Happy New Year and a massive thankyou to all the writers who accepted my invitation to be interviewed in 2019, and a warm welcome to those writers who have agreed to let me interview them about their new work due to be published in 2020.

This website, as a resource and inspiration to others, would not exist but for the generosity, goodwill and wonderful words contributed by those writers that agree to be interviewed by me.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Ali Jones

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.


Ali Jones

is a teacher, and writer with work published in a variety of places, from Poetry Ireland Review, Proletarian Poetry and The Interpreter’s House, to The Green Parent Magazine and The Guardian. She has a particular interest in the role of nature in literature, and is a champion of contemporary poetry in the secondary school classroom.

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

When I was younger I had an amazing teacher called Mrs Newby, who encouraged me to create with words. I have always enjoyed poetry from being read to as a very young child, and learning things by heart. I stopped writing as a teenager as creative writing wasn’t encouraged in my school, and came back to it long after studying English at University. It wasn’t until I’d digested quite a lot of other people’s work and become an English teacher that I decided to work at it myself.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

This is actually quite hard to say, because I heard poetry from a very early age, in nursery rhymes, from my parents and grandparents reading to me, also listening to cassette recordings. I also heard lots of folk music growing up and folk lyrics are quite a big influence for me.

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

I don’t think I was really, because a lot of the poems I liked growing up appeared to be by ‘Anon’, which I now realise probably meant by women who weren’t credited for their work. Shakespeare has always been omnipresent for me, as has Christina Rossetti ,  WB Yeats and many of the Romantic poets, simply because they were in the books we had at home.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

My daily writing routine isn’t what I’d like it to be, because of time constraints and other responsibilities. I do really well when I follow Julia Cameron’s method of ‘the morning pages’ from her book ‘The Artist’s Way’, but I need to be better at keeping up with actually doing it. I also find walking quietly in nature every day very useful as a meditative practise. I like how Ian MacMillan shares his walking poetic thoughts from his early morning strolls, on Twitter.

6. What motivates you to write?

My relationship with the natural world, where I have come from and where I am going. I am fascinated in layers within stories and what they might reveal, like excavations in the soil that turn up artefacts and remains.

7. What is your work ethic?

Ha ha, it’s probably ‘could do better!’ Because getting published still comes as a surprise to me, I am learning that I need to have a project based approach. With that in mind I am actually making some 2020 writing plans, as I said before ‘The Artist’s Way’ helps me a great deal with that.

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

I think my influences come from great lyric writers, in a musical sense as well as literary writers.  I have always found music to play a big part in my life, and I admire a musicality in words. I like to remember the ways that my favourite authors of childhood wrote very much about the land they knew, Alison Uttley, Laurie Lee, Thomas Hardy – even though I might now find certain aspects of the work or the person more challenging, I appreciate how grounded they were.

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

I really love Kathleen Jamie’s work, I am  enjoying her prose essays ‘Surfacing’ at the moment, the weaving of mythic ideas with wry humour is perfect. I discovered Eavan Boland as a woefully unaware MA student, and I  admire her thinking around muse and a poetry we can live in – of course to be able to live in it, our voices have to be there.

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

I write because it’s a form I admire and strive to work on, although I do dabble in nature photography too, which I think you also do. To me it’s the same thing, working with images and moments and the stories that they tell. This is something I try to do in my own poetry, almost make it a sensory or cinematic experience. I sometimes dabble with turning my poems into song lyrics, and my wonderful friend Karl Harrison, of the Karlos Kollective, makes the magic of music and words work together brilliantly – I wish I knew how to do that.

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

Start where you are and work at it. Read all sorts of different writers, and be open to all influences. Practise makes progress and if you can’t or don’t want to access formal creative writing routes, don’t worry. There are great courses available for free on platforms such as FutureLearn, and Jo Bell’s books ‘52’ and ‘How to be a Poet’ are brilliant too. Find people who are supportive and constructively challenging locally and online. Poetry Society Stanza groups can provide great opportunities to share work and workshop things in progress. Listen to any critiques carefully and remember everyone has their own way of coming to and responding to poems. Don’t be afraid to write about what you want to write about – I had the misconception that all poems must be about complex high minded ideas, yet one of my favourites that I have written is about a worm on my allotment. Don’t worry, it’s never too late to begin.

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

My first pamphlet ‘Heartwood’ came out just over a year ago with Indigo Dreams Press, my second, ‘Omega’ is being published by them in 2020. It is a narrative sequence of poems telling of a place, layers of history, and the people who inhabit it over time. I also have a full collection being published by Hedgehog Press late in 2020, with a working title of ‘The Mathematics of Past and Future Selves’, but that may change as I go through the process of shaping and editing the work into a more coherent entity.

Her page at Indigo Dreams is here: https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/alison-jones/4594492474


Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Ness Owen

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.

Ness Owen

lives on Ynys Môn off the North Wales coast. This is her first collection, and is partly bilingual. The poems journey widely from family and motherhood, to politics, place and belonging: an underlying connection to the earth of Ness’ home, that feeds a longing/desire/determination to write in the Mamiaith (Mother tongue) that she speaks, but did not learn to write fluently. The interplay of languages and the shifts of meaning from one to the other feed the musicality of the poems.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

Writing felt like a release. A little emptying of my head.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Welsh and English poetry and storytelling were always there. Growing up on Ynys Mon in Cymru (Wales), we were also encouraged to compete in the Urdd Eisteddfod (an annual youth event) where we would learn poems and songs and recite them either individually or in small groups ‘Parti Adrodd’ (literally a reciting party). In primary school we were very much encouraged to be creative and to write.

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

In my formal education, I was very aware that majority of the poets we were studying were older, male and that we didn’t cover any Welsh poets writing in English. I didn’t even realise that R S Thomas went to the same school as me until I was in my late twenties so I either wasn’t listening (this is a possibility) or no one was celebrating it.

The small number of Welsh poets we studied in Welsh were all male, older (some 14th century poets) and many of the poems were in strict metres. I felt like my Welsh would never be worthy of writing poetry in.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a set routine as I write around my job and homelife on the farm but I’m usually working on something in my head whatever else I’m doing. I keep notes whenever I think of something or hear something that inspires me. I usually have a bag full of writing on scraps of paper. I work on poems when I walk reciting lines over to see what works. I read poetry most days.

5. What motivates you to write?

Lots of things motivate me to write: injustice, sharing stories and trying to make sense of things. Sometimes I see writing like a meditative practice. I like the idea that poetry can be seen as a vital recording how history feels. Reading and listening to other poets’ work often motivates me too as does being a member of local groups Cybi Poets and the Ucheldre Literary Society.

6. What is your work ethic?

I range from using every spare moment to improve, rewrite and work on a poem to being happy to wait for the lines to come.

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

As we read out a lot, I feel like the sounds of those writers are still in my ears. Most of the poems I read when I was younger were not out of choice so rather than whole poems, I remember words or phrases that would wake me up.

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

I admire anyone who has the courage to put their work out there. I enjoy reading a wide range of writers. The list is very long, and I wouldn’t like to leave anyone out! I really like poetry of the moment that responds to what’s happening in our world, so I like to go to open mic nights and hear poetry at a ‘grass roots’ level.  I also admire writers who can easily work in more than one language.

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

I love words and languages are a great part of my identity.

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

Read, write then rewrite. Never wait for perfection but realise everything you write will take you closer to the piece you really need to write so keep going.

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

My first collection ‘Mamiaith’ (Mother Tongue) was published in August by Arachne Press so I’ve been busy with that. I have a few poems coming out in anthologies and journals in the coming months. I’m also co-organising a winter solstice literary event as part of the Solstice Shorts Festival on December 21st which takes places in different venues and is live streamed.

12. What inspired Mamiaith?

Firstly, I say it was inspired by my love of words, languages and my yearning to write more in Welsh but it was also inspired by a mix of place, motherhood, family and politics. Mamiaith (Mother Tongue in English) ends with a poem about beginning  (thanks to my editor Cherry) and that’s what it feels like to me – permission to write in all of my languages.

13. There are a lot of poems in this collection about the struggle to have a voice, speak and make yourself heard.

Yes. I like poems or any other creative forms that give voice to the silenced, ignored or the denied. I hope some of my poems do give voice without shouting!

14, How important is the use of nature in your poetry? I am thinking of “Willows”, “Seaside Girl” and “Female Blackbird Sings”.

I live on a farm by the sea so this is my world (though I do write about other things too!) Living on a family farm ties you closer to the land and animals you are dependent on and reminds you that we’re a tiny (if not destructive) part of a system that is constantly fighting for survival and is totally inspiring. I’ve always lived a stone’s throw from the sea and marshland where willows thrive and hawthorn and other trees bend with the prevailing winds. They’ve always fascinated me. I recently read a quote that basically said we accept why a tree might be crooked and bent because of its environment and we allow it but we’re not so lenient when we judge ourselves and others. I’ve found that sometimes in nature we can find answers, if we stop and pay attention.

15. You directly address the reader, encourage them to “listen” or take notice.

I think that being quiet and listening is an underrated skill that takes practice! Something I didn’t learn the value of until I was a little older. One of my grandfathers tried to teach me to recognise all the different bird calls when I was younger and the sounds that the day was trying to tell us but at that time I wasn’t very good at sitting still and I wasn’t able to retain the sounds.  Now they’re so much clearer. My other grandfather taught me to be a socialist and told me to read widely and listen to what is happening politically around us.

It’s so easy to live in the bubbles of ourselves but we miss so much when we don’t stop and listen. I attended a workshop with the poet Sean Street years ago where were encouraged to experiment with listening before we open our eyes in the morning – to listen and feel for the weather before we see it. I try to open the window before I open my eyes (helps if you have a clear bedroom!). This has been the beginning of many poems.

16. Why do you think it is “mother tongue”, rather than “father tongue”, or “parent tongue”?

Hmm interesting thought.

It’s a fascinating area. I suppose it’s firstly ‘mother tongue’ as babies absorb languages when they are still in the womb and begin to recognise their mother’s voice. Language is of course so much more than words. It’s rhythm and intonation, the passing of a culture, a history, an opening to another world. It can be passed on or withheld. I would argue that teaching a language or ‘mother tongue’ to someone could be thought of as a form of nurturing or feeding whether you are the mother, father, grandparent, friend, teacher, neighbour you are ‘mothering’ regardless of gender. Then there’s the suggestion of ‘inherited language’. I could go on but I’ll stop there!

Two Poems by Adedayo Adeyemi Agarau

IceFloe Press

What I lost

After Michael Ondateeje’s What we lost

My lover called me a dog because my nose is wet with fear.
In a dream where all is night and nothing is near, I stand
by the shore watching you wreck. A battalion of stars sinking
before the sky. So if God decides to let it rain, I will be feeding you back
to dust, O fear! I wear my father’s dress to war. At the battle,
we dance with names in each other’s mouths. I say I am little,

and you say you are fire. There is power in a mouth that knows
what to say. I am burning the house my father built the night
he crashed against my mother’s sea. Sopona o.
Every road out of your mouth is a fresh ruin. I sit inside.


After “At Willard Brook” – Adrienne Rich

What is a country…

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My Ghazal Essay Published on The Chained Muse

Siham Karami

My history of the ghazal form, “Ghazal Culture: Exalted Nomads and Love’s Elusive Gate,” has been published on The Chained Muse! The history is quite surprising, how a form that developed out of a desert Arab tradition flowered in Bollywood, influenced such diverse cultures as Persia, Afghanistan, and Western Europe, and has been written in myriad languages, even instrumental in the development of a modern, commonly used language. Please check it out!

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A Unique Voice: Martin Elster’s “Celestial Euphony”

Siham Karami

One of the complaints common among non-English majors is that poetry today is often inaccessible, sacrificing general audiences for academic ones, or that the qualities of rhyme and meter have been sacrificed on the altar of modernism and free verse. Martin Elster, however, simply writes the kind of poetry he writes, both formal and rhyming, because as a musician this is what he intuitively prefers. His is a unique voice, and his new book Celestial Euphony gives us gives us poetry that is not self-consciously “accessible,” but rather engages the reader with a rare sort of clarity and art, bringing us perspectives on nature, science, and human nature that are wrought with the intent of conveying them in the best way possible. So below is the press release from the publisher for his book, which can be purchased here.

We’re pleased to announce the release of Martin Elster’s new…

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The December Round Up Blog

Wendy Pratt

white snow flake hanging on christmas tree Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

It’s that time of year again. I’ve already started planning my 2020 goals, which I’ll tell you about in next week’s blog, but I wanted to end this year on a high, so to speak, and make myself a little Ta Da! list for 2019.

In a lot of ways it’s been a transitional year, one in which I have found myself facing challenges: I was turned down for every grant application I applied for and also although I knocked on a huge amount of doors, I never managed to make progress in the big projects I had planned. It’s almost impossible to get big projects off the ground without help from bigger names and organisations, but the catch 22 is that you have to BE a bigger name to actually secure the partnerships. I got a bit down about this, but actually, this has…

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The New Voices of Science Fiction edited by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman. Book review

Strange Alliances

Book cover of the new voices of science fiction

An anthology from well-established science fiction writers, never mind new authors, can be a very mixed bag. Not so The New Voices of Science Fiction. They are superb examples of very engrossing and affecting storytelling.

These writers demonstrate the breadth of concepts and worlds with which science fiction writers can create a delicious buffet of stories for readers to gorge themselves on and that, for emerging writers in the genre, there will always be plenty of room for stunning originality.

It was also interesting to see how light a touch could be used in worldbuilding, and yet keep the tales firmly located in the science fiction realm, even though the character’s surroundings were not lavish with detail.

Many of the stories were woven around interesting concepts where the technology was left to the reader’s imagination and quietly placed off the page. Instead, the characters and their responses were placed…

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Beach Huts ~ A poem by Marc Woodward

The Beach Hut

Beach Huts

April means unlocking, sweeping off spiders
and sand; putting out to air the rug,
stripy beach towels and faded sun-loungers.
Checking the kettle, rinsing out the mugs,
closing the fridge for beer and lemonade.
Dusting down the body-boards, bucket, spade.

When they opened Springtide they found Alice,
still as a waxwork in a garden chair,
dry like blown sand, her dress nibbled by mice.
They’d never thought to search for her in there.
Police believed she’d gone to Birmingham
(judging from some grainy CCTV) –
back to where her own spring tide once ran.
Her rigid fist was locked around the key.

Marc Woodward

Marc Woodward is a musician and poet living in the rural English West Country.
He has been widely published. His collections includes A Fright of Jays (Maquette Press, 2015); and Hide Songs (Green Bottle Press, 2018). A further collection The Tin Lodes written collaboratively…

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