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.

Heartwood

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

 

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