Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Kyla Houbolt

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.

kyla 2


Kyla Houbolt

writes mostly poetry. She has been writing since she was able to form words on a page; though her life has not been devoted to poetry, poetry has never let her leave it aside for long. She only began seeking publication in 2019, and most of her currently published work can be found on her Linktree. She is on Twitter @luaz_poet. She is a Best of the Net nominee, and a fuller biographical statement will be available soon on her author page at IceFloe Press.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

As I consider this question I send my memory back to my childhood which was immersed in music and I believe it must have been a wish to try to make music with words that got me started.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My mother read to us, lots of Longfellow, Edgar Guest, various collections of children’s verse. As well, we were a singing family. Hymns, folk songs, anthems in church (my parents were both trained in sacred music) — all imbued my awareness with pattern in language. I soaked in it. While I rebelled at an early age from the strictures of religious limitations, I retained the love of the sounds and of those patterns in the word field.

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

I don’t think I experienced it that way. It was more like, these are the people who knew and know “how to do this thing” and what exactly IS it that they are doing? At this stage I am very conscious of the predomination of white male western culture in the so-called canon, but even as a child I understood  the power of chant and song, of spoken word

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t really have a routine. At times I will adopt one but they don’t survive long. For a while in the early months of this year I was writing ekphrastic micro poems every morning and that yielded some nice work, but generally what I do now is as soon as I feel the “poetry voice” start up inside, I start writing. Not all of that goes anywhere, lots of stillborn drafts! But that is the process that generates almost all of my poems.

5. What motivates you to write?

Oh, gee. I guess most basically it is that this is the way I feel I can offer something of value into this world.

6. What is your work ethic?

Hmm. I really don’t even like that concept to be honest; the notion of “work ethic” seems to have squelched a lot of creativity in recent decades. My ethic is to follow my inner heart voice and to be responsible and kind toward those around me as best I can.

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

I honestly don’t know! I have taken in a great deal of poetry and verse in my life and it has all become a kind of large stew! Well, more a field, an ecosystem even…. I am influenced by what speaks to my heart and to my sense of dance and play, to my sense of justice…

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

Gary Snyder is always on top of this list. There is no list, however. There are too many whose writing I adore.

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

Oh! It’s the cheapest form of art. One only needs language to perform it.  Although these days it seems a computer comes in pretty handy.

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

I would say, keep questioning your desire! But if writing seems to keep calling you, then write. Put words together. Read what inspires and moves you. Talk to other writers about writing and reading. Those are the basics, I think. Find people who will read, or listen to, what you write. Pay attention to what communicates and what does not. Feel into whether you even care about that! Explore. Investigate. Pay attention.

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

Oh, fun! Well, IceFloe Press is about to release a small collection of mine, titled Dawn’s Fool, which I am very excited about. Robert Kenter, the publisher, is a poet, a brilliant editor,  and also a visual artist and has done a glorious cover which reminds me of Kenneth Patchen. I am in love with that cover.

I also have a longer collection called Once in a Blue Earth that is being considered by a few presses and which I hope will find its publisher soon.

I have been taking poems and sticking them onto trees in a local walking park, a Greenway.  I have written some poems from that place and intend to weave those and some of the others together into a collection at some point. This is probably going to be the main project next year.

I also have just written a small suite — title poem is [options] and a subsequent six poems unpack and expand on it. It’s a bit odd! But I love it and hope eventually to pull it together into a pamphlet, illustrated, possibly even illustrated by me. Though my skills in that area are quite rusty. I also hope to place this suite  in a journal; it’s being considered right now.

And I very much want to find opportunities to read, and a way to record readings (I currently have no equipment that lets me record my voice.)  I used to greatly enjoy reading to groups but it’s been a while and currently I am not close to any venues for that. I intend to somehow build on the little local following  I have because of my Greenway poems in hope of creating some kind of reading venue. I always want to place poetry among those who don’t routinely encounter it, are not in the academic world for instance.  This Greenway Poetry Project seems to be accomplishing that nicely!

I would like to close by thanking the journals who have published my work this year or with whom it is forthcoming soon. They are, in no particular order:
The Hellebore, Neologism Poetry, Black Bough Poetry, Barren Magazine, Juke Joint Magazine, Kissing Dynamite, Burning House Press/The Arsonista, Mojave He[art] Journal, Parentheses, Crepe and Penn, Muskeg, Headline Poetry, Dovecote,
Nightingale & Sparrow, Back Patio Press, Silk & Smoke, Picaroon, goodbaad poetry,
Claw & Blossom, Cabinet of Heed, Detritus Online, Taco Bell Quarterly, Ghost City Review, Diametric, Re-Side, Broken Spine, Fictional Cafe.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Rachel Mann

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.

Rachel Mann

(According to her website)

Born in 1970, Rachel Mann grew up in Worcestershire before studying Philosophy at university. In the mid-nineties, whilst working on a PhD, she was Teaching Fellow in the Philosophy Department at Lancaster before a sense of vocation led to a move to inner-city Manchester in church-related community work. She’s been based in and around Manchester pretty much ever since. In addition to her philosophy training, she holds qualifications in Theology, Creative Writing, and English Literature, including a PhD on Nineteenth-Century Women’s Poetry and the Bible.

She began writing poetry, liturgy and short stories in the late nineties as a result of major ill-health. She has also written feminist liturgical theology, cultural history and has been a regular contributor to The Church Times. She has published seven full-length books, including Dazzling Darkness (Wild Goose) and Fierce Imaginings (D.L.T.), as well as contributing to many others.

In addition she writes on music, particularly prog, folk and metal. She was Metal/Rock reviewer for manchestermusic.co.uk. She works freelance for magazines like Prog Magazine and The Quietus.

Ordained into the Church of England in 2005, Rachel is Rector of St Nicholas Burnage. Between October 2009 and September 2017 she was Poet-in-Residence and Minor Canon at Manchester Cathedral. During this period she acted as lead person for the Cathedral’s International Religious Poetry Competition and also helped establish the annual ‘Manchester Sermon’, a collaboration between Manchester Literature Festival and the Cathedral. Appointed an Honorary Canon of Manchester Cathedral in 2017, her poetry has been widely published. Some of her poems have been published by Carcanet Press in April 2018 as part of the New Poetries VII anthology. Her debut full-length poetry collection, A Kingdom of Love, was published by Carcanet in September 2019.


The Interview

1. What and why did you start writing poetry?

I began writing poetry seriously in the shadow of trauma, specifically my experience of serious illness in my twenties. I have to say that most of my poems from that time were rather earnest and pretty dreadful.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My first memory of poetry is drawn from primary school, when we recited bits of poems at school concerts and Nativity services. I think it was the rhythmic possibilities which struck me. A crucial moment came, as a teenager, when a teacher introduced me to Auden and Larkin. Through their poetry, I began to appreciate how poetry might addressany subject. My first poetry love, however, was Shakespeare. I adored acting as a kid and was fortunate to be introduced to Shakespeare very early.

3. What is your daily writing routine?

I’m very much an early-in-the-morning writer, especially when I have a major project in hand. I find my life is too often in perpetual motion, so there is something clarifying and astringent about early morning. It is the time when I feel fresh and there is a modicum of silence.

4. What motivates you to write?

I think I’m one of those people who need to write in order to discover what I think. Writing is a mode of surprise – it disrupts and expands the cosy paths which I’m inclined to follow. In the very least, it disrupts me when the writing is going well.

5. What is your work ethic?

I am someone who attempts to scribble something every day. Most of the time it’s rubbish, but I’ve become convinced that the only way to get beyond the rubbish
is through it. The discipline matters.

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

Oh my, I sometimes feel completely beholden to them. Indeed the older I become the more I’m dependent on them. So, for example, when I was a young undergrad and postgrad student I read enormous amounts of Wittgenstein and continental philosophy. I find their words and modes of speech appearing in my poems at the most unexpected moments.

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

Poetry: Far too many to mention, but I adore Mimi Khalvati, whose grip on form is extraordinary, as well as Michael Symmons Roberts, who dares to speak the ’Transcendent’.Fiction: Recently, I’ve very much enjoyed Ben Myers’ studies in creepy northern oddness. For sheer Dickensian sprawl I look out for Donna Tartt’s new books.
Non-Fiction: I’ve found Thomas Waters’ Cursed Britain a salutary read. Its study of witchcraft in Britain between 1800 and the present day is by turns erudite, weird and challenging/.

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

Well, I do do other things. I feel my first identity is as an Anglican priest. However, like a lot of Anglican priests before me, my ‘vocation’ to write flows from my priestly vocation.
Both ‘vocations’ require attentiveness, stillness and listening, and an alertness to the
tricksiness and joy of language. If I were offering a less high faluting account of why
I write I guess it would be that I enjoy making things. Poems, literature and so on,
are part of a material and creative culture too. I’m addicted to craft.

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

Read, read, and read some more; write, write and write some more. The dynamic between reading widely and intensively and writing well is not incidental, it is essential. When it comes to writing specifically, keep writing through the chaff that inevitably appears and take seriously the critical comments of colleagues, editors and friends (even if one needs to push-back occasionally).

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

I’m currently working – very slowly – on a new book of poems, as well as writing sketches for a novel. I have a new theology book coming together, which I hope to finish in the next six months. I’ve also just completed the manuscript for a second edition of my theological memoir, ‘Dazzling Darkness’.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Isabelle Baafi

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.

Isabelle Baafi

Isabelle Baafi

(According to her website)

is a writer and poet. Her work has been published in The Caribbean WriterAllegroMoko MagazineKalahari Review and elsewhere. She was recently admitted to the London Library’s Emerging Writers Programme, and performed at the Battersea Arts Centre’s Homegrown Festival. In 2008, she was a Commended Foyle Young Poet. She is currently working on her debut poetry collection.


The Interview

  1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’ve been writing my whole life – mostly stories, but also songs, letters, diary entries… The shift from fiction to poetry was a natural one, when I felt the urge to communicate truths that a linear narrative couldn’t contain, or that were too difficult to say in plain English.

  1. Who introduced you to poetry?

I didn’t read poetry until secondary school. The AQA anthologies opened up a whole new world for me. Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Seamus Heaney, Imtiaz Dharker, John Agard – those were the poets that had the strongest impression on me back then. At the time, my favourite poem was “Blessing” by Imtiaz Dharker. A perfect poem, still.

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

Apart from Shakespeare, I knew very little about poetry from before the 20th century. However, one day I came across the poem “High Waving Heather” by Emily Bronte, and it gripped me. A simple poem, but a gorgeous one. The first poem I ever wrote was in response to it. I was fourteen at the time.

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t write every day. I write 2-3 days a week, during the weekend. During those days, I try to spend some time reading and analysing poetry, so that I’m learning as much as I’m practicing.

  1. What motivates you to write?

The internal questions and desires that never leave me. The need to say things for which I can’t find the words. The beauty of words. The fun of writing. And, as corny as it sounds, the hope that my writing will one day impact others for the better.

  1. What is your work ethic?

Don’t wait for inspiration, just write – and (sooner or later) the words will come.

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

To be honest, I am more influenced by literary traditions that were not studied, or made prominent, in school. Specifically, the oral traditions of the African diaspora, and biblical forms of storytelling, such as the incorporation of parables and the prophetic. My poems often seem to overflow with voices, and yet that’s never been a conscious choice.

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

Danez Smith is an incredible writer. Their work is bold, rich and so important. I am also constantly returning to the work of Ocean Vuong, Safia Elhillo, Warsan Shire and Safiya Sinclair. Each of them are masters at what they do. And I will rave about Shivanee Ramlochan to anyone who will listen. The way that she disrupts and confronts language is so irreverent and powerful.

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

Writing is how I communicate with the world. It’s how I understand the world and myself. For me, any life without writing would be unthinkable.

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

Start by telling your own story. What have you learned thus far? What battles have you lost, drawn, won? What journey are you on, and what will happen when you reach your destination? No matter how small you think your life is, your story is important.

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

I’m currently writing towards a pamphlet on intimacy, and a full length collection, which is still in its embryonic state. I will hopefully finish the pamphlet next summer.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Mbizo Chirasa

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.


Mbizo Chirasha

is the Poet in Residence at the Fictional Café (International publishing and literary digital space). 2019 Sotambe Festival Live Literature Hub and Poetry Café Curator. 2019 African Fellow for the International Human Rights Art Festival( ihraf.org) , Essays Contributor to Monk Art and Soul Magazine in United Kingdom .Arts Features Writer at the International Cultural Weekly .His Profiles , Interview and Poems are featured on poesis.si ,in Slovenia. Founder and Chief Editor of WOMAWORDS LITERARY PRESS. Founder and Curator of the Brave Voices Poetry Journal. Co-Editor of Street Voices Poetry triluangal collection( English , African Languages and Germany) intiated by Andreas Weiland in Germany. Poetry Contributor to AtunisPoetry.com in Belgium. African Contributor to DemerPress International Poetry Book Series in Netherlands. African Contributor to the World Poetry Almanac Poetry Series in Mongolia. His latest 2019 collection of experimental poetry A LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT was released by Mwanaka Media and Publishing and is both in print, on Amazon.com and at is featured at African Books Collective. Mbizo Chirasha is the Originator of the Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Campaign. Founder and Creative Director of Girl Child Talent Festival and GirlChildCreativity Project. 2003 Young Literary Arts Delegate to the Goteborg International Book Fair Sweden (SIDA AFRICAN PAVILION) .2009 Poet in Residence of the International Conference of African Culture and Development (ICACD) in Ghana. Global Peace Chain Ambassador. 2009 Fellow to the inaugural UNESCO- Africa Photo- Novel Publishers and Writers Training in Tanzania. 2015 Artist in Residence of the Shunguna Mutitima International Film and Arts Festival in Livingstone, Zambia. A globally certified literary arts influencer, Writer in Residence and Recipient of the EU-Horn of Africa Defend Defenders Protection Fund Grant, Recipient of the Pen Deutschland Exiled Writer Grant. He is an Arts for Peace and Human Rights Catalyst, the Literary Arts Projects Curator, Poet, Writer, publicist is published in more 200 spaces in print and online.

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

My life has been accompanied by sound, rhythm and words . The sound of bleating goats, night hooting owls, distant tinkling drums , ancestral praise poetry at traditional ceremonies , church hymns and village songs. I was born between stitches, gun shot claps and howling winter winds during the guerrilla war of liberation in Zimbabwe . My birth was an exclamation mark of a freedom nation in making , my birthcry was   a signal to the birth of country coming out of a bloody epoch , the second chimurenga . Iam a child of war and a grandchild of psalms. I read novels ,prominent ones at 7 African Literature in Karanga , English , European and American Literature . My father was a great storyteller , his father was a healer , his grandfather who is my great great grand father VaRatsauka was a griot and a Chiefs Adviser . Storytelling , Poetry and griotism is my DNA.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Poetry is my DNA .It is creative spiritual , it evolves around ancestors and their descendants . It is talent and it is God given . Of course I am an ardent reader . I read great African Poets including Soyinka , Marechera , Senghor , Neto , Chipasula and Mpanje . I also read Metaphysical Poets , Renaissance poets , Jacobian , Victorian and more epochical genres . Of course I am a Performer , my country is rich in spoken word, griotism, perfomance and dub poetry . I am in the second generation of Dubpoets in my country   and in Africa and in the global community . We are inspired everyday from birth and it is by our choice to grow and cultivate the gifts God gave us .

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

I am aware and we need to compliment the good they do, the road they have travelled and correct the mistakes of the past by walking a straight ,perfect and good road as well as not to sell out the literary revolution to political epochs who scatters or gobbles the artistic consciousness from us , we need to be steadfast , faithful and dedicated to literary revolution duty.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I say to writers and poets , do not idle go your writing studio.  I read anything everyday , I ferment what ever for days . I read 10 novels per every 3 months, I read poetry everyday , assess manuscripts everyday, write something once in one week, short fiction,  poem , an essay or other . I edit and revisit my old works everyday . I do social media influencing of my work and for others . I write a blog article everyday . I read and learn from other writers   big or small .I salute what other writers are doing .

5. What motivates you to write?

Life, people,  nature, politics, societal strive, words,  paradox and contradictions as well as gatherings , sometimes human behaviour gives more flesh to write about . Actually . I am motivated by everyone and almost anything .

6. What is your work ethic?

Avoid frustration and rejection to control your delivery, presentation and writing life, be steadfast, be initiative, be resilient, find your writing style and voice , work hard, do it for no one will do it for you, keep away social partners from the working studio, writing is a full life and full kingdom . Understand global writing trends, global cultural diplomacy and relations. Be above your game, be true, seek wisdom and flexible but careful.

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

They offered me the combative mind of finding my self, understanding the world view. Acquiring knowledge on cultures ,genres , history and epochs . Yes today I sift in what I read and I cultivate that into a new style that is growing me, my audience and
my thoughts . Its good to read others and to be read .

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

Yes I like Chimamanda , Ben Okri , Tsitsi Dangarembwa and many other classics. I can’t forget stories by Chris Abani , Zacks Mda and many other great writers of our time . Zack’s Mda writes societal realities in a very shrewd and unique comical way. His story “Ways of a Dying” is a worthy read. Chimamanda is a highly sort after storyteller, telling the African story with the African character in a diasporian setting, unique. Dangarembwa relays a narrative on the plight of the African women and girls, Nervous Conditions is a classic. Ben Okiri’s Famished Road is a blockbuster and is the African Harry Potter.

The list is long.

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

We write to heal , to teach , to learn , we heal scars of nationalism, wounds of our people and troubles of our societies through the metaphors we write , we tell and inform society of good and bad, our writings can bring war or peace but in this matter we write
justice and peace as opposed to political tyranny , bad governance and violence . We write to change the vagaries of the past , to transform the madness of today and bring a sparkling clean future for the young generation .

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

Writing to me is a revolution , I was revolutionized consciously to understand my artistic poetry and writing gift .Its a great gift to know your talent but its both a gift and a blessing to know or to be aware of your gift and use it handsomely . We meet trials and tribulations in the journey ,otherwise parents , marital partners ,friends and community do not approve or might want to scatter our dreams and choices but resilience is the key.

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

In 2020 I will running four literary arts publishing platforms , two
international writers exchange programs , publishing three poetry
collections by Brave Voices adapted from the miombo publishing and
brave voices poetry journal and of course my own Collection of
another experimental offing . I can’t reveal everything.

MBIZO CHIRASHA is (ihraf.org) 2019 International Fellow of the
International Human Rights Arts Festival New York. Author of A Letter
to the President,
( a collection of experimental poetry)in Zimbabwe . Essays contributor
for the MONK art and soul Magazinehttp://monk.gallery/category/essays/
in United Kingdom. Features Writer at Cultural Weekly( an
International online journal ,
of the STREET VOICE a German Africa Poetry collection,
http://www.street-voice.de/SV7/SVissue7.html in Germany, Co-Editor of
Silent Voices, https://www.obooko.com/free-poetry-collections/silent-voices-adedoyin
( a tribute to Chinua Achebe) Contributor Atunis Galatika, African
Contributor to Atunis Poetry Anthologies in Belgium published and
edited by Agron Shele
Contributor to Demer Press International Poetry Collection Series
(Table of Words , The Bridge , Flowers of the Present and Flowers
from Seven Seas) Edited by Hannie Rouweler Netherlands,
http://www.hannierouweler.eu/category/demer-press/. Author at ACE
WORLD , an online Magazine in Nigeria,
.Contributor to Diogen Plus Magazine in Turkey,
http://diogenplus.weebly.com/mbizo-chirasha.html. Resident Curator of
100 Thousand Poets for Peace-Zimbabwe , 100tpc.org/Zimbabwe and the
Originator of Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Movement. Founder of
GirlChildCreativity Project (Amplifying girl child voices through
literary activism). Featured in the POIESISI Slovenia International
literature Press, https://www.poiesis.si/, Slovenia. International
poetry site, Better than Starbucks in Untied States
-https://anthonywatkins.wixsite.com/btsdec2017. The GAPA Blog in
United States, pa.org/2017/11/21/gapa-meets-poem-mbizo-chirasha/.The
Nation Press in Kenya
Black StarNews in United States of America ,
The global artist portal ,
http://www.spla.pro/ficha.persona.mbizo-chirasha.34232.html. The
Herald in Zimbabwe,
https://www.herald.co.zw/chirasha-poet-par-excellence/. Badilisha
Poetry exchange , http://badilishapoetry.com/mbizo-chirasha/.
The Standard News Paper in Zimbabwe, \

Folktales inspire my works — Chirasha

. The Zimbabwean Pressin Zimbabwe,
Contributor of the International Gallerie 2019 in India,
https://www.gallerie.net/about-us/., Contributor of the World Poetry
Almanac series,
https://openlibrary.org/authors/OL816823A/WORLD_POETRY_ALMANAC .
2018Recipient of Global Literary Influencer Certificate of Merit by
Directorio Mundial de Escritores through Academia Mundial de
Literatura, Historia, Arte y Cultura
http://directoriomundial.allimo.org/Mbizo-Chirasha/. 2017 Recipient of PEN
Deutschland Exiled Writer Grant.2017 Recipient of the EU-Horn of
Africa Defend Human Rights Defenders Protection Fund.
Social Media Literary Activism Curator-

“Hope Spoke” . . . and other poems in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

Jamie Dedes' THE POET BY DAY Webzine

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
Emily Dickinson

This week we bring you poems of hope in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, At a Peace Reading, October 30. As always, all poets have come through beautifully for us, examining hope from several angles. Further some have gifted us with sorely needed salve for these days bad news, unrelieved.

Thanks and a warm welcome to two new-to-us poets, Shannon Browne and Oz Forester and thanks to our…

View original post 1,864 more words

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Deborah Harvey

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.

Deborah Harvey

Deborah Harvey’s poems have been widely published in journals and anthologies and broadcast on Radio 4’s Poetry Please, while her poem Oystercatchers recently won the 2018 Plough Prize Short Poem Competition. Her fourth collection, The Shadow Factory, will be published by Indigo Dreams during 2019. She has three previous poetry collections, Breadcrumbs (2016), Map Reading for Beginners (2014) and Communion (2011), also published by Indigo Dreams, while her historical novel, Dart, appeared under their Tamar Books imprint in 2013.

Deborah is co-director of The Leaping Word poetry consultancy.



The Interview

1. What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?

I started writing poems and stories when I was a young child and continued throughout primary school, but as is so often the case, at secondary school the emphasis shifted onto learning for the purpose of passing exams, rather than exploring any creativity we might have; in fact, the teachers seemed to go out of their way to discourage such unruly impulses, and eventually I stopped writing altogether. Then, decades later, when I was struggling to raise four children and my marriage was falling apart, I had a very vivid, urgent dream, which seemed to me to be saying that unless I found a way of expressing myself, I’d die. So there I was, knowing I had to write poetry but not even sure what a poem was. I started to write what came, though, and to read poetry too, to make sure I was doing it right, and gradually the process became less agonising.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Being brought up in the Methodist tradition meant I was exposed to poetic images, language and cadences for several hours every Sunday from a very young age. I used to love the call and response of psalm reading, and hymns were great because I got to stand on the pew and sing words I didn’t understand but which were mysterious and conjured pictures in my head – fiery cloudy pillars, chariots rising into the sky, all that sort of stuff. So the poets of the Old Testament and Charles Wesley have a lot to answer for.

Then there was my grandmother, who taught me and my many cousins all our nursery rhymes and told us traditional stories with lots of repetition in them; tales like Chicken Licken and In A Dark Dark House. She wrote poems too, and always kept a scrap of paper and a pencil in her apron pocket to jot down lines and images as they occurred to her.

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

When I started writing 20 years ago, I was not only aware but completely over-awed. I’d enjoyed English literature at school and planned to study it at A-level, but was told by my teacher that I wasn’t good enough (even though I got As in language and literature at O-level).  I was completely thrown by this experience and believed what she’d said for years, so when I realised I had to write, the thought of reading poetry as well was very daunting. A few months earlier I’d seen a programme on telly about Ted Hughes’ ‘Birthday Letters’, so I took the plunge and found it completely absorbing. The second poetry book I bought was Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems, and I went on from there.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I have three day-jobs, two of which involve caring for dependents, so I rarely get a whole day to myself, and I’m pretty much on call all the time. What makes writing poetry a practical means of self-expression is that I can do it out of the corner of my eye, as I go about my day.

5. What motivates you to write?

The greatest motivator of all: the fear of dying before I’m finished. I think this is partly because I spent three decades in a relationship that was obliterating me, and I neglected my responsibility towards myself and my development as a creative human being. Now everything I do is an attempt to make up for the years I lost, and expressing myself by writing poems is a kind of redemption.

6. What is your work ethic?

It’s very basic, really. I try to spend at least a small part of each day writing, and if that’s not possible, doing something that will feed into my writing, whether it’s reading poetry or prose, walking somewhere new or in a place that has resonance for me, doing a bit of research, going to hear another, better poet read, watching starlings in the garden. Then, even if I’m stuck in a trough of discouragement, at least I can tell myself I’m cobbling together a ladder to climb out.

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

Calling someone a coming-of-age author carries quite pejorative connotations, but the three writers who had the biggest impression on me as a child and teenager – Bulgakov, Camus and Steinbeck – shaped me to such an extent that I carry them with me every day.  ‘Master and Margarita’ is still a very important novel for me, and I don’t know where I’d be without my inner witch. As for ‘The Red Pony’, which I started to read by accident when I was seven and abandoned in disgust when it turned out to be about death rather than gymkhanas and rosettes, that early encounter coloured my whole life. That experience convinced that early exposure to seminal stories and poems has a profound effect on the developing imagination – as long as you remember to read them again later too, when you can fully understand them.

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

Alan Garner is just about the last of my childhood heroes who’s still alive. Reading ‘Boneland’ a few years ago, having grown old alongside the character Colin of ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ and ‘The Moon of Gomrath’, was profoundly moving, and I was bereft when the story ended. I am completely in awe of Garner’s connection with his landscape, and the way his stories inhabit mythic time.

In contrast, a writer I very much admire whom I read for the first time recently, is Rebecca Solnit. I got such a lot out of her memoir/travelogue ‘The Faraway Nearby’ that I’m lining up more of her books by my bed to read.

As for poets, there’s Alice Oswald, Kathleen Jamie and Stanley Kunitz for the way they capture nature; Charles Simic for his startling imagery; Neruda for always taking the reader with him on his huge associative leaps; Raymond Carver for his story-telling; Heaney and U A Fanthorpe for their unrelenting humanity; Carol Ann Duffy for her surety of touch; Kei Miller and Liz Berry for their true voices; Leonard Cohen for sounding like God; I could go on

9. Why do you write?

Because not writing is not an option.

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

Becoming a writer – a good one – means embarking on an apprenticeship that will last the rest of your life. You have to be prepared always to improve, to welcome criticism, and above all, to read the work of others. In fact, read whatever you can lay your hands on: poetry, novels, folk stories, plays, non-fiction, atlases, art books, biographies, soak it all up. Don’t ever think there’s no room for improvement.

The other thing is to be prepared to stick your neck out in order to get an audience for your writing. This can be particularly hard for poets. The impulse that makes us write poems often co-exists with a profound reticence when it comes to publicising our work. But poetry is an inherently collaborative art form, and a poem only fully exists when it is being inhabited by the reader, so all that uncomfortable stuff has to be done. Good luck with it.

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

My fourth collection – The Shadow Factory – is due to be published by Indigo Dreams in 2019, so I’m now in that lovely space where I can turn my attention towards something new. Well, not really new; I’ve lived in Bristol all my life and have amassed stories, family anecdotes and memories, old photos, historical snippets, the voices you hear in the queue at the bus stop, the way places change and people come and go, but the city remembers how it always was and keeps re-creating itself in that image. The past in the present. I want to write all that.

Part 3 of 3: Zimbabwean Poet in Exile: Award-Winning Mbizo Chirasha, Call for Action – Here’s where the rubber hits the road!

Jamie Dedes' THE POET BY DAY Webzine

Mbizo Chirasha

“I am a Zimbabwean, Zimbabwe is the country in which I was born. It is my country. I don’t have another home except Zimbabwe. I need to live freely in my country of birth. Why do I not get the freedom I need? I wait and watch people gambling and playing games with my life, my freedom, my peace, my health  and any other freedoms.

“Political affiliation – I do not belong to any political party because of my job. My job is very much global and universal. I am a Poet, Writer, Blogger and Organizer of Events. I am supposed to work with anyone or everybody. I am supposed to relate and associate with every Zimbabwean irrespective of affiliation because I am apolitical in my standing.

“My problem – I have been seeing strange stalking, attacks and threats soon after the Lit fest of 2017. I was…

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Part 2 of 3: Zimbabwean Poet in Exile: Award-Winning Mbizo Chirasha, Four Poems

Jamie Dedes' THE POET BY DAY Webzine

“His eagle eyes scan beyond the boundaries of his native Zimbabwe to right the crookedness of men with dubious ideals and reckless twists in lands abroad. Caressing his Lenovo mistress upon a night, he relives in recorded poesy, memories of victims of corruption and the false memoirs of looters of the land.  A Letter to the President, is a collection of his experimental poetry. Here is the man on a mission and with a mission. Words are slings and rocks on his quiver. Tireless and resilient; no ugliness is too ugly to stay below his radar. His weapon of choice is his pen. Dipped in acid, as he says, no thug escapes the roast of his laser beam that put them on the spot light.” Available from African Books Collective HERE and through Amazon U.S. HERE and Amazon U.K. HERE.

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does…

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Part 1 of 3: Zimbabwean Poet in Exile: Award-Winning Mbizo Chirasha, A Life on the Run, Interview

Jamie Dedes' THE POET BY DAY Webzine

Mbizo Chirasha

“Mother Africa survived the trauma of clanging chains of captivity during slave trade, shackles of colonialism, and winced from beatings of hard bolt nut clenched fists of apartheid. Children and grandchildren of Mother Africa watched helplessly her sorrowful dance to the acoustics of sufferance. Still, Africa remains resilient … smashing punches from kindred’s of neocolonialism: global village, digital revolution and consumerism. Mama Africa’s groin is ripped apart by her triplets: totalitarian regimes, economic malaise and moral decadence. Today Mother Africa of pyramids, Africa of Nefertiti , Africa of Lumumba, Africa of Mandela, Africa of Kambarage , Africa of Lithium , Africa of diamond and Africa of uranium wallow in murky waters of poverty, chronic civil wars, and deadly epidemics.” Mbizo Chirasha, Editor, Brave Voices Poetry Journal.

Orthographic map of Africa courtesy of Martin23230C BY-SA 3.0

When I was a junior in high school (circa 1966), our…

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