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.
Tessa B, Berring
‘I like lean words,/ you know, like ‘spirit’/ and lightly placed / unspeakable things’.
Tessa Berring’s collection Bitten Hair was published in 2019 by Blue Diode Press. Further work can be found via Dancing Girl Press, Algia Magazine, Pamenar Press, Rabbit Catastrophe, and Datableedzine.
1. When and why did you start writing poetry?
Well poetry is stunning. It stuns – I wanted to join in. I love the way you can read a poem and feel ‘yes, yes, oh my god, aaagh, that’s it!’ It answers. It enquires.
And poetry is a form of longing. Longing has always been an inspiration to me. The inherent uncertainty of it, the urge to reach, to open up, to lean
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
My parents were the first people to read and show me poetry – nursery rhymes, story books, prayers, songs. And just talking introduces one to poetry doesn’t it? I’ve always been in awe of speech – how an idea, or a feeling becomes heard, becomes language.
3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?
Aware of the dominating presence of older poets?.. Yes. Always….Well, some poets are simply always there taking up space. In mainstream UK bookshops you will always find Philip Larkin! But it isn’t his fault he’s got stuck forever on the high street – it is the cloying nature of capitalism and its stale (dead white male) imagination.
Poetry I love is poetry that lives aware of but in resistance to ‘dominating presences’ or ideas of ‘authority’. Poetry that guides and inspires through ever shifting writing communities, that spits and breathes through small presses, intimate collaborations, generous readings, no limp and docile magazine.
If poetry has a power, it is its sensuality, its sharp insanity, and the multiple ways that it can veer.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I don’t have a writing routine. I write when I want to, or when I can . Usually at night and at home.
5. What motivates you to write?
I love listening to conversations. Often it is an overheard phrase, a couple of lines in a book, or online that will start me writing…. Or it could be a disagreement I want to untangle/be rid of, or the love of an image I want to look at for longer. Sometimes it is an emotion I want to channel somewhere. Words are good for that; transformative, tender, blunt, and bony things.
I rarely write with a sense of wanting to write ‘about’ something. It is always something more immediate, sudden. And often I’m left with nothing except the feeling of ‘having written’.
Perhaps that is the motivation – to write so as to have that feeling? I find it hard to know my own motivations. I am not politically motivated to write, but at the same time I believe that all good poetry is political. It challenges. It agitates. It finds (and obscures) meaning.
6. What is your work ethic?
My work ethic? I try not to have a work ethic around poetry.
Poems are survivors not products. Writing a poem never feels like ‘work’ – it feels free and visceral. The best poems are bloody – something like muscle or a heartbeat. Though sometimes the best poems are like birds and outrageous laughter.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence your work today?
All writers influence me. Or all writing influences me. Even writing I hate influences me. It shows me the edges and the stinking troughs! As a young girl I loved Paul Gallico and Muriel Spark: Love of Seven Dolls and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie contain everything – Darkness, naivety, humour, sex, betrayal, sadness, warmth, insight…
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Who do I admire now? I find that question harder and harder the more I read. It becomes hard to separate ones reading into individual writers. Is that a cop out? It probably is. I love reading what friends are writing and reading. I like to pick up books in shops for their covers. I like finding obscure texts on mind theory online, etc.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
I’m never opposed to doing anything else, but I write when I know that it is only words that will get me close enough to what I am looking for, to what feels imperative in that moment.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I would say I can’t answer that. Or I would ask ‘What do you mean?
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I always have a little heap/smatter of words sitting in my laptop and which I tune into most days, not every day, but sometimes everyday. It is easy to get bored/disillusioned too. To feel ‘oh yes, here’s another unnecessary poem’. I’d like to work away from that – to make everything feel valuable.