Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Ryan Norman

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.

Two anthologies that feature Ryan’s work 

Ryan Norman (he/him)

is a writer from New York living in the Hudson Valley. Inspired by the landscape, he writes what he feels. He is a contributing editor of creative nonfiction with Barren Magazine. His work has appeared in From Whispers to Roars, XRAY Literary Magazine, Black Bough Poetry, Storgy Magazine and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter @RyanMGNorman and an updated list of his publications at Linktree: https://linktr.ee/RyanMGNorman

The Interview

 I started writing poetry when I was in high school from what I can remember. I was just playing around with words and sounds and meter. All of my early poetry was form. My first poem was published when I was 16, and it is about mythology, informed by Ovid, but about my life. Both mythology and autobiographical themes still dominate my poetry many years later, although I no longer write in verse or follow forms. Sometimes iambs pop into lines every now and again and the occasional couplet, but I write free verse. Poetry has always been a way for me to tell my story even if it is hidden behind mythologies.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

 It’s difficult to pinpoint who introduced me to poetry. I suppose my earliest encounter was books my family read to me when I was very young. Dr. Seuss. Does that count? If not then, later in the school library I have a memory of the librarian reading Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, although none of that inspired me to write poetry. I was writing stories at young age.

3. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

 It’s difficult not to be aware of these famous poets. I’ve read them willingly and for class assignments. In my early years of writing, while I was finding my voice, if I’ve truly found it, I imitated the styles of both traditional and contemporary poets.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

 My daily writing routine doesn’t involve much writing. There are days when I note things. There are days when I write. Other times I just think about writing as a sort of brainstorming process. I need to feel inspired to write. Most of what I write comes from a stream of conscious practice. Some of it is deliberately written with line breaks.

5. What subjects motivate you to write?

 I write what needs to be released from my mind. A lot of what I write about is confessional or, at the very least, autobiographical. I write about mental health, relationships, moments in time, mythology. If it involves my experience, I will write about it. Essentially, it is whatever I need to get off my chest at the moment. If it isn’t too revealing, I will pursue publishing that. Even if it is revealing, I will pursue publishing, because I believe in high stakes writing. It’s something I find interesting.

6. What is your work ethic?

 I’ve always worked hard for what I have. My work goes through several rounds of edits until I’m happy with it.

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

 I would say my biggest influences are Plath and Whitman for different reasons. I’ve always been interested in Plath for her skilled phrasing, and that is putting it very simply. I most closely relate to confessional poetry, and if you were to read my poetry or essays, for the most part you would notice that I toy with stakes. When am I sharing too much? Is what I’m portraying uncomfortable for readers? I’m by no means comparing myself to Plath, someone I find immensely talented. She is just an influence. As for Whitman, I do take influence from Leaves of Grass in particular. It was a very influential collection I read when I was young, but I in no way have the meanderings of a transcendentalist. But I do have a poem coming out called ‘Breaking Ground’ that is a little in the school of transcendentalism, but much more brief than a Whitman musing.

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

 I honestly do not read modern poets. Shame on me. I support friends’ work.

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

 Writing is the easiest way of expressing myself. It is something I have excelled at, not to say I’m an excellent creative writer, but as a means of communicating my ideas, writing is the best way for me to get my point across. I was naturally drawn to writing.

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

 Certainly, you can learn the technical aspects of writing. Take a workshop. Take a class. If you want to pursue something you are passionate about, go for it. Practice. Find people to read for you who will be honest. Just write. 

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

I’m querying a chapbook. I’m planning a new chapbook. I’m working on a collection of essays. I would love to find a place that takes hybrid collections, because I have an idea for an essay/poem collection, and I’m always working on a memoir. There are things going on that are sometimes overwhelming, but I will get through my ideas one checkmark at a time. 

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