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.
is a writer and academic living in Cornwall. She is currently working on a practice-based PhD on the Poetics of Prayer at Royal Holloway. Sarah has published two pamphlets and an illustrated chapbook, like fragile clay, published by Guillemot Press. She has published two collections of poetry, An Arbitrary Line (Broken Sleep Books) and Perseverance Valley (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press) as well as a third, co-authored, collection A Confusion of Marys (Shearsman), forthcoming in February 2020. Sarah’s poetry and prose has been published in numerous journals and anthologies including Oxford Poetry, Poetry London, The Stand, Shearsman and Datableed.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
I started writing poetry while I was studying for an English with Creative Writing degree at Falmouth University. I was a mature student looking for my identity as a writer. I’d been writing notes and fragments toward poetry for years, but it took the degree, and the clearing that enabled, to work it out. While at Falmouth, I had time to develop a writing practice and focus on diversifying my influences. I can’t even begin to stress the importance of this ‘time to write’ and ‘time to discover’ aspect of academic creative writing.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I guess my mum would have been the first to read me poetry. Church & Sunday school would have been an early influence; psalms, hymns, Song of Songs etc. I’ve had lots of helpful input from people, my partner and I are constantly discovering and sharing new writing and my MA tutors and PhD supervisors have helped to diversify my reading. My undergraduate dissertation supervisor, Rupert Loydell, has always been very generous with his time, knowledge & vast book collection. One thing I love about poetry is that there is always more to read!
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I’ve been largely untouched by this, but I think it can be a problem in poetry. I’ve mostly had good experiences with writing mentors and tutors. If you don’t agree with something someone’s suggested, you don’t have to do it; you need to know when to push back. Sometimes this is more of a problem when it comes to gatekeeping but, really, if an editor wants you to change something beyond recognition then that’s not the right place for your writing. Of course, that’s easier said than done when it’s such a touch publishing environment and even more people are writing and wanting to be published.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I usually write & read for at least 6 hours a day, but always after coffee and a stroll with the dog.
5. What motivates you to write?
Honesty, clarity, critical exploration and, most importantly, a need for play.
6. What is your work ethic?
I’m both lazy & relentless. I don’t do much else other than writing, reading & making books, so I manage to be productive, but I do enjoy a good dawdle & a daydream along the way.
7. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most & why?
Susan Howe, Cole Swensen, Peter Larkin, Holly Pester, Luke Thompson, Callie Gardner, Thomas A. Clarke, Jen Hadfield & Luke Kennard all do something I consistently enjoy. They all take risks, but I think that list is eclectic in output. I’m constantly reading new people & enjoying poetry, non-fiction & prose. I want to mention more poets like Vahni Capildeo, Daisy Lafarge, Maria Sledmere and Colin Herd. Gosh, there are so many. There’s so much good writing being published, mostly by small presses. As an editor of a small press, I love supporting other presses and I feel like I’m part of a broader writing & publishing community through social media, readings & being on the edge of the creative writing programs at Royal Holloway & Falmouth.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
Writing seems urgent to me. It’s an action that has the potential to change things. Also, I’m not sure I’m good at anything else.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Listen to other writers. Always be kind.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I’ve just published a book about the Martian Rovers, called Perseverance Valley (Knives, Forks & Spoons Press). My latest book, A Confusion of Marys, is a joint effort with the poet Rupert Loydell. My contribution to the collection is called ‘An Autophagy of Mary’, which means ‘the self-eating of Mary’ & signals some of the regenerative dialogue around Mary.
I’m currently working toward a practice-based PhD on the poetics of prayer & this includes material that will become my third poetry collection.