Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: John M. Bennett

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.

sesos extremos lo res cover_20181017_0001

John M. Bennett

has published over 400 books and chapbooks of poetry and other materials. Among the most recent are rOlling COMBers (Potes & Poets Press); MAILER LEAVES HAM (Pantograph Press); LOOSE WATCH (Invisible Press); CHAC PROSTIBULARIO (with Ivan Arguelles; Pavement Saw Press); THE PEEL (Anabasis Press); GLUE (xPress(ed)); LAP GUN CUT (with F. A. Nettelbeck; Luna Bisonte Prods); INSTRUCTION BOOK (Luna Bisonte Prods); la M al (Blue Lion Books); CANTAR DEL HUFF (Luna Bisonte Prods); SOUND DIRT (with Jim Leftwich; Luna Bisonte Prods); BACKWORDS (Blue Lion Books); NOS (Redfox Press); D RAIN B LOOM (with Scott Helmes; xPress(ed)); CHANGDENTS (Offerta Speciale); L ENTES (Blue Lion Books); NOS (Redfoxpress); SPITTING DDREAMS (Blue Lion Books); ONDA (with Tom Cassidy; Luna Bisonte Prods); 30 DIALOGOS SONOROS (with Martín Gubbins; Luna Bisonte Prods); BANGING THE STONE (WITH Jim Leftwich; Luna Bisonte Prods); FASTER NIH (Luna Bisonte Prods); RREVES (Editions du Silence); NEOLIPIC (Argotist); LAS CABEZAS MAYAS/MAYA HEADS (Luna Bisonte Prods); BALAM MALAB (Logan Elm Press); LA VISTA GANCHA (Luna Bisonte Prods); THE SOCK SACK/UNFINISHED FICTIONS/MORE INSERTS (with Richard Kostelanetz; Luna Bisonte Prods); T ICK TICK TIC K (Chalked Editions and White Sky Books); THIS IS VISUAL POETRY (This is Visual Poetry); EL HUMO LETRADO: POESÍA EN ESPAÑOL (Chalk Editions; 2nd ed. White Sky Books); ZABOD (Tonerworks); TEXTIS GLOBBOLALICUS (3 vols.; mOnocle-Lash Anti-Press); NITLATOA (Luna Bisonte Prods); OHIO GRIMES AND MISTED MEANIES (with Ben Bennett, Bob Marsh, Jack Wright; Edgetone Records); SUMO MI TOSIS (White Sky Books); CORRESPONDENCE 1979-1983 (with Davi Det Hompson; Luna Bisonte Prods); THE GNAT’S WINDOW (Luna Bisonte Prods); DRILLING FOR SUIT MYSTERY (with Matthew T. Stolte; Luna Bisonte Prods); OBJECT OBJET (with Nicolas Carras; Luna Bisonte Prods); CARAARAC & EL TÍTULO INVISIBLE (Luna Bisonte Prods); LIBER X (Luna Bisonte Prods); CUITLACOCHTLI (Xexoxial Editions); BLOCK (Luna Bisonte Prods); THE STICKY SUIT WHIRS (Luna Bisonte Prods); PICO MOJADO (with Byron Smith; Luna Bisonte Prods); SOLE DADAS & PRIME SWAY (Luna Bisonte Prods); OLVIDOS (Luna Bisonte Prods); SACARON NAVAJAS (Redfoxpress); AREÑAL (with Luis Bravo; Yaugurú); LA CHAIR DU CENOTE (Fidel Anthelme X); THE LUNCH THE GRAVEL (X-Ray Book Co.); BRAVÍSIMA RESEÑA (with Diana Magallón; Luna Bisonte Prods); TURNS IN A CLOUD (White Sky Books); YES IT IS (with Sheila E. Murphy; Luna Bisonte Prods); DE LA MEMORIA EL PEZ (with Lola López-Cózar; Luna Bisonte Prods); AMINIMA (with Richard Kostelanetz, Archae Editions); MIRRORS MÁSCARAS (Luna Bisonte Prods); VERTICAL SLEEP (Luna Bisonte Prods); SELECT POEMS (Poetry Hotel Press/Luna Bisonte Prods); THE WORLD OF BURNING (Luna Bisonte Prods), THE SWEATING LAKE (Luna Bisonte Prods), OLAS CURSIS (Luna Bisonte Prods), and SESOS EXTREMOS Luna Bisonte Prods). He has published, exhibited and performed his word art worldwide in thousands of publications and venues. He was editor and publisher of LOST AND FOUND TIMES (1975-2005), and was Founding Curator of the Avant Writing Collection at The Ohio State University Libraries. Richard Kostelanetz has called him “the seminal American poet of my generation”. His work, publications, and papers are collected in several major institutions, including Washington University (St. Louis), SUNY Buffalo, The Ohio State University, The Museum of Modern Art, and other major libraries. His PhD (UCLA 1970) is in Latin American Literature.

John M. Bennett

LUNA BISONTE PRODS, 137 Leland Ave., Columbus, OH 43214 USA

Phone: 614-846-4126, bennett.23@osu.edu, bennettjohnm@gmail.com

www.johnmbennett.net

http://library.osu.edu/sites/rarebooks/avantwriting/

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/lunabisonteprods

http://johnmbennettpoetry.blogspot.com/

The Interview

1. When and why did you begin to write poetry?

As a small child writing little notes before I knew how to write; it was a visual kind of writing. I had no idea it was “poetry”.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I have no idea. Maybe I invented it myself. It wasn’t until I was about 11 or 12 that I even knew there was such a thing as “poetry”.

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

Vaguely aware, but didn’t pay them no never mind. Now I am an older poet and dominate myself, most of the time. There are other poets, of all ages and times, who I enjoy reading and who are a joy to me.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

It changes every day; that is the routine.

5. What motivates you to write?

I have no idea. I HAVE to do it.

6. What is your work ethic?

Huh?

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

I have no idea. Their voices mumble around in pieces in my sur-consciousness.

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

Too many to name here. In addition, the list would change every day.

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

Get lost.

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

Too many to list; plus I don’t like to talk about what I’m doing until I’ve done it.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: David Clarke

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.

David Clarke

won the Michael Marks Award in 2013 for his pamphlet, Gaud (Flarestack), and was longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize for his collection Arc (Nine Arches Press, 2015). A further pamphlet, Scare Stories (V Press, 2017) was named a Poetry School book of the year. His second collection, The Europeans, was published in March 2019 by Nine Arches Press.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

Reading poetry! I chanced on a number of writers when I was in my teens, more or less by accident, and reading them made me want to write. They were people like Sylvia Plath, Thom Gunn, Philip Larkin, John Betjeman, R.S. Thomas – basically, the kind of poets that used to fill the shelves in provincial libraries in the 1980s. Having said that, after writing in my teens and early twenties, I then stopped writing at all until my late 30s. It took me that long to work out that I really did want to be a poet.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I think I basically did it myself. Poetry wasn’t taught much in school and nobody I knew read it. I do remember a cool young English teacher running a poetry writing group for a little while, but I’m afraid I never had a mentor.

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

Writing starts with imitation and we imitate the poets we love. In fact, I’m persuaded by Jan Wagner’s thesis (in his 2017 Poetry Society lecture) that imitation may be the source of original creativity. To paraphrase him badly, originality is failed imitation.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I have a day job that is already very demanding, so my daily routine revolves around that. Writing gets done in short bursts of two or three hours at weekends or on train journeys.

5. What motivates you to write?

Pleasure.

6. What is your work ethic?

As I said, I have another job that takes up a lot of my time. I find I need to focus my work ethic there and let poetry be something I do because I want to, not because I have to. If I intended to make a career of writing, that would have to change.

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

The people I admired then and still admire are the ones whose work has an unflinching quality to it. This is not to say they are heartless, but they have an honesty that refuses to look away from things that are uncomfortable. The German poet Gottfried Benn was someone I read in my early 20s and he remains an influence in that respect.

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

That changes all the time. At the moment, I’d say Sean O’Brien.

9. Why do you write?

Poetry is one of my ways to respond to the world, whether as a reader or a writer. Arguably, poetry is the last response the world needs now, and it would be far better to use my time doing something to help change the way things are. But I suppose that’s where vanity comes into it.

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

Read widely, share your work and learn to get the best from criticism, assuming you can find people generous enough to offer it. I’ve seen so many writers with the potential to create great poetry scuppered by their own inability to engage with constructive criticism.

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

My new poetry collection, The Europeans, was published Nine Arches Press in March 2019. It’s the result of two years of thinking and writing about what it means to be English and a European in the wake of the EU referendum campaign.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Kirsten Irving

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.

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Kirsten Irving

was born in Lincolnshire and lives and works in London. Her debut collection, Never Never Never Come Back was rereleased by Salt in 2018. In 2017, she published an online serial, Love Carcass, detailing an erotic affair with a beast. She won the 2011 and 2017 Live Canon International Poetry Prizes, and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and commended for the Forward Prize. Her poetry has been widely anthologised, translated into Russian and Spanish, and thrown out of a helicopter. http://www.kirstenirving.com @KoftheTriffids

NNNCB can be found at
Never Never Never Come Back
and Love Carcass at
http://lovecarcass.tumblr.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’ve written in various forms since I was little, but poetry has always been the best fit for me, suiting my scattered, distracted, treasure-hunting brain. I was lucky growing up in the 80s/90s, in that I had the luxury of being bored, without access to the internet until I was in my mid-teens. I read voraciously: poets I liked included Allan Ahlberg, Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl, but I devoured these alongside girls’ annuals from the 60s-80s, comics, fairytales, joke books, Victoria Wood scripts, music and cartoons. To discover later that I could integrate any of these things into poetry was pretty revelatory.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My parents kept poetry books in the house and were very encouraging, and my teachers taught poetry in primary school. My infants teacher put my poem on the door of the classroom and that was a huge deal to me. Later on – about 9 or 10 – we used to do handwriting exercises using a range of example poems – one would be The Eagle by Tennyson (which I still adore) and the next would be a poem by a 10-year-old boy about a dinosaur.

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

Early on, not so much. I just wrote and wrote in my own little bubble. It took until university before I felt even halfway daunted by famous poets. When I moved to London in 2006 after graduation, it was strange to meet people whose names you’d seen on books and have them just be normal people. The prize culture in poetry can be tiring and often it feels like the same names crop up again and again, which can be demotivating and intimidating. You have to keep recalibrating and remembering that you do this work because nobody does what you do.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I honestly don’t have one. My brain is like a browser with 50 tabs open at any one time. I keep reading and researching and then I write when I find some interesting stimulus. I have to write quickly, before the idea goes stale. Last year I tried to make myself write every day and I managed a fair amount, but this year I had to revert to my regular fragments – mental health glitches and life admin set me back somewhat. NaPoWriMo is my most productive period each year – writing 30 poems in a month usually turns up some gold among the pebbles.

5. What motivates you to write?

Fiction, non-fiction, folklore, visual art, anime, obsessions – anything except poetry. Poetry I like to read in one mode, but it doesn’t help me write – that’s a different mode altogether. I work part-time in a science library and that’s full of good reading on areas about which I know very little. I love a commission too – if someone sets me a writing challenge, I can rarely resist.

6. What is your work ethic?

I’m a freelance, so I’ve learned to turn up when I say I will, submit work on time, and communicate as well as I can. I believe in collaboration over competition (which doesn’t stop me experiencing as much professional jealousy as the next guy – maybe this is why I go to other artforms to feel motivated to write!) and that runs through to the books I publish with Jon through Sidekick. It’s all about artists coming together to create a whole – every contributor has their own patch.

Oh, and I’ve learned to listen. At least, it’s a work in progress (I get very enthusiastic and jabber), but one worth practising.

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

I actually got to read with Brian Patten, which was really cool! The writers I read when I was younger were quite weird and I love their sense of mischief. I do remember wanting to read out The Lesson by Roger McGough at Brownies (if you don’t know it, a fed-up teacher begins gunning down his students in a dark comedy) and my Dad (a teacher who found the poem hilarious) suggested it might not be a great idea. He was absolutely right, but that sense of comedic exaggerated violence and gallows-humour pops up now in my work all the time.

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

Mark Waldron’s work jumps into my skull and curls up there. When Mark performs, he holds the room with such a soft, compelling delivery, and his writing reflects that: it’s tender and intense and very strange – as if he’s sharing a bizarre scene he just witnessed, and asking you what you think. It’s very inviting, because it doesn’t feel like a pretence or persona – he really is that odd person who thinks about these scenarios, and that’s heartening.

Jon Stone, my co-editor at Sidekick, is a poet I trust wholeheartedly. He’s investigative, inventive and impish, and his brain is a font of interesting, boundary-blurring, flawed characters. He’s currently researching video games and poetry for his PhD, and has introduced me to so many stories and games that I’ve gone on to use in my own work. Jon’s work is by turns honest, playful, kind, acerbic and nimble.

Rebecca Wigmore is like my secret favourite band – the one I half-want the world to adore too, and half-want to keep to myself. The former instinct is winning here. She embraces technology in its joys and horrors, musical theatre, Louis Wain, stand-up and performance art. To give you a flavour of her style, she wrote a poem for our AI anthology No, Robot, No! on the algorithmic YouTube horrors of kids’ video Baby Shark. It was genuinely poignant.

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

I’ve always been a mild graphomaniac. Writing always came to me most naturally and I would hole up on family trips, filling notebook after notebook. I used to make comics for myself, but I was far too lazy to take drawing further and really get good at it. Writing is also the cheapest and most mobile form to work in, and I’ve always had access to the means to write, as opposed to the means to make films, photographs or games.

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

Read and watch and play as much as possible in as many fields as possible. Be curious. Submit to magazines, try new modes and forms, meet new people and make yourself do scary things. Don’t think of a book deal or competition win as the endgame. Support other artists whose work you admire. Make art because it feels right.

Practically, after a lot of trial and error, I’ve been lucky enough to get a part-time job that’s fairly self-contained and pays the rent, and I recommend this arrangement where possible. Part-time work allows you free time to write and explore while giving you some financial security. I also do freelance copywriting, editing and voiceover. This has been tremendously helpful for my finances, mental health and practical skills, not to mention my overall confidence in negotiating, saying no to bad ideas, exploitative offers or over-committing, and approaching new people.

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

I’m currently planning a sci-fi poetry collaboration with illustrator and live artist Renee O’Drobinak which is set in Japan after a major disaster. The survivors use the old folklore of youkai (demons) to try and make sense of the changed world around them. I’m planning to visit Japan later this year for research and am excitedly studying the language.

I’m also planning a second collection, and developing my Battle Royale live show, RUN, into a full performance, in collaboration with Cuckoo Bang Theatre Company.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Glen Wilson

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.

An Experience on the Tongue stacks-image-51d4405-794x1200

Glen Wilson
lives with his wife Rhonda and two children in Portadown, Co Armagh.  He is Worship Leader at St Mark’s Church of Ireland Portadown.  He studied English and Politics at Queens University Belfast and has a Post Grad Diploma in Journalism studies from the University of Ulster.
He was part of the Millennium Court Arts Centre Writers Group for over 5 years.
He has been widely published having work in The Honest Ulsterman, The Stony Thursday Book, Foliate Oak, Iota, the Interpreters House, Southword, The Ogham Stone, The Luxembourg Review, RAUM and The Incubator Journal amongst others.
In 2014 he won the Poetry Space competition and was shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize.
In 2015 he was shortlisted for the The Universal Human Rights Student Network (UHRSN) poetry award for his poem Show and Tell.

He was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2016 and The 2016 Wells Festival of Literature.

He won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2017 for his poem The Lotus Gait and the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award in 2018.

In 2018 He was shortlisted for the Mairtin Crawford Poetry Award and the Hungry Hill Poets Meet Politics Competition, Clodhorick Poetry Competition, Leeds Peace Poetry Prize, and was highly commended in the iYeats Poetry Competition.

In 2019 he won the Trim Poetry Competition, was shortlisted for the Strokestown international Poetry Competition, Doolin Writers Weekend and was highly commended in the Oliver Goldsmith Poetry Competition.

He has also been longlisted and commended in The National Poetry Competition, The Plough Prize, Segora Poetry Competition and the Welsh International Poetry Competition
His first collection of poetry ‘An Experience on the Tongue’ is available now with Doire Press.

 

http://www.doirepress.com
https://glenwilsonpoetry.wordpress.com/
Twitter @glenhswilson
glenhswilson@facebook.com

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’ve wanted to write ever since I was at Primary school and in poetry I found a form that to me offered both a succinct yet multi-layered way of writing, poetry has always felt like a natural fit.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My family are all voracious readers and we always had books from a wide range of genres in the house but I really focussed in on poetry in my last year of University when I took two creative writing modules in Poetry and prose with Glenn Patterson and Medbh McGuckian.

I learned a lot in that semester in particular and I feel that I bring a narrative element akin to short stories into my poetry. After university I became part of a writers group in the Millennium Courts Arts Centre in Portadown under Adrian Fox who I feel was responsible for challenging me to write better and better.  It was a great group of people who shared ideas and gave fantastic feedback.

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

Growing up in Northern Ireland I was always aware of Seamus Heaney and I love his work and we have a long history of great Irish poets, Yeats, Kavanagh, McMahon, Longley. However in recent years I have enjoyed finding out more about Irish woman writers who were underrepresented such as Eavan Boland and Edna O’Brien, there are a lot of great poets in recent years that are helping to redress this imbalance such as Moyra Donaldson, Breda wall Ryan, Amanda Bell, Annemarie Ní Churreáin and Jane Clarke.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I try to aim to write or edit a poem a day, I’ll often prepare a weekly list of things that need done in Life; music lessons Tuesday, pick up groceries etc. and include a section for writing goals. Sometimes I meet these targets sometimes not but it gives me a framework to work within, for instance if inspiration is running dry I try to switch to editing mode and look at some older poems I’m working on, I enjoy crafting poems so it doesn’t feel like a chore!

5. What motivates you to write?

I suppose I write as a search for meaning, writing helps me clarify my own thoughts even if it is fictional, poetry has a great capacity to crystallize difficult experiences and attempt to answer the hard questions of life.

6. What is your work ethic?

My work ethic is a balancing act, in many ways I’m very driven to write and it can be all-consuming but I try to leave time to rest and spend time with family and friends. I’m often struck by ideas, an overheard conversation, a startling image, a moving piece of music so in many ways I don’t switch off from being a writer.

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

I was always struck with a sense of wonder by Roald Dahl’s work when I was growing up and alongside the likes of C.S.Lewis and JRR Tolkien I still try to balance out a healthy cynicism with the wonder and optimism of childhood, sometimes it happens sometimes it doesn’t.

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

For poetry I really recommend Ron Carey who has two fantastic collections out, a great poet and a true gent, Colin Dardis who is a great encourager of poets as well as being a fantastic poet himself, Stephanie Conn whose work has such beauty and depth, Anne Casey for writing poems of such honest grace, Linda McKenna for her evocative description and for sheer ingenuity Stephen Sexton, recently shortlisted for the Forward Prize.  There are many others and I apologise for not mentioning more!

Outside of poetry I have enjoyed A Song of Ice and Fire by JRR Martin and the contrast with the HBO Game of Thrones has been interesting to follow, books always win out though!

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

I’ve always found writing the most natural way to deal with complex issues both in my personal life and also to make sense of the world around us, by nature I like to take my time and reflect and writing is really an extension of that.

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

I think if you genuinely have a passion to write your own stories or poems or whatever you are on the first step on that road. The next part is a willingness to learn and improve your writing, you need to read widely, put yourself up for critique and use what constructive feedback to improve your craft. Writing is largely an isolated pursuit so finding a writing group or friends who can give honest and helpful feedback whilst also encouraging you can accelerate the quality of your writing and help spur you on.

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

My debut collection An Experience on the Tongue is available now with Doire Press http://www.doirepress.com and I am also looking ahead to the next collection and also an EP of songs that I am working on for my Church.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Mary Mackey

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.

The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams by Mary Mackey

Mary Mackey

New York Times best-selling author Mary Mackey became a poet by running high fevers, tramping through tropical jungles, dodging machine gun fire, being caught in volcanic eruptions, swarmed by army ants, stalked by vampire bats, threatened by poisonous snakes, making catastrophic decisions with regard to men, and reading. She is the author of 14 novels, one of which made The New York Times bestseller list; and 8 collections of poetry including Sugar Zone, which won an 1012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence, and The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018, (https://www.amazon.com/Jaguars-That-Prowl-Our-Dreams/dp/0996991123/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1529199139&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Jaguars+that+prowl+our+dreams&dpID=51NetZ9HU5L&preST=_
SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch)which won a 2018 CIIS Women’s Spirituality Book Award and the 2019 Erich Hoffer Award for the Best Book Published by a Small Press. Mary’s poems have been praised by Maxine Hong Kingston, Wendell Berry, Jane Hirshfield, Marge Piercy, D. Nurkse, and Al Young for their beauty, precision, originality, lush energy, and extraordinary range. You can contact her at https://marymackey.com and hear her read 26 of the poems from Jaguars (including the ever-popular “L. Tells All”) at http://voetica.com/voetica.php?collection=5&poet=890

The Interview

1. When and why did you begin to write poetry?

I made up rhymes, songs, and  poems before I could read, but I first started writing poetry when I was eleven. That year, inspired by a geometry class, I composed a series of poems about the shapes of leaves—obtuse, congruent, angled, blown, and fluttering. I subsequently went on to write about 30 more poems on other topics, which I sewed into a small booklet dedicated to my parents. This booklet is now archived with my literary papers at Smith College.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I think I was about three or four years old when my parents began reading poems to me from A.A. Milne’s collection When We Were Very Young. I loved these poems, as did my brother and sister. All three of us can (and often do) quote lines from them. My favorite poem in the collection was “Disobedience,” which probably tells you something about my attitude toward life and poetry.

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

I was almost entirely unaware of the dominating presence of older poets for several reasons, most of which stem from the fact that I am female. At my college (Harvard) the Poetry Room, where all readings took place, was located in the Lamont Library (the undergraduate library) Women were forbidden to enter Lamont, so I never was able to hear any of the famous poets who came to Harvard including Allen Ginsberg.
Women were also not welcome in Harvard’s sole creative writing class. Entry was by competition. My junior year, I was the only woman at Harvard allowed to take Creative Writing, so it was me and nineteen male undergraduates. I had no mentors and no systematic education in contemporary poetry except the education I gave myself.
For many years, I felt left out and deprived, but as time has passed, I have begun  to see  that the exclusion on the basis of gender was actually a gift. If I had been mentored, allowed to enter Lamont and hear great poets read, and even allowed—as the men were–to have dinner with them, I would have probably been shaped into an academic poet who wrote – or at least tried to write—like the dominant older poets. Instead, excluded and ignored, I developed a style uniquely my own. I don’t write poetry that is like the poetry of most other poets. I write in my own voice, and I have Harvard’s official policy of discrimination against women to thank for that.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I write in the mornings when I am closest to my dreams. I rarely write for more than four or five hours at a time, because my energy tends to decrease as time passes. A poem can’t be forced into being. You need to be fresh, alert, and in touch with your conscious and unconscious, posed, as it were, on the threshold between imagination and craft.

5. What motivates you to write?

I have no idea. I simply enjoy it. I love words, love how they move through my mind and take on form and substance. I have no goal when I write except to create something I like, something that seems whole, perfect, lyrical, and coherent; yet at the same time something that trails into the unknown and the unspoken.

6. What is your work ethic?

Writing poetry isn’t work—at least not for me. It’s the highest form of play. I do it because I enjoy doing it. In other aspects of my life, I am, and always have been, hard-working, highly organized, and meticulous about the details of life and art.

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

The rhythms, metaphors, ideas, mystical experiences, flow and rhythm of the poems I have read remain somewhere in my mind like a subdued concert. I can call on the form of them, if not the content, when I am writing. I believe they give my work depth and solidity and connect me to the past and the world at large. The writers I read when I was young have served as constant inspiration and have motivated me to do things that have substantially influenced my own poetry. For example, When I was nineteen, I learned Spanish so I could read the poetry of Saint John of the Cross in the original. When I was twenty-three, I learned  Russian so I could read various Russian poets including Osip Mandlestam and Sergei Yesenin.
That said, fever and jungles (https://marshhawkpress.org/mary-mackey/) have influenced my poetry more than the work of other writers. On multiple occasions,  I have run fevers approaching 107 degrees. During these experiences, I have heard voices, had hallucinations, and seen the world in a way that I never see it when I am healthy—a veiled, strange, inexpressible world. For six years when I was in my twenties, I lived in the jungles of Central America in a remote biological field station. Later I spent time exploring the jungles of the Brazilian Amazon. Many of the mystical and surreal elements in my poems stem from these experiences. As a result, I am particularly drawn to the work of mystical poets like Blake, Mirabai, Rumi, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Basho. By the way, it’s interesting to note that Saint Theresa had her first mystical visions when she was in the throes of malaria.

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

I admire a wide range of contemporary writers, some famous, some not well-known. I am not going to name them, because that would exclude other writers equally worthy of admiration.

9. Why do you write?

I don’t know. When I was teaching graduate and undergraduate Creative Writing courses, I used to ask my students the same question. Often they said they wrote “to be published,” “to become famous,”  to be “real writers,” or (on more than one occasion) “to attract romantic partners.” But the best answer, the answer that I discovered marked writers who would have the persistence and talent to mature, develop, and keep on writing was: “I don’t know.” If you don’t know why you write, if you are willing to keep writing even though you never get a single poem published, if you would write for an audience of penguins if stranded in Antarctica, then you are a born writer. With luck, you will also have talent and will develop a mastery of your craft. But in any case, you will no more be able to stop writing than stop breathing.

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

I would say: “Write. Write. Write. Keep Writing. Teach yourself how to revise. Master your craft. Set high standards for yourself and your work. Don’t inflict rough drafts and unpolished material on your audience. Make your poetry more than autobiography, more than a sermon, more than a political tract. Make it beautiful, coherent, haunting. Connect to worlds seen and unseen. Read constantly. Know what is going on in the world around you. Develop empathy and compassion. Look into all the dark places in your heart. Ask yourself what you want to leave behind when you are dead. Take each poem as a gift and be grateful for it.”

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

At the moment I am writing the last novel in my Earthsong Trilogy and a series of new poems, some of which are centered around a modern version of the Greek prophet Cassandra. I believe Cassandra—who speaks the truth about the future, yet is never believed– is the perfect spokesperson for a world caught up in climate change and rushing headlong toward disaster.

Longer Biography

is Professor Emeritus of English and former Writer-in-Residence at California State University, Sacramento. Related through her father’s family to Mark Twain, she graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan.
Her published works include fourteen  novels: Immersion, Shameless Hussy Press, McCarthy’s List, Doubleday; The Last Warrior Queen, Putnam; A Grand Passion, Simon & Schuster; Season of Shadows, Bantam; The Kindness of Strangers, Simon & Schuster; The Village of Bones: Sabalah’s Tale, Lowenstein Associates.; The Year The Horses Came, Harper San Francisco; The Horses at the Gate, HarperSanFrancisco; The Fires of Spring, Penguin,  The Stand In, Kensington Books, Sweet Revenge, Kensington Books; The Notorious Mrs. Winston, Berkley Books; and The Widow’s War, Berkley Books. Her two comic novels, The Stand In and Sweet Revenge (Kensington), were written under her pen name “Kate Clemens.”
Mackey is also the author of eight volumes of poetry. Her current collection, The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1974 to 2018, recently won the 2019 Eric Hoffer Award for the Best Book Published by a Small Press and a California Institute of Integral Studies Women’s Spirituality Book Award. It was also chosen as a Finalist for the 2019 Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize. Her other collections of poetry include: Travelers With No Ticket Home; Sugar Zone, winner of the 2012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence and Finalist for the Northern California Book Reviewers Award in Poetry; Breaking The Fever; Split Ends; One Night Stand; Skin Deep, and The Dear Dance of Eros.
Mackey’s books have appeared on The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle bestseller lists, sold over a million and a half copies, and been translated into twelve foreign languages including Japanese, Russian, Hebrew, Greek, and Finnish. Her poems have been praised by Wendell Berry, Jane Hirshfield, Dennis Nurkse, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ron Hansen, Al Young, Dennis Schmitz, and Marge Piercy for their beauty, precision, originality, and extraordinary range. Besides winning numerous awards, her poetry has been featured four times on The Writer’s Almanac.
A screenwriter as well as a novelist and poet, Mackey has also sold feature-length screenplays to Warner Brothers as well as to independent film companies. John Korty directed the filming of her original award-winning screenplay Silence.
Mackey’s nonfiction, scholarly works, and memoirs have appeared in various journals and anthologies. She has reviewed books for The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, the  American Book Review, and a variety of other publications; has lectured at Harvard and the Smithsonian; and has contributed to such diverse print and on-line publications as The Chiron Review, Redbook, and Salon. A fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she is an active member of  the Children’s Literature Committee of the Northern California Book Awards, the National Book Critics Circle, The Authors Guild, and The Writers Guild of America, West.
After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, she moved to California to become Professor of English at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) where she became one of the founders of the CSUS Women’s Studies Program. She also founded the CSUS English Department Graduate Creative Writing Program along with poet Dennis Schmitz and novelist Richard Bankowsky. In 1978 she founded The Feminist Writers Guild with poets Adrienne Rich and Susan Griffin and novelist Valerie Miner. From 1989-1992, she served as President of the West Coast Branch of PEN American Center involving herself in PEN’s international defense of persecuted writers.
During her twenties, she lived in the rain forests of Costa Rica. Recently, she has been traveling to Brazil and incorporating her experiences in the tropical rainforests into her fiction and poetry. At present she lives in northern California with her husband Angus Wright, Emeritus Professor of Environmental studies. To learn more about her and her work, you are invited to visit her website at: https://www.marymackey.com and sign up for her quarterly newsletter at http://eepurl.com/CrLHT
Mary Mackey’s literary papers are archived in the Sophia Smith Special Collections Library, Smith College, Northampton, MA. Her collection of rare editions of small press poetry books authored by Northern California poets is archived in the Smith College Mortimer Rare Book Room.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Kushal Poddar

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.

Kushal Final Cover

Kushal Poddar

Edited the online magazine ‘Words Surfacing’.
Authored ‘The Circus Came To My Island’ (Spare Change Press, Ohio), “A Place For Your Ghost Animals” (Ripple Effect Publishing, Colorado Springs), “Understanding The Neighborhood” (BRP, Australia), “Scratches Within” (Barbara Maat, Florida), “Kleptomaniac’s Book of Unoriginal Poems”  (BRP, Australia) and “Eternity Restoration Project- Selected and New Poems” (Hawakal Publishers, India)

Author Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/KushalTheWriter/

Twitter- https://twitter.com/Kushalpoe

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

– I began writing at the age of six; hence it was mostly about what I read, or about summertime or even about my favourite sweets. Nowadays it is my skirmish with outer reality, society, about stoicism, my daily life, my wife, our love, my daemons etc.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

– I wish the answer were as simple as ‘my mother’, ‘school curriculum’ or ‘my uncle’. It is a mixture of them all and my curiosity. I found some poetry books in my uncle’s possession and although he would say “These you cannot understand” I went on to read those and comprehend those. They took me to an alternative reality. I realised- this is my calling.

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

– I shall not say, dominating. I shall say, inspiring. They even inspire to contradict themselves. If establishments were not present then anti-establishment was not needed.
I am grateful for the influence of O’Hara, Bishop, Ashbery, Simic, Wright, Strand, Hoagland and Doty on me.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

– I begin my day with toasted news and then further reading of books and even comic books. Reading usually sparks certain thoughts. Sometimes certain word someone used in his essay or in his fiction ignites a complete poem irrelevant to the actual reading I was meandering through.
Even a dialogue written for Batman’s Joker may have sparked a poem on the philosophy.
It happened that I am watching a movie with my wife and I had to pause it to write something. It comes urgently, and if I delay in penning down an emotion it wanes. I try to write at least one poem a day. It keeps my doctors at bay.

5. What motivates you to write?

– Nothing is too sacred to write; nothing is too low. Motivations are alive just like my mind. My old room that had a failed window was an inspiration to dark subjects. The park nearby and any body of water motivates me. A lone walk or a random conversation with any animal, injustice or an act of kindness all motivates me.

6. What is your work ethics?

– I believe that I bear the cross of writing my head out, every day, each excruciating one, and that I shall never write anything endorsing a communal violence or in favour of a religious or extremely right wing politics. I don’t write anything that will sound obscure to even a well read poetry lover. A part of any work of mine should have something for everyone.

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

– I learned rhyme, rhythm, meter and beats through reading. The writers I read framed a mind-set. I do sometimes break this frame but since I do it consciously their influence actually remains there.
From the critical essayists I learned restrain.
From the novelists I learned to open my experience. Anything is true when it is written well.

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

– Today is abstract. Amongst the living writers I admire Rae Armantrout for her clear brevity. Kevin Young and Ilya Kaminsky for their skills with the language and usage to do their wide ambit of subjects full justice. Aimee Nezhukumatathil or Melissa Studdard for their rich perspectives and metaphors.

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

– Other things, chores or jobs cage me, choke me. Writing is the key I drew from my birth pool that opens my existence.

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

– I am writing a book of poems rather experimental for me as well as a book of flash fictions. They may surprise my usual readers.