Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Beth O’Brien

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.

LP cover

Beth O’Brien

is an English Literature student at the University of Birmingham. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Light Perception, was published by Wild Pressed Books in November 2019. She is the Editor of Mad Hatter Reviews, a site that reviews books, e-books, theatre, music, and even the odd podcast. Having been born visually impaired, Beth grew up on audiobooks and audio-described theatre, and these loves are still going strong.

She is also a reviewer for Riggwelter Press, and has quite happily picked up a range of jobs that require her to write, whether that be travel articles, student blogs, or website content. She has had her poetry (and the odd short story) published in Foxglove Journal, Nine Muses Poetry, Dear Reader Poetry, BellaOnline Literary Review, Eunoia, Pulp Poets Press, Peculiars Press, Picaroon Press, and Bonnie’s Crew.

When not reading, writing, or listening to an audiobook at double speed, she will most likely be found snacking, drinking tea, and/or planning a trip to somewhere or other.

Light Perception can be purchased from Wild Pressed Books for £3: www.wildpressedbooks.com/light-perception.html

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I think reading inspired me to write. But, also, the fact that I have always enjoyed doing it. I’ve written poetry since I was a child – although, I cannot say whether anything I wrote deserves to be called poetry! Poetry can be so beautiful and have such a powerful impact, and I think reading it was what let me realise that it was something to appreciate.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I don’t remember having a moment of being introduced to poetry. I know I studied it in school. I enjoyed looking at how poets could use beautiful metaphors to discuss something completely separate, and yet make their meaning clear. I have a clear memory of studying Maya Angelou’s poetry in school – I must have been 15. Her work is so striking, emotional and beautiful, and I remember having to stop, just to have a moment to take everything in properly. This wasn’t an introduction to poetry, but it was definitely a moment of realising that I loved it.

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

It’s not something I think about while I’m writing, really. I’ve found the writing community to extremely supportive and kind. Although it always nerve-wracking thinking that better writers than yourself have read your work!

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Terribly, I don’t exactly have one. Poem ideas can come at really inconvenient times. I find it easier to write when I’m feeling any strong emotion – whether I’m happy, sad, angry, or whatever. But my routine is pretty chaotic. The notes section of my phone is full of poems. Sometimes just a line or two, sometimes half a poem, sometimes the whole thing tumbles out in one go. I’m definitely not advocating this as a productive way of working, but in many ways, it means I can write anywhere, which is handy!

5. What motivates you to write?

I love it! I know that’s a cheesy answer, but it’s also true. It’s also amazing when someone responds positively to something you’ve written. Even if you make someone cry – which, I know, sounds mean – knowing words that you’ve put in a specific order has prompted such emotion in someone else is beautiful (and a bit scary!). I find poetry a really good way of saying things I might otherwise struggle to say in day-to-day conversation. It helps me in lots of ways, which is also great motivation.

6. What is your work ethic?

I just try hard, really. It doesn’t always work out, but I like feeling like I’ve done as well as I could have at that moment.

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

I loved reading as a child, and I still do now. I grew on up on reading Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo, J K Rowling, Philip Pullman, among others. I read a lot less poetry when I was younger, but an overall love of reading and writing is definitely down to the books I loved as a child.

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

I have huge admiration for Margaret Atwood. If I’m 79 and doing a tenth of the things she is, then I’ll be proud. I read Alias Grace when I was 17 and I thought it was so cleverly written, and since have read a lot of her other novels and poetry since. Aside from writing, I admire Atwood for her work for women’s rights and her environmental activism.

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

I think I write as opposed to doing something else because writing helps me. I find it really good way of understanding and clarifying my own thoughts and ideas. I feel better after writing, whether I share it with anyone or not. This reward makes it worthwhile, I think.

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

I’d say write a lot, read a lot, practise a lot. It’s okay to write terrible things and not everything anyone writes is good, but you always make it better. And, I’d say that even though it is scary, sharing your working and getting feedback and advice is really important too.

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

I’ve been working on lots of poems on the theme of mental health, food and body image. But I’m also trying to make myself write more prose! I’ve been writing a short story sequence in which one character from each short story is in the following story, and I’m really enjoying writing this!

12. What made you use plain language in your poetry, as opposed to elaborate metaphor or rhyme?

I wanted the poems to be accessible. I think there’s not enough talk around disabilities as it is, and it’s something that people can often talk about indirectly. I don’t believe poetry has to be allusive and confusing to be poetic. So, in writing Light Perception, I wanted to talk about experiences, spotlight moments or memories that have stuck with me – some of them for years – and frankness seemed the most effective way of communicating this.

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