Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Susan Darlington

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.

Under The Devil's Moon by Susan Darlington

Susan Darlington

is a freelance arts journalist and poet. Her debut collection, Under The Devil’s Moon, is available now through Penniless Press Publications.

The Interview

Wombwell Rainbow Interview – Susan Darlington

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I grew up in a household where writing was normal so it was never something I questioned or consciously made a decision to start. From an early age I played around with short stories and rhyme as a way to keep myself entertained. At some point it morphed from being a pastime to a compulsion.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I remember reading Heinrich Hoffman’s ‘The Story Of Augustus Who Would Not Have Any Soup’ in a children’s annual at my grandmother’s house. The moral was lost on me but I found it hilarious: life and death in five stanzas. I loved the conciseness, the rhyme, the story, and the macabre illustrations although I doubt I even realised it was a poem at the time.

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

Outside of school I mainly discovered poetry through fanzines. These were largely produced and written by my teenage peers, many of whom were female. Through Riot Grrrl publications I was introduced to, or became more interested in reading, people like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Patti Smith and Stevie Smith. The scene was reacting to a male dominated society but rather than finding it oppressive I was excited by the opportunities it created for change.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

It’s hard to develop a routine when, in common with most writers, I have to juggle poetry with the fluctuating demands of full-time paid employment. There are times this can be incredibly frustrating, as creative pursuits have to take a back seat, but it can make the writing windows all the more valuable to seize, whether they’re grabbed over a lunchtime drink or commute on the bus.

5. What motivates you to write?

It probably started out as a way to express myself, especially as a shy teenager, but it’s now more about being part of an ongoing conversation with other artists, other art forms, and natural environments. I’m also driven by the desire to improve my writing; to get closer to expressing my vision; and the basic need to be creative.

6. What is your work ethic?

I think it’s important to always be receptive to new ideas, even when caught up in domestic routine. Ideas for a poem could come from a phrase in a book, a piece of art, a half-heard song lyric, or something I’ve seen when out walking. These ideas then percolate at the back of my mind until I find a way to shape them into a piece of writing. It’s very rare I start with a completely blank page as by the time I start to write I’ve usually got the rough shape of a poem in my head.

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

I discovered the power of words in a large part through the lyrics of Brett Anderson (Suede), Morrissey (The Smiths), and Jarvis Cocker (Pulp). I loved the way their words connected with me, made me feel understood, and transported me to different places. They all share a certain kitchen-sink romanticism, of finding beauty in urban landscapes. My writing tends to be much more influenced by nature but in essence I’m still trying to make that connection with other people through my words.

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

We’re fortunate to have access to so many talented writers from all stages of their career through e-journals. I used to produce a fanzine so I know how much commitment that involves from editors and how much it’s a labour of love. For that reason I have particular admiration for Colin Bancroft, who runs an exhaustive resource called Poets’ Directory as well as a beautifully produced online magazine called 192. I also respect Mark Davidson, editor at Hedgehog Press, who runs a novel supporter led model through the Cult of the Spiny Hog.

I recently discovered the work of Rebecca Goss. Her 2013 collection Her Birth is an incredibly moving narrative account of loss and moving on with life. I love the brevity of her writing, the striking imagery, and the way in which she represents female experience. The poems in it are broadly confessional but it feels like she’s looking outwards rather than the somewhat insular writing of some of those working in the style.

I also admire the work of Becky Cherriman, who I feel should get greater recognition, and Helen Mort. They deal with politics with a small ‘p’ and write from a female perspective about topics such as motherhood and pioneering mountaineers. They both use everyday language to create work that on face value appears simple yet they make deep connections with stunning turns of phrase.

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

It makes me feel complete. If there have been days when, for whatever reason, I haven’t been able to write then I start to feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied with life.

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

Write. Read. Edit. Don’t be afraid to follow your own voice, remember that all subject matters are valid, and know that imposter syndrome never goes away!

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

I’m looking for publishers for two chapbooks. The first uses traumatropism – the ability of trees to continue growing after enduring trauma – as a loose metaphor for survival. The other is loosely constructed around phases of life, including creation myths and menopause. I’m also working on a micro-chapbook that considers what it means to be barren.

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