Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Daniel Tobias Behan

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.

Daniel Behan 2

Daniel Tobias Behan

London-based writer, who has performed at the London Irish Centre regularly as part of their Celtic Craic events, and has been featured in the Irish Post’s London Calling podcast series, interviewed by Ryan Price. Poetry published online, and via Foxglove Journal (‘Love Of Mine’).

Websites / etc:

https://danieltobiasbehan.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/BehanTobias

https://www.facebook.com/dtbehan

The Interview
1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

I come from a family of poets and writers – my great uncle was Peadar Kearney the Irish poet and author of the Irish National Anthem; other uncles were writers Brendan and Dominic Behan, and my father was the political activist and writer Brian Behan. My mother was also a talented fine artist. (Three more of my sisters have also taken to writing in the time since then!) So, whilst it wasn’t forced upon me as a child, I grew up surrounded by books, attending plays, and with the knowledge that writing was in the family, and so I was somewhat of an avid writer and poet as a young child.

However, as things go sometimes, in my teenage years I didn’t pursue it as much, until the death of both my parents within a two-year period rekindled the notion that it would be good to take it up again, possibly to continue in their memory. However, after a few bits of stopping and starting, it was in 2016 that I seriously made an effort to recommence. My sister Janet had had success with her play Brendan At The Chelsea, and it was published in an Irish academic journal by Edinburgh University Press, which impressed me, and probably excited me enough to give it another go.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I would have to say my father. He would make up these wonderful stories about the adventures of  a mouse for me and my sister, verbally reciting them to us. I really wish he’d written them down and had them published, which is something I’ve reflected upon recently. Other than that, some of my earliest favourite poetry would have been Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, which is a wonderfully grisly collection of children’s poems based on fairy tales, which my mother introduced us to.

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

Well, having had poets in the family going back a few years, such as my great uncle who had begun writing songs and poetry during the Edwardian period, I felt somewhat of a connection with them, although even to this day I find the language of older poetry is often so mind-bogglingly precise and evocative. It’s certainly a presence to be reckoned with; there must have been something in the air or water back then which made people so adept with language.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Ideally, get at least something written, but honestly, my pattern is more that I might take a break from writing, then get a sudden flush of inspiration which leads for weeks or months on end, during which time I could be working on pieces for protracted hours and rewriting obsessively.

5. What motivates you to write?

Inspiration. That sounds cliché and vague, but it has to come from passion, energy, and interest. It’s important to write for yourself, but also to consider the reader’s perspective, and also potentially the casual reader who might otherwise not have much of an interest. For me it’s about creating something sensual and engaging, which interests me, and hopefully others.

6. What is your work ethic?

I would say my main work ethic when it comes to writing is that you – or rather I – shouldn’t be afraid to rework, to rethink, and to be as creative as possible. I just love engaging writing.

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

They laid the foundation. Whether it was a book we read over an hundred times times before sleeping, or something we were forced to study for school or university, the language bit of our brain is always taking it in and learning, which we can then unconsciously make use of in later writing; it’s the miracle of human culture that we have a shared learning experience across periods of time and great distances, including within our own lives.

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

I admire Irvine Welsh for what he did to shake up British writing from the 1990s onwards. I recall a quote about my uncle Brendan that he lit a bonfire under the arse of Irish literature – actually it might have been my father who said that, but others said the same thing in a less blunt way! I saw Welsh doing a similar thing. I recall hearing he was a fan of Brendan’s actually; you can see the connection particularly to Brendan’s book Borstal Boy.

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

I’ve dabbled in making some music (on a computer, not proper music!) – but, my strength is primarily with words, although I haven’t ruled out doing some more musical stuff in the future, possibly with some poetry worked in, in some manner.

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

Read, write, get involved! Keep at it. The only slow bit is the bit before you begin, before you get started.

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

Presently, working on building up my collection of poems – as to what we’ll do with them, we’ll see. There will be a short filmed performance of a poem of mine called The Visit by a couple of friends which we did just before xmas, so maybe some more of that kind of thing too, audio / visual stuff.

12. Why sonnets?

Well, funnily enough, a friend had made a suggestion of a poetry exercise of writing a poem a day, which then lead on to me setting up the blog. Being a fan of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and also somewhat familiar with Donne, etc, I had thought it a good exercise to practise writing Shakespearian sonnets (in structure), but on whatever subject or theme I felt like writing about. I never quite managed a poem a day, but I do feel it was a good writing exercise nonetheless, and led on to the further poems which are more free-form in nature.

2 thoughts on “Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Daniel Tobias Behan

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