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.
is an Irish writer who grew up on the Leitrim/Fermanagh border. She spent her youth changing jobs, careers, and cities, not realising that she was building up a lifetime of shenanigans to tap into later on, when she gave in to the urge to write.
She has settled in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, along with her husband, daughter, parrot, dog, two cats, and three hives of honey bees.
Bennett writes poetry, memoir, and short stories. The main themes in her work are the landscape of her people, the natural world, and the antics of her family, and other creatures.
She’s widely published in print and online, and has read her work on BBC Radio Ulster. Bennett’s won The Leitrim Guardian Literary Award for poetry, twice, and has been a finalist in over a dozen poetry competitions in the past few years, including The Allingham, North West Words, The Percy French, Head Stuff, Bailieborough, The Bangor Literary Journal, and Hedgehog Poetry Press.
Bennett performs regularly at events and festivals because she loves to connect with people through her words.
Twitter: @baabennett Facebook: TrishBennettWriter.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
A lot of my poems start out as memoir or fiction. When I look at the draft that I’ve written, I decide whether it works better as a poem. My work these past few years has more power when expressed in the concise language of poetry.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I was introduced to poetry by my two primary school teachers, Mrs. White, and Miss Gallagher. As a child, I loved rhyme in poems. When I got older, my Dad influenced my love of Yeats as he was a big fan of his poetry. I lived in Sligo and visited many of the places mentioned in Yeats’s poetry.
The first time I realised how entertaining performance poetry could be was when I was having a drink in our local pub almost twenty years ago. Seamus O’Rourke, a fellow Leitrimite, performed his piece about plastic-bags. His wit and skill blew me away and I remember thinking, I wish I could do that, yet I was horrified at the thoughts of trying.
I worked as an Engineer of one sort or another for most of my working life, and it wasn’t until my late thirties that I gave in to the call to write. Ruth Carr ran a brilliant Creative Writing class at the Crescent Arts in Belfast. She’s to blame for introducing me to contemporary poetry and encouraging my writing.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I was turned off poetry in Secondary School by having to study poems written a century or two before, by middle-class Englishmen. As a teenage girl living in rural Ireland in the 1980s, I couldn’t connect with any of them. I don’t recall there being any modern poetry or Irish female poets on our English curriculum in Ireland at that time. Thankfully, things have changed for the better since.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
I was born in Winter and have a love of the dark days. I write, edit, or read poetry most days once the wind and rain sets in at the fall of the year. When Spring and Summer kick-off, the days are bright and busy, and I find it harder to write. I’m also a beekeeper which means I spend my free-time in Summer preoccupied with the shenanigans of my bees.
5. What motivates you to write?
Deadlines are a great motivator! If there’s no deadline, I write when something gets to me, like an image, or a phase someone says that sticks in my head and won’t leave until I write about it. I suppose you could say, I write to exorcise demons.
I wrote diaries as a child and teenager, stopping when my antics became too incriminating in my twenties. While going through old stuff during the first lockdown, I found a poetic rant about the state of Ireland that I’d written when I was 18. It seems I’ve always written something when I was annoyed enough.
6. What is your work ethic?
When it comes to writing, as with everything in my life, I go by the old cliche, Feel the fear and do it anyway. Those who know me know how terrified I am before a performance. Despite the sickening stage fright, I still go on, because I’ve learned that the fear keeps me focused on stage, and if I trust the muse, everything will be fine.
When it comes to writing, I keep at the bloody thing until it clicks together when I read it. I can’t explain what clicking together means as this is different for every writer. I keep editing, often as many as 25-30 revisions (especially for the longer memoir poems). I often work on twenty poems at any one time. Some poems, I leave for ages until I figure out the ending. I send them out into the world when I’m satisfied they’re as good as I can make them, and there’s a place where they might fit. Then I suffer imposter syndrome, kicking myself for thinking that the poem was good, and for even thinking that I can write. I’m high as a kite for at least five minutes when somebody publishes it.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I’m not sure. I was a big reader in my youth, read everything and anything, except horror and poetry. I should’ve taken that as a sign…
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I can’t answer this because there are far too many! It’d fill the page, and besides, I’d be afraid I might give them swelled heads. Can’t have writers getting confidence in themselves. It’s just not done.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
I’ve a full life outside of writing. It’s being busy doing the other stuff that feeds my writing. When there’s no other choice and the demons are too great, I write.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I’d quote Hemingway,
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter, and bleed.
I’d also advise them not to become a writer. There are far less torturous jobs out there, normal jobs that will pay handsomely for a quarter of the work that you put into writing. I know, because I’ve worked in those cushy jobs.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I’m meant to be working on one anthology of poetry, but the damned thing has morphed itself into two. Both need a lot of work as I keep adding new poems. I don’t want to say much more about them as I don’t like to talk about my work until it’s ready for review. I’m afraid I’ll jinx it.