Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Andre Bagoo

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
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.

coverPitchLake

Andre Bagoo

Trinidadian poet Andre Bagoo’s work has appeared in journals such as Boston Review, Cincinnati Review, St Petersburg Review, and The Poetry Review. His books include Trick Vessels (Shearsman, 2012), BURN (Shearsman, 2015), Pitch Lake (Peepal Tree, 2017), and a book-length visual poem The City of Dreadful Night (Prote(s)xt, 2018). He was awarded The Charlotte and Isidor Paiewonsky Prize in 2017. Twitter @pleasureblog

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

In my teens I wrote poems for boys. I made little chapbooks and would gift them to these baffled studs, sometimes anonymously. Poetry became me.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

The answer to this question depends on the answer to another question: what is poetry? I feel poetry is around us all the time even when it’s not on our radar. So it’s hard to say who introduced poetry to me. But I do remember a teacher who showed me a whole new level of analysis when it came to reading poetry. This was in secondary school. We had Mr Perkins for English. One hot afternoon he came in and told us to open our textbooks and read ‘Mass Man’ by Derek Walcott. He unpacked the poem word by word, line by line in a way that felt like discovering the world is not flat. I went deeper. I explored the National Library’s collection. I found poets like Samuel Beckett. (I encountered his poetry before his plays, which was a blessing.) The poem became not only an object but also a process. All at once so much opened.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

As a reader first and foremost, other poets, other voices, always dominate. Very early on, encountering each poet’s work was like encountering strokes of a painting, shapes of a costume, notes in a score: the form always seemed magical and meaningful. Dominating was not the word. It felt like communing. It still feels that way.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Someone once advised me to always listen and wait for the poem. To give it time. To let it happen. So I would say it depends on what you mean by writing. The preparation for writing – researching things, feeling things out – is as much a part of writing as typing words or making jottings in a notebook. Sometimes I latch onto a form or rhythm that works. In those instances I might devise a routine to support the work. Other times I am haphazard. So I guess if there is a routine it is the absence of routine. Opening a space for mystery, accident, surprise.

5. What motivates you to write?

Dancers have this thing called muscle memory. Writing feels like something that happens to me because it’s now part and parcel of me. Even when I step away, even when I cross into other terrains like dance and visual art, it remains. Heidegger believed poetry was the essence of all art and sometimes I think that’s true. In a way, then, everything motives me.

6. What is your work ethic?

One of my favorite books is What Work Is by Phillip Levine. Something about its searching, its reportage, its drilling down and surrender to the profound questions that surround human beings and our labours beguiles me even in its uncomfortable moments. It all seems to implicitly ask: What is the work of the poet? Someone once said every poem is an ars poetica. I feel each poem makes a world while also becoming a part of it; is a setting-into-being that opens setting-into-being to new possibilities. So, to go back to your question, I guess we can look at this in terms of what work the poem does, what work the poet does, and whether there is a relationship between both things, or a separation, and what patterns or systems might shape how much I do any of these things. I am tempted to say I have a strong work ethic driven by the fact that I’m not sure how much time I have on this planet. At the same time, Locke’s insights on labour and mercantile notions of productivity don’t seem to be useful models when approaching poetry. All I can say, then, is these things called poems come, sometimes frequently sometimes infrequently. Always there is a questioning: is this a poem? Why? Why not? At which stage is the poem a poem? When someone else reads it? When I write it? When it forms, inchoate, in my body? Do I have a responsibility or relationship to it? And do only poets write poems? It’s hard to paper over all of this and describe my own processes. Even if I dream of a world where poems, which seem to do nothing, change everything.

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

I like to read in an engaged way. I’m experiencing what I am reading. I am also analysing what I am reading. And learning from what I am reading. So whatever I read tends to soak in. I’m very permeable that way. I am not too sure how to trace the strands of influence but it’s there. But influence is more than just a surface resemblance. It’s about process and context; particularly civic context too. Real influence might not be discernable on the page.

8. Which writers do you admire the most and why?

Currently, I’m drawn to Heathcote Williams’ audacious investigative poetry; as well as Tom Raworth’s work. Raworth was one of the first people to have open heart surgery and someone once suggested you could sense a different kind of heartbeat pulsing through his writing, an idea I find not only beautiful but true when considering the sensibility of some of his poems.

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

In 2018 I published The City of Dreadful Night, a book-length visual poem that takes James Thomson’s poem of the same name and seeks to dialogue with it through a sequence of images. I like to think of form in poetry in a wide sense, extending beyond questions of whether a poem is a sonnet or a villanelle to include questions of medium. I’m drawn to this idea of drilling down to the essence of things using whatever is at hand. To go back to Heidegger, perhaps what he said was true, “All art is poetry”.

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Claire Trevien

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
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.

BRAIN-FUGUE-COVER-SAMPLESQ-3

Claire Trevien

Trévien is an Anglo-Breton author. Born in Brittany in 1985, she has resided in the UK for nearly two decades and performed her work internationally, from South Africa to New Orleans. She is the author of  the pamphlet Low-Tide Lottery (Salt, 2011), and two collections The Shipwrecked House (https://www.clairetrevien.co.uk/books) (Penned in the Margins, 2013), and Astéronymes (Penned in the Margins, 2016). She was a module leader on LCCM’s Creative and Professional Writing degree. She has now moved back to her native Brittany.

Most recently, she was commissioned by the Museum of Oxford to create digital poetry-postcards of the city, interviewing its citizens and creating film poems from them.

The Shipwrecked House was longlisted in the Guardian First Book Award and highly commended in the Forward Prizes. It was co-commissioned as a one-woman show by Ledbury Festival and supported thanks to Arts Council Funding. It toured the UK in , reviews of the show can be found here. (https://www.clairetrevien.co.uk/events–workshops)

Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications including POETRY (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/57492/the-evening-after), The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Magma, Under the Radar, Poetry Salzburg, The Forward Book of Poetry 2014 and Best British Poetry 2012. She recently won third place in the 2018 Verve Poetry Competition with her poem ‘Brain as City.

She founded Sabotage Reviews, co-edited Verse Kraken, and co-organized Penning Perfumes. She co-edited with Gareth Prior Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History. She was Annexe Magazine’s poetry editor in 2015.

In November 2013, she was the Poetry School’s first digital Poet-in-Residence.

Claire is available for manuscript feedback, workshops and mentoring (details here, (https://www.clairetrevien.co.uk/workshops-and-mentoring)

Click here for Claire’s academic website.

(https://clairetrevien.com/)
Click here for Claire’s marketing website
(http://www.trevien.net/)
‘Luminous, tender, and frightfully emotionally accurate, Trévien will be a household and classroom name in years to come’, Abriana Jetté.

The Interview

1.       What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I started focusing on poetry – like many writers I was first an avid reader, and writing happened organically over a period of some years. I started getting more serious about in the sixth form, but in a terribly emo way. I would scribble lines on notes, then scrunch them up and leave them on the classroom floor in the hopes of it being ‘discovered’ (thankfully they weren’t). I also found myself an online community in the form of a message board, where I posted poems and learned to give feedback on other people’s work. It was a really formative experience, marred unfortunately by a predatorial older man whose influence I fell under for a number of years. Whilst I wish the psychological damage hadn’t occurred, I do still have fond memories of that community

2.       Who introduced you to poetry?

School did! I grew up in France and learning poetry by heart to recite in front of the classroom was a standard thing. I discovered one of my favourite poems that way, including Rimbaud’s ‘Ma Bohème’.

3.       How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

If you mean in the current scene – I think it took me some years to understand the structure of the poetry world – it felt quite impenetrable and intimidating for some time.

4.       What is your daily writing routine?

Inconsistent. I do go through periods where it’s more structured, but if I’m honest it tends to be more of a “ok, this poem is interrupting other stuff in my life, going to have to stop and pay attention to it” situation.

5.       What motivates you to write?

Anger. An unhealthy obsession with replaying the past. Whimsy. Playfulness.

6.       What is your work ethic?

Depends for which kind of work you mean. I am trying to move towards a better work balance – I have tried this for some years unsuccessfully, so we will see if it ever happens. I define myself too much by how useful I am to others, and that’s not healthy, because you can’t put your value in the hands of other people. So you could say my work ethic is going through a process of transition.

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

The decadent poets will always have some pull on me I think – reciting their poems embedded their metrical music into my veins.

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

I admire so many poets, so it’s difficult to narrow that down. I’m going to take this space to recommend someone your readers might not have heard of. Her name is Vangile Gantsho, I met her in South Africa a few years ago, she is a phenomenal poet and has also co-founded a new pan-African feminist press called impepho press. As she puts it in this interview, (http://bookslive.co.za/blog/2018/08/23/we-are-seeing-that-there-is-more-to-poetry-than-the-dead-white-men-of-high-school-textbooks-a-qa-with-poet-and-cultural-activist-vangile-gantsho/)

“you have to knock, or break the doors down yourself.”

Two of their titles, including Vangile’s stunning red cotton can be ordered to Europe through the African Books Collective website (http://www.africanbookscollective.com/publishers/impepho-press). The UK poetry scene is still blinkered geographically – it’s great to see more USA writers getting coverage in the UK but there’s so much more out there, and poets like Vangile

9.       Why do you write?

Anger. An unhealthy obsession with replaying the past. Whimsy. Playfulness.

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

Read read read until you get a notion of what kind of writer you want to be. Accept that ‘becoming’ a writer isn’t a tidy diploma but an ongoing process.

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

My next poetry pamphlet ‘Brain Fugue’ will be published by Verve Poetry Press in February 2019 – it is open for pre-orders now. (https://vervepoetrypress.com/product/claire-trevien-brain-fugue-pre-order-free-uk-pp/)

I am also collaborating with Tori Truslow (who I also run writing retreats with (https://www.clairetrevien.co.uk/writing-retreat)) on a poetry/art book revolving around maligned animals.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Martha Sprackland

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

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.

Screen-Shot-2018-11-06-at-08.47.16

Martha Sprackland

is a writer and editor. She was co-founder and poetry editor of Cake magazine, was assistant poetry editor for Faber & Faber, and is one of the founding editors of multilingual arts magazine La Errante. She is the editor of independent press Offord Road Books. In 2018 she joined Poetry London as associate editor. She is also a freelance editor working across the publishing and poetry industries.
Twice a winner of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, she was also the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, and was longlisted for the inaugural Jerwood–Compton Poetry Fellowships in 2017. Glass As Broken Glass was longlisted for a Sabotage Award, and she placed in the Poetry London Competition in 2015. Her work has appeared in Poetry Review, LRB, Five Dials, New Humanist, Magma, Poetry London and many other places, and has been anthologised in the Salt Book of Younger Poets, Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam, Best Friends Forever, Vanguard, Birdbook, and the Best British Poetry series, and she has read at a number of festivals, including Port Eliot, The Good Life Experience, Caught by the River Thames, and Curious Arts Festival. In 2015 she was invited to participate in the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation poetry festival in Sofia and Koprivshtitsa, Bulgaria. In 2017 she spent a month in residence at Yaddo. In 2018 Martha returned to Sofia as part of the Sofia Poetically Animated conference, and in September 2018 she will be in Tunisia with the British Council and Modern Poetry in Translation.
Martha is poet-in-residence for Caught by the River. Her debut pamphlet, Glass As Broken Glass, was published by Rack Press in January 2017, and she is currently working on a full-length collection. A non-fiction book on sharks is forthcoming with Little Toller Books in 2019.
 
“[With] formal acuity Martha Sprackland’s ‘Domestic’ characterizes a broken relationship as helplessly frozen syntax teetering on that very word – as – everything that’s just happened in a nameless quarrel ‘as’ something faraway, free of it, clear of it, like smoke or sky. Numbness of spent emotion, wonderfully anatomized: ‘Glass as broken glass.”‘ – Glyn Maxwell


“Sprackland refreshes the domestic and mundane in poems which are outwardly calm, but lit from within to reveal unusual visionary angles.” – Eric Gregory Award judges 2014

 

The Interview 

  1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

The first poem I remember writing was at a creative workshop in Liverpool’s Sefton Park, in the beautiful Victorian glass pavilion, the Palm House, that is filled with exotic hothouse plants; bromeliads, palms, orchids. My mum, who is also a poet, had brought me and my brother there; probably she was doing a reading or leading a workshop. During a writing session run by poet Deryn Rees-Jones I wrote a poem, in felt-tip on sugar-paper, about a mouse. I think it’s still in the attic somewhere. I was probably five or six.

2. Did your mum introduce you to poetry?

Not explicitly, I don’t think – there were lots of books on the bookshelves, and I would just take and read them. Lots of fiction as well as poetry. I remember coming by Sharon Olds that way, among many others. She would sometimes take us along to things, though, and I’m sure that piqued my interest.

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

Not really at all, I don’t think. Or if I did then I don’t remember. Only once I started being taught it in schools, maybe.

4. What motivates you to write?

To be honest, I think it’s just for the sheer pleasure of construction. As someone who also writes prose, I don’t feel that poetry is a burden, or a gift, or that it is my only outlet; it’s more a joy, albeit a fierce one, than a therapeutic tool or cathartic exercise. For the latter, I go elsewhere. I don’t have much truck with pronouncements on the muse; inspiration, another itchily motivational word, I’d always rather simply call ideas. I don’t much like a lot of the passive, sentimental assertions I see around the writing of poetry – that it sets us apart in some mystical way; that poems are delivered from elsewhere; that we are slaves to an anthropomorphised driving force that pushes us to write. Rather, I want to feel that it’s all my own work; that I chose – and choose – to sit down to write something; that there are practical skills and exercises that you can do to improve, and that putting in the work (by reading other poets; by redrafting; by looking at things in an inquisitive way) is what makes a good poet, not chance, fate, or ‘the muse’. What motivates me – I enjoy it. It feels good. Satisfying, fiddly, rewarding.
 

5. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

The writers I read when I was young certainly do still resonate. I mentioned Sharon Olds already; her work has long been a touchstone for me. There’s a sort of euphoric brutality that I aspire to there. Some of my feelings about sound and rhythm come from Jack Lindsey’s Clue of Darkness and Keats and other things. One of the first poets I read was Selima Hill – I love the weirdness of her animals. Adrienne Rich. Plath, of course. Glück. Lorca’s deep midnighty feeling. Akhmatova. O’Hara. Walcott. Hopkins. Celan.

6. You’ve mentioned some contemporary writers so far, please could you expand on those of today’s writers you admire most and why?

So many, many of whom I’m lucky enough to know or have met – Amy Key, Rebecca Perry, Clare Pollard, Wayne Holloway-Smith, Vahni Capildeo. I love Karen Solie, and Sara Peters, and have recently been reading Shivanee Ramlochan’s Everyone Knows I am a Haunting, which is brilliant. Denise Riley, Richard Scott, Dorianne Laux, Kayo Chingonyi, Hannah Sullivan, Ilya Kaminsky. I found Danez Smith’s book addictive and euphoric. I can’t wait for Rachael Allen’s debut, from Faber next year, or Anthony Anaxagorou’s. I’ve been watching Romalyn Ante’s rise, too – I think she’s fantastic (and at tie of writing has just been announced as the winner of the Poetry London competition) Many of the poets I admire I get to edit – which feels like ridiculous good fortune: AK Blakemore, Helen Charman, the whole roster at Offord Road. The list of contemporary poets I love is long – the world feels very full of extremely good and exciting work at the moment.

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

It’s only one of things I do, really. I’m currently studying Arabic at SOAS, and have done translation in the past (from Spanish). I’ve been a teacher. I studied horticulture, I run, I review, I draw, I swim, I am pretty obsessed by food. I’m more often being a publisher or editor than I am a writer – people always look sympathetic when I tell them that, but I love being an editor as much as I love writing.

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

Depends on the kind of writer you want to be.

Write first thing in the morning, not ‘just after checking these emails’. Use nice sharp pencils with a little rubber on the end, and a big flat A4 pad of lined paper. Beautiful notebooks are great, but I think their beauty can be intimidating; you want to feel free to scribble, cross out, fold, tear, rearrange, crumple.
 
Otherwise, just try and read every day. It does matter. Oh, and find likeminded people – whether in real or online life – to exchange poems with and swap feedback. Take advice well, grow a thick skin, kill your darlings. Interrogate first lines, and almost always excise them. Spend as long on the title as you do on the poem. Be disciplined about sending them out to magazines, if you want them to be published; print them out and bind them together to look at and feel proud of, if you don’t.

9.  Final question, Martha. Tell me about any writing projects that you are involved in at the moment.

I’ve got a new pamphlet, Milk Tooth (on Rough Trade), launching next week, which is nice. (http://roughtradebooks.com/editions/milk-tooth/)

It’s actually a bit nervewracking, as it’s a lot more personal than previous stuff I’ve allowed out into the world. We’ll see. Otherwise, I’m finishing my collection, which should be out in early 2020. Doing a bit of a reviewing. And translating some interesting Arabic poetry, by two poets I met in Tunisia earlier this year – Zouleikha Elhamed and Fatima Al-Zahra, from Mauritania and Libya respectively. I’m also finalising the texts of Seán Hewitt’s and L. Kiew’s Offord Road pamphlets, as they’ll need to go to press right after Christmas. Always something to be getting on with!

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Rowan McCabe

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
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.

20181011_144354[119691]

Rowan McCabe

is a poet and performer from Newcastle upon Tyne. Aware that poetry isn’t a proper job, he decided to create his own and is now the world’s first Door-to-Door Poet. Knocking on stranger’s houses, he asks what is important to them. He then goes away and writes a poem about this, free of charge, before bringing it back and performing it on their doorstep. Rowan also performs on stages and has appeared at Glastonbury Festival and the Royal Albert Hall. He was the winner of the 2015 Great Northern Slam, was longlisted for a 2018 Saboteur Award and his work has been featured in the Guardian, on BBC Breakfast and was named ‘Best of Today’ on Radio 4.

“Highly talented with verse”– Broadway Baby

“Moves seamlessly from hilarious anecdote to poignant poem”– The Journal

“A must-see”– Morning Star
http://www.rowanthepoet.com

http://www.doortodoorpoetry.com

The Interview

1.  When and why did you start writing poetry?

I’ve done it as far back as I can remember really. When I was about 5 or 6 I wrote a poem about a rocket ship that got published in a book. In my angsty late teens I got into bands like The Libertines and that spurred me on a bit.

In terms of why, I suppose a big turning point for me was identifying and connecting to an audience. When I went to Uni I started taking part in open mic nights and suddenly there was a room full of 50 people listening to what I’d written. I think that changes the way you work. Previously, it had just been a collection of thoughts with no real intention. Once I started thinking about who I was writing for, I began to think about how I wanted them to feel. So I suppose I write to make someone feel something I’m passionate about, to think about a subject from another perspective, or just to shock or surprise them in some way.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My Mam. She’s a teacher, so we always had a lot of books.

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

I don’t know if I’d call it a ‘dominating presence’ myself. I can appreciate that some people might find more established work kind of intimidating. For me, there are some poets whose work I really like. There are some whose work I don’t like. It’s as simple as that really. If I don’t like it, it doesn’t really effect my life at all, regardless of how old or respected it is. If I fall in love with it, it occupies nearly every thought I have until I move on to something else. I’m reading The Parish by John Clare at the minute. I don’t consider the work dominating because it’s nearly 200 years old and a respected bit of Romantic satire. For me, it’s no more of a dominating presence in my life than a poet like, say, Daniel Piper, who I discovered last weekend in the upstairs of a pub and really enjoyed.

I think I do see where you’re coming from though. The establishment waves these respected names at us in an attempt to make us feel small if we haven’t read them: Shakespeare, T.S Elliot, etc etc. I’ve always tried to look at things objectively, to make my own mind up. Not all things in the literary canon are automatically good.  Likewise, much modern work that is on the fringes of the art world today is worthy of deep analysis. There is no ‘high’ or ‘low’ culture as far as I’m concerned. I find entertainment in many places.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Well, on the days when I focus on writing (instead of poetry admin) I like to start at about 9 or 10am and finish at 5. I always write in an A4, lined notebook that is hard-backed. It’s very important it’s hard-backed, so I can lean on it and the paper doesn’t flop or bend on stage. I’ll usually spend some time free writing, getting anything in my head on the paper. Then I might flesh out an idea I’ve had, or start editing something I’ve already got. I often work at home, but I like going to Newcastle Central Library as well. It’s a glass building and on the top floor they have these big pink swivel chairs with huge backs on them. You can see for miles and I sit and look out at the city, at all the people below, and I pretend I’m a super villain in a big evil tower.

5. What motivates you to write?

I think it’s the desire to surprise people and make a connection with them. Every poet is aware of the stereotypes associated with poetry. I’m usually playing with those stereotypes, or subverting them, to make people laugh, or think, or to shock them in some way. And then, with my Door-to-Door Poetry project, writing about my experiences in places with a bad reputation also became about questioning negative stereotypes. I hope that someone might read about that, or watch the show I made about it, and reconsider some of their pre-convictions about people, which might make the world a slightly better place.
6. What is your work ethic? Do you consider writing a business or a pleasure? Do you wait for inspiration or a craft where you work up whatever you write into good copy?

I suppose it’s all business now, in the technical sense. But I just finished 2 new poems the other week, I wrote those purely for my own satisfaction, it wasn’t a commission or anything. Something like that doesn’t feel like business. It was just for fun. But then I’ll be performing them at my next few gigs and getting paid for it, so it’s still business.

In terms of when to write: I think there’s a balance. When it’s not working, it can be good to take a bit of a break. But we’ve all met those people who spend their whole lives talking about how they’re going to be writer and never actually pick up a pen. If it’s been a long time since I’ve done anything I’ll force myself to write. But really I think I’m often waiting for an interesting idea.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I suppose they’re all still in my brain somewhere. I believe everything you’ve read still has some small, imperceivable effect on you for the rest of your life. Or sometimes it’s very perceivable, in the case of a really good book. I don’t think I could point to a bit of writing I’d done and say ‘I wrote that because of Philip Pullman’. But everything I’ve enjoyed has probably had an effect.

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

There’s too many to name them all, but some of my favourites are Ross Sutherland, because he walks an incredible line between making work that is highly experimental and yet also very accessible for an audience. Also Jess Green, for making political poetry seem as un-cliche as possible.

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

Well, at the risk of sounding disingenuous, I’d probably say “You need to keep writing things.” I’d also advise taking people’s advice with a pinch of salt. There are many people out there who claim to know ‘the secret’ to becoming a good writer. It’s worth remembering that the most celebrated artists broke the rules. And what works for one person might not necessarily work for all.

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

The big one is that I’m laying plans to go all around England as a Door-to-Door Poet from next February. It’s dependant on a grant from the Arts Council, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for that. I’d be visiting 10 very different communities all over the country and writing poems for them, as well as recording their stories and ideas. I’ve got a commission with a local library, The Word, next month, to write 9 poems about lost words from the Geordie dialect. Right this minute though, I’m enjoying writing for myself and not to commission. I’m hoping to flesh out a good set of poems that I can use in my next show, but I’m also not forcing anything out. It’s nice to take your time if you can!

 

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Camilla Reeve

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
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.

51iWOUrmiBL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_

Camilla Reeve

The Interview

  1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

After my first marriage ended I was lonely and confused, in one short-term relationship after another. A friend suggested I give my heart a rest and join a poetry group instead. In “Time Out” I found the Riverside Poets who met in the Room On The Roof at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Thinking we’d read other people’s work, I took along some Robert Frost poetry. But they asked me to read my own poems. When I said I didn’t write any they told me to start by bringing a poem to the next meeting. It was like someone suddenly gave me permission to become a writer. That evening as I walked home the first poem started coming to me. For two years I couldn’t stop writing and must have churned out an awful lot of bad poems. But I took them along to various poetry groups and started learning how to say what I really meant more effectively.

2. What made you take Robert Frost?

His poem “Stopping by woods” had become very important to me – the silence it conveyed, being alone with ones thoughts, able to watch nature and listen – at a time when, as a single parent and breadwinner I almost never had time to do so.
I was deeply aware of the sound patterns, not realising how brilliantly they were crafted, just drawn to saying the poem over and over, like a meditation.

3. Who introduced you to him?

My first encounter with “Stopping by woods” was at school in “A Galaxy of poems old and new” chosen by E W Parker. At first it seemed pastoral – reminding me of the countryside where I grew up – rather than metaphoric. Later a cousin introduced me to “The Road Less Taken”. But it was hearing “Stopping by woods” quoted after John Kennedy’s assassination that reinforced my interest in its other layers of meaning.

3.1 Other layers of meaning?

While I was at school in London, the first effect of Frost’s poem was to imagine myself in the woods  around the home I had grown up in, the physical sensations of cold, silence, solitude.
In the aftermath of my marriage, the poem brought back my childhood. An only child, I remembered being happy to be alone and free from anxiety. In the lead-up to my first husband leaving anxiety had been constantly dragging me down.
As I got older, I became aware of the layer of political or spiritual meaning, the tension between living as one might wish, for example giving in to sadness or desire as opposed to following through on promises one has made.
Behind all of that is the sound of the words and the poem’s rhythms, the mood of calm melancholy they evoke in me

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

Growing up I was aware of many “classical” poets through both school and my parents: Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Milton, Dante Alighieri,Shakespeare’s sonnets. At that stage, too, I knew about more recent poets D H Lawrence’s poems, Jacques Prévert, Apollinaire, Auden, Leopardi, TS Eliot. There were so many I had never even heard of let along read. Since starting to write poetry I have been reading so much more of it as well.

Thinking some more about this, I had heard of very few woman poets. There was nothing in the curriculum about Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sylvia Plath or Sappho. So although I was aware of older poets traditional and contemporary there was nothing that said I could be accepted as a poet. We need to do better for girls growing up today.

5. What is your daily writing routine?

A good question! This used to be my writing routine while I had a day job. I spent 10-20 every morning writing “morning pages” to clear my thoughts. Right through the week, new poetry or story ideas came at bedtime, first thing in the morning or traveling to and from work. I would write it long hand in one of my recycled A5 notebooks – they’re dotted around the house and there was always one in my bag. At the weekend I would type up the week’s new poems, doing a first edit in the process. Also at the weekend I used to work on my novel. typing up any sections I had written on the train or bus.
Somehow, now I don’t go into Central London to work, my writing routine has fallen down. Running Palewell Press occupies not just my work time but most of my waking awareness.  Poems surface much less often. But I do travel more and find I can write on the journey. And I read so much more poetry now, especially last thing at night.

6.  What motivates you to write?

Writing is part of my interaction with the world. When writing, I want to record what I see, think and feel as honestly as I can. Coming back to a poem I feel an echo of the original emotion.  With particular poems like “Thorny Afghan Flower” and “Some days just end in sadness” writing them down eases the emotional intensity. Writing is also a tool for understanding tangled knots of thought. I love the physical experience of making a poem too, metaphor, meter and  rhyme rising to the surface, hearing in my head for the first time the pattern all of it makes is deeply satisfying.

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

The writers I read while young influence me in three particular ways:

The earliest poem I remember hearing was William Blake’s Songs of Innocence. My mother often recited it just before I went to sleep. The qualities of childlike wonder and immersion in the landscape shape many of my poems. I particularly loved the narrator making a quill pen out and settling down to write  in the open air. One hears people talking about their inner child. For me, that part of my memory or personality is still very strong. In my poem “The long journey of humans” the last two verses include the lines: “But I discovered in my mind, and smiling,/ the little girl/ who stood there in the dark.//She is still full of wonder/ and delight, still looking out/ and up and round her/ at the enchanting and unknown,/”

Among other writers who made a lasting impression are those with strong and unusual rhyming patterns, like Hilaire Belloc in the last verse of Tarantella: “No sound/ In the walls of the halls where falls/ The tread/ Of the feet of the dead to the ground,/ No sound:/ But the boom/ Of the far waterfall like doom.”

I love rhyme though I tend to us slant rhymes and half rhymes more than full rhyming at the end of two or more lines. As well as the aural pleasure of listening to a beautiful sequence of rhyming lines, they make poems easier to memorize. Another favourite, encountered at school, is Dog Tired by D. H. Lawrence. The last few lines not only end the poem gracefully but, through their repeated slant rhymes, deliver its emotional payload: “I should like to lie still/ As if I was dead; but feeling/ Her hand go stealing/ Over my face and my head, until/ This ache was shed.”

Many of my own poems adopt a narrative voice, especially in the latest pamphlet, Tales from Two Cities. Looking back, poetry as story-telling has had a major influence on me, especially poems that use a sense of place to create a filmic effect – like Rappelle-toi Barbara by Jacques Prévert: “Rappelle-toi Barbara Il pleuvait sans cesse sur Brest ce jour-là. Et tu marchais souriante. Épanouie ravie ruisselante. Sous la pluie. Rappelle-toi Barbara.” Within 58 lines, Prévert builds all the elements of a short story or film.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

If we include recently dead writers, the poets I admire most are Carol Ann Duffy and Seamus Heaney.

•         Carol Ann Duffy: For her ability to convey emotion without sentimentality as in “Last Post”, and the way rhyme and meter gently build the mood in “Prayer”

•         Seamus Heaney, how his poems walked the border line between Protestant and Catholic – as in “The Other Side”. The poem starts with the poet’s resentment of the attitudes and possessions of their better-off neighbour across the stream. But then the writer crosses the stream, stands behind the neighbour and begins to empathise with him. And you glimpse where reconciliation between warring communities might begin:
“But now I stand behind him
in the dark yard, in the mourn of prayers.
He puts his hand in a pocket
or taps a little tune with the blackthorn
shyly, as if he were party to
lovemaking or a strangers weeping.
Should I slip away, I wonder,
or go up and touch his shoulder
and talk about the weather
or the price of grass-seed?”
•         And in his two poems about the murder of his cousin by extremists.  But also, the “Skylight” where the first part of the sonnet uses sounds that are hard to say so one feels shut in.
“The perfect, trunk-lid fit of the old ceiling. Under there, it was all hutch and hatch,
The blue slates kept the heat like midnight thatch.”
and the second part changes the sounds giving an open feel.
•         There are other contemporary poets I greatly admire, generally for particular poems:

o  Adrian Blamires “The Effect of Coastal Processes”, title poem in his collection (published in 2005 by Two Rivers Press). It tells the story of two lovers on a beach using the metaphor of eroded pebbles so subtly to convey the decision the woman is making and the man’s emotional distance from her.
•         Sue Johnson “Lily of the Valley” in the anthology “The Physic Garden” (published in 2017 by Palewell Press). Memory evoked by flower-scent – a woman comes to terms with memories of her dead mother by recognising similar characteristics in her own daughter.

•         Stuart Henson “The Builder” a translation (after the prose poem “Le maçon” by Aloysius Bertrand). This is the best prose poem I know. In six four-line “verses” the poem opens, like a short film, with a stone-mason at work high up on a mosque. The atmosphere is calm. But each “verse” widens our view, further and further into the distance until we discover what’s happening to the world around the mosque. Again, it’s a story-telling poem, with the poet in such control of our perception.

•         Adam Horovitz “I believed I understood the land”, first poem in his collection “The Soil Never Sleeps” (published by Palewell press in 2018). Masterly use of rhyme and meter to focus our attention on the poem’s final warning:
“If you’ve listened, you’ll know we’re balanced on the edge
between oblivion and life and that the only charm
for our salvation comes in the moments when we pledge
to do no lasting damage, cause a little harm
as we can manage in field or office, city street or farm.”

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

Early on in my time at writing groups and going to Arvon, I heard someone say that a writer is someone who writes. That may be because they like to write or can’t help writing, because they have something to say or a problem to sort out. How you become that person is a step in each person’s unique journey. For me it happened this way: I was coming out of a difficult 15-year marriage with a lot of unacknowledged anger and sadness.  For two years, all my troubles poured out in poems – most of them seem like rubbish now but they cleared the way for learning how to write more effectively.
But becoming a writer wasn’t just one step. It goes on for the rest of your life. Each course you take, each new poem or story you start to write, is part of the learning process. In order to be a writer you need to do two things: work out what you want to say and get on with writing it down.

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

There are two projects:

The Sea’s White Horses
Part 2 of the Reins of Power sequence of Young Adult futuristic fantasy novels. The sequence has an environmental theme with a teenage weather-witch trying to protect England’s South coast from devastating storms. I published Part 1 (The Cloud Singer) some years ago and have written most of the first draft of Part 2. But it’s really hard to find time while I’m also running Palewell Press. So I’ve signed up to a course with Cinnamon Press called “Finding the Still Point in your Story.”

Passing Clouds
A pamphlet collection of poems about my mother and two other close female friends, all of three of who died of cancer. This new project will make use of poems written over a long period. At present, I think the work involved is editing the poems and shaping the collection rather than writing a lot of new material. But once I start assembling the collection I’m aware it may take off in an unexpected direction.

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Martin Appleby

F WORD WARNING

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
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.

Martin Appleby

is a punk, poet, vegetarian, cider drinker and editor of Paper and Ink Literary Zine from Hastings, England. Follow on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter @paperandinkzine

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

Women. Quite simply. The first poem I ever wrote was as a love struck teenager about a girl I had a crush on but was too afraid to tell. Then when I started writing poetry again in my twenties it was drunken ramblings scrawled in a notebook after a break up. It wasn’t until my late twenties that, for the first time, I wrote a poem that wasn’t about a woman.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Henry Charles Bukowski Jr. His words opened my eyes to a whole new world. Poetry was no longer just the flowery, pretentious nonsense they had tried to teach me in school. It was simple, honest, raw, brutal, beautiful and working class. It was a gateway drug that lead me to discovering an underground wonderland of beats, outlaws and outsiders.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

It is not something I have thought about too much. I guess the older you are, the more shit you have seen, the more life experience you have to draw from, and the more equipped you are to articulate it? I don’t know, maybe you have to be a certain age before you start to appreciate poetry.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I fucking wish I had a daily writing routine. I write when I feel like it, when I feel that I have something to say. Sometimes that may be two or three poems in a day, sometimes that may be two or three in a month.

5. What motivates you to write?

That is a very good question. I guess all writing comes down to ego doesn’t it? The feeling that whatever you have to say is so important that it needs to be written down. Documented. Recorded. For posterity or publication, it’s all just ego. I don’t have any children and don’t plan to have any, so I like the idea that my poems will live on after I’m gone. A piece of me that will survive  long after my body packs up.

6. What is your work ethic?

I run a submission based literary magazine, so I am always working on the next issue. So, if I am not writing poetry, I am at the very least reading it. I also publish the odd poetry collection, the latest one being Too Many Drinks Ago by my friend John D Robinson. I am always  working on something. It’s what keeps me sane.

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

I still love Bukowski’s writing, and whilst I don’t necessarily agree with some of the things that he wrote about – he had some problematic views which have been well documented – his writing will always stand out to me as a beacon of excellence, and continue to inspire me. As a kid I used to read things like Goosebumps and Star Wars novels , and whilst I enjoy the odd horror and sci-fi novel, I don’t think they particularly inform the stuff I write today.

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

I admire anyone who takes action. Anyone who doesn’t wait around for things to happen to them, but makes them happen. Anyone who has the fortitude to put their truth out into the world to be judged by total strangers.

1. Why do you write?

I like telling stories. I love the rush, the exhilaration, and the sense of accomplishment when it all comes together – when you’ve written the perfect sentence, or poem – when everything ties together in a neat little knot. Plus, how else am I supposed to tell people about all of the stupid shit I have done in my life? Start a fucking podcast or YouTube channel like very other brainless idiot these days?

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

One thing that I hate more than anything is people who describe themselves as “aspiring” writers/poets. It’s bullshit. Don’t aspire, be. Don’t try, do. Start typing.

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

I started writing a novel in 2015 which I am yet to finish the first draft of. I would like to finish it before I die, but at the moment I’d say the chance of that is 50/50. I am also working on Issue 14 of my literary magazine, Paper and Ink – the theme is missed connections and  features a fantastic line up of writers, poets and artists from all over the world and all walks of

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Gopal Lahiri

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
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.

Gopal Lahiri

was born and grew up in Kolkata. He has done his post-graduates in Geology from Presidency College, Kolkata and travelled across India and abroad in view of his job assignments. He currently lives in Kolkata.

He is a bilingual poet, writer, editor, critic and translator and widely published in Bengali and English language. He has had seven collections of poems in Bengali and nine collections of poems in English. His English collections are as follows and most of them can be viewed in Amazon/Lulu publications also,

Silent Steps (Cyberwit, Allahabad), Living Inside (Authorspress, New Delhi), Tidal Interlude (Shambhabi, Kolkata), Cities: Two Perspectives (Authorspress, New Delhi), Return To Solitude, Hawakal Kolkata) and Four Books (Flicker of Hope, Sandstone Corridor, Give You Back and Light and Shadow, Lulu Publications, USA)

Anthology appearances (among others) include National Treasures, Indus Valley, The Silence within, Indo-Australian Anthology, Homebound, The Dance of the Peacock, Illuminations. His works have featured in printed journals like Indian Literature, Taj Mahal Review, Tranquil, Triveni, Beyond the Rainbow, Ethos, CLRI, and Haiku Journal and in electronic publications Arts and Letters, Underground Window, Muse India, Setu, Dead Snake, Tuck Magazine, Debug, Eastlit, InkSweatTears, Kolkata Review, Madras Courier and Coldnoon Diaries.

He is also an experienced book reviewer both in English and Bengali and his Bengali poem and review has been published amongst others in the prestigious Desh weekly and The Telegraph Kolkata in the eighties and nineties. He is currently in the panel of reviewers of Indian Literature of Sahitya Akademi, (Print journal), Muse India and Setu online journals.

His translation works in Bengali Not Just Milk and Honey, (published by NBT, India), a collection of short stories of Israel is widely acclaimed.

He has jointly edited the anthology of poems: Scaling Heights and is the recipient of the Poet of the year award in Destiny Poets, UK, 2016 and also received featured poet award in Poetry In A Cup, USA, 2004 and a winner of Haiku in Poetry.com, USA, 2004.

41eOnNrmGrL._AC_US500_QL65_

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I got the influence of nature early on and I still love that. It means so much in my poems. I am happier writing about my childhood. But yes, I don’t think I could live without it, the childhood memory. The people and the surrounds are there who create the sound and silence. I observe, listen and inhale the atoms and molecules of life. This portal into the past is unlocked by poetry alone.

We know that poetry is the place where language performs. It’s hard to resist from finding patterns, from making something that connects and progresses from randomness. It’s what satisfies us when we really be able to make coherence and order, however tenuous, out of the disparate lines or images and evolve a poem. I create my own space inside in a closet where my personal and emotional experience are in search of breakthrough. Poetry is not always an end to itself but an echo of life and I follow that. I think there is space for both loose inspiration and informed engagement.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I fell in love with poetry during my school days and could understand that no other form is as nuanced as poetry. The aroma of poems flies me even now directly to the poetry classes where my teachers used to explain the meaning of poetry. The seed of interest was sown then. Social media was not there. Later I joined some poetry groups and started breathing poetry. The scents of poems evoked primal experience and aromas were the links that hold together all of us

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

Tagore is a towering figure in Indian literature especially in Bengali writings if I may say so. Poems, novels, essays, song, paintings and what not where Tagore isn’t there and one is stunned to get a feel. When I began to write poems, I looked to Tagore. But yes, I read Tagore and that is that and it is presumptuous to talk about the influence of Tagore. There were a few other poets who inspired me. I was wild about Byron in my early days. It doesn’t come in a moment. Later I took to Eliot, Pond, Dylan Thomas, Browning, Emily Dickenson, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Philip Larkins, Dom Moraes, Nissim Ezekiel and a few others.

When I look back, I realise that poetry is a place in where many poets come and inspire me all at once. That’s always drawn me to my existence. It still does.

I love to watch and listen to the people in realms of beautiful earth, how the world is and how the world ought to be. Surely it’s not an extension of dreams but multitude of thoughts and given the opportunity, words and letters can create texture and rhythm and I feel that’s poetry.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

It’s certainly not ten to five job. I prefer night time to write and yes on my desk almost on a regular basis if I stay at home. I do travel a lot and the airport lounges, lobby, hotel rooms, even on a park bench are the places where I scribble on a piece of paper or type it in my cell notes. It gives a feeling of lightness, a sense of living to which I belong.

5. What motivates you to write?

In my thoughts, Poetry is a picturesque journey and I borrow the moments of pure soaring beauty from my surroundings to hit against the most ordinary in life. Then expand the bounds of connections that give us life. All these processes invite me to enjoy and It is good to recollect that we need one another, my soul and poetry.
I want to take my readers on a wonderful walk where a little rain is a downpour, where silence is a part of our essence, where a solitary mind is a chorus.

6. What is your work ethic?

It’s only hard work. Yes, I do set some values and try to follow that in search of truth in my poetry. Poetry is a journey and it’s a trip that leads me to wonder about how, ultimately we can get the most of our existences as conscious beings in the world. A part of me usually is there in my poems but not in all poems.

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

Perhaps their influences are filtered through the lens of time for a sense of timelessness to be placed right beside on the contemporary plane.

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

Vikram Seth. He is an Indian poet and novelist. Golden Gate and A Suitable Boy are the two landmark modern classics. But I love his vibrant and lyrical poems more due to their musicality and the topics that they touched upon.

9. Why do you write?

Poetry is life. It is like a habit, it comes out seamlessly. I know I have to write. I believe it’s destiny. In my opinion, poetry can’t be hurried and the dominant sound is its quietness, its gentle collapse, its own unhurried music, its unsung harmonies. All my poems do not overtly address any crisis, nor any inventive desperation but the underlying suffering is palpable.

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

It’s difficult to answer in one go but may be a combination of many activities. It’s that mix of defiance, inclination and passion for poetry that makes me what I am today. Poetry is a part of my heart- a source of love, desire, pain and rage. We all know poetry can heal wounds too. There is no denying that it packs in a lot of emotions and needs to be celebrated at the end.

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

My collection of Haiku and short poems has been published recently. I’m working further on new and a selected bunch of published poems, but it will take a while before the book will be ready for publication. Perhaps editing an anthology of poems will also be on my next agenda but nothing has been firmed up.
@gopallahiri hi

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Lisa Kiew

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
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.

Unquiet

Lisa Kiew

A chinese-malaysian living in London, L Kiew earns her living as an accountant. She holds a MSc in Creative Writing and Literary Studies from Edinburgh University. In 2017 she took part in the Poetry School/London Parks and Gardens Trusts Mixed Borders Poets Residency Scheme and the Toast Poetry mentoring programme. She was shortlisted for 2017 Primers mentoring and publication scheme. Her poems have been published in Butcher’s Dog, Ink Sweat and Tears, Lighthouse, Obsessed with Pipework, Tears in the Fence, The Scores and The North among other magazines and websites. Her debut pamphlet is coming out with Offord Road Books in 2019.
Her website is here: http://www.lhhkiew.co.uk/
Full details about her forthcoming pamphlet: https://www.offordroadbooks.co.uk/the-unquiet

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’ve always been excited by the many possibilities of poetry, how it has open and closed forms, and how it is oral as well as written. I’m also inspired by the thin line between reader and poet. I especially love poetries that welcome in and make the reader a co-creator of meanings.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I studied poetry at school like many people. I was also lucky to have access to good town libraries and so made happy discoveries among their stacks.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

The school syllabus was certainly dominated by the dead and the white back then.  It was harder to find those other voices and the internet and social media have made it easier to access poetry beyond the big publishers. We have a lot more diversity and I don’t think any generation dominates in the same way as it could even ten years ago.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I get up early to read and write for an hour before I go to work. Sometimes it’s more reading than writing, and sometimes the other way around.

5. What motivates you to write?

Anything and everything! Words and phrases snag in my ears or in my eyes.  It can feel like an itch I need to scratch away at on paper.

6. What is your work ethic?

I like to keep at it. But it can be hard to fit writing around the rest of your life, especially if the day job is demanding a lot.

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

I was influenced by Sylvia Plath and by Imagist and Surrealist poetry. I’m still interested in fragmentation and dispersion, breaking down and splintering apart the norms of language. I like the way small concrete details can take us to surprising places in our heads.

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

There are so many poets that I admire; I really admire what I think of as Northern American writers’ more conversational style and playfulness. I am really enjoying Heather Christle, Franny Choi, Victoria Chang and Yaya Yao. In the UK Hannah Lowe, Sarah Howe, Mary-Jean Chan and Jennifer Wong are helping me to think about my mixed cultural heritage. Singaporean poet Alvin Pang inspired me to explore different kinds of Englishes in my writing. Amy Macauley is prompting me to think more about performance and moving beyond the page.

9. Why do you write?

It’s one of the ways I think about the world. As a mixed-race woman and a migrant, I am always being forced to see myself through others’ eyes, by casual comments, what’s written and shown in the media. Poetry is one of the ways I reclaim my experience and represent it back. Being multilingual, I am fascinated by language and with poetry, I can pull and play across languages, registers and vocabularies.

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

I’d always say start by reading. It helps you find your voice, as well as showing you what there is to write in dialogue with and to write in rejection of.

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

My pamphlet, The Unquiet, comes out with Offord Road Books in February 2019 https://www.offordroadbooks.co.uk/the-unquiet
I’m currently working on a project exploring the language used about non-native plant and animal species; it seems to be the time to think about belonging or not, and what that means for both humans and the other lifeforms we share this planet with.

 

 

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Lianne Futia 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
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.

Lianne Futia

Lianne is a spoken word poet from North Wales who is fearless in tackling an eclectic mix of subjects, from the size of men’s waists to the degradation of women in the porn industry; there is no subject out of bounds. Whatever subject matter she takes her pen to, she does so with heart, truth, unapologetic wit, astute observational humour and a rawness that draws you in and binds you to her words…

Lianne was born and raised in North Wales by her single parent mother. As
the eldest of five children, she knows the hardship of being last in the bath on
bath night and the delights of corporation pop and sandwich paste butties.
Growing up on a council estate saw her embrace the calamity of a working
class upbringing, which armed her with the wit, passion and grittiness that she
brings to her writing. She writes with a strong working-class voice that proudly
resonates with audiences because of its astute emotional intelligence and a moving authenticity that people cannot help but connect with.
As well as being a writer and spoken word artist, Lianne is a qualified post
compulsory English teacher and she is currently studying an MA in Writing at
Liverpool John Moore’s University. But before any of that, Lianne is a mum. As a mother of four children, ranging from stroppy teen to tantrum throwing five year old, her experiences feature vividly in her work with a brutal honesty about the moments of triumph and disaster in being mum (and she is confident that there is always far more of the latter). Her honesty about motherhood gives hope to mothers everywhere that they’re not the only ones who have thought about running away at least a hundred times before breakfast. Lianne is currently working on a vibrant collection of contemporary, rhythmic poetry about pregnancy, motherhood, relationships after children and losing yourself in the madness of motherhood. It is raw, funny and often heart wrenching. It is impossible not to relate to the emotions it conveys. Lianne is aiming to complete this collection by the end of 2019.

Lianne is also currently working on a moving collection of memoirs interlaced with rhythmic poetry about her working-class childhood. It is emotionally charged with moments of drama, chaos, pain and laughter. This collection will near completion at the beginning of 2020.

Lianne writes memoirs and evocative traditional poetry laced with imagery and the ability to transport the senses, but she truly comes into her own when performing her almost lyrical, rhythmic spoken word poetry where her frank realism and often dark humour cuts to the core, emotionally shocks and inspires empowerment in equal measures. Since starting her spoken word journey Lianne has gathered a following after her many appearances at Voicebox – Spoken Word where she has performed on open mic alongside poets such as Sabrina Benhaim, Rudy Francisco and the formerYoung People’s Poet Laureate for Wales 2013-2016, Martin Daws. To watch some of Lianne’s performances you can find her on YouTube -https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=lianne+futia
or visit her website where there are also links to her social media.
http://www.liannefutiapoet.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

In truth, I can’t really answer that because I have been writing poetry since I was about ten years old, maybe younger, and I don’t remember how or why or where it came from, it just happened. I wonder if we had perhaps looked at poetry in school, though I can’t recall if that was the case. I don’t really even remember the first poem I wrote, but once I started it became my safe place if things were tough in life. These days I write poetry because it is intrinsic to my existence, it is instinctive, a compulsion if you like. It’s still my safe place, but also my happy place these days.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Again, much like the first response, I don’t really recall who first introduced me to it in my younger days, but I suspect it was probably following a task in primary school. I do recall reading Maya Angelou’s poetry later on in high school and feeling something stir deep within; an instant connection with the rhythm of it and the strong, female voice that bellowed from it and after that I started to write a lot more. Come to think of it there was also the poetry of T.S Eliot during my A levels, which spoke to me in a way that I had never felt before. It made me look at life beyond the surface level of things and showed me there was a more abstract way to navigate the world, people and feelings.

I stopped writing for a while when my children were very young because having had the first three children within three years of each other my focus in life shifted solely onto their care. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was losing a little of who I was by ignoring that inner call to write and there was a growing void in my life. Then my art teacher from high school found some of my poetry when she was clearing her belongings from the school in preparation for her retirement. She kept hold of it for a while and then around two years ago she took the trouble of returning it to me. I had left it at the school around sixteen years earlier and forgotten it even existed. When she returned it to me, I read it over and over and then there was a strange moment of clarity; poetry was what I had always loved, and its absence was the growing void, the emptiness. And so, I began to write again, with a fierceness that I’d never had before. As corny as it may sound, I felt the pieces of me slowly come back together. So, I suppose she re-introduced me to poetry and I’ll be ever grateful to her for that.

Not long after I started writing again, I also started going to Voicebox – Spoken Word in Wrexham and reading my poetry on open mic. The first time was nerve wracking, but I think I was so elated to find my way back to writing that I felt it was a case of all or nothing, and I am so glad I did. Voicebox has been an amazing part of my life ever since and I have met some amazing creatives and have a place where my writing can come alive to an immediate audience, which has helped me find my place in the world of poetry – as a spoken word writer/performer. So, all in all I suppose my art teacher bringing back my poems reignited something and inspired me to start writing again, and the people I have met at Voicebox inspire me to continue.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

Aside from those I‘ve already mentioned, I wasn’t aware of older poets at all when I was really young and starting to write poetry. Poetry wasn’t something that played a part in my family life growing up. In fact, nobody I knew wrote, read or had any interest in poetry, so apart from what I read in school I had no knowledge of other poets. These days I have a keen interest in the work of Sylvia Plath because its energy and conviction is like a visual representation of the madness, imagination, brilliance and chaos of every writers’ mind, in my opinion anyway.
4. What is your daily writing routine?

As a mother of four and currently studying an MA I don’t really have a daily writing routine as such because life is often rather demanding, so I have to work around many commitments. However, I do try to write something, even if it’s just two sentences, every day. It’s not something I can sit and force though, it just happens when an idea starts to germinate, or feelings niggle away at me, which is usually when I’m too busy to sit and write or when my hands are in the sink washing dishes. When that happens, I either scribble it on anything to hand or I grab my phone and quickly record those thoughts, words, rhymes, whatever it is that’s festering in me. I return to those scribbles and recordings as soon as I can to try to make them into something tangible, if I can. Often, they don’t become more than a collection of abstract, fragmented ideas, but there’s always the chance that they could become something wonderful one day, so I try to never let even the smallest flicker of an idea escape me. I suppose I am ever writing in my head, always.
5. What motivates you to write?

Those niggles that I mentioned in the previous answer, they motivate me. Well, motivate is the wrong choice of word really, they force me, compel me to write. It’s like an itch that I have to scratch, or it won’t go away. I suppose that sounds negative, it isn’t meant to be. It’s just something that I can’t ignore, it’s in me and has been since I can remember. I must write it or those tiny thoughts and tiny feelings bubble away and become uncomfortable. I don’t write for money (though of course it would be nice) and I don’t write because I necessarily want my work to be read or published (though again that would be bloody amazing). I write because I don’t know what else to do with the words that pop into my head at 3am. I write because writing is my place of belonging and the thing that keeps the pieces of me together.
6. What is your work ethic?

I have a very strong work ethic. Growing up as the eldest of five in a single parent family with very little money, I decided very early on in life that I wanted to work my way out of the benefits system and make my mum proud (bless me), so I have studied none stop since. As I mentioned, I’m currently studying my MA at the moment and it’s quite possible that I may continue onto a doctorate after that, but please don’t tell my husband as he’s had to put up with my high stress levels enough while I have been studying the MA and the PGCE I did two years prior.

I think having children has also strengthened my work ethic because I want my children to see that hard work, resilience and passion can achieve things, and if nothing else can give you a sense of purpose. They watch me during times of stress when I have deadlines to meet, they hear me rehearsing for performances in the distance, and sometimes mum is too busy to spend time with them, but they also know that mum is working hard to follow my heart and dreams, which is something I can only hope that they do too, that’s why I work hard.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I have already mentioned Maya Angelou, but to answer this question I need to mention her again because it is her rhythm that sticks with me the most from the things I read in youth. Perhaps it is the reason that when I write I have a natural tendency towards rhythmic forms. I remember reading her poem Phenomenal Woman for the first time as a teen and feeling the beat of it moving through me for days after. Now in my own writing I don’t begin a poem with a fixed form or rhythm in mind, but it seems to organically develop anyway, and I can’t help but think that comes from the influence of Angelou’s poetry. It feels natural to write with rhythm and rhyme and I think this works really well for me given that I write predominantly for spoken word performance, which lends itself to rhythm.

 

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

I’m a big fan of Holly McNish. She writes with a lightness of touch that is both humorous and moving at the same time. I suppose it has that relatable nature to it. Likewise, Cat Moran is one of my favourites too. Like McNish, she is witty and raw, which is something that I aim for in my own writing.

I also enjoy the work of Kate Tempest, Margaret Atwood, and Jeanette Winterson, the list could go on, there are too many to mention. They are all very different writers, but the one thing they have in common is the strong female perspective, which I admire and aspire to.

9. Why do you write?

I write for the same reason that I eat or breathe, because I have to. That’s a pretty dramatic answer, but in truth writing really is something that I need in order to exist as a complete, functioning person. During those years that I didn’t write, as I spoke of earlier, I was incomplete, an emptiness was swallowing me. So, in order to avoid being sucked into that void, to keep the pieces of me together, I need to write. And it’s fun, albeit sometimes a lonely, self-indulgent pursuit.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I’m not sure, I’ll tell you when I’ve earned that title. No seriously, that’s a difficult one for me to answer because I am divided in my own thoughts about “becoming” a writer. If by writer you are talking about a career, I don’t feel I can call myself a writer yet because I’m not published, I’m not well known, I’m not making a living from it, so I can’t offer advice on it as a career. But, I suppose if you want to make a living from writing then like any other profession, you must learn your craft either through self-study, a course, a writing group perhaps, you must practice enough to make mistakes and discover your strengths, and then you must keep going, keep writing, work hard. Be resilient and enjoy it.
However, and this is where I struggle, if you mean writer in terms of it being part of you that compels you to take pen to page, then I don’t think you “become” a writer; you are either born to it, or you’re not. If you’re not though, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It’s like singing, some people are born with a raw talent and others refine what voice they have because they want it badly enough. Writing is the same and if you want it badly enough keep at it, but don’t forget to enjoy the process too.
11.Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I am currently working on a collection of memoirs interlaced with contemporary poetry. It is about my working-class upbringing, which was sometimes turbulent, chaotic, traumatic even at times, but it was wonderful none the less. My memoirs will be raw, unapologetically honest and sprinkled with humour and sadness in equal measure. The work will celebrate the working-class voice, female strength and the ability to rise triumphantly from the dirt that life sometimes tries to bury you under. It is called Shaping the Cloth; Memoirs of the Madness that Made Me and I am aiming for its completion by the beginning of 2020.

I am also working on a collection of contemporary poems about pregnancy, motherhood and relationships after children because after having four of my own, I feel I am well placed to navigate my way through those experiences. It is poignantly personal, but it will resonate with women (and men) everywhere and like my memoirs it is raw, heartfelt, witty and will be written in my distinct rhythmic style. The collection is called A Mother Was Born.

I am always working on new material for spoken word events and in 2019 I will be performing at Focus Wales Festival for the second year running. I will also be popping up at various other events throughout 2019, which you can find details on by visiting my webpage http://www.liannefutiapoet.com or you can find me, Lianne Futia, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Many Thanks
Lianne X

 

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Glory Sasikala 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
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.

47235951_347302832753573_445079936101777408_n

Glory Sasikala

(Born: January 6th, 1964) is a poet and writer residing currently in Chennai, Tamilnadu. She was born in Kolkota and did her schooling there. Her husband, who was a bank manager with Canara Bank, died tragically in a road accident in 2008. She has two children, a daughter-in-law, and a grandson.

The Interview

1. What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?

I was about 5 or 6 years old when we were taught the poem ‘Boats Sail On The River’ by Christina Georgina Rossetti in school and asked to learn it by heart. This poem is a deceptively simple one and it appeals to children because of the visual images it creates—of boats and rainbows and clouds. I was captivated by the imagery, and I felt I could write poems like that too. So I wrote a poem choosing as topic the discussion that was going on in my family at that time—a rather profound discussion about whether God really existed and how religions differed. I had my own opinions about the subject, and this I now used to write my first poem, titled ‘Our God Is The Best’. The poem was a conversation between two birds who argued about whose God was the best. They finally decide that all Gods are good. When I showed the poem to my father, he was much impressed and he made copies of it and gave it to all our relatives and friends. My father encouraged me to write poetry. I wrote nature poems mainly. People would come over to our house to hear me recite, and as a child, I felt special. But all this changed when my father died when I was 10 years old. I could not go on without his encouragement, and I was also teased at this time for my limited vocabulary. However, I could not stop writing as it came naturally to me. I continued to write, but I did not show my work to anyone. It was only after I took up literature as my subject in college that I was able to evaluate my own work, and I realized it was good. What I needed to work on was my vocabulary and information and skills. At this point, I started exhibiting my work again, and I also reached out to likeminded people and communities, which helped me grow as a poet and writer.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Not sure if it’s still prevalent in schools today across India, but during my time we had the Radiant Reader series as English textbook. Book 1 for Class 1, and so on till Class 10. And these textbooks featured a range of prose and poetry in each, carefully selected to appeal to a particular age group. And so, my introduction to poetry was through my textbooks. I don’t remember my first Radiant Reader, but I do recall that we had ‘Someone’ by Walter de la Mare in Class 2 and I was so very fascinated by this poem. I think the fascination was that there was no answer to the question. I really, really wanted to know who had knocked.
My father was from Burma, which had been under the British rule at that time. He and his 6 sisters and 2 cousins had formed a music band. His mother had wanted him to become a Catholic priest, but that did not work out. He sang very well, and what was more, he could play all musical instruments. His favourite instrument was the Hawaiin guitar. He had, for a while, remained a rather distant figure in my life because of his constant transfers to other cities and travel, and also because of my being the youngest in the family and so very small. But as I turned five, his attention was suddenly caught by the fact that I was, well, different. I liked the English language, I liked arguing, I had an opinion about everything, and I liked to learn. He started writing out lyrics in a notebook, making me learn them by heart, and then making me sing along as he played his guitar. Some of the earliest songs I sang were Knock knock (Tears of rain… (Mary Hopkins), Oh! Susanna! (I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee…).

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

Most children of my generation will recall The Radiant Reader with nostalgia as it was prepared with careful consideration of the choicest prose and poems suited to each age group. I can still recall most of the poems by heart. I read ‘Some One’ by Walter de la Mare when I was in Class 2, and it stays with me. Then, of course, there was ‘Boats Sail on the Rivers’ by Christina Georgina Rosetti, which actually set me writing poetry for the rest of my life. The day ‘Daffodils’ (William Wordsworth) was taught in class, there was such excitement and full attendance. We loved dancing with the daffodils. And then there were ‘Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog’ by Oliver Goldsmith, The Brook by Lord Tennyson, and so many more! My father was a huge fan of Edward FitzGerald’s ‘Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,’ and that’s been passed down to me.
Some of my favorite poets remain Robert Browning, Tennyson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Campbell, Milton, Shelley, Keats and others.

 

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I generally wake up at around 8 in the morning and am ready to face the day by 9 am, having had my morning cuppa. I make myself a good breakfast, and then am on the Internet for a while, especially on facebook. After that I alternate between making GloMag and writing. Then I walk for an hour or more, and then I have my bath and lunch and go and bring back my grandson from school. While he’s there, I clean up the house and then I take him out to play for a while. My son comes to pick him up by 7 pm, after which I do some shopping, post on the GloMag group on Facebook, and have my dinner. After dinner, I continue writing till maybe midnight, or sometimes well past midnight. I generally go to sleep very late, which is compensated by my waking up very late too.

 

5. What motivates you to write?

I write as easily as I breathe. I can’t stop writing because it comes that easily and naturally to me.
I’ve always been very vocal and opinionated, and my family was quite fascinated by my talkativeness. But in school all we were expected to do was learn lessons by heart. Creativity was reserved for the composition class. I discovered that I could write quite by accident, but once I did, it was the most exhilarating feeling ever. And then too, once I started writing, my father took a deep interest in it and encouraged me no end. He got me a diary in which I could jot down my thoughts. He introduced me to different genres of writing. I had written a play by the time I was eight years old, and a whole lot of poems. My father also made me read a lot of literature that was way beyond my years. I was only ten years old when he died. After his death, my sister took over monitoring my reading habits. She got me to read classics a lot. Later on, I took English literature as my subject in college. A strange thing would happen as I was exposed to the richness of the language. My mind would suddenly go into a creative mode, and I would be writing most prolifically. Most of my notebooks had a line drawn a little above the bottom of the page, and I jotted down my thoughts there. It was a kind of madness that prevailed or maybe exposure to the richness of the language opened up a different part of my brain.
And then, I got married at the age of 21, and believe it or not, I completely forgot I could write. I got so engrossed in raising my children and taking care of my family, and I had two babies to take care of. This impasse went on from 1985 – the year I got married – to 1994, when my daughter was two years old. Watching an Oprah Winfrey show one day, the topic being ‘how to discover your destiny’ and the expert said, all you had to do was ask a question, “what is the one thing I cannot fail at”. And sitting there, with my baby in my lap, I automatically answered, “writing”. And since then, I’ve not looked back. I ask myself that question so many times in a day, and the answer has consistently been ‘writing’. It’s an on-going journey.

6. What is your work ethic?

My work ethic is that I create from my heart and only what I believe in. I never say anything that I don’t mean. I also prefer the apt word to the grandiose one. I feel a word can have so many synonyms but there’s a subtle difference between each one, and what is suitable for one occasion may not be suitable for another. I find I’m not able to compromise on that. Something rankles in my mind till I go, “That’s it! That’s the word I want!”
I also believe that all genres of creativity are just communication. I also define communication differently. I believe that if something I’m saying does not get across to my listener, then I’m not communicating; I’m not sharing the right things with the right person. As such, getting my message across remains my responsibility, not that of my audience.
I also try not to put out negative vibes into the world. Readers take from my writings and I want them to take what will rejuvenate them and help them in any small or big way.

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

I think what you read and experience when you’re young is what stays with you. It’s the foundation on which you build. I have this innate love for the English Language, and I’ve been blessed with very good teachers. I still follow the Wren and Martin format when it comes to writing prose, whether it’s writing a novel or a short story or an anecdote or other genres. That’s my foundation. I’m also much influenced by the classics. Having majored in English Literature, I am that blessed soul who got to read the works of some of the most creative minds.
In poetry, I’m most influenced by the famous Tamil poet, Kannadasan, and I try to emulate him. I fall short because of the sheer range of his genius. In English, I’m a huge fan of Lord Tennyson, and he’s been the biggest influence.
When it comes to prose, I think I’ve been most influenced by ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ by Harper Lee. The book is a single story and the reader is led gently through it, with every single chapter appearing to be a separate story or incident, with a definitive ending.
I try to follow that.
Another book that’s had a definite effect on both my writing and my personality is Godfather by Mario Puzo.

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

This is a hard question for me to answer because I’ve hardly read for pleasure in a while, and when I do, I tend to go back to authors whom I trust and have read before. As such, I can’t boast of having read much of the new works. I work as a language editor for scientific research as well as humanities. It’s a must that I read and edit 80 MS doc pages per day. That apart, there’s GloMag, which again, is a lot of reading. By the end of the day, honestly, I don’t want to look at some more written words for pleasure. I’d much rather go for a walk.
That said, however, I have read works by Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy, and I like all three, although Vikram Seth is my favorite. The language is simple and almost musical. I also like reading Chetan Bhagat books, again a very interactive style of writing. I haven’t had much of a chance to explore English and American writing except as part of my work (which is extensive) and would not like to comment.
All said and done, I’d conclude that my most favourite writers, and the ones I admire the most, are the writers on GloMag for obvious reasons.

9. Why do you write?

I write because I have no option but to write. I don’t know how to stop writing.  It’s been something I’ve been doing all my life, sometimes – most times – my only comfort. I write to create, vent, weep, pray, introspect, and everything else between.

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

To someone who asks me how to become a writer, I would say be a dreamer. Lie down and relax, close your eyes and dream. Because you dream only about things that fascinate you, and what fascinates you will fascinate the world.
Read a lot, pay as much, or more, attention to grammar. I truly believe language is more important than what you have to say. Add to your vocabulary all the time, and most importantly, don’t connect your writing to fame or fortune. Write only because you have something to say.

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

I’ve been trying to bring out an e-book of my poems for a while now, but I’ve shelved it to concentrate on writing a novel, the first draft of which will hopefully be done by December. I am also serializing another novel on Setu Mag, an international online magazine. I would like to serialize another one somewhere else. That apart, I continue to edit and publish GloMag.