently working on the second draft of my third collection ’26 Letters of a New Alphabet’ which will be coming out next summer.  I’m also working on a ten-month community project in Dublin called ‘Cabbage Quarter Conversations’ where I’ll be pulling together a series of poems which will be based on the fantastic stories I’m hearing from residents.

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