Review of ‘Football is Poetry’ (Tonic Sta Press, 2021)

Nigel Kent - Poet and Reviewer

To celebrate the imminent second anniversary of this blog something different: instead of reviewing a collection, I have chosen to review a compellingly original anthology entitled Football is Poetry (Tonic Sta Press, 2021), the brainchild of Mark Coverdale, assisted by Owen Collins. Inspired by the formats of a match day programme and a football sticker book, the anthology is a celebration of ‘the beautiful game’ at all levels and introduces us to a wide variety of authors writing in a range of forms. Whilst there are some highly engaging prose pieces, including Owen Collins’ profoundly moving essay, Poetry for the 97, in which he reflects on the poetry written in response to the Hillsborough disaster, for the purposes of this review I intend to focus on the poetry.

I think what emerges most strongly for me from this anthology is the writers’ infectious enthusiasm for the game. Many of…

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Wombwell Book Interviews: “Cazique” by Matthew Clegg

Cazique front cover

-Matthew Clegg

Matthew Clegg was born in East Leeds in 1969. He received an Eric Gregory Award in 1997, and from 1999-2001 he was poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere. His published works include Lost Between Stations (, West North East ( ), The Navigators ( )  and Cazique ( He has worked as a Literature Officer for Arts Council England, has taught at Sheffield University Lifelong Learning, and for the Open College of Arts. He currently lectures in creative writing at Derby University, and he lives in Sheffield. 

The Interview

1: How did you decide on the order of the poems in Cazique? 

Usually, when arranging a poetry sequence, I look for a principle to organise the structure. In West North East it was fugue (as in a musical fugue, and fugue state). For the structure of the sequence ‘Cazique’ (as opposed to the structure of the entire book, which includes 2 other sequences), I stole a principal from Paradise Lost – chiastic structure. Basically, you arrange themes or ideas in an A, B, B, A, structure. Ideas or themes were paired, then arranged so they echo or develop: the last poem echoes or develops the first poem, then the second to last echoes or develops the second poem, etc. This will meet in the middle with an obvious pairing. So, there is something cyclical or circular about this, which ties in with the psyche of the speaker – a conman narrating a story of his life. There is a further level of structure: the sequence (very roughly) moves through the three parts of rhetoric (or the rhetorical triangle): logos, ethos and pathos. Logos appeals to reason; ethos appeals to character; pathos appeals to the emotions. The conman character is slippery: is he a conman being sincere about his art and life, or is he a conman applying rhetoric in order to appear sincere about his art and life – a conman setting up a longer con. I hope the structure reinforces this slipperiness (is that a paradox?). I hope each assertion is echoed by a doubt, & that each doubt is echoed by an assertion. Round and round we go, in a circle, a cycle, building unease – seeming nearer to the truth, feeling it slip through our fingers. This is how our modern reality feels to me.   

2. How important is the urban environment in your poetry?

I grew up on the edge of East Leeds – near Cross Gates (often spelled Crossgates). On one side of Austhorpe Lane were suburban estates, and on the other side were cow fields, agriculture, woods, (long-ago) landscaped pits. I travel both directions in my writing: I’ve written about the urban, about edgeland spaces and places, and about greener spaces – both cultivated and wild. The speaker in ‘Cazique’ has found himself in Mexborough (South Yorkshire) – which was where I was living when I wrote the bulk of that sequence. Sense of place usually drives my sequences, on some level. The character Cazique is from a small town. Despite his grandiose plans, after his fall from wealth, he ends up back where he stated, in a small South Yorkshire town. He watches (so-called) small town people living (so-called) small time lives. He watches closely, bubbling with both identification and reaction. On some level, I think ‘Cazique’ is very much about the kind of places that are left behind by the modern economy – the kind of places that might feature on the (phony) ‘levelling up’ agenda. The character of Cazique is a sort of post-Thatcherite Edmund the Bastard – a demonic social climber. But the thing is, he can never quite climb free, and the smalltown life he reacts against becomes both his purgatory and his afterlife. On a weird level, he almost becomes an elegist for those places. Perhaps I’m saying too much here. I don’t want to overdetermine the text for the reader, but these were the kinds of thought spinning round my head when I was composing. Yes, the urban environment is important in my poetry. I think urban and suburban spaces are as rewarding as none-urban spaces. I embrace the ethic of looking for beauty or interest in (so-called) unpromising places. Socially and politically, the conditions and economies of less glamorous urban spaces (like Mexborough) tell us a lot about our culture – who is thriving, who is struggling, who is making the most of where they are and what they’ve got, who doesn’t give a damn about them, really.

3. How does storytelling and a narrative arc figure in Cazique? 

Yes. The character ‘Cazique’ tells different parts and versions of his story across 42 poems. They are arranged in the chiastic structure I’ve described. It’s a sort of trickster cycle. Variously, he appears to confess and come clean; to express regrets and remorse, and then to express no regrets and no remorse; he tells us how he got hurt and damaged, & how he hurt and damaged others; he addresses those he has betrayed or hurt, pleading with them to forgive, and then speaks about those he has enjoyed hurting or betraying, readying himself to do it again. He says he wants to be saved, and warns anyone against trying to save him. He tells us how he took the name ‘Cazique’, and what the name gave him, and then he speaks of the too-heavy cost of being ‘Cazique’, fishing for our compassion. The first poem might imply confession before a fresh start. The last poem might imply final testimony before suicide. It’s not so much an arc as cycle of assertion and doubt. Do I believe ‘Cazique’ lies down in the snow to die? No. He slips through the fingers of his own poems. He’ll raise an eyebrow at whatever ‘we’ believe he is telling us. ‘Cazique’ has always been around, but he’s born to thrive in the post-Trump, post-Johnson age; in the age of marketing and post-truth and curation of self / image. Years back, I actually found a website titled ‘What Marketing Can Learn from Conmen?’ Brazen. High production. Right in your face.

4. What made you choose sonnets and tankas for the first section? 

‘Officer’ is a sequence in the voice of a mid-level worker in the corporate public sector. It’s about the breakdown in communication between employee and employer. Version 1 was just sonnets. I think I chose sonnets because the sonnet is a tight, closed form. I wanted something to reinforce the speaker’s sense of being in a professional straightjacket – how many of us feel when our complex selves are pressed into a very regulated / curated role or public-facing persona. On another level, I was playing with trying to feed this aristocratic poetic form with very unpoetic language – the language of corporate professionalism – a rigid, flatlining language, the Dalek voice of bullet points, Actions, & SMART targets. I think there is quite a tradition now of feeding the sonnet with language / themes outside its original remit: the effect can be ironic, subversive, dissonant. I became unhappy with version 1 (published as a separate pamphlet), so version 2 (in the Cazique book) was expanded to incorporate a new sequence called ‘Zipped File’. ‘Zipped File’ is written in tankas: the idea is that they offer some kind of counterpoint or undercurrent. These are private movements or epiphanies.  The officer’s more personal thoughts and feelings have fled into the tankas. A different kind of nuance lives there, almost underground. The whole thing is designed to go round in some kind of loop. Just when it looks like the officer is going to resign or break down, the reader is following the tankas back to the beginning of the loop. When I worked in such a role, my biggest battle was with my own inertia. I was feeling about to resign for too long. Somehow, I kept on looping, not progressing, not stopping. With each repeat, I was a little less mentally healthy. A hostile critic once called this sequence ‘neither here nor there’, which is (unintentionally) rather apt. The officer is indeed unable to commit to properly staying or properly resigning. Staying and resigning have merged into ‘neither here nor there’. The officer is sort of zombified. Ok, that’s how I feel about it now – a long time after the event. Hopefully, I won’t need to write such a sequence again.  

5. In the first section what is the role of the birds mentioned in both sonnets and tankas? 

Yes, there are several creatures in ‘Officer’. They feature both as themselves and as some kind of symbol, I guess, as creatures often do in poems, where there is usually a tension between letting creatures be ‘other’ and making creatures ‘mean’ something in our world. The swift in ‘Think Positive’ is life knocking from the other side of the glass between (larger) reality and the (smaller, tighter) corporate reality. Equally, I can’t think about swifts without thinking of Ted Hughes’ brilliant ‘Swift’ poem in Season Songs – a poem brightly engaged with life and death on the most meaningful level. I also think of the ‘birds flying high’ in Nina Simone’s barnstorming ‘Feeling Good’. Other creatures include: flies dying in a corporate stairwell in midsummer; a bluebottle trapped in the officer’s fridge; vulnerable beetles crawling a city pavement; an owl on a street lamp, at 5.00am; and a hornet the officer finds in his sheets. In Dante’s Inferno, wasps and hornets are what chase and sting the sinners who never chose a side in the struggle of conscience. I suppose this relates to that theme of being ‘neither here nor there’ again, and needing to wake up and make an existential choice. It’s the recurring theme of becoming zombified or of the human spirit slumbering in a corporate role. There’s a brilliant short story by David Constantine that I love. It’s called ‘The Loss’, and you can find it in his collection Under the Dam.  It’s about some kind of successful corporate figure living beyond the moment he feels his soul leaving his body. It’s very modern, but haunted by the terms of the old moral universe.  

6. How important is form in the other two sections of Cazique? 

It’s certainly very central to the second sequence, ‘Holodets’. This maps a relationship and breakdown of communication between an English poet and a Russian immigrant. There are three forms used. There are sonnets, addressed to the immigrant (who is sometimes a muse, sometimes a sharp critic of the poet, as both man and artist). There are little songs, addressed to the immigrant’s baby daughter. These are written in a form stolen from Yeats’ poem, ‘To a Squirrel at Kyle-Na-No’. They are very short and sweet, sometimes bitter-sweet. Then there are (Northern) English versions of lyrics from Pushkin and Mandelstam – versions of those poets that the Russian muse would probably struggle with, for all the same reasons that communication is breaking down between the mismatched lovers. I was playing with form as a kind of intertextuality and (like in ‘Officer’) sometimes I was trying to feed the forms tones, voices and material at odds with the forms: again, to play with dissonance and irony. Structure is probably the main driver in the third sequence, ‘Cazique’, although I have played with form as allusion and intertextuality there too: especially the poem ‘A Ghost Will Come’, which is written in the same (tortuous) form as Yeats’ ‘All Soul’s Night’, and ‘Logos: Speeches for Two Occasions’, which uses a form adopted by Peter Reading in his ‘Going On’ sequence, a form he’d taken from classical Greek or Latin verse. I enjoy form. It gives me something to work with and against. Sometimes I enjoy the challenge of pitting my wits against a demanding, tortuous form; letting the rhymes and constraints force me into new and divergent ways of thinking: of working myself slowly through a process of surprise. 

7. I remember you once saying Peter Reading was a big influence, and also Walcott on your writing. 

They were both poets I’ve tried to learn things from, and they were both poets who made me feel that a poetic project was a meaningful thing in a world that often ignores poetry. One of Walcott’s great creations has to be Shabine, the mixed-race sailor-poet who speaks his 11-part dramatic poem, ‘The Schooner Flight’ (from The Star Apple Kingdom, 1979). I heard a version of this poem on Radio 4 in my early 20s and was instantly riveted. It’s an amazing blend of vernacular Caribbean and high-register, almost Miltonic language. It’s musical, dramatic, meditative, full of political ire against the legacy of colonialism and current corruption, balanced by celebration of the islands and loving-tenderness towards people. I’ve been chasing some of the effects of that poem for years and years. I was introduced to Peter Reading’s Ukulele Music (1985) on Neil Roberts’ contemporary poetry module at Sheffield University (again, in my early 20s). I was taken by the pessimistic tone, spiced by black humour. I admired the way Reading applied classical meters to the kind of grotty/gritty urban material I recognised from my life, but felt was often excluded from poetry. I also relished Reading’s Bakhtinian collage of voices: voices from up and down the social hierarchy, but often coming from the underclass or the margins. One of the most appealing voices in Ukulele Music is Viv: the poet-persona’s beleaguered but irrepressible cleaner, and self-proclaimed ‘life of the party’. Both Walcott and Reading are masters of structuring a poetry volume, stealing methods from other genres: the classics, drama, the novel, music, etc,. etc. Many of Walcott’s book covers are his own paintings, and Reading’s Bloodaxe books are clearly (partly) the fruit of his own flair for design. The flavour of their poetics ran all the way through their project. I greatly miss the arrival of new books from them.

8. Cazique is also spiced throughout with references to Shakespeare, Robin Hood, Lorca, and Bowie. Why this blending of so called “High” with so called “Low” art? 

Those are all sources the character Cazique self-identifies. Cazique is a chameleon and a social climber. He identifies with so-called transformer artists like Bowie and Lou Reed; with Shakespearean villains like Iago, Macbeth, Edmund the Bastard; with Milton’s Satan; and sometimes, yes, with people’s champions like Robin Hood and Lorca. Cazique is protean and harlequin, sucking energy from every source he can get his hands on. He’s inspired by the 19th century Scottish confidence trickster, Gregor MacGregor, who gave himself the title ‘Cazique of Poyais’ – a ruse that fuelled his greatest and most cruel con – selling land to settlers, land in a settlement in the Mosquito territories of South America. This territory was pitched as a land of milk and honey, but settlers arrived to find it abandoned and unprotected. Disease and fever were rife. More generally, blending so-called ‘high’ and so-called ‘low’ culture does seem to be where we are, now. Walcott described his own art as ‘bastard’ or ‘mulatto’, embracing the melting pot of the Caribbean. I’m not Caribbean, obviously, but I also embrace the idea of melting pot. My background isn’t ‘high’, but it was hugely exciting for me to discover the so-called poetry canon in my 20s. When the actual circumstances of my life were fairly poor (unemployment, government training schemes, crappy jobs), I could charge my imagination with Keats or Wordsworth or whatever. But my earliest interest in art was inspired by the art-pop/post-punk of the 1980s, and by popular TV and film. I love Jonathan Lethem’s essay ‘The Ecstasy of Influence’. He writes about how we inhabit this chaos of signs and texts and images. He embraces art as collage and appropriation. The perfect illustration of what he means might be the Duffer brothers’ Stanger Things, which so many of my students love. I love it too.  

9. In Cazique I can hear hard boiled crime novels. How did these influence the diction? 

That question genuinely finds me without a readymade answer. I’ve not read many crime novels – apart from a handful by Chandler. I do love film noire, though. Anything with Bogart and Becall in, but especially Key Largo. Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. Polanski’s Chinatown. Curtis Henson’s L.A. Confidential. Anything good about corruption and corruptibility. I recently read Robin Robertson’s noire-influenced poem/novel, The Long Take, and I enjoyed that a lot. Is Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent a crime novel? I’ve re-read that several times. Also, Conrad’s Nostromo, a great novel about ‘material interests’ and human corruptibility. And of course, Heart of Darkness. As far as TV drama goes, I watch and re-watch The Wire, religiously, and that has to be the pinnacle of a certain kind of crime show – one with a social and political message about careerism and corruption. I love Troy Kennedy Martin’s Edge of Darkness (1985), especially for sheer mood and sense of dread. Bob Peck was terrific in that. That was the BBC era that also produced Denis Potter’s The Singing Detective (1987). HBO’s Deadwood was a dialogue revelation to me, and I became a devoted fan of Mad Men – Don Draper as existential anti-hero. Your question was about diction, wasn’t it? Without being sure, I guess the kind of film and TV I’ve mentioned here is more likely to have had an effect on my writing than crime fiction. I hugely enjoyed the adult-orientated TV that came out of the (so-called) second Golden age of TV. The Sopranos, The Shield, Justified, etc. All have compelling anti-heroes with great lines and dialogue. At the end of the working day, Ruth and me like a great TV show to get engrossed in. We both enjoy the darker end of the spectrum.  

10. What do you find fascinating about “identity”? 

That’s a big question. I’ve gone to the dictionary for help: ‘1. the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.’ I guess Cazique might see himself as self-made. A construct. A series of appropriations. A kind of performance or fiction. Under all that, a damaged psyche, a smorgasbord of memories, a dynamo of energy, a series of repeating behaviours. In the modern world, what with social media and media generally, I guess self or identity is increasingly curated. I was listening to Liz Truss talking about her experience of school – this narrative of exposure to deprivations, etc., when it’s fairly clear (if you know the area of Leeds she’s from and the school she attended) that this is a construct designed to appeal to a certain audience. It begs more questions than it answers. Look at how most populist politicians curate themselves – Farage, Johnson, whoever. Let’s try and get past that sort of thing, then, and maybe try and explore the more everyday. As a university lecturer, I’ve talked with a colleague about the kind of assumption students can make about you, just because you are a lecturer: that you are culturally ‘upmarket’ and have always been culturally ‘upmarket’. They have no window or insight into where you came from, or what you were like 20 years ago. Most of that stays hidden from many people – like imposter syndrome or that sense of unbelonging. Then there the roles, personas and temporary configurations we adopt or perform for people (or ourselves). For my first girlfriend, I totally played up to a role she constructed for me – just because I desperately wanted to play a part in her life. God knows what role or persona she adopted to please me. Identity seems to be a hot topic now, important to people in all kinds of ways, whether in terms of race, gender, sexuality, whatever, but, equally, its very complex, very slippery, a domain to be approached with a healthy critical intelligence.  

11. Once they have read the book what do you hope the reader will leave with? 

I don’t think Cazique has been an easy book for Longbarrow Press to sell. It hasn’t attracted reviews. It’s not a book that many of my friends have talked about with me, either. I suspect it’s hard to market or promote. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it’s hard to like. It doesn’t fit in the box my previous books fit in – the landscape box, the edgeland box. It’s difficult (although I don’t mean intellectually). I think it’s my best book. It’s the book I had to dig deepest to write. The book I should’ve written years ago, but didn’t have the resources to pull off. Anyone who reads this book is likely to be in a very small minority. If they like it, or see anything in it that’s valuable, I hope they spread the word. Longbarrow Press will be grateful for any sales. I hate the idea of the press losing money because they took a chance on a weird book like Cazique.  

Celebrate #NationalMarineWeek 23rd July 7th to August 2022. Day Eight of Fourteen Due To Tides. Join Larissa Reid, Lesley Curwen and I. A challenge for you. Write or design a response to the imagistic daily poetry about the marine written by Larissa Reid. Send me your own responses to her work or your own responses to the marine theme via poetry/artworks/short prose. Please contact me with your work, plus a short third person bio.

Porpoise at Cumbrae

Prow of boat, I see you first
Over under over under
Riding seascape, tip and curl,
Porpoise proud from needle-nose to tucked-up tail
Over under over under
Indigo seamstress, stitching waves
Selvedge-edging harbour walls;
Embroidering ocean, porpoise, proud.

-Larissa Reid

SW F8 gale expected midnight to 0600

Foam lines horizon-wide on ocean face,
whiteness scrolled on each primeval wave.
Pinpoints of other light sprig tortured air,
starlets that burn around a compass-rose
impersonate vast trawlers, cardinal buoys,
lighthouse five-miles-off, ship metal-close.

Worse yet, the imperceptible threat of rogue
containers, nomadic storm-scourged trees.
In keening southwesterlies, hours elongate,
our rods and cones straining to apprehend

first greying, night-layers undone, a slow
bleach of edge as blink-flash becomes boat
or quay. Things are reduced to dimensions
we know: we see the hazards in our way.

(First published by GreenInk, 2022)

-Lesley Curwen


Bios and Links

Larissa Reid

A freelance science writer by trade, Larissa has written poetry and prose regularly since 2016. Notable publications include Northwords Now, Silk & Smoke, Green Ink Poetry, Fenacular, Black Bough Poetry Anthologies, and the Beyond the Swelkie Anthology. She had a poem shortlisted for the Janet Coats Memorial Prize 2020. Larissa is intrigued by visible and invisible boundary lines in landscapes – geological faultlines, myth and reality, edge-lines of land and sea. Based on Scotland’s east coast, she balances her writing life with bringing up her daughters. Larissa is a founder member of the Edinburgh-based writing group, Twisted::Colon.

-Lesley Curwen

is a broadcaster, poet and sailor who lives within sight of Plymouth Sound. Her poems have been published by Arachne Press, Broken Sleep, Nine Pens, Green Ink, Quay Words, snakeskin and Slate. (Twitter handle is @elcurwen)

Celebrate Wombwell Rainbow Interviews with me over 26 Days. Today is Letter U. One letter a day displaying all the links to those interviews. We dig into those surnames. Discover their inspirations, how they write, how did they begin. Would you love to have your name featured here? Contact me.

Dinosaur-2 by Yvonne ugarte

Ugarte, Yvonne

Unsworth, Lydia

Evangeline Paterson: Lucifer with Angels

The High Window



Thanks to the kind permission of Evangeline Paterson’s literary executors, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to curate this taster of her poetry for The High Window, which is taken from Lucifer, With Angels (Dedalus Press, 1994), her Selected Poems. There’s a quote from Anne Stevenson on the back cover which still rings true today and provides an excellent introduction to her work:

There is an exhilarating wide-openness about Evangeline Paterson’s work. Free of mannerism and self-conscious effort, her poems flow naturally and unembarrassed from a lyrical source that is not untampered by wit. Evangeline Paterson keeps her balance without sacrificing her strength of feeling. Her poems are wise, very womanly, but they are never preachy. They are perfectly clear without lapsing into cliché or sentimentality. In a juster world, her books would sell in thousands; her popularity among those who still believe poetry can be a…

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Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Sunil Sharma

-Sunil Sharma

Toronto-based author-academic-editor, Sunil Sharma has published 23 creative and critical books— joint and solo. He edits the Setu journal:

For details, please visit the website:

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry and fiction?

Some 12-13 years ago, poetry happened as a way of expressing the mood, idea/s and the world in words and imagery. 

Fiction preceded the beginner- poetry phase by a few years. 

I was freelancing for a top daily of India, apart from being a regular college professor. Teaching, freelance journalism and then creative writing and editing—these happened in a day’s work, so to say, and were all tools of processing the immediate contexts in language codes, specific to the fields. 

Teaching undergrads the essentials of communication, for example, tutorials on writing and speaking—thus guiding the learners about the grammar and rules of written and spoken English for a young audience for whom it was a second language; then, composing short poems on certain ideas or a striking image seen in Mumbai—or elsewhere; filing news reports; working on a short fiction or a novel—these things were mutually reinforcing and dealt basically with communication as a creative process in a linguistic medium that was the legacy of the Raj and subsequently, nativized as as an official form of social conversation on daily basis in a multilingual nation.

Ultimately, you were dealing with the complex realities of a developing economy through a language not your own, yet your own through usage.

If journalism reported about the news-worthy incidents through news stories, the same prosaic realities were conveyed imaginatively by fiction and poetry for different audiences.

The former carries an expiry date.

The latter did not have any such deadlines.

So, deep down, it was all about communication only—conveying of various truths and facts through varied forms of narration and genre, within their own rules and limitations.

In brief, about your place in history—about human condition.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Life ! A middle-class loving home. My parents were teachers. Father taught Hindi Lit. and  introduced me to the uplifting worlds of art and culture of the world in Hindi, English, Urdu, Punjabi and translations. Ma was a drawing teacher and taught me the value of colours.

Rest was a continual discovery— a personal life-long odyssey; a ceaseless quest for new continents and regions—spirit homes; realms; kingdoms—visual and verbal; totalizing aesthetic units, wholesome, nutritious, enriching.

Forging new alliances.

Finding fresh epistemes and meanings in a dialectical process.

Witnessing summits on clear sunny mornings.

Life—revealed in its complete mystery and splendour.

One encounter with the Bard on a stormy afternoon in the monsoon-soaked Mumbai or with Tolstoy or Gorky or Picasso or Brecht or Prem Chand or Ghalib—enough for many life times!

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

I inherited a liberal background. The seventies and eighties were open, democratic and pluralistic in orientation—the pre-globalization, pre-Brexit times. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989. The mood was celebratory everywhere.
We were born into certain dreams nourished by democracy and its sister—art.

As a nation, the alert public was largely aware, among others, of deep impact of the Classics and Neo-classics; Romantics, Symbolists, Impressionists, Expressionists, and Modernists and Postmodernists; Wagner and Bach; the Beatles; Elvis and Dylan Thomas and Thomas Mann, not in this order but these movements and names were appreciated for their lasting cultural influence across the world.

As a student of literature, I, too, followed the arts and updated my knowledge, keeping current.
Learning a lot from Charles Simic or Les Murrey or Constantin Cavafy or Seamus Heany or Derek Wacott—to name randomly influences, of looking at the world in a certain way.

We were, as the children of the liberal humanism, eager to consume culture in those innocent times without the turbulence of social media and Internet-induced, Internet-mediated landscapes of viral celeb status and subsequent drowning in chatter—and toxic wars.
Print media was respected and radio was a good medium.
We learned a lot from the print medium. From the magazines and journals.
Everything changed post-nineties.

4. What is your daily  writing routine?

—Not fixed. Earlier in Mumbai, when working as a principal, two-three hours in the evenings, after returning from college.

These days, in Toronto, often in the mornings and late afternoons. 

A lot depends on the inspiration and genre—poetry can be finished easily, while a short story or a novel is spread out over many sessions across months. Most demanding is the short-and long-form fiction. If a poem is sometimes done in one sitting— later revisions apart— short fiction takes weeks. The big-canvas novel requires more attention, concentration and thinking. 

Currently I am engaged with my second political novel and it has taken me almost two years to finish 280 pages–hiatus apart.

Still, it is not complete and might take a 100 or so pages.

It is a kind of deep meditation.

The challenge is more for writers who are obscure and do not have big-name agents or publishers rooting for them. It is a lonely journey and rejections make it painful and tough.

You keep on working in the dark—surprising, this tenacity! —but your brain, it seems, is wired for that creative job; an occupation that does not pay in a mercenary culture and renders you as suspect in a reified world!

I raise these issues in my humble way.

And then the self-doubts!

Are you headed in the right direction?

5. What motivates you to write?

The same compulsions that make organic creatures communicate in a group or collective; a well-regulated and ordered collective or social formation. Communication is sine qua non of living breathing acting moving as a whole, a unit; a state of being; producing complexes of productive meanings and relationships; a signing system of being alive—writing/singing/painting/sculpting/movie-making, these are all code creations and necessary for existence and sense of animation. Silence, coma, speechlessness—all worrying symptoms of withdrawal, decay, of a retreat into a shell…and final cessation, this embracing of the condition being incommunicado. Anti-social.
Lack of communication signifies being comatose.

Remember Eliot?

When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table.

Writing is a stance against stasis; impending death; a strategy of resisting stagnation and atrophy in a homogenizing culture. it is coming alive in the storms of life, and singing eloquently about the logic, absurdity, beauty of certain feelings, situations, moods that continue to haunt the succeeding generations:
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

It is writing life into art. Documenting the Unsaid and the Unseen and Seen.
It is like breathing. Lucky, if it is pure air.
Unlucky, if it is damp and stinking on a smoggy day—but breathe you have to.
Writing is about living…and beyond.
Great writers and artists are high summits of civilizations that guide humankind forever.
In their shadows, plebeians like me continue to slog, joining the long caravans with their small and humble gifts… .

6. What is your writing work ethic?

Not a fixed one. More of a gardening style—you go out on an urge to work the yard, feel the earth, smell the soil and flowers and the grass including the sheared weeds and see the insects and butterflies—a brief labour, outdoors, that rejuvenates and re-connects you with the mother earth.
Working full time earlier left little scope for a dedicated schedule of writing. Two-three hours a day for creativity, whenever the urge overtook. Fallow period.
Being an unsolicited writer (generally) has its own charm and autonomy.
No deadlines.
No pressure.
Like planting roses and trimming them as per your wish.
Commercially successful writers or celeb ones keep on following a work ethic— as I read some place: Stephen King producing 2,000 words a day; Haruki Murakami, up at three in the morning or so and working six-seven hours; Hemingway getting up at the first light and writing till mid-day and many others.
For anonymous writers like me, it is not a grilling regimen but an avocation and its attendant freedom is liberating.
Often, now, I will say—three-four hours a day, followed by a long hiatus sometimes, as you have no pressures of the market and can afford to go by your heart.
For that to happen, an idea must compel you to write on.
It gives you joy!
That is enough!

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

Not exactly an influence but some of them continue to be fellow-travelers on a complex journey called Life and make me understand its richness, paradoxes and contradictions, and finding hope in bleak landscapes. The most enduring is the Bard whose work is a complete encyclopedia of human actions, motives, emotions and relationships; about power, loyalty, family, friendship, betrayal; darkness and light; islands, kingdoms,tempests and magical resolutions, both tragic-comedic—and so many other aspects of human condition. You go back to Tolstoy for moral growth and resurrection; Gorki for finding hope and optimistic humanism, even in the lower depths; Dostoevsky for an inner illumination and outstanding religious and political debates essential for civilizations; Turgenev for understanding hypocrisy of the landed aristocracy of feudal Russia and prose lyricism;Chekhov for the psychological understanding and creating art in the mundane; O’Henry or Mauspassant for surprises that stay on for decades, despite the time-lines being Other; Hemingway for a heroic code in war-ravaged lands, bull-figting, big-game hunting and climbing our own Kilimanjaroes and finding some clean well-lit places there, even though you are neither an ambulance-driver, boxer, climber or hunter; these are but some icons, in a long career as a learner and apprentice to the canonical artists and life, with its myriad challenges and beauties and surprises; its suns and moons, rains and summers, winters and springs.

Writers. Not all. But some, as the souls of cultures.
Sacred texts!
They are the source of glorious light.
You come to find echoes of your own times and stories in them—so forward-looking their vision is!
Influence can lead to a copy, a bad copy, a fan moment only: Who can copy a Kafka, Gogol, Pushkin, Faubert or Lu Hsun?

They are the Eternal Masters: the bright stars guiding their devoted seekers on the long and tortuous paths of right action and conduct.

They are an integral part of your organic whole, irrigating arid-scapes of Homo-cultura.
You discover your own masters and choose to learn from them—assimilation and synthesis in a dialectical form and thereby, out of this intertextuality, further evolution and growth, leading to your own distinct voice, in a din of the market.

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

To name a few for a reader in a hurry:
—Elena Ferrante for writing Neopolitan realities into her by-now cult books that are not only about Italy but also about us as a society; her resistance to the literary markets; refusal to become a commodity as an author by adopting anonymity; not to seek any celeb status in mass culture—much like J.D.Salinger avoiding unwanted publicity. Very few writers have this courage these days, when every writer wants to be on the best-selling lists and a celeb. Here, listen to this unique voice: “You see? In the fairy tales one does as one wants, and in reality one does what one can.”
—Toni Morrison for exposing grim facts about the American experience and what it means to be black and a woman amid poverty and violence—things that resonate across other cultural geographies, and a quick reality check: “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”
—Maya Angelou for giving hope for the broken caged birds: “…for the caged bird
sings of freedom.”
—Margaret Atwood for dystopias that look familiar in pandemics and totalitarian times: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
—Haruki Murakami for making real other worlds plausible, including talking cats for an age seeking parallel worlds, and finding meanings in struggles and storms: “When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
The list can go on…


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

f I am lucky enough!
If a reader cares to ask, after stumbling across one of my humble offerings, I will quote Flannery O’Connor: “I write to discover what I know.”
If the reader still insists on amplification, I would say: “Well, to express some compelling ideas, I write. By chance. Rest, not on chance!”
Humans are born as writers—some work on that faculty. Deep down, we all are storytellers!

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

Trying to finish my second political novel. Fifth book of short fiction being published soon. Revising my eighth poetry collection. Editing of Setu goes on …Looking for a publisher for my novel.
And dreaming of equitable worlds…

Celebrate #NationalMarineWeek 23rd July 7th to August 2022. Day Seven of Fourteen Due To Tides. Join Larissa Reid, Margaret Royall and I. A challenge for you. Write or design a response to the imagistic daily poetry about the marine written by Larissa Reid. Send me your own responses to her work or your own responses to the marine theme via poetry/artworks/short prose. Please contact me with your work, plus a short third person bio.


He streams,
Running the shore like ink over paper
Before pausing to crack a crab claw
And gnaw his way through to flesh.
Replenished, he dives,
Melds into green waves.
In honour of this liquid creature
Who twists between worlds
Blending shadow and light;
I must turn my jealousy in on itself
Loosen it and shake it off
Like a selkie’s skin shed onto sand
Then I’ll return to the water
Swim effortlessly, tirelessly, endlessly
Learn to bend the waves to my will
Before I meet him again, one day,
In the sea’s sliding shadows.

-Larissa Reid

Love on a Hebridean Beach

She straddles the hull of an upturned fishing boat,
sunburnt toes dipped carelessly in the rock pool below.

Early morning haze clings to the halo of mermaid curls
framing a face wise before its time. Flicking the wayward

strands behind her ears, her focus travels across the Sound
to the far shore, framed by an outcrop of stark lewisian gneiss,

looming mysteriously, its edges glinting through drifting mist,
evoking the gentle mood of paintings by Peploe or Caddell

On the incoming tide a silent rip current curls furtively ashore,
white spume pulling back fiercely from the rock-strewn beach.

Far across the Sound a boatman is launching his weathered craft;
snaked coils of rope secure the rusty lobster cages to the bulwarks.

As yet he is invisible to her and she to him; only the chug chug
of the reluctant motor audible, groaning as it toils across the inlet.

He waves across to her, shielding his brow with youthful hand,
the allure of her beauty hot in his head, lips plump with promise.

She carves a love-heart in the bleached sand, mindful of the time…
they only have a scant hour of Cupid’s grace for their first tryst.

A frisson of sweet anticipation courses through her veins …
the first flush of innocent love riding high on the morning tide.

-Margaret Royall

Bios And Links

-Larissa Reid

A freelance science writer by trade, Larissa has written poetry and prose regularly since 2016. Notable publications include Northwords Now, Silk & Smoke, Green Ink Poetry, Fenacular, Black Bough Poetry Anthologies, and the Beyond the Swelkie Anthology. She had a poem shortlisted for the Janet Coats Memorial Prize 2020. Larissa is intrigued by visible and invisible boundary lines in landscapes – geological faultlines, myth and reality, edge-lines of land and sea. Based on Scotland’s east coast, she balances her writing life with bringing up her daughters. Larissa is a founder member of the Edinburgh-based writing group, Twisted::Colon.

Margaret  Royall

has six books of poetry published. She has appeared widely in print, in webzines and  poetry anthologies,  has won or been short-listed in several competitions and her collection ‘Where Flora Sings’, published by Hedgehog Press, was nominated for the Laurel Prize in 2021. Her latest collection, ‘Immersed in Blue’ was published in January 2022 by Impspired Press. She leads a women’s poetry group in Nottinghamshire and takes part in open mic sessions online and in person. She is currently working on a third poetry collection.

Website: Twitter:@RoyallMargaret Instagram: meggiepoet

Celebrate Wombwell Rainbow Interviews with me over 26 Days. Today is Letter T. One letter a day displaying all the links to those interviews. We dig into those surnames. Discover their inspirations, how they write, how did they begin. Would you love to have your name featured here? Contact me.

Aplollinaire and other horses by VVBT


Tabaka, Anne Christine

Tarbard, Grant

Tannam Anne

Tarkelly, Timothy

Taylor, Jonathan

Thayil, Jess

Thistleton, Clay

Thomas, Gwil James

Thomasino, Vincent St Gregory

Thompson, Gill

Thompson, Pam

Tobin, Grainne

Toltzis, Alan

Topping, Angela

Trethewey, Jordan

Trevien, Claire

Tuatha, Wren

Tuboson, Kola

Tudor-Sideri, Christina

Tyrrell, Thomas

Trumpets Stuffed With Cloth by Ralph Hawkins (Crater Press)

Tears in the Fence

This is a beautifully put-together chapbook filled with beguiling poems/texts which appear to combine found materials with non-sequiturs and aleatory work which is full of surprise and wit. You’ll never get bored reading this stuff.

There’s a sense of the hermetic about these pieces insofar as they feel self-enclosed and often generated by a thought, some vocabulary, an artwork (Hawkins is very influenced by visual art-forms) which then becomes the wandering focus of the whole. At the same time there are political references and nods to ‘the outside world’ which keep you very much on your toes.

de chirico

in the paintings there are few signs of people

yet there is evidence of creation

in the towers and squares, the sun

being the centre of it

I am running into the distance

attached to shadow

afraid they will catch me

I hold up his baby daughter and smile at her…

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Celebrate Wombwell Rainbow Interviews with me over 26 Days. Today is Letter S. One letter a day displaying all the links to those interviews. We dig into those surnames. Discover their inspirations, how they write, how did they begin. Would you love to have your name featured here? Contact me.

nobody in a box by Soodabeh

Saeidnia, Soodabeh

Safari, Lailah

Saha, Amit Shankar

Sakar, Bina

Samdahl, Jamie

Sampson, Fiona

Santos, Greg

Saphra, Jacqueline

Sasikala, Glory

Scharwarth, Carl

Schmidt, Kali Rose

Sdrigotti, Fernando

Seaborn, Heidi

Sedlacek, L. B.

Seed, Ian

Serrano, Kristina M.

Sethi, Sanjeev

Sevilla, Karlo

Shakir, Aziz Nazmi

Shapiro, Rochelle Jewel

Sharma, Sunil

Sharp, Jane

Shea, Cathryn

Shimson-Santo, Amy

Shuttle, Penelope

Side, Jeffrey

Silcock, Adrienne

Simpson, Thursday

Sims, Susan Jane

Skade, Annette

Slease, Marcus

Smith, Austin

Smith, Sam

Snadjr, Rosie

Snyder, Donna

Solarczyk, Bart

Soma, Leela

Spice, Ankh

Sprackland, Martha

Stabile, Lannie

Stannard, Julian

Stannard, Martin

Stevens, Roger

Stewart, Gerry

St. John, Jake

Srygley-Moore, Caroline

Stoddard, Christine Sloan

Stone, Hannah

Stone, Mike

Strang, E M

Strathman, Samuel

Subacchi, David

Sullivan, Thom

Sutherland, Janet

Sutherland, Paul

Sutton, Paul

Szirtes, George