Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Keiran Goddard

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 three options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger, or an interview about their latest book, or a combination of these.

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.

Kieran Goddard Votive

 

Keiran Goddard

(b.1984) was born and raised in Shard End, Birmingham and educated in Oxford. His debut collection was shortlisted for the Melita Hume Prize and he was runner-up in the William Blake Prize. He has worked as in policy and higher education and now runs a small foundation focused primarily on the climate crisis. He is the author of numerous academic articles and is a policy fellow at the University of Cambridge. His other interests include wine, philosophy and pop music. Goddard’s second full-length collection, Votive, was published by Offord Road Books in 2019.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I first came to poetry through song, pop songs in particular. When I was about nine or ten years old, I would transcribe the lyrics from my favourite songs and then mix my favourite lines up to make a “new song”.

In some sense, dimly, I think I was already aware that language could have a particular kind of intensity if you arranged the images and the sounds with enough care ( or sometimes with enough carelessness, come to think of it )

‘Meaning’ is a complicated, conflicted word, but essentially that is what I was always aiming for. I eventually realised that the intense compression and focus of a poem was paradoxically the most reliable way of opening up the world and accessing its blurrier and more beautiful edges.

I know that is unfashionably earnest, but there you go. I felt it when I was a kid, I knew it when I was a teenager, and I stand by it even now.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Like many people, I had one brilliant teacher that changed everything for me. I was maybe fourteen or so when I met her. I’d hardly read any books before then, let alone poetry. I’ve been making up for lost time ever since, I suppose.

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

I can’t say I was, really. I didn’t know much about the poetry ‘scene’ when I started out, and oddly enough I think this probably stood me in good stead. I did have the vague sense that all of the awards were being shared between the same group of tedious old lads. And I was sort of correct about that.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I take notes constantly, and most days I’ll note down a handful of phrases, ideas or images, usually around a particular theme that I am exploring at the time.

Later, I will take a week or so, book myself into hotel in a city where I don’t know anyone and spend all day every day writing, aiming to shape the scraps into something more coherent.

Rinse and repeat.

5. What motivates you to write?

Writing is the way I understand the world. Or maybe it is the way I approach the various ways in which I do not understand the world. I’m unsure which. Either way, it feels utterly necessary.

6. What is your work ethic?

For what it’s worth, I think the notion of a ‘work ethic’ is pretty damaging, and has historically been a sort of quasi-religious injunction leveraged against the interests of labour by the forces of capital.

But being less wanky, and taking your question at face value, I’d say:

I’m naturally lazy, so I have to structure my days to counteract that. I have a fairly demanding day job as well as various other academic commitments, so if I didn’t actively make time for writing, it just wouldn’t get done. So in summary, I work hard, but it doesn’t come at all naturally.

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

My early work was hopelessly derivative of the poets I loved, all the predictable ones; Eliot, Yeats, Plath, Dickinson etc.

A little bit later I fell pretty hard for Elisabeth Bishop, Rilke, Paul Celan, R.S Thomas and Anna Akhmatova.

Looking back now, I think there are a few things that have persisted in my work that I can see in all of these writers. Concision is one, musicality is another, as is a general willingness to mix the erotic with the theological.

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

I’ll try not to overthink this. So I’ve recently loved books by: Layli Long Soldier, Anne Boyer and Michael Symmons Roberts.

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

I’m not clever enough to answer this question. But I would say that some things aren’t exactly choices.

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

I’ve just recently published my second full length collection, Votive, and am tentatively working on my first book of non fiction. I’m most interested in hope, gift and fetish, so I suspect it will take shape around those themes. Eventually…

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