is from the Black Country. Her poetry has been published in various journals and anthologies including Eye Flash, Away With Words, Anthropocene, Finished Creatures, Dear Damsels and 100 Voices. Her work has been displayed alongside The Women’s Quilt at National Trust The Workhouse, Southwell. She was awarded the Creative Future Gold Prize for Poetry in 2019. Her debut pamphlet, Salt & Metal, is published by Fawn Press. Find her on Twitter @sallrockspoetry.
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
I started writing following a difficult relationship breakdown. I was devastated and struggling with the emotional turmoil. Rupi Kaur was just becoming really popular on Instagram and her short simple poems just resonated. I discovered Hollie McNish’s Nobody Told Me around the same time and I found the content and language really relatable. This led me to try to write a few poems myself – they were very raw and I had no real concept of the craft, but it helped me to feel better so I kept doing it. After that I started reading more widely and also connecting with the local poetry scene, going to readings, workshops etc. and at that point writing poetry became a regular thing.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I studied A Level English Literature, so that was my first real introduction to poetry. I remember mainly studying Plath, Hughes and Larkin. After college I hardly read any poetry until about 15-20 years later! I was introduced to contemporary poetry mainly through social media and getting involved in the local scene.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Not at all really. When I started reading poetry properly I was mainly reading contemporary poets. I feel like poetry is having a revival moment right now, and while the influence of older poets and the canon is always present, I don’t feel like they’re a dominating presence.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
As much as I’d like to, I don’t have one. A full time job and single-parenting two teens takes care of that! Instead I try to carve out as much writing time as I can whenever I can, although this is usually more like weekly than daily. If I have a project on the go I’ll squeeze writing and editing into any available free time.
5. What motivates you to write?
I tend to want to write if I’m moved by something; it could be an event, a story or a memory. Occasionally a poem will just start forming in my head and I have this panic to get it written down before it disappears and that is very motivating! I also love to hear other poets talk about poetry, and I sign up for as many panels and readings as I can. The passion of others always inspires me to develop my own practice.
6. What is your work ethic?
I’m a perfectionist, so I feel the need to work hard and turn in my best effort 100% of the time. I’m aware it’s not healthy and it means that when I’m getting towards the ‘finished’ stage of a poem or book I get a lot of anxiety around it, because I want it to be perfect (and nothing ever is!).
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I’m not sure I am influenced by writers I read when I was young. It’s the writers I’ve discovered in the last 5 years that have made the biggest impact on me and my own writing.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
There are so many amazing people writing at the moment, it’s hard to narrow it down! I am always inspired by Andrew McMillan, Raymond Antrobus, Anthony Anaxagorou, and Salena Godden. It’s something about their outlook as well as their writing that inspires me; I feel like I can learn so much from them. They always speak with such honesty and passion, both on and off the page. I dearly love poets with a West Midlands or Black Country connection, especially those writing in the Black Country dialect like Emma Purshouse and Liz Berry. Casey Bailey, Roz Goddard and Roy McFarlane are also amazing poets with a local connection. I love to hear them read their work – it feels like coming home. Kim Moore and Helen Mort have been particularly inspiring in my own writing – both poets share with us such powerful insight on women, our place in our society, the male gaze, and the way we have suffered at the hands of a patriarchal system. Finally I have to mention the mighty Joelle Taylor, who is an absolute powerhouse. Just picking up one of her books makes me feel strong.
9. Why do you write?
I just love the whole process, beginning to end. From the initial idea to the scribbled draft, then the crafting of the piece, meticulously replacing one word with another until it works just right, playing with line breaks, changing the shape of the poem on the page, cutting whole stanzas, keeping one line and writing a whole new poem around it. Then the feeling of having written it, having the final form in front of you, and being able to share it with readers and for them to respond to it.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Sit down and start writing, as often as you can, and alongside that, read as much as possible. Consume writing that inspires you, and use that inspiration to build the foundation of your own practice. Sign up for workshops – there’s so much available online now. Join a writing group or sign up with a mentor to give you feedback and guidance. If you want to be published, start looking on social media for submission opportunities in magazines, etc. Find a community of other writers that you can become involved with, either locally or online. So much flows from engaging with the writing community – inspiration, opportunities and support.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
My debut pamphlet, ‘Salt & Metal’ has just been published by Fawn Press. It’s an exploration of being in an abusive relationship and the consequences of having lived through it, whilst also looking at the reclamation of the self and finding hope for the future.