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.
grew up by the sea in Weymouth, Dorset and now lives in Bristol. She developed a love for writing from an early age and her studies included English at the University of Exeter. After a varied career in publishing, accountancy and Human Resources, Sarah is now a full-time writer of poetry, novels and lyrics. In 2017 she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and a winner of the Persimmon International Poets Competition. Her poem ‘Mercy’ was highly commended by The Hedgehog Poetry Press and published in The Road to Clevedon Pier in 2018. The Hedgehog Poetry Press also published ‘A Hostile Environment’, her poetry conversation with Nigel Kent, in the same year and a second conversation ‘Thinking you Home’ in 2019. Her pamphlet ‘Before it’s too late’ was published by Hedgehog Poetry Press on 1st May 2020.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
A poetry competition in The Puffin Post. I won a prize for a concrete poem about a falling leaf when I was twelve. For me the falling leaf was a poignant reminder of the passing of time. Still one of my favourite themes!
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
My parents. My mother adored poetry. I’ve inherited her collection of around 400 poetry books. My father often quoted poetry around the house. His favourites were The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade. He was also very good at writing comic poems.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Born a Milton, I was very aware of the dominating presence of one particular poet, John Milton. My grandmother was unwavering in her belief that we were descendants. We had a picture of him on the wall that did look rather like my father – similar nose. Luckily, I rather like some of his poems, particularly Samson Agonistes.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
When I’m not undertaking paid work, I aim to spend at least a couple of hours every morning writing or thinking about writing. Sometimes though, a line will just suddenly pop into my head at any time of the night or day and then other words will float around and begin to form themselves into a poem. At that point I’ll stop and scribble them down to work on later. These are the best times.
5. What motivates you to write?
Emotions, seemingly random experiences, places, stories and snippets of interesting information motivate me to write.
6. What is your work ethic?
In general, I have to be disciplined about making time for writing every morning, otherwise some other activity/distraction will fill the space.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Mostly I think subliminally. Favourites were Gerard Manley Hopkins for the strangeness of the way he uses language, rhythm and sounds. I particularly like the sonnets of desolation for their directness of emotion and his poems about nature for their passion. Also, Thomas Hardy for his ability to evoke memories of places and events with associated strong emotions. Both poets are very embedded in the natural world and I like that.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I’ve mostly been writing lyrics for songs lately – I have a couple of friends who are writing some great melodies and so we work together. Sometimes I’ll adapt an already written poem into lyrics if the melody is right. So I particularly admire other lyricists, for example, Leonard Cohen, who of course started out as a poet. I love the way he takes an experience e.g. seeing a bird on a wire, and turns it into something much bigger about being human. Then when you add a haunting melody as well, what could be more moving and profound? I also enjoy writing comic verse from time to time and much admire Wendy Cope for her wit.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
It’s a way of noticing, understanding and communicating life experiences and emotions. I find it very therapeutic.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
To borrow a quote from Isabel Allende – ‘write what should not be forgotten’. It also helps to read as much as you can and absorb the work of other poets. Then you have to make time and headspace for your own creations. If I’m finding it hard to work out how to arrange words on a page, I’ll go to www.poets.org and explore different poetry forms. There will usually be one that feels right for what I want to communicate.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
In collaboration with a couple of other musicians, I’m part-way through a collection of songs and at some point, hope to publish the lyrics in a pamphlet with associated audio tracks on line.
Sarah Thomson, June 2020