Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Barbara Hickson

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.

Barbara Hickson

Barbara Hickson

lives in Lancaster and has an MA (Distinction) in Poetry from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Her poems have appeared widely in magazines, anthologies and on-line journals, and been displayed beside the River Kent as part of 2018 Kendal Poetry Festival’s guerrilla poetry initiative. She has been placed and commended in several competitions including Magma Editors’ Choice (2015/16 and 2018/19) and The Plough Prize (2017).

In 2019 she had twelve poems published in a shared collection entitled Rugged Rocks Running Rascals – poems for complicated times, published by DragonSpawn Press.

She is involved with several poetry groups including the Brewery Poets, and acts as the main contact point for the Poetry Society’s Lancaster Stanza group.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’ve always loved poetry and used to write poems as a teenager.  When I started work, poetry faded into the background until, in my thirties, I embarked on an OU Diploma in French.  In one of the modules, we studied poems by Paul Verlaine and Jacques Prévert.  I was hooked again!  I followed the Diploma with a full B.A. (Hons) degree in Literature during which we studied a wide range of poets, from the Romantics to the Beats, from Shakespeare to Okigbo.  I loved it, and when I’d completed the degree course, I started writing poems again.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Initially it was school teachers and university course tutors.   However, I remember that at Lancaster Litfest 2011, I paid up for a full day of poetry readings.  Kei Miller, Paul Batchelor, Jacob Polley, Helen Mort, Philip Gross and Jen Hadfield were reading.  I was so revved up by it all that when I saw an advertisement for the local Stanza Group, I contacted the rep, Elizabeth Burns, and asked if I could go along to the meetings.  Elizabeth replied encouragingly, and that’s when I really began to take my writing seriously.

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

Perhaps I did set poets such as Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin on a pedestal when I was younger, but throughout my Literature degree we studied a range of poets, so I wasn’t really aware of the older generation’s dominance.  Still, I suppose it wasn’t until I immersed myself in poetry and began attending workshops and readings that I discovered the vast array of excellent young poets out there.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I haven’t got a routine and don’t particularly want one.   However, I do find that writing first thing in the morning, or late at night seems to produce the best results, as does writing outdoors.  Going for a long walk on my own often leads to a poem, or the idea for one.

5. What motivates you to write?

All sorts of things: an idea, a startling image, a memory.  If I go through a period where I can’t write for some reason, I begin to get annoyed with myself.  Then something will flick a switch inside me and I’m away again.

I do find it difficult to ‘write to order’, though some of my poems have arisen from workshop ‘kicker lines’ or prompts.   I’m open to any stimulus that works!

6. What is your work ethic?

Whatever I do, I do it to the very best of my ability.   I set goals: short-term, medium-term and long-term.  And when I commit to something, I commit completely.

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

I’m not aware that they do.  I can still enjoy reading them, and recite some of John Betjeman’s poems off by heart, but I don’t feel their influence on the way I write.

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

The contemporary poets whose work I particularly admire include Jean Sprackland, John Glenday, Esther Morgan and Roselle Angwin.  There are countless others, of course, and much depends on my mood when I’m reading.  But those are the poets I keep going back to — the ones I re-read when I’m lacking inspiration and whose poetry puts me in the right frame of mind to start writing again.  I admire their clarity of thought and expression, their precise imagery, their lyricism. They write the sort of poems I wish I’d written!

9. Why do you write?

Writing poetry enriches my life.  Outwardly, I’m an outdoorsy, active person and writing provides balance: it’s creative and cathartic and offers a mode of expression that satisfies my inner self.  The need to write seems entirely natural to me.   I like the way carrying out research for poems leads me into new and interesting areas and teaches me things I didn’t know before.  And, as an added bonus, immersing myself in the poetry scene has opened up a whole new network of friends.

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

First of all, read widely.  Find poets whose work you love and analyse their poems.  Perhaps sign up for evening classes in Creative Writing then, as you gain confidence, start attending workshops and poetry readings.  Join your local Stanza group.  Above all, write!

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

In August 2019 ‘Rugged Rocks, Running Rascals – poems for complicated times’ was published by DragonSpawn Press.  It’s a shared collection with Gabriel Griffin and Bev Morris in which we each have twelve poems.  I’m keen to read at as many events as possible in order to promote it.

I’m also fine-tuning the manuscript of my own debut collection.  The portfolio module for my M.A. degree comprised a full poetry collection and my priority for 2020 is to seek a publisher for it.

Also on my to-do list for 2020 is the construction of a web site.  I’m not interested in blogging, but I can see the value of having my own web site, so that’s something that I’ll be exploring later next year.

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