Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Stephen Paul Wren

Stephen Paul Wren

studied at Cambridge (Corpus Christi College) and worked in industry for many years. He transitioned back into academia at Oxford (St Hilda’s College) before joining Kingston University in 2018 where he works as a Senior lecturer in pharmaceutical chemistry. 

Stephen’s poetry can be read at www.stephenpaulwren.wixsite.com/luke12poetry and you can find me on Twitter @Stephen34343631. His book ‘Formulations’ (co-written with Dr Miranda Lynn Barnes) was published by Small Press in 2022. His book ‘A celestial crown of Sonnets’ (co-written with Dr Sam Illingworth) was published by Penteract Press in 2021. Also, Stephen’s poetry has appeared in places such as 14 magazine, Marble Broadsheet, Consilience, Tears in the Fence and Dreich magazine.

Stephen’s facebook group Molecules Unlimited is growing quickly and its first online poetry event is scheduled for Summer 2022.

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

I started writing poetry in my teens. I found it to be a very useful and interesting vehicle to express myself. I was able to devote much more time to the crafting of poems during the lockdowns which resulted in getting published more widely.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Several of my school English teachers inspired me to read A. E. Housman and others. More recently, my mentor Sarah Watkinson, encouraged me to explore poetry as an art form.

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

Yes, I had some awareness and plenty of respect for all poets out there.

4. What is your daily  routine?

I tend to wake very early so often write some lines then each day. I also set apart Wednesday evenings for some writing (when I have some ‘alone time’ and as a break from my academic work).

5. What motivates you to write?

I like to write about science, faith, people, the world around me and combinations of all these.

6. What is your work ethic?

I have a strong work ethic and always have multiple projects on the go.

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

At school, I was a fan of A.E.Housman and his cerebral style. I often reflect on his writing when crafting my own words. Ted Hughes and his imagery were other positive influences.

7.1. Why are you drawn to the “cerebral” writing of A.E.Housman?

A.E. Housman intrigued me because I found the idea of poetry being an intellectual exercise quite stimulating. Of course, writing poems involves many other layers, such as ‘the heart’, and I began to explore this through the works of others (Shakespeare sonnets for example). 

7.2. What inspires you in the imagery used by Hughes?

Crow (Hughes) had a significant impact on me in terms of imagery. The use of a creature to illustrate certain characteristics made me realise that there are countless countries to explore as a writer (there is no limit to space).

7.3. Reacting to your being published by Penteract Press how important is form to you in poetry?

Form has its uses but my view is that, first, I think of the story to tell and, second, I think about what form (if any) is best employed to tell the story. 

7.4. What forms are your favourites?

The sonnet and the villanelle.

7.5 Why those?

Villanelles attract me because they can assist with storytelling, e.g ‘across the sea to hastings’ on my blog

I favour sonnets because they enable the blend of ‘romance’/narratives around emotion and the challenge of writing within defined structures.

7.6. Any particular kind of sonnets?

All sonnets, really.

7.7. How did you decide on the order of poems in each of your books?

The order in ‘celestial crown of sonnets’ spoke to my co-author and I as we moved through the chronology of astronomical discoveries and making the crown ‘work’ ie. the final sonnet needed to make sense based on the earlier ones.

In ‘formulations’, my co-author and I wrote poems and forms around pairs of molecules that identified. There was no pre-determined order in the sequence. We hoped that the stories in the poems would take the reader on their own journeys.

7.8. What do you enjoy most about collaboration?

Working together to make a new, combined voice.  I also have two of my own collections in preparation.

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

I admire Katie Griffiths and she encourages me to think in new ways about poetry. I enjoy Matthew Caley’s originality, Philip Gross (for the way he makes you feel about topics that impinge on science) and Pascale Petit (for her ability to transport the reader into new places).

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

I write as a means to express myself. This is tricky to do on an emotional level in the scientific arena in which I operate on a daily basis. I am enthralled by the beauty and design in the world and so often feel compelled to write at the intersection of faith, science and literature. I enjoy making the reader think differently.

9.1. What does your faith bring to your poetry?

That I believe in the Lord’s love for us and the world. I marvel at his design all around us. I try to capture small snippets of these themes in my poems

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

I would say ‘I became a writer as a natural way of writing down my thoughts and experiences. Learning about form options etc. is an ongoing process.’

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

I have a number of current projects. I am writing two new collections of my own poems and am beginning to think about words for a planned second collection in collaboration with Dr Miranda Lynn Barnes.

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