Wombwell Rainbow Book Interviews: “Nantcol Sonnets” and “Soldier A” by Frank Colley

-Frank Colley

Frank has been writing poems for many years and is a founder member of Mexborough Read to Write group facilitated by Ian Park. His knowledge and skill have increased since being an active member of the group. He had one pamphlet to his name “ Nantcol Sonnets”  9 sonnets one per day of a week camping in wet and windy Wales. (Available on eBay). He has a second pamphlet published by Glass Head Press “The Story of Soldier A” charting his time in the Army and its aftermath.

The Interview

1. How did you decide on the order of the poems in both your chapbooks?

That’s an easy one Paul, each Pamphlet is in chronological order.

Nantcol is about a camping trip to Wales. each morning I wrote a Sonnet about the previous day and hopes or plans for the day (7 Sonnets). when I read them back at home I decided to write an introduction and epilogue, making 9 Sonnets.

Soldier A is a semi-autobiographical account of my life. from joining the Army straight from school at fifteen and a half. To the realisation at something like fifty that I was and always had been suffering from PTSD. The Pamphlet end’s with my depression and acute loneliness. 

2. Why did you decide to write “Nantcol” in sonnet form?

on that first day when I started writing the poem chose the form (as it often does). and formed quite easily subsequent days were harder as I had to work to a form. On that first day, I announced to my fellow campers (family) that I had written a Sonnet, to complete silence and disinterest. I decided there and then that I would write a Sonnet a day just to spite them.

the pamphlet idea was simply to put them all together and present each fellow camper a copy (to rub their noses in it). It grew from there, into a full-blown publican (published by myself)

3. How important is form in “Soldier A”?

The form was not a consideration, the main thing was to create a chronological sequence from beginning to end. Hopefully, it takes the reader on a life’s journey along with the writer. 

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

There was no poetry when I was young, only nursery rhymes. The first poem I wrote was “Transition” the second poem in “Soldier A”. that was written in angst. The shock of going from school to the army. I did not even know that it was rhyming couplets until years later. Much later after joining Read Too Write with Ian Parks I realised that it could easily be turned into a Sonnet but it would have lost its naivety.

5. What attracts you to writing poetry?

Lack of attention span, most of my poems are short and to the point. I have written longer poems and attempted short stories or prose, but I soon lose patience with them and they get side-lined it’s poetry that always wins through. Not to get too political but some poems appear as if like magic and write themselves guided by the skill and knowledge of the poet. The opposite of this is Academic poetry written by those university types with the full force of the university facilities. Filling the market with, highfalutin, hyperbolic, words on a page. These are published and lauded, and everyone thinks that it is what good poetry looks like, it isn’t. so going back to your question short and sweet and the ability to get my point across in the fewest number of words, I have managed a seven-word poem,

Glass ice Vodka

crack orange drink


6. How important is angst and anger in your poetry?

It is and it isn’t. Yes, my first poem was written out of angst, but that is only a starting point. The art is taking that angst to another level, if not it simply becomes a rant! Or is that the point of Dub Poetry or Rap?

One of the first “tutors “I had in poetry asked the question, Why do we write poems and hide them so nobody can see them?  He gave the answer “Masturbatory Exorcism” we write them for ourselves! It’s time, he said to write for others to read or perform. Probably the best piece of advice I have ever had poetically.

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

Nantcol Sonnets was a bit of fun not meant to go further than the few people directly involved. However, I could not find a printer that would do such a short number. So it took on another life. My sister who is a camper but not involved with the Sonnets said when I asked her opinion after reading it, “Well, it’s just like camping! Another reader said what a good way to capture a family holiday. I sent a copy to the owners of the campsite, and they loved it. For me it’s just entertainment, I hope it brings a smile to the reader’s face.

Soldier A is a different kettle of fish. 50 years in the making, it’s semi-autobiographical, most of it a true account of what happened to me and the aftermath of depression, and anxiety caused by PTSD.  I hope the reader gleams some insight into how things in the past reflect in the now and the future. Hopefully, now it’s done and out there I can move on, so it is just another step on that road to better mental health and if just one other person joins me on that journey then it’s all been worth it.

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