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 from Newport, South Wales. She is author of New Territories in Modernism: Anglophone Welsh Writing, 1930-49 (University of Wales Press, 2018). She was shortlisted in the Bridport Prize poetry competition in 2013 and 2019, and awarded a Literature Wales Writer’s bursary for her poetry in 2020.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
I love how poetry represents a distillation of feeling and thought. I think of the best poetry as a kind of prism of words that each reader can hold and turn in their own unique light – finding meanings, emotions, empathy, inspiration. Poetry is the most musical form of writing and I’m drawn to this – the life in the sounds of words. Some time ago, I studied for a postgraduate qualification in counselling and came to realise how poetry, in particular, could be a conduit for exploring and understanding the self and personal experience – something that I had not fully appreciated in my purely academic study of poetry during my degree and PhD. I certainly read poetry differently now that I am a poet myself. I’m inspired by the versatility of poetry – its seemingly endless scope both in terms of style and subject matter; and its capacity to speak from and to the time in which it is written. Most of all, I’m inspired by all the wonderful poetry that has been written and is still being published every day, not only in print but also in online magazines and journals.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I read children’s anthologies of poetry as a child and also encountered poetry at school. My primary school was quite receptive to it and we often wrote class poems, which I enjoyed. It was not until I went to university, however, that I really became aware of poetry as a craft; and not until I began my postgraduate study that I became more interested in it. I remember distinctly sitting in a lecture given by my PhD supervisor on the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore. This was a turning point, I think.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Now, I’m very aware. I try not to think too much about all the poetry that has gone before when I’m writing as I find this can stunt my creativity and my belief in the value of what I have to say. For this reason, I feel that I’ve had to disassociate or at least distance my previous identity and mind-set as a literary critic from my poet-self. On the other hand, I think that an awareness of the history of poetry is helpful and endlessly inspiring; and this awareness can be utilised to push work in new and interesting directions. I don’t like the idea of any poet’s presence being ‘dominating’. As my critical work, focusing on Welsh writing in English in the early twentieth-century attests, I’m especially interested in poetic an artistic voices that speak from the periphery.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I have to fit my writing around looking after my two young sons and so I don’t have a routine at all to speak of. I write when I have an idea and return to it whenever I can.
5. What motivates you to write?
I find constant inspiration from just being in the world and especially the natural world. Sometimes I’m motivated to write by some strong feeling – a feeling of empathy or solidarity, an awareness of injustice, an evocative image or memory. Many of my poems at the moment are driven by environmental concerns. And many are responses to paintings and photography. Several poems have come from vivid dreams. My main motivation is enjoyment; I love to think about and write poetry.
6. What is your work ethic?
I am easily discouraged and prone to crises of confidence in my work, so my ethic is simply to keep going.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I can’t pinpoint exactly how the many writers I have read have influenced me, but I am sure they have all left their mark in some way.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I usually avoid questions like this as they feel very final and my relationship with the work of other writers is fluid, always in motion. Works that have lingered in my mind and inspired me recently include: Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City and The Trip to Echo Spring (prose); Joanna Moorhead’s biography, The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington; Don Paterson’s ‘40 Sonnets’, Liz Berry’s ‘The Republic of Motherhood’, Robert Minhinnick’s ‘Diary of the Last Man’, John McCullough’s Reckless Paper Birds and Marianne Burton’s She Inserts the Key (poetry).
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
I suppose I just feel compelled to write, for all the reasons given above. And I wouldn’t make it as a visual artist or musician – my sister is much better at those things.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
If you write then you are a writer.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I have written a pamphlet of poetry that I hope may be published one day, or developed into a more expansive collection. I was thrilled to be awarded a Literature Wales Writer’s bursary this year to finish writing a full collection so this is my focus at the moment. I am also guest reader for the forthcoming issue (6) of Black Bough Poetry, themed ‘Deep Time’.