Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Brian Moses

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.

Brian Moses

has been a professional children’s poet since 1988.. To date he has over 200 books published including volumes of his own poetry such as Lost Magic: The Very Best of Brian Moses (Macmillan) and I Thought I Heard a Tree Sneeze (Troika), anthologies such as The Secret Lives of Teachers and Aliens Stole My Underpants (both Macmillan) and picture books such as Beetle in the Bathroom (Troika) and Trouble at the Dinosaur Cafe ( Puffin). Over 1 million copies of Brian’s poetry books have now been sold by Macmillan. Brian also runs writing workshops and performs his own poetry and percussion shows.   To date he has given over 3000 performances in schools, libraries, theatres and at festivals throughout the UK and abroad. He is also founder & co-director of a national scheme for able writers administered by his booking agency Authors Abroad. CBBC commissioned him to write a poem for the Queen’s 80th birthday and he was invited by Prince Charles to speak at his Cambridge University teachers’ day in 2007. His latest books include Spaced Out – an anthology of space poems (edited with James Carter and published by Bloomsbury) and two picture books Walking With My Iguana and Dragon’s Wood, both published by Troika.

websites: www.brianmoses.co.uk


Blog:      brian-moses.blogspot.com

Twitter: @moses_brian.9181@twitpic.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

I was drawn to poetry through my enjoyment of the lyrics of rock music, particularly singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and the Beatles. The poetry I was offered in school made little impression on me at the time and it wasn’t until I picked up a book of poems by Liverpool Poets – Adrian Henri, Roger McGough & Brian Patten, that I realised that poetry could be fun, that it could speak to me in  a language that I understood and that it had relevance to my life as a teenager.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Think I’ve answered this in the above.

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

Very much aware. I read and read poetry by others once I started writing it myself and  it was what spurred me on. I wrote terribly bad imitations of other poets to start with and then suddenly began to find my own voice.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

If I’m at home, I often start ‘writing’ when I’m on an early morning walk with my dog. I live in the country and we are out in the fields and the woods. She pursues her agenda with rabbits and pheasants while I chase words round and attempt to capture them on a voice recorder.
Coming home I then transfer anything that might be useful to notebook or computer.

Mornings are best for writing but I sometimes do some more between 5 and 7 in the evening.

However, as a poet, I can write anywhere and everywhere – hotel rooms, trains, planes etc.

5. What motivates you to write?

I’ve been a professional poet for 32 years now and am motivated to write for performances. I need to keep them fresh and add new material when I can.
When you earn a living from poetry, money (or lack of it) is also a great motivator!

6. What is your work ethic?

I think I have a really positive work ethic – Over 200 books published and over 3000 performances of my poetry in the last 30 years are testament to that.

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

They did when I first started to write myself, but not so much now.

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

There are many writers – for fiction it’s Carl Hiaasen who writes the most wonderful eco-thrillers which are amusing at the same time. I’ve always admired the poet Roger McGough for his wordplay in both his adult and children’s poetry. There are also a bunch of younger children’s poets who are making their mark on the scene and who’s work I admire.

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

Everyone needs to do something creative.  I began by trying to write songs and play the guitar. Quite soon I realised that I hadn’t got the motivation to practise enough and I gave up the guitar but kept on writing words which turned into poetry.

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

I would tell them not to underestimate how challenging it is, particularly if you want to make a living from your writing. There are so many distractions when you work from home and you need to set yourself targets. I still fail miserably at times but somehow ideas still come along and poems are written.

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

At the moment I’m writing a series of 8 picture books for very young children. My wife is my co-author on this project. I’m also two-thirds of the way through my second novel for children (first one ‘Python’ was published a couple of years ago) and I’m putting together a new poetry collection. I also started up a blog for teachers 7 years ago and need to keep that up to date each week brian-moses.blogspot.com (http://brian-moses.blogspot.com/) If you’re a teacher, it may save you some planning time!

Wombwell Rainbow Interview: Sascha Aurora Akhtar

Wombwell Rainbow Interview

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.

Sascha Aurora Akhtar

feels deeply connected to her ancestral roots in Lancashire, South Yorkshire and Pakistan. Born into a literary family, with writers of both fiction and poetry
represented, Sascha has been naturally drawn towards many kinds of writing.
Her first poetry collection was The Grimoire of Grimalkin (Salt, 2007), followed by 199 Japanese Names for Japanese Trees (Shearsman, 2016), the first of it’s kind a deck of Poetry cards with fine art Only Dying Sparkles (ZimZalla 2018), The Whimsy Of Dank Ju-Ju (Emma Press 2019) & #LoveLikeBlood (Knives, Spoons & Forks 2019).

Her fiction has appeared in BlazeVox, Tears In The Fence, The Learned Pig, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Storgy. Sascha has performed internationally at festivals such as the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam, Avantgarde Festival in Hamburg, and Southbank Centre’s Meltdown festival in London, curated by Yoko Ono.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I realize now, looking back that poetry was all around me in my home growing up. Books, people reciting it in conversation, writing it & I put pen to paper from age 7 onwards. The poetry itself though, I know see was a natural extension of myself & always came from a place of sorrow, anxiety, ill-treatment, depression, PMDD, so it was a source of great healing. Also, I have always read fiction voraciously. Fiction inspires my poetry, still. Later, I was greatly inspired by great lyricists & music, that remains true.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My family. I would say the very first poem I was exposed to was The Walrus & The Carpenter which every member of my family could recite from memory.

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

I wasn’t. I’m still not. I find no presence dominating. I believe all writers need to honour those who have paved the way for us. In this regard, I have huge reverence for many such as Sonia Sanchez, Geraldine Monk, Bernadette Mayer & many, many others.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

This involves many things in a non-linear sequence; writing in one of my many notebooks as a poem arrives. Completing or beginning new things on the computer. For example this week I wrote three short stories – I had no idea that would happen, but it needed to.

5. What motivates you to write?

My thoughts, sudden flashes, other writings of any kind, paintings, a piece of dialogue from a film, the response of others to my work & the fact that I cannot stop writing.

6. What is your work ethic?

If there’s writing to be done, I will do it, no matter what. I am a solo parent & that has given me a gift; the realization that time is very, very precious & it IS possible to write what you need if you focus – no matter how long you have. It could be 10 minutes. I don’t have the luxury of days yawning ahead of me with uninterrupted writing time, or retreats I can imagine myself going to. The work just has to be done. And that’s all there is to it.

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

In my own personal experience, everything I loved when I was little or was loved by those closest to me ( my grandfather, mother, grandmother) has shaped me in ways I can’t even explain. As I mentioned, Alice In Wonderland was, is and will always be a huge influence on me. My mother had a copy for me before I was born and kept it for years. She gave it to me when I was 7 or 8.

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

I’ll be honest, I am a voracious reader, and I feel by naming writers I will leave out others. Especially since, I fall deeply in love with sequences of words in moments.

Out of the more recent fiction I’ve read I will say Jessie Burton is great. Susanna Clarke is sort of my literary hero. I adore David Mitchell, it must be said & am enamoured of the work of Lev Grossman and Deborah Harkness.

In poetry if you want to talk of poets I admire because of the power of their words & also what they have managed to achieve I would say Anthony Joseph is my biggest inspiration & also friend. I feel a kinship with poet Frances Kruk. Marianne Morris. Nia Davies. Emily Critchley. I admire Geraldine Monk. Kimberley Campanello, Rhys Trimble, Mamta Sagar, K. Satchidanandan. Many, many American poets some whom I’m not even sure are publishing anymore!  I mean here’s a strange thing. There was a poet named Andy Morgan in my M.F.A programme in the U.S. And there was one, just one poem he wrote that I couldn’t fully explain why I loved, but I asked him if I could keep a copy. That same poem has stayed with me for 15 years! I have days when one line from that one poem just plays in my head. He is a complete introvert. It is almost impossible to find his work. He has a lyrical quality that is powerful & quiet.

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

Because I have always done it. I have always come back to it, even when I was a young filmmaker & art photographer. Because it nourishes me. It heals me & above all, it is my way to connect with the world in a way I cannot because of my own psychospiritual make-up – sensory issues, social anxiety, general anxiety.

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

You can write, fill notebooks, diaries, pages & pages. Show others. Go to readings. Read everything & when you can answer that question yourself – you will ‘be’ a ‘writer’.

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

My fourth collection of poetry is a 36 page pamphlet:  The Whimsy Of Dank Ju-Ju (https://theemmapress.com/shop/the-whimsy-of-dank-ju-ju/) was published in September 2019 by Emma Press (Birmingham). The title refers to my life-long interest in anything and everything to do with magic, ideas of magic, magical thinking et al. I taught a workshop about the relationship between poetry and magic at the Poetry School and will be teaching a 2 day one in the Summer of 2020. I believe poetry is a magical practice, and as poets embracing whimsy is the key.

My fifth collection is 76 pages I believe and literally, just was announced yesterday.  It is called #LoveLikeBlood (https://www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/product-page/love-like-blood-by-sascha-a-akhtar) and has been published by Knives, Forks And Spoons Press.  It incorporates language that I feel has emerged as we have developed digital consciousnesses through Social Media. It embraces rupture, fracture. It has anger in it & truth-telling. It has many references to songs, often with epigraphs from the songs as taking off points. The cover image is from my art photography portfolio when I shot exclusively on slide film, often cross-processing the film to get very particular tones & colours. The book is like that too. It has a specific tone.

Other writing projects include one more poetry collection forthcoming this year. ( I know it is ridiculous). A book of translations forthcoming in April 2020 on Oxford University Press, India. Two short story collections, and two novels. The fiction pipeline is longer term!

Thanks so much for this!

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Tolu Oloruntoba

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.


Tolu Oloruntoba

is the author of the Anstruther Press chapbook Manubrium, and a full length collection forthcoming from Palimpsest Press. He has lived in Nigeria and the United States, and practiced medicine before his current work in project management. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Pleiades, Columbia Journal Online, Obsidian, This Magazine, and the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.  He lives in Metro Vancouver.

Website link: http://tolu.ca/

His debut chapbook is Manubrium ( http://www.anstrutherpress.com/new-products/manubrium-by-tolu-oloruntoba ),

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

I started writing verse when I was 16, in my penultimate year of high school. Calling those early attempts “poetry” would be too generous because I began by modifying vinyl sleeve lyrics (Lionel Richie and the like) that I had hoped would impress a classmate of mine. When these proved inadequate for expressing the sentiments I envisioned, I tried to be more original by constructing verses of my own. My classmate remained unimpressed, but that ability to write things in verse stayed with me, and I found that I quite enjoyed it. I had never thought poetry was something I could do but at some point, I realized that this writing could be called that. Between that excitement, and the catharsis I didn’t know I needed, I started to write a lot between age 16 and 18. It was all written in notebooks, with new versions modified from the last, containing non-standard editorial annotations I still use when I write longhand, and it likely all atrocious to begin with, but I was on my way.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My Literature-in-English teacher, Mrs. Ukpokolo. I really enjoyed our in-class explorations of what poems meant, and what made them work.

3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

From when I began to read literature, I was aware of the work of poets who were older older (in that they had emerged in about 2 generations before my birth), but who are still more contemporary than ancient. Some of these giants are still alive, including J.P. Clark, Wole Soyinka, and Femi Osofisan. I grew up in Nigeria, so my initial context, beyond Shakespeare, was mostly provided by these writers, and others who had been active around the independence struggles of many African countries. These included poets like Léopold Sédar Senghor, Gabriel Okara, Kwesi Brew, Okot p’Bitek, Birago Diop, Kofi Awonoor, Christopher Okigbo, and R.E.G. Armattoe, who had contributed much to the poetic ethos of newer African countries. One would rightly call their influence dominating, but new and vigorous germ lines are emerging from Africa and its diaspora.

3.1. What are these “new and vigorous germ lines” that are emerging?

One that comes to mind is the African Poetry Book Fund which, with their Brunel International African Poetry Prize and New-Generation African Poets chapbook series, introduced me to new voices like Warsan Shire, Safia Elhillo, Ladan Osman, Romeo Oriogun, Clifton Gachagua, and Nick Makoha. I also think of talented writers like Razaq Malik Gbolahan, Tiwaladeoluwa Adekunle, Ama Asantewa Diaka, Olukemi Lawani, and more poets than I can remember now. I see a lot of vibrant experimentation, the boldness to break free of handed-down conventions and tap into a peculiar vision of the truth, honest and evocative poetry, and an innovative embrace of new media emerging in several forms.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I have “writing months,” when I write between 2-5 poems per week, most of them in snippets in my note app on the train, etcetera (since I work full time). I consolidate and type these out when I get home, after my daughter is asleep. Most other months (about half the year, sadly) I write about one poem in two weeks, in a very drawn out process. In those drier periods, I don’t have much of a “daily writing routine.” I know I should exert more discipline to make my output more consistent. Or do my project management emails at work count? 🙂

5. What motivates you to write?

That’s a good question, because the answer varies from day to day. My major motivations are the knowledge that it is something I am able to do; that it potentially has more permanence than my physical existence on this world; that I can connect, like others have with me, with those others who may have been waiting for just that thought, or challenge, or confirmation; and being on the trail of an idea that keeps me following poem after poem, investigating what I mean (usually when I am in a state of flow while completing a manuscript).

5.1. What do you mean by “investigating what I mean”?

I sometimes begin with thought fragments that, on face value, don’t seem to mean much. I have however come to recognize these fragments as outputs of my unconscious mind. From the computational power of the mind, notions, anxieties, observations, follies and wishes tend to coalesce into a pool you can draw from, if you’re patient. So I stay on the trail of thoughts and concerns that sometimes become obsessions, sometimes with surprising results. I know they say writing is not therapy, for example, but some of the insights I have achieved through and after writing some poems have brought me unimaginable peace. Through my poems I ask and answer questions, sometimes beyond what I consider the limits of my commandable intellect.

5.2. Please can you give an example of an idea that “coalesced” into a poem for you?

An example is a poem I wrote, called “Grove” (https://entropymag.org/new-poetry-from-tolu-oloruntoba/). I wrote it while I lived in a condo beside a busy road, that had a telephone pole close to my bedroom window that kept emitting a sound I could only describe as a dialtone. Although I had blackout curtains that also shut out some of the sound, the anxiety-indicing buzz was never far away. The sound of traffic, and that dialtone, even in an absolutely darkened room, gave me this:

In black light

the forest is an eyewhite fishbone grave,
we are bleached and all-pupil in its dark
and the curtains of the world do not hush
the dialtone traffic.

It somehow captured the other persistent drone in my head, which is what I was really writing about.

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

They showed me the necessity of magic: things must mean more than they do.

I think of two poems of the same title by J.P. Clark (https://www.thebookbanque.com/literary/abiku-jpclark) and Wole Soyinka (https://zodml.org/blog/abiku-wole-soyinka#.XaOD3C-ZNQI), “Abiku.” These two treatments of mythos of early childhood deaths in southwestern Nigeria (possibly due to Sickle Cell Disease or other serious conditions) showed me, early, the possibility of viewing one thing in multiple vital ways.

Mabel Segun’s exegeses of Yoruba mythology and cosmology in fiction, D.O. Fagunwa’s tales of the fantastic, Kola Onadipe’s vibrant new worlds, and the magical realism of Ben Okri’s The Famished Road were early foundations of my view of what literature can and should do. A lot of my early efforts were actually split between fantasy and poetry, with poetry getting the upper hand, but with fantasy and idealism being underlying imperatives of my work.

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

It is difficult to pick just one, but it I had to, it would be the oracular, magisterial Yusef Komunyakaa. His poetry was, and remains, a call to action for me.

If I had to add more, I would add Kamau Brathwaite, for his grasp of the pulse and voice of the black Atlantic; Dionne Brand, for continually solving difficult theorems of language and meaning; and Pascale Petit, for the tenacity and inventiveness with which she remakes trauma into a vivid menagerie.”

6.1. Why “a call to action”?

The response to sublimity, beyond a sort of worshipful regard, is to approach it. We try to approximate (or if lucky, reinvent) that vision.

Take Komunyakaa’s ownership of the Epic of Gilgamesh in “Gilgamesh’s Humbaba was a distant drum.” It is not an “after” poem, it is a new thing.

Or the transporting imagery of “Fog Galleon.” The stronger the evocation, the stronger the response. I can practically see the fog in that poem, and I am there in the taxi beside the speaker. In response to the planetary scope of Komunyakaa’s poems, I ask myself what my own mythography, what my own archaeology is. His example (like that of the other poets that inspire me) is a call for me to do my own work, with the new vision I’ve been given.”

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

The answer, at this point, is probably cliché, but still true:
1. Read, copiously, for enjoyment and curiosity. It will develop your taste in writing, broaden your knowledge of what writing can do for (or to) a reader, what kinds of things have been tried, and what kinds of things you like (or don’t like) to read.
2. Have something to say (obviously)
3. Whenever you must communicate in writing, try to do it in the most inventive, yet honest, way you can
4. Your initial efforts will likely fall short of how you actually wanted to say what you wanted to say
5. Keep trying
6. Keep reading widely and studiously and keep refining your method as you develop your aesthetic / voice
7. Put some of your writing out into the world. Feedback, rejection, or obscurity, if they don’t destroy you, are another key ingredient, and reservoir of grit
8. Did I mention “keep trying”?

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

I am about 10 poems into my fourth poetry collection, but I’m still trying to feel my way around. I don’t know what shape the  book will take yet, but I’m sure it will come to me over the next few months. I’ve also been translating a collection of Yoruba poems, written a hundred years ago, into English.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Kayleigh Campbell

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

Kayleigh is a Creative Writing PhD Researcher at The University of Huddersfield and is an Editorial Assistant for Stand Magazine. She has been published in print and online, including Black Bough Poetry, Eye Flash Poetry and Riggwelter Press. She was commended in the Geoff Stevens Prize. Her debut pamphlet, Keepsake, is available through Maytree Press.


Twitter – @kayyyleighc


The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

Typically I wrote prose growing up; I can’t recall actually writing poetry. But, one of my favourite childhood books is A Nest Full of Stars which is poems by James Berry. I love the cover art, I love the language, I love the structure of the poems. I remember not understanding them all, as I wasn’t used to poetry. Cut to second year of undergraduate when my creative writing lecturer Michael Stewart asked us to write some poetry. I immediately loved writing it and felt like it was the right genre for me. The majority of my creative writing class preferred prose, but I loved poetry. Then in third year I took Steve Ely’s (who is now my PhD supervisor) module on poetry and produced a small sequence of poems for my final project. I found that poetry worked best with my thoughts and feelings; I liked the freedom of it.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I bought A Nest Full of Stars from one of the book fairs in primary school, my first taste of poetry! But, Michael brought my attention properly to it and working with Steve really cemented my love for it. Since then, I’ve just immersed myself in the poetry world.

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

When I first started writing it, I guess I was in the university sphere and focused on my writing and the poets we studied – which were all part of the older generation but I didn’t think about it in depth. Now I’m a more established writer and part of the poetry/literary world, I’m very aware of the presence of older poets. This was made particularly apparent through my work with Stand Magazine. Many of the subscribers and contributors are of the older generation, as are the editors. Stand is a longstanding, reputable magazine and somewhat traditional, which explains the ties to the older generation.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I suppose it would be incorrect to say I have a proper routine as such but, I guess I have fashioned one that works around my daughter Eliza’s routine. Throughout the day, If I have any ideas I will make a note of them and then when Eliza goes to sleep on an evening, I will sit and turn them into poems. This might not happen everyday of course, but I’m usually tinkering away on something. I like to write Haikus, so I try to write on of those at least weekly. When Eliza is in nursery and I have my own time, I have more dedicated period of writing. I typically do this at university or in some trendy cafe!

5. What motivates you to write?

It’s the feeling of working towards something creative and achieving something; I enjoy seeing a collection of poems emerge and then come together. During this time of PhD studies and early motherhood, writing poetry is important to me.

6. What is your work ethic?

I believe that it is not so black and white that if you work hard you will get what you want, but hard work and commitment is important. I’m organised with my studies and my writing, I work hard and keep going.

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

They inspire me to write things worth reading. I remember reading The Handmaid’s Tale in Sixth Form and thought it was amazing, just captivating and stayed with me after I’d finished. I enjoy Margaret Atwood’s poetry too; Atwood has inspired me to take risks with my writing.

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

I very much enjoy Charlotte Wetton’s work; her voice is amazing and I like the way she describes scenes and feelings. Other poets I like are Rebecca Tamas, Liz Berry, Julie Irigaray & Greg Gilbert. In terms of fiction my go to writer is Ian McEwan – I think his writing is clever and absolutely absorbing.

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

I think a lot of people have hobbies and things they are just ‘good’ at, my partner Joe for instance loves Pokemon! For me, it’s writing. It just gets me and I get it. I find it therapeutic; a creative way of writing a journal perhaps.

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

I would say that you don’t necessarily have to ‘become’ a writer, more that you just are! I would just advise them to write, write and write. Find the genre that suits them the most and work at it. That’s not to say you have to limit yourself to one genre forever, it’s just part of the process of becoming the best writer you can be. Also, have confidence in yourself. One thing I have learnt is that you just have to involve and promote yourself.

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

Well, my pamphlet Keepsake is taking centre stage currently! Keepsake is my debut pamphlet published by Maytree Press who have been lovely to work with. I have recently done a book signing at Huddersfield Waterstones and I’m reading at a Poetry Showcase, sponsored by the The International Centre for Contemporary Poetry, at The University of Huddersfield. Which brings me on to a big part of my life – my PhD. I’m on my way to finishing first year and recently passed my progression viva. The project is still under wraps at the moment – though it will involve monstrous women. And finally, I will be featuring in Butcher’s Dog Issue 12, so will be attending the launch of that!

12. Your collection is infused with “baby”, as in young people “cradling” and the hint of nursery rhymes “and they swam, and they swam.”

Yes, that’s one of the main themes, that’s a nice observation about the nursery rhyme!

13. Your poetry is very visceral.

Compared to my academic work, it’s very confessional and personal!

14. Would you say the narrator was you?

I would say most of the poems has me as the narrator, but some are more open to interpretation. One is narrated by a child (my daughter).

15. What appeals to you about confessional poetry?

I like the authenticity and poignancy of it. It’s about me, so writing it comes very naturally and it’s a very enjoyable process crafting the poems. It’s also therapeutic and reflective. I think readers like honesty, and to be surprised.


not including the ones that lingered under her skin.

(From  He Touched Me Here)

At times the collection moves from horror images to suggestions of the sacred,

and the holy water came

(From Birthday)

Yes, interesting observation. I suppose it’s representing the trauma and dark times through the more horror orientated poems, whilst the suggestions of the sacred represent the transition towards healing. I’m not religious; I suppose the scared imagery is my own interpretation of those things.

17. Why do you think people should read your collection?

That’s a good question. I think other people’s lives fascinate us, and I think it’s good to hear the stories of others. Though this personal, confessional poetry I hope other mothers – or fathers – may read my collection and find comfort that their feelings are not in isolation. People hopefully will see the highs and lows of life; the anxious times, the happier times. They will see that you can heal after trauma. And they can read some contemporary, visceral poetry!



Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Lannie Stabile

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.


Lannie Stabile

(she/her), a queer Detroiter, often says while some write like a turtleneck sweater, she writes like a Hawaiian shirt. A finalist for the 2019/2020 Glass Chapbook Series and semifinalist for the Button Poetry 2018 Chapbook Contest, she is usually working on new chapbook ideas, or, when desperate, on her neglected YA novel. Works are published/forthcoming in Entropy, Pidgeonholes, Glass Poetry, 8 Poems, Okay Donkey, Honey & Lime, and more. Lannie currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Barren Magazine and is a member of the MMPR Collective. She was thrice nominated for Best of the Net 2019.

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

I started writing (fiction) in 3rd grade, but I didn’t try my hand at poetry until 6th. A student teacher had us all write poems on whatever topic, and I chose a lion. It was called “Long Live the King.” I didn’t think it was anything special, but everyone seemed impressed. So, I thought, “Huh, maybe there’s something to this.” From there, I wrote such number one hits as “Russian Spy” and “1-800-DOG-BITE.” As they say, a legend was born.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon Shel Silverstein, and his was the first poetry I ever read. Shout out to “Hector the Collector.” But when I was 11 or 12, our teacher had us read and interpret “Ode to La Tortilla” by Gary Soto. I can still remember the dripping butter.

3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

I wasn’t aware in the least. At the time, I was writing simply to write. The politics of the genre didn’t actually come into play until about a year ago, when I started submitting. I saw the same names over and over being published, and I wanted to be one of them. But then it dawned on me to ask why I was seeing the same names over and over again. Nepotism? Talent? Influence and reach? A combination? Breaking it down is too much hassle, to be honest. Ultimately, I’ve decided it’s a numbers game. Just keep writing and submitting. I mostly pay attention to “established” writers to read them or to learn from them. I don’t have the energy to feel inferior.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

It’s more like a daily reading routine. At any given time, I’m balancing 2-3 (maybe more) books. To write well, you must read well. I don’t force myself to write. I mean, sometimes I do, if I’ve committed to a 30/30, weekly prompt, or some other challenge. But, typically, I only write when inspiration strikes, and that’s more likely to happen if I’m immersed in others’ creativity. Curiously, I tend to read more fiction than poetry.

4.1. What inspiration does fiction give , that poetry doesn’t?

What comes to mind is when writers create unique characters, with complexities and idiosyncrasies. A girl obsessed with a Red Sox pitcher, a boy with a lightning scar, a teenager with a collection of Air Jordans. I love the minutiae. Because poetry tends to be snapshots of emotion, we don’t often get to develop the characters.

5. What motivates you to write?

Emotions. Misheard lyrics. Misread phrases. Writing challenges with poet friends. Knowing this is the one thing in my goddamn life that I am unequivocally and irrevocably in love with.

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

When I was a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on: V.C. Andrews, Stephen King, Pat Conroy, Michael Crichton, and a lot of trashy romances. I would say most of it was “age-inappropriate,” if I believed in that sort of thing. So, basically, I was always reading above my level, subconsciously striving to grow. That definitely comes out in my writing. The way I play with new forms, experiment with new topics, challenge myself to be vulnerable. Mellencamp would be happy to know I’m young and improving.

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

Poetry: Sabrina Benaim, Dorianne Laux, and Chen Chen really strike a chord. They write about the human condition the way I wish I could. It’s unapologetic, vulnerable, raw, and somehow still kind of fun. Fiction: Sarah Waters, James, Baldwin (can he count as today?), and Tim O’Brien. Really, when I think about it, they have the same qualities as the poets I admire. They can take every day trauma and explain it beautifully. I also love Tomi Adeyemi, author of Children of Blood and Bone, but for a different reason. Her characters are well-developed and unforgettable. In fact, the princess, Amari, is one of my all-time favorite characters.

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

That’s an easy one. Write.

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

I’m always working on something. To date, I have completed two chapbooks and two micro-chaps. In fact, one of the micro-chaps was recently picked up by Wild Pressed Books, so I’m really looking forward to its publication. But ideas are, at this very moment, floating around my head, and I plan on finishing another chapbook by the end of the year. I also have one-third of a YA novel written that I carefully avoid writing, but I imagine one day I’ll finish it.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Ernest O. Ògúnyemí

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.



Ernest O. Ògúnyemí

is an eighteen-year old writer and spoken word artist from Nigeria. His works have appeared/ forthcoming in: Kalahari Review, Litro ‘Comedy’ Issue, Lucent Dreaming, Low Light Magazine, Canvas Lit Journal, Agbowó ‘Limits’ Issue, Erotic Africa: The Sex Anthology, and elsewhere. He is a 2019 Adroit Summer Mentee, and a 2019 COUNTERCLOCK Arts Collective Fellow. In 2018, he won the Association of Nigerian Authors NECO/ Teen Prize for his manuscript of short stories, “Tomorrow Brings Beautiful Things: STORIES“. He is currently working on his first novel.

The Interview

  1. When and why did I start writing poetry?

I started writing poetry when I moved from Lagos – that mother with too many children, that one city that is packed with all kinds of people and things, that is loud in all forms: speakers blaring ” shepeteri” (street) songs, pastors filling mics with tongues that feel as ragged and unrefined as the many screams of cars and “danfos” and “okadas”, the smooth voices of muezzins calling Muslim brothers and sisters to salatt, matched with the voices of a new crop of evangelists who do the work of God with megaphones – to Abéòkuta. Abéòkuta is the very opposite of Lagos. In Abéòkuta, I met calm – the calm of a river untouched by the wind in fact.

This change of place brought me to solitude, and it was my aloneness that brought me to the page. I came to the page to express all that I was feeling, that I had no one to talk to about. And, at the time, I had some real questions about God and Fate and Destiny and Culture, so I asked those questions on the page.

I was sixteen or so.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Somehow, a teacher.

When I was in Lagos, there was this festival that gave space to students to present dramas, songs, and dramatic poems (presentation of a poem accompanied by drama). It was also a competition. Our school was invited, so a teacher, one of my English teachers then, (I don’t remember her name right now) – she asked me to write a poem. I didn’t. She wrote the poem and gave it to me to present.

I recited the poem at the audition, with the cast dramatising. Though we didn’t get to perform at the finale, we were awarded the fourth position at the finale.

When I moved to Abéòkuta and there was a competition for dramatic poems, I presented the poem with a cast made up of students from my new school (I directed the drama). Funny, but we won the competition with that poem.

After sometime, I started writing poems, too. I stuck them to the small notice-board where nobody read them – nobody but me.

Soon teachers started noticing what I was doing, and, while they didn’t introduce me to poetry or groom me, they made me love what I was doing.

After sometime, I met someone who first taught me certain basic things about poetry. His name is Ayoola Goodness, author of “Meditations” (one of the very first collections I read that influenced me at the very early start of my poetry-journey).

3. How aware are, and were, you of the dominating presence of older poets, traditional and contemporary?

I would say, at the start of things, when I first began writing poetry, I was more conscious of older poets—the traditional ones. This was because the poets we read in Literature Class, the poems on the syllabus, were poems by old traditional writers—George Herbert’s “The Pulley”; Lord Alfred Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar”; William Blake’s “Schoolboy”; Robert Frost’s “Birches”; and, of course, Shakespeare’s “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day.” We never read any contemporary poet. Even the African poems we read were by old poets, the custodians; the likes of Christopher Okigbo and Lenrie Peters.

The other reason I was more aware of older, traditional poets was that the books I had access to were the old books, the ones by older, traditional poets. There was nowhere I knew where I could buy the new books—where I stay presently, there’s no bookshop selling new books (there is more than enough in Lagos though, an hour’s ride from her); there are only two or three men who sell old, still covered, sometimes tattered, books by the roadside. It was from those men that I bought the books that introduced me to poetry, the traditional poetry by Emily Dickinson and Matthew Arnold and other traditional poets. It was also from one of them that I bought The Complete Works of Shakespeare, a big book containing all of Shakespeare’s works with green hardcovers with the titled engraved in golden letters on the front cover. The African poets I met, too, in anthologies weren’t contemporary, and, yes, they weren’t traditional poets either; they were just old poets.

I didn’t know any contemporary poet until I met works by new Nigerian writers, who, though writing in this time, would still fall under the category of old poets. There was no innovation to their poetry, but for the works of a few of them. One of the few was Ayoola Goodness’ Meditations, a poetry collection that shifted my eyes away from the traditional poetic form to something somewhat new.

However, it was until I, by chance or fate, picked up a Pushcart Anthology at one of the bookstalls by the roadside that I began to see what poetry could be—fluid, like water. But then, the Pushcart Anthology was published in 1993 or so, so it was still the old kind of poetry in a way. I remember writing a poem after one of the poems in the anthology, which was titled ‘Green’ and was written by an eighteen-year old Canadian writer. When I submitted what I’d written, inspired by ‘Green’, I got a rejection where the editor mentioned that the form was old.

When I began playing around with my dad’s phone, in late 2017 and early 2018, I began to witness wonder, in poetry. I read every poem I could find online, and I really fell in love with Danez Smith, and, very recently, Tianna Clark and Ocean Vuong. I also remember buying a copy of both the translation and original of Neruda’s The Captain’s Verses; it changed my life. A Feast of Return by Odia Ofeimun did a lot for me, too.

Today, I’ll say I’m fascinated by both poets. Though I read more contemporary poets, I do read older, traditional poets, too, because I need them both as ancestors on this path, as guiding lights on this journey.

3.1 How did “Neruda’s The Captain’s Verses and Feast of Return by Odia Ofeimun” change your life?

Before reading those two collections, I had read no poetry collection at all; but I had read a few poetry anthologies. One of the anthologies I read was “An Anthology of African Poems” whose editors I can’t recall now. The anthology included poems from the oral Yoruba poetry to Taban Lo Liyong and Niyi Osundare and Fusho Ayejina. And those poems were helpful.

However, it wasn’t until I read Odia Ofeimun’s “A Feast of Return” that I really felt a strong connection to poetry. There were times I sat outside and read the collection out loud, imitating the voices of all the characters in the poetry book. Whenever I finished reading, it felt as if somebody had immersed me in water and brought me out refreshed. I just felt light. The effect it had on me is quite similar to the effect weed has on people.

“A Feast of Return” had a freshness of imageries and an Africanization of poetics that made it beautiful and accessible. Also, because it was a communal kind of poetry collection (a dance drama in poetry), I felt as if I was a part of community, a part of the South Africans who were fighting apartheid. I don’t know, it just spoke to me. It still does.

On the other hand, Neruda’s “The Captain’s Verses” was a revelation. Reading that collection made me understand that poetry doesn’t have to be complex to be poetry; it could be simple and yet powerful.

Though the poems were love poems, I still connected to them. And the recurrence of certain imageries – earth, flowers, rivers – in the collection was something that stuck with me.

The collection also helped me understand that poetry is a thing of the heart first; the heart is the important thing. That a poet can write about the most mundane things in this world, the things that go unnoticed by the human eyes, and those things would be beautiful and become things we find very hard to forget – the only thing is, whatever you’re writing as a poet, let it matter.

3.2. What do you mean by “Africanization of poetics”?

What that – *the Africanization of poetics” – means is, “A Feast of Return”, for me, is poetry that is African in every way I know: the language, the voice(s), the characters, the imageries. It felt as if the collection was written in a particular African language first, and was later translated into English. But that’s not really true. Odia Ofeimun wrote it in English, but because the story the book tells is first an African story – a story about the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and about Africa – there is a way he Africanized his poetry. For example, the poetry is really oral poetry and is meant to be performed, though it is written. In fact, Odia Ofeimun makes notes on how it should be performed at the end of the book. So, maybe it is “the Africanization of poetry”, instead of “the Africanization of poetics”.

Note that before “A Feast of Return”, I had encountered other poems that were written in English but were African (Woke Soyinka’s “Abiku”, most of the poems written by Kofi Awoonor, the poems of Niyi Osundare, among others) – but in “A Feast of Return”, it was extended.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Do I have a writing routine? I don’t think I do. I just know I write, and I do that every day. No day goes by that I don’t write something, even if it’s trash.

I write mostly at night, especially when the day is very tight for me. Or some times, very early in the morning.

Still, I won’t say I have a writing routine. I just write. However, that I don’t have a writing routine does not mean I write whenever I feel like, I write even when I don’t feel like.

5. What motivates your writing?

My motivation varies. Sometimes it’s the want to record a moment; at other times, it’s a story asking me to write it. But then, there is the joy that I feel when somebody reads my work and connects with it, when my name is there on the cover of a literary magazine. So, yes, those are motivating.

However, my greatest motivation is survival. I write to survive. If I get not to write again, I will most likely die. So, when I think of survival, I think of my writing. It’s all I have.

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

I’m still very young, so I’m still reading and I’m still influenced by what I read. However, the works I read before I even thought of wanting to write anything – books by Frank Peretti, Ted Deker, C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens, and a lot of children or YA books written by Nigerians and Ghanaians – made me believe in a different world from this; they helped my imagination. I don’t think there’s more that I learned from those books asides that, and that, the broadening of my imagination, is one of the reasons why I am a writer today.

6.1. What “children or YA books written by Nigerians and Ghanaians” broadened your imagination?

I can’t remember any specifically. Those books were tiny story books that were self-published by the writers. They weren’t even so well-written, but they were interesting. I don’t remember any now.

7. Who of today’s writers do you most admire, and why?

I don’t think there’s a specific writer writing today that I admire the most, but there are a whole lot that I really admire – and for different reasons.

I admire Ocean Vuong for his poetry. There’s a way his poems reach out to me, even though some of the themes explored on his works are not directly themes I can relate to. (I’ve been reading his poem “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong” every day for the past few days.) More than that, I admire him for who he is. I don’t know what it is specifically about him that I find interesting – I mean, he is Vietnamese-American, I am Nigerian; he is gay, I am not. But there’s something to him, a kind of simplicity to his personality that I find interesting. And, maybe because my mother was also illiterate and could speak no English, and because of the kind of feeling I got from knowing there was a time he had no place to stay and was sleeping in Penn stations.

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

Lol. I’ll probably suggest reading “How to Become a Writer” by Lorrie Moore, but don’t mind me, I won’t. I think I don’t know how people become writers, but I guess it all starts with reading. If you read so many stories, you get to some point where the stories you read either bore you or appear to not be what you really want to read. Because you are not getting what you really want from the stories you read, like Achebe once said, you write your own.

9. Tell me about writing projects you are involved in at the moment.

A few. I’m curating an anthology of poems by young African poets between the ages of 15 and 19. I just won a small grant to start the first literary magazine for young African writers and artists. I should be writing my novel but I’m too lazy I guess. I’m also looking at writing a chapbook. And, as always, I’m making art and sending work out.






Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jane Sharp

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.

Jane Sharp

Jane Sharp has been called a surreal writer. She freely admits to inhabiting other worlds from time to time. When she is not writing she enjoys playing the piano and the cello. Her home is in Yorkshire where her roots run deep. She also has a passion for dark chocolate.

Jane’s Blog: https://www.janesharp.org

Higgs Bottom: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07WLVTQP6

The Interview

  1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I began wanting to write verse as a young child, by entering competitions in the comic I took every week. I never won anything, but I was inspired by the fact that somebody did. Add imagination and a competitive spirit, plus a great deal of parental praise, and like a rosebud my passion for poetry began to blossom.

  1. Who introduced you to poetry?

Moving past the nursery rhymes of my childhood, I was first introduced to verse by the elders of the Methodist Chapel in Long Preston. As a part of the annual anniversary service I had to learn a few lines to recite along with other children of the Sunday school. At junior school I moved through the nonsense poetry of Edward Lear, The Owl and The Pussycat, A. A. Milne ‘Where the Wind Comes From… ‘ etc into the realms of Walter de la Mare, and I found myself in the throws of GCSE exams, being taught by a young, just out of college teacher, Mr Jackson, who, in his first teaching position, turned up at school with a Beatle haircut and a snazzy jacket. I thought he was the ‘bees knees,’ and consequently went all out to impress him. He encouraged me to let my imagination go wild, and seemed to appreciate my efforts at story telling and writing poetry. I even wrote a play, ‘Oedipus,’ which I have kept to this day. I would say, he was the one person who cultivated the opening rosebud with his enthusiasm for literature, and his praise of my immature efforts.

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

By older poets, I take you to mean poets of past times, such as Wordsworth, Keats, Byron, etc. Having a general education, I was introduced to these poets at an early age. I still have my copy of The Golden Treasury, from my school days. As far as being aware of their dominance, I did not think of them in that way. I did not have a choice in the matter and was simply fed whatever the curriculum deemed appropriate. Fast forward to the present day, and I am happy to have been introduced to those heavyweights, just as I am happy to have been able to study the works of the war poets, and in more recent times, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Matthew Sweeney, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and so many more excellent poets.

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

The words, ‘daily routine,’ imply that I do something at the same time every day. For me, writing poetry is not like that. I sometimes wake up with a poem in my head, or at least a couple of lines, in which case I jot it down straight away. I always have a pen and notebook on my bedside table. I have been known to catch a line or two whilst swinging the vacuum around, or pegging the washing on the line, or even whilst waiting for a bus, but there is no daily routine. I do, however, make sure that I read at least one poem every day, and this can be first thing in the morning, or last thing at night. Of course the novel writing is more like a nine to five job when it is in full swing.

When I am in writing mode I can sit and work on a poem for days until it is finished, and even then come back to it a week later and make revisions, and that might not be the end of it. Unless I have a deadline there can be constant additions or subtractions before I am satisfied with the result. But generally I will have a sound outline in one or two days.

  1. What motivates you to write?

Motivation: that great, unseen push. Well, it isn’t money, that’s for sure. I write because I want to write, because I have all these words spilling out of my head that are just looking for a home. They want to manifest, they need a physical form; they are ideas, which need to be spoken out loud, stories that don’t want to sit in the void, and characters that are banging on my skull to let them out.

Of course, deadlines for magazines, spoken word events, poetry society meetings, are all great motivators, and they bring focus and an intellectual approach to my writing. Being given a subject to write about is never as easy as going with the flow, but it is possible to stoke up passion for the unlikeliest of themes, such as ‘warts’ for instance, the subject of one of my poems.

  1. What is your work ethic?

‘Just do it!’ I can be as lazy as the next person, but I know that if I don’t get off my backside and do something, it doesn’t get done. There is a time for work, and a time for play, but there is no ‘set’ time for either.

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

A perfect example of this is when I began to write my latest novel, Higgs Bottom. The main character is a 13-year-old schoolboy. I had in mind Jim Hawkins from Treasure Island, and I did my best to channel him. It didn’t work. The way a schoolboy of today speaks is far removed from the way a young cabin boy would have spoken in 1756. Yet the idea of a first person narration did come from my childhood memories of Treasure Island. My reading of Alice in Wonderland has influenced my writing greatly; I take the philosophical ideas, and the bizarre imagery from such books.

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

I have long admired the accessibility of poems written by Simon Armitage. His use of form is a joy, and his vocabulary hits the spot. He can be humorous whilst at the same time very serious. And, of course, he is from Yorkshire, and like all good Yorkshire people I support members of the clan, so to speak.

I also like the poetry of Isabel Bermudez, who I think is a rising star. I find her poems to be soothing, and thought provoking, and full of imagery.

  1. Why do you write as opposed to doing something else?

Well, I do have many other things to do, such as practicing my cello, or the piano, or even reading, in fact I would say that reading is just as important to me as writing. And I have to make time to do all of these things. But I’m not the sporty type, I can’t sew, I avoid baking because that would mean I would have to eat too many cakes and biscuits, my grandchildren are grown up, therefore there is no babysitting, and I am retired from work, and, and this is a big and, I enjoy writing. I enjoy creating a poem, or a story, and what’s more I enjoy performing and making people feel emotion, whether it be laughter or tears.

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

This is an easy one. How do you become a writer? You write: you write every day. You write down what you hear people say, you write down what you see, you write down what you smell, and you write down what you feel. And then you write down what you think.

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

I have just wrapped up my second novel, Higgs Bottom. It is now available on Amazon as a Kindle download, or as a paperback book. It has taken me several years to complete, and I am very proud of the finished work. Higgs Bottom is my second novel, the first being Tears from the Sun – A Cretan Journey. So, now I have to announce to the world that their copy is just sitting there waiting for them to snap up. It is a book for all ages, and here is a spoiler – Higgs Bottom is a place, not a bottom. I hope to write a follow up to Higgs Bottom, but I have a work in progress, which may take precedence.

I have also been working very diligently on a poetry collection, which is now complete and should be published before October is out. I have called it Scary Woman – A poet in Barnsley, and it is an eclectic mix of personal, serious, erotic and humorous poetry. I have to add that my husband, David, is such a great help in all my endeavours.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Kerry Darbishire

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.

Kerry Darbishire

songwriter and poet grew up in the Lake District where she continues to live and write in a remote area of Cumbria. Her poems have appeared in many anthologies and magazines and have won competition prizes including shortlist Bridport 2017. Her first full poetry collection, A Lift of Wings 2014. Her second collection, Distance Sweet on my Tongue 2018, both with Indigo Dreams Publishing. A biography, Kay’s Ark published 2016 by Handstand Press. Kerry is a co-editor of the new Cumbrian poetry anthology, This Place I know 2019 – Handstand Press. She is a member of The Brewery Poets, Write on the Farm and Dove Cottage Poets.

Follow her on Twitter: @kerrydarbishire

Find her two poetry collections: A Lift of Wings and Distance Sweet on my Tongue


Find her biography: Kay’s Ark


Future talks/readings up to date:

Manchester Central Library – Vaster than Empires, Grey Hen Press – October 26th

Kendal Mountain Festival: Further Than it Looks, Grey Hen Press November 16th

Both 2019


Settle Sessions – November 15th 2019


Dentdale WI – biography/memoir, Kay’s Ark – April 20th 2020

Garsdale Retreat – October 7th 2020


The Interview

When and why did you start writing poetry?

I’ve always written songs or poetry, but only began writing poetry seriously through the grief of my mother’s death in 2005. I attended a local workshop which eventually lead to my first collection, A Lift of Wings (Indigo Dreams Publishing) in 2014, a biography, the story of my mother’s life, Kay’s Ark in 2016 (Handstand Press) then a second poetry collection: Distance Sweet on my Tongue (IDP) in 2018. I’ve always found inspiration in people and landscape present and past.

Who introduced you to poetry?

I don’t have a definite introducer of poetry, I wasn’t very attentive at school and learned more at home amongst books, art, verse and music – they were my childhood companions, our house was always full of musicians, artists and writers so I guess my home environment introduced me to poetry. The real turning point was when I was mentored by the poet in residence Judy Brown at the Wordsworth Trust in 2013. It was like being given the right fuel for this journey

How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

I became aware of the Lakeland poets – Wordsworth, Coleridge, and others: Yeats, Frost, Thomas Hardy etc. briefly at school and writers like the vagabond Jim Phelan who often stayed in our house, but at the time I never thought I was absorbing or being influenced by them.

What is your daily writing routine?

I like to write in the mornings after I’ve walked my dogs, but I can spend a whole day working on poems, to the extent I forget the time. Then again, if I get an urgent idea in the evening, I’ll go back into my room until I’ve made some sense of it

What motivates you to write?

If I’m suddenly grabbed by something I’ve heard or seen about people’s lives. I love responding to art works. Music can often also trigger a memory, a time or a place. Reading beautiful writing also inspires me.

What is your work ethic?

I don’t write about politics, religion or conflict of any kind as I find this too upsetting. I’m very involved with my wild surroundings, this ever-changing beautiful landscape and the River Brathay I grew up alongside and mostly up to my neck every day finding fossils and fish. If readers of my work find my poetry uplifting, then I’ve done something good

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

It’s hard to know how much sunk in and remained from reading as a child. I loved simple books such as Lassie, Heidi, Black Beauty and nursery rhymes. I was very in love with Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I married young and spent many years with little time to read but I guess everything I have ever read has affected my writing in some way.

Whom of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

There are so many brilliant writers today, my bookshelf overflows with broad styles of poetry and it’s very difficult to choose a few, but ones that spring out particularly for their accessibility: Seamus Heaney, Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes, and Sylvia Plath, for their rich conjuring of nature and transportation to other eras; Billy Collins, for his flowing voice, detail and humour; Jack Gilbert, Norman Nicholson and James Sheard for their memories and evocation of precious times. And even more modern poets: Helen Mort, Kim Moore, Judy Brown, Esther Morgan, Carola Luther, Ocean Vuong, and many more for their brave strong evocative voices.

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

Because I love it, because I have to – writing is my addiction, if I didn’t write I’d be lost and miserable.

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

I would say sit down and start writing, allow yourself time and let your pen flow freely. Surprising things can happen on the page, go wherever it takes you, let your imagination take flight, don’t worry about the initial quality, that comes later. Join writing workshops with accomplished tutors, either face to face or online, there are wonderful courses to be had on the Poetry School and other websites. And read, read, read, novels, poetry, ‘how to write’ books, listen to interviews with writers, there is always something more to learn. I never thought I would eventually be doing this, so, always carry a notebook, be brave and do it!

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

I’m building up another possible full poetry collection, I’ve got two pamphlets I’m considering sending out. I like the challenge of submitting to anthologies and poetry competitions. I’m loving this ‘new’ life, this supportive world of poets, reading at events, and enjoying writing as though I’m running out of time



Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Greg Freeman

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.

Greg Freeman

Greg Freeman

was born in 1952 in Wimbledon, and lives in Surrey. He is a former newspaper sub-editor, and now news and reviews editor for the poetry website Write Out Loud. He co-comperes a monthly poetry open-mic night in Woking with Rodney Wood, and his debut poetry pamphlet Trainspotters was published by Indigo Dreams in 2015. His poems have appeared in South, South Bank Poetry, The Interpreters House, the Morning Star, the High Window, and are plastered all over England and even offshore on the Places of Poetry map.


The Interview

1.  What inspired you to write poetry?

I was meant to be revising for my O-levels. I would have been 16, the year was 1969. Blimey, that’s exactly 50 years ago!  I was staring out of the window. It was a distraction technique. And I did write a poem about the moon landing.

2.  Who introduced you to poetry?

An English teacher notorious for getting benignly intoxicated in a nearby pub at lunchtime introduced us to the Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse. And I thought I’d have a go myself. (Much later, I wrote a poem about him, as the only schoolmaster that had motivated me at my dusty old grammar school). Then there was The Mersey Sound, that inspirational anthology of Adrian Henri, Roger McGough, and Brian Patten that opened up poetry to so many young people. No reflection on those three, but I wrote fairly awful adolescent poetry for two years, attended one poetry reading, by Brian Patten, and gave it up when I went to university in 1971. I didn’t take poetry up again until I attended a creative writing group in 2004. In the intervening time I had put together three or four novels and a few short stories without any success and very little encouragement. In 2008 I had a poem published in South magazine. It was quite something to see my name in print at last, after all those years. I concentrated entirely on poetry after that.

3. What is your daily writing routine?

I am afraid that that old distraction technique I referred to earlier now works against any chance of me writing poetry on a daily basis. Before retiring as a newspaper production journalist, I had been volunteered to become the news and reviews editor for the poetry website Write Out Loud, which now occupies me almost daily, writing news stories about poetry, and book reviews as often as I can. It’s great to be still working as a journalist, even if unpaid, and to be writing about poetry – so much so that it often doesn’t feel like work. But maybe it also prevents me from producing more poems than I actually do. Then there’s monthly co-compering of the Write Out Loud Woking poetry night, of course. Excuses, excuses.

4. What motivates you to write?

A lot of my earlier poems were about looking back at moments in my life. I suppose that seam is never exhausted, but these days I often need to be away from home for an idea to come – and sometimes on long-journey trains. Since the wonderful Places of Poetry project was introduced, to which I have contributed enthusiastically, I have realised that I am very much a poet of place. And I still can’t help writing poems about railways, from time to time.

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

As I said, Brian Patten was the first and only poet I heard when I was much younger. In 2014 I reviewed for Write Out Loud a reading he gave in Teddington. Someone sent it to him, he emailed his thanks, and I seized the opportunity to do an email interview  –  a bit like this one, I suppose. Soon afterwards I met Brian at the Aldeburgh poetry festival, and he introduced me to another of my poetry heroes, Tom Pickard, and even gave me a name check when being interviewed at the festival the following evening. Lovely man. Not only that. The following year my poetry pamphlet Trainspotters was published and I sent him a copy. He liked it, immediately sent me some unsolicited comments, and my publisher Ronnie Goodyer at Indigo Dreams quickly reprinted to give them pride of place on the back cover. I also found myself at the same table as Roger McGough at a poetry event earlier this year, at which my wife seized the opportunity to apologise to him publicly for plagiarising one of his poems in her school magazine at the age of 17. He was very good about it. I should also mention Philip Larkin, probably the poet I admire the most. ‘The Whitsun Weddings’ is the most wonderful poem about a train journey I know. I enjoyed it when I was 16, and I love it now.

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

I was a great fan of Paul Farley, although he seems to have slipped off my radar a bit recently. The performance poet Luke Wright often succeeds in placing his finger on the nation’s pulse. He wrote a prescient, epic poem called ‘Essex Lion’ a few years before the referendum; it empathised with people that want to believe in something, whoever outlandish, and cling on to it doggedly, especially when Guardian readers tell them that it can’t be true. A so far overlooked poet that I really rate for his warmth and humour, as well as his craft, is Matthew Paul, who has published just one collection so far called The Evening’s Entertainment. His time must come. There are other poets who come to the Write Out Loud Woking nights – some of them published, some not – Kitty Coles, Karen Izod and Ray Pool I would mention. Another fine local poet, Eddie Chauncy, resolutely refuses to submit any of his work for publication. If he did, I believe he would be a popular success; you would find his books in Waterstones.

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

I have no physical skills, like bricklaying, or indeed, no talent for any form of DIY. I wish I did. After dropping out of university after just one year, I didn’t really know what to do with my life, but started trying to write a novel, feeling that I might be better at being an observer rather than a participant, somehow. Within a few months I was incredibly lucky enough to land a job as a junior reporter on my local paper. I knew almost at once that this was where I wanted to be. Within a few years I chose to switch from being a reporter to working as a desk-bound sub-editor, a production journalist, as I believed that would help my novel writing. It did, and it didn’t, you might say. Probably a mistake, in retrospect. But no regrets. Not now. Sub-editing should involve condensing words to their essence, getting rid of anything that is unnecessary. Very much like poetry.

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

Read voraciously. As soon as you think you can or want to do better, make a start. In the case of poetry, go to readings, listen to poets. And buy their books! They’re usually quite cheap.

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

I was lucky enough to have a pamphlet accepted by the good folk at Indigo Dreams on the theme of trains, which was published four years ago. I remain very proud of it. But my ambition is to get a full collection out there before too long. I think I may have enough poems of sufficient quality, but whether they are exactly the right poems, whether they fit together, is another matter. Still more work to be done, I think.

12. What is so fascinating to you about steam trains?

I love to see and hear and smell steam trains – as do so many others who work on and visit heritage railways. But really it’s not so much the locomotives – as beautiful and alive as they are – as what they represent to me. Their disappearance from the national rail network, which had to happen, coincided with Beeching’s butchery of the branch lines. I’ve always linked the axeing of all those little branch lines with the end of Britain’s empire, which is not be mourned, of course. And in my own case, there was one particular branch line. During my childhood in the early 60s we stayed in a camping coach on a line in east Devon that ran alongside the valley of the river Otter, and a tank engine with two coaches – sounds familiar?! – would pass us regularly while we were looking out of the window, and the driver and fireman would wave to us. If there were any passengers they would wave, too. The names of the stations on that line read like a Betjeman poem – Tipton St Johns, Newton Poppleford, Ottery St Mary, East Budleigh, for Otterton and Ladram Bay. I see it in my mind’s eye as a paradise lost. There’s a poem about it in my Trainspottters collection – and I’ve posted that same poem on the Places of Poetry map, of course!

13. Ah, yes. “The Old Branch Line”. That list of station names. You use lists in your collection to show the passage of time, or convey a place.

The list of retail outlets in ‘Betjeman at St Pancras’ is intended to sound like station stops. In ‘A Job on the Railways’ they are just the stations where my father worked before the war came. Three favourite railway poems listed in ‘The Rother Valley Railway’. A number of locations in ‘The Butterflies of Yorkshire’. You’re right, there are a few lists!  I think they serve different purposes in each poem.

14. I agree. They complement your almost notetaking style.

Dead-end canal delivers its waters

To the Wey and Thames,

and always thirsts for more.

(The Basingstoke)

Your eschewing of the word “The” at the start of this sentence, and the circularity of meaning “waters” and “thirsts”. Converting conversational cliché into fresh perspective metaphors.

Ah, you’ve spotted another poem that contains lists! As for “almost notetaking” style, maybe that’s a result of my background in journalism. I think that’s why I find clarity in my poetry unavoidable, because of an instinct to communicate, to get my meaning across simply. I couldn’t do obscure if I tried. There’s nothing wrong with poetry that is conversational. Cliché is another matter, of course.

15. How important is popular culture in your poetry?

In ‘Dance On’,  the opening poem of Trainspottters, (Aha, another list, of Shadows hits!) the all-conquering Beatles leave a Shads fan floundering. ‘A Job on the Railways’ mentions my father’s love of Thirties crooner Al Bowlly, listening to him on the radio just before the outbreak of war, oblivious to the sound of “breaking glass” elsewhere. ‘Train to the Kwai Bridge’ refers to the Hollywood film starring Alec Guinness. The TV programmes Dad’s Army and 60s pop show Ready, Steady, Go! crop up in different poems. Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac and the group’s no 1 hit Albatross get an honourable mention in ‘Climbing the Malverns’. I would say those references help to ground the poems, establish a landscape or backdrop. I’ve written a poem about being in the crowd on the night of the live recording of Chuck Berry’s My Ding a Ling. I’m not sure how significant a cultural moment that was, but it meant a lot to me at the time, and still does. It was published in a fairly obscure music magazine shortly after he died. Checking over my oeuvre, as it were, I find I’ve written poems about Andy Williams, Julie Christie, Bud Flanagan, stars that made films at Shepperton studios, Ealing comedies in the context of Brexit, football, including a poem comparing Alf Ramsey and Alf Garnett, and one about characters from the Beano and Dandy. Does that answer your question?! No poems about the opera, I’m afraid.

16. I love the way you hint at a modern update of “Brief Encounter” in “The 21:53”.

Well, Brief Encounter is one of my favourite films, of course. I still need to make a pilgrimage to Carnforth one day. ‘The 21.53’ was one of the first poems I wrote after my newspaper shifts changed, and I was able to take the train in to work for the first time. This was in 2005. I felt a sense of liberation, and from then on began to think of myself as a poet.