Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Yvonne Reddick

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.

Reddick_Cover_Web
Yvonne Reddick

is a poet, editor and scholar. Her work appears in newspapers and magazines such as The Guardian Review, Poetry Ireland Review and PN Review. She has received a Northern Writer’s Award (2016), the Mslexia magazine women’s poetry pamphlet prize (2017), a Hawthornden Fellowship (2017), a commendation in the National Poetry Competition, the Poetry Society’s inaugural Peggy Poole Award (2018), and first prize in Ambit’s poetry competition (2019). Her poetry pamphlet Spikenard is published in the Laureate’s Choice series. She is an editor at Magma and co-edited Issue 75 in 2019. Her latest book is Ted Hughes: Environmentalist and Ecopoet.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I was lucky enough to be surrounded by rhymes and stories when I was growing up – playground chants, school songs, tall tales. My parents read me Hiawatha, an epic poem, and The Hobbit, an epic containing plenty of poetry. I still have rhymes that I wrote while I was at primary school, complete with spelling mistakes!

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My English teacher at secondary school in Kuwait was a huge influence. She was wonderful. I can’t have been more than 9 or 10 when we read ‘The Early Purges’ by Seamus Heaney. It certainly made an impression on me! Much later, at university, Peter Manson and David Morley encouraged me to keep writing.

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

As a teenager, I was very aware of the authors anthologised in Alvarez’s The New Poetry. My father had a copy of the revised edition, brimming with notes in his schoolboy scrawl. The poetry wasn’t particularly ‘new’, and Plath and Sexton were long dead by the time I read the anthology. My Dad also had the facsimile edition of Eliot’s drafts of The Waste Land, in which Ezra Pound writes what every poet fears their mentor will tell them: ‘B—ll—s.’

The only truly contemporary poet I read in detail at school was Carol Ann Duffy. Mean Time manages to be both philosophical and devastatingly witty, and I expect that a generation of women poets have found Duffy’s work enabling.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I normally write on the TransPennine Express, from my workplace in Preston to my home in Manchester. I’m getting better at setting aside dedicated writing time, and often write in the evenings.

5. What motivates you to write?

I’ll usually get started with a line, a title or an idea. Sometimes it’s the momentum of a long sequence. I spend a long time redrafting, and will do so in meticulous detail. I begin to feel stressed and out of sorts if I go for too long without writing – being creative does wonders for my wellbeing.

6. What is your work ethic?

Protestant on Sundays and non-existent on holiday.

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

Richard Adams’s Watership Down has a lot to answer for. I read it at primary school, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting to read environmental writing. I published a book about Ted Hughes’s environmentalism two years ago, so The New Poetry can claim responsibility for a lasting interest!

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

That’s difficult, as there are so many I admire! Karen McCarthy Woolf’s collections are beautifully crafted – the balance between the personal and the universal is very carefully struck, and the formal devices she uses in Seasonal Disturbances have a virtuoso brilliance. Isabel Galleymore’s first collection contains highly distinctive environmental poetry, and I’ve just had the pleasure of reading her first academic book.

I always show my undergraduates work by Pascale Petit and Vahni Capildeo, who have remarkably perceptive ways of looking at animals. Sandeep Parmar and Fiona Benson interpret myths from fresh angles, making them stunningly contemporary – I like to share their poems with the students. When the undergraduates are studying the sonnet, they get Zaffar Kunial’s ‘The Lyric Eye’ and ‘The Swear Box’ by Michael Donaghy. I suppose the poetry I share with people is a good indicator of what I admire!

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

I’m terrible at drawing and I don’t know how to make films!

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

First, read as much of the good stuff as you can lay your hands on. Then, find a writing group, a writing course, or some friends who write. They’ll be able to give you feedback and keep you motivated. If you want to be a poet, start sending work out to magazines, build up a track record, then see if you can get a pamphlet out… then maybe a collection…

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

I’ve just finished editing Magma’s 75th issue, on the theme of loss. I received thousands – literally thousands – of excellent poems, and I’m helping Magma to arrange readings for the poets published in the issue. I’ve been running writing workshops for people who have been bereaved, and will start some new ones at Lancashire’s NHS Recovery College in January.
I’m slowly pulling my poems together into sequences, and am trying to work with longer, more experimental forms. Climate change, and my ancestors’ work in fossil fuel industries from coal to oil, are huge preoccupations for me at the moment.

Magma – Loss Issue:

Magma 75

Ted Hughes: Environmentalist and Ecopoet:
https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783319591766

A Sad Day: Rest in Peace Reuben Woolley, your voice will never be silenced; link to Paul Brookes interview with Reuben

THE POET BY DAY

U.K Poet, Reuben Whoolley U.K Poet, Reuben Woolley bares witness

December 2, 2019: In honor of a valued poet, this a reblog of this 2017 post on Reuben and HERE is the link to Paul Brookes’ interview. 

Reuben Woolley’s poetry is minimalist, sinuous on the page – or sometimes scattered like landmines waiting to explode. I find his work addictive and his latest book UntitledSkins (Hesterglock Pess, 2016) is going to be a gift to myself next month. Proceeds from sales go to CalAid.

Reuben’s poems, while exquisitely trimmed of all excess, are still rich with imagery and emotion.

Stylistically, I’m reminded of e.e.cummings.

Yes! I like the way he writes. More importantly, I’m glad Reuben chose to use his deft pen and kind heart to bring more awareness to the darkness in humanity, hanging our dirty laundry out to be seen and not denied. He tells the hard truth. If you are not devastated then you have grown numb to the…

View original post 467 more words

I am shocked and deeply saddened to report the death on 1st December of Reuben Woolley. In tribute I repost his interview with me a poem of his and links to reviews of his outstanding work. Through his amazing site I Am Not A Silent Poet he was a great promoter of poetry and its importance in the world. I will miss him dearly. Condolences to his family and friends. Added a link to his Youtube site that has many marvellous readings of his poetry.

https://thewombwellrainbow.com/2018/09/08/wombwell-rainbow-interviews-reuben-woolley/

https://thewombwellrainbow.com/2018/12/29/a-cold-soil-waiting-by-reuben-woolley/

https://thewombwellrainbow.com/2017/12/06/broken-stories-by-reuben-woolley/

https://thewombwellrainbow.com/2019/08/06/wombwell-rainbow-book-interviews-hall-of-several-tortures-by-reuben-woolley/

https://thewombwellrainbow.com/2018/01/27/excellent-artistry-in-words-and-pictures-for-holocaust-memorial-day/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb-7kQgRxuaDxINMCjMz2cg

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Dr. Kate Fox

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.

I politely asked her for permission to use the images and biography on her website but got no reply.

Dr. Kate Fox

 

The Interview

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

Being very young & liking the sounds of words & the patterns they could make.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My Mum read things like The Lady of Shallot out loud. She used the write light verse herself, though never mentioned it when she was alive. She wasn’t generally encouraging of what I did though as any praise was seen as encouraging you to get “too big for your boots”.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I don’t understand the question. When do you mean? I was introduced to poetry at about the age of 8…

4. I understand. To expand on the question what other older poets did your mum introduce to you, read aloud to you?

That one poem was it I think. Possibly some others in an old fashioned Household Compendium Book. Then I was given as gifts things like Kit Wright’s poems & AA Milne.

5. Poets often use the first poems they hear as models for their early work. How did this work for you?

Lots of playful rhyming poems…

4. How important is playing and experimenting with words to the work you do now?

It IS the work I do now

5. What is your daily writing routine?

It’s not always daily. I might have a gig or a workshop or a meeting. I tend to write in the afternoons once the admin’s been done, the dog walked & lunch eaten. The place where I get the most bubbling-up urge to just write something is often at a reading whilst hearing other poets. Not always the most practical place to actually write.

Other poets spoken images and words motivate you to write. What else motivates you?

6. The urge to say something I can’t say elsewhere. Anger, fear, confusion at a massive irony.

7. What do you mean by “massive irony”?

Usually a gap between rhetoric & reality. For example, the government talking about the country all being in austerity together but then there being much less money given to Northern councils.

8. Poetry as pointing out and emphasising these disparities in
society?

Exactly. Showing up the evasions and gaps in official or commercial discourse.

9. What poets you read when younger encouraged you to see the role of the poet as radical and campaigning?

Your question assumes there were some.

10. Or not. If there weren’t any that’s fine, too. Motivation can emerge from other areas of life too.

I’m quite interested in questions. I think all of your questions assume something. (That someone introduced me to poetry, that I knew about “dominating older” poets, that first models of poems influenced what I do now. etc).  Being asked a series of leading, assumptions questions like this reminds me that what I most value about poetry is the poetry that doesn’t assume things. That asks genuinely open questions. I’ve trained as a journalist, a counsellor and an ethnographer, so that open but active listening is important to me. My poetry doesn’t always do it but I’d like it to. If your questions are getting to get to what I think poetry is, it’s almost the opposite of your questions. It’s the rupture that is me getting a bit fed up with it and pointing it out to you. It’s the subsequent risk and release. And the freedom to say-you’ve taken up enough of my time now (a precious hour). I have other things to do. I love poetry’s brevity. How it doesn’t assume people have a whole hour to spare.

11. I apologise for wasting your hour, Kate.

It’s not a waste of an hour but I’m surprised you assumed I’d have so much time to spare at such short notice. Rather than a “flowing” chat, it’s been some leading questions, full of assumptions. The opposite of conversation or dialogue. But your questions really have sparked off my realisation about what poetry is to me. Happy for you to publish this. But now I have to go get ready to do a gig tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Barbara Hickson

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.

Barbara Hickson

Barbara Hickson

lives in Lancaster and has an MA (Distinction) in Poetry from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Her poems have appeared widely in magazines, anthologies and on-line journals, and been displayed beside the River Kent as part of 2018 Kendal Poetry Festival’s guerrilla poetry initiative. She has been placed and commended in several competitions including Magma Editors’ Choice (2015/16 and 2018/19) and The Plough Prize (2017).

In 2019 she had twelve poems published in a shared collection entitled Rugged Rocks Running Rascals – poems for complicated times, published by DragonSpawn Press.

She is involved with several poetry groups including the Brewery Poets, and acts as the main contact point for the Poetry Society’s Lancaster Stanza group.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I’ve always loved poetry and used to write poems as a teenager.  When I started work, poetry faded into the background until, in my thirties, I embarked on an OU Diploma in French.  In one of the modules, we studied poems by Paul Verlaine and Jacques Prévert.  I was hooked again!  I followed the Diploma with a full B.A. (Hons) degree in Literature during which we studied a wide range of poets, from the Romantics to the Beats, from Shakespeare to Okigbo.  I loved it, and when I’d completed the degree course, I started writing poems again.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Initially it was school teachers and university course tutors.   However, I remember that at Lancaster Litfest 2011, I paid up for a full day of poetry readings.  Kei Miller, Paul Batchelor, Jacob Polley, Helen Mort, Philip Gross and Jen Hadfield were reading.  I was so revved up by it all that when I saw an advertisement for the local Stanza Group, I contacted the rep, Elizabeth Burns, and asked if I could go along to the meetings.  Elizabeth replied encouragingly, and that’s when I really began to take my writing seriously.

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

Perhaps I did set poets such as Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin on a pedestal when I was younger, but throughout my Literature degree we studied a range of poets, so I wasn’t really aware of the older generation’s dominance.  Still, I suppose it wasn’t until I immersed myself in poetry and began attending workshops and readings that I discovered the vast array of excellent young poets out there.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I haven’t got a routine and don’t particularly want one.   However, I do find that writing first thing in the morning, or late at night seems to produce the best results, as does writing outdoors.  Going for a long walk on my own often leads to a poem, or the idea for one.

5. What motivates you to write?

All sorts of things: an idea, a startling image, a memory.  If I go through a period where I can’t write for some reason, I begin to get annoyed with myself.  Then something will flick a switch inside me and I’m away again.

I do find it difficult to ‘write to order’, though some of my poems have arisen from workshop ‘kicker lines’ or prompts.   I’m open to any stimulus that works!

6. What is your work ethic?

Whatever I do, I do it to the very best of my ability.   I set goals: short-term, medium-term and long-term.  And when I commit to something, I commit completely.

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

I’m not aware that they do.  I can still enjoy reading them, and recite some of John Betjeman’s poems off by heart, but I don’t feel their influence on the way I write.

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

The contemporary poets whose work I particularly admire include Jean Sprackland, John Glenday, Esther Morgan and Roselle Angwin.  There are countless others, of course, and much depends on my mood when I’m reading.  But those are the poets I keep going back to — the ones I re-read when I’m lacking inspiration and whose poetry puts me in the right frame of mind to start writing again.  I admire their clarity of thought and expression, their precise imagery, their lyricism. They write the sort of poems I wish I’d written!

9. Why do you write?

Writing poetry enriches my life.  Outwardly, I’m an outdoorsy, active person and writing provides balance: it’s creative and cathartic and offers a mode of expression that satisfies my inner self.  The need to write seems entirely natural to me.   I like the way carrying out research for poems leads me into new and interesting areas and teaches me things I didn’t know before.  And, as an added bonus, immersing myself in the poetry scene has opened up a whole new network of friends.

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

First of all, read widely.  Find poets whose work you love and analyse their poems.  Perhaps sign up for evening classes in Creative Writing then, as you gain confidence, start attending workshops and poetry readings.  Join your local Stanza group.  Above all, write!

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

In August 2019 ‘Rugged Rocks, Running Rascals – poems for complicated times’ was published by DragonSpawn Press.  It’s a shared collection with Gabriel Griffin and Bev Morris in which we each have twelve poems.  I’m keen to read at as many events as possible in order to promote it.

I’m also fine-tuning the manuscript of my own debut collection.  The portfolio module for my M.A. degree comprised a full poetry collection and my priority for 2020 is to seek a publisher for it.

Also on my to-do list for 2020 is the construction of a web site.  I’m not interested in blogging, but I can see the value of having my own web site, so that’s something that I’ll be exploring later next year.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Roger Stevens

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.

Roger Stevens

has published forty books for children. He is a National Poetry Day Ambassador, a founding member of the Able Writers scheme with Brian Moses and runs the award-winning website www.poetryzone.co.uk for children and teachers, which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary.  His book Apes to Zebras – an A to Z of shape poems (Bloomsbury) won the prestigious NSTB award. Recent books include I Am a Jigsaw; puzzling poems to baffle your brain (Bloomsbury); Moonstruck; an anthology of moon poems (Otter-Barry) and Be the Change; poems about sustainability (Macmillan). Roger spends his time between the Loire, in France, and Brighton, where he lives with his wife and a very shy dog called Jasper.

The Interview

1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

I can’t remember the first poem I wrote, but I was probably around 12 or 13. I was at secondary school. This would have been in the mid 1960s. I do remember making books of my poems. I would fill hard-covered exercise books with poems and then ask my cousin, who had a typewriter, to type out the best ones. At school we had two English teachers and I guess I was lucky as they were both brilliant. ‘Old Nick’, as we used to call him, looked stern and quite frightening with a shock of black hair, was a strict disciplinarian – woe betide anyone who answered him back – and taught us about classic and traditional poetry. We studied Shakespeare, Chaucer, Byron… he taught with a passion and made poetry exciting and understandable. ‘Flossie’ was more laid back. He was fun and interested in contemporary literature. It was in his lessons that I first met e. e .cummings, whom I still love. Later, the poems of Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri, published in The Mersey Sound in 1967, had a great influence on me. In a way they were Britain’s answer to America’s beat poets. They showed me that poems could be about anything – girlfriends, a visit to the chip shop, anything at all. Roger McGough is still one of my favourite poets. The other big influence in my teens was Bob Dylan. I was in a band (a beat group we called it back then) and he showed me that song lyrics could be so much more than rhymes about the moon and June. I always thought his lyrics were poetry, something recognised recently of course, by the Nobel Prize people.

1.1. Why do you still love e.e.cummings?

That’s a good question. I think I probably liked him as a teenager because I don’t think I’d ever read anything quite like him. I think it was his sheer audacity – writing WITHOUT USING CAPITAL LETTERS? Wow! Flossie also introduced the class to the novel Tristram Shandy by Laurence Stearn. Written in the mid 1700s – it was a novel way ahead of its time. As a teenager “experimental” writing, as I saw it then, was very appealing. After school I went to art college and became fascinated with all things avant garde. John Cage… the Fluxus school… and that was all reflected in my writing and poems at the time. None of which would be good enough to find a publisher now. And now, when I read ee cummings – it’s not just the cleverness of the style, the content means more too. Which, I guess, speaks to me as a grown-up.

1.2. What other poets do you like to read?

I write mainly for children, and so I read a lot of poetry written for children. My favourite is probably Roger McGough. He writes for children, of course, but also for adults. He writes poems that are accessible, that anyone can read. But that have so much more to them. He can do that thing where you read a poem and he tells you something that’s true – but that you’ve never thought of before. And you think – Ah yes! Of course. I love Billy Collins as well, for similar reasons. It’s a phrase you often see on the backs of poetry books – deceptively simple. But sums them both up. I like Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy… and for children’s writing Michael Rosen. I’m currently reading Stephen Dobyns, a poet that I’ve only just discovered. And enjoying his writing very much.

2. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t really have a daily routine. I keep a notebook with me at all times and write in that most days, whenever I think of something worth noting or see something that could inspire a poem. I have been known to wake up in the middle of the night to write in my notebook, too!  Now and again I’ll look back at my notes, dig out any ideas that still seem sensible and work at turning them into a poem or a piece of prose.

But usually writing comes in clusters, when I need to spend concentrated bouts on a particular project, for example if a publisher has commissioned a book from me. When I have a deadline ahead, I will set aside a few hours each day, usually in the mornings, to work exclusively on that book. My time won’t be spent only on writing, because projects often involve research. When Brian Moses and I wrote What Are We Fighting For? for Macmillan, it involved a lot of reading about the two world wars and researching the roles played by people and animals at home and abroad. For that book I spent several weeks working all day creating the 60 or so poems that were my contribution.

I am currently working on a ‘best of’ my poetry collection, but the poems for that are already written and so at the moment I spend an afternoon or two every week trying to choose the best hundred from the thousand or so poems that I’ve had published over the years.

I have two writing projects planned for next year. One is an autobiography which will document what life was like for me and my family in the 1950s onwards. I hope my grandchildren, grand nephews and nieces and those who come after them will find this interesting. I will probably self-publish this. I am also going to write an adult crime thriller, which I hope will interest a mainstream publisher. That definitely will involve a daily routine and I will probably sit down to write immediately after breakfast, take a short break for lunch and continue until mid afternoon. The joy of writing for a living is that you can create a routine that suits you – and you’re not tied to being in one place. I can write wherever I am and, in fact, when I’m working on a big project I find I like to be at our house in France, where distractions are fewer than in England, or even away from it all in our camper van, at home or abroad.

3. What was the motivation behind What Are We Fighting For?

Well, firstly I should explain that I have to write, or make music, or create art. I don’t why this is, but I do! So the main motivation for all my work comes from within. I have written novels and poetry since my teens and have always written songs and played in bands.

But in the late 1980s I had an idea for a children’s book, which proved commercially successful. It was published in 1993 by Penguin. That was The Howen. Another novel followed, Creeper, and writing for children seemed it could be a viable career. I was teaching at a primary school at the time.

It was not until poet Brian Moses visited my school that I thought about writing poems for children. His spirited performance and the workshop that he ran made me realise this was something I wanted to do. So I wrote some children’s poems, sent them to Brian and my first poem was published in an anthology, My First Has Gone Bonkers, in 1993. That was a good year for me. From then on I had lots of poems published in anthologies, I started visiting schools to perform and run workshops for children and teachers and in 2002 my first solo collection, I Did Not Eat the Goldfish, was published by Macmillan.

By then Brian and I had become good friends. We collaborated on a book which was published to coincide with the 2012 Olympic Games and then looked for another project we could share. The reason our Olympic Games book was so successful was because the Games were held in London and the whole sport thing was really topical. Publishers like to know there will be a market for a book.

We thought there would be a lot of publicity around the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War which we could utilise and our publisher thought so too. Thus, What Are We Fighting For? was born. But it would be wrong to say our motivation was just to cash in on an event. That might have been where the idea for the book came from, but the motivation behind the poems was to convey the evils of this war while acknowledging the bravery of those who were forced to fight in it. Brian and I both had grandparents and parents who’d fought in the two world wars. As children we were keenly aware of the fallout from these conflicts.

There are, of course, some brilliant poets who served in and wrote of both these wars, but their poems are not always easily accessible for children. So we were also motivated by the desire to show the futility of war in a way that children could understand. We wanted to write poems about sadness but with humour and which gave hope for the future. I think we managed it. This was a difficult book to write – to get the tone right – and I also needed to do a lot of research, much more than for most books of poems. It’s a book I’m very proud of.

4. What do you think is the difference between writing for adults and writing for children?

They are the same in so many ways because one writes for the same reasons, no matter what the audience – to communicate ideas. There are some obvious differences, of course: When writing for children I don’t use swear words, sexual or overly violent imagery. The main differences, however, are content and place. I remember being a child quite clearly. This helps, but I was young some while ago! A children’s writer needs to enter the world of children in order to know what matters to them, what will grab them, what will mean something to them. Visiting schools, having children and grandchildren, talking to children helps me keep up to date with the zeitgeist. I also place my writing in a world that is familiar to children. Of course, a poem can be set in a forest and that context can be understood by both adults and children. But a poem about an office, for example, would not work in the same way.  Poems can be set in places that are unfamiliar to children, but the situation has to be manipulated to be meaningful to a young audience. It’s common sense really. What a children’s writer does not have to do, despite a common misconception, is to over simplify the vocabulary used. Children are generally good with words and actually enjoy learning new words. Sometimes you need to keep the syntax straightforward but, in general, when writing for both children and adults the most important thing is that what you’ve written will resonate with those you’ve written it for!

5. Have you any tips or advice for anyone wanting to write children’s poetry?

When writing, remember what I’ve said about relating to children and their world. And always try out your work on a child who will give you honest criticism. If it’s poems you’re writing and you’d like to have them published, probably the best way to start is to submit them for inclusion in anthologies.  But do your research first and find out what the editors are looking for. This year, I compiled Moonstruck for Otter-Barry Books, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon-landing. I was sent a lot of poems, as you can imagine.  I am constantly amazed at how many poems seem to have no relation whatsoever to the brief. I had to discard quite a few that were nothing to do with the moon! I always strive for variety. So submit long poems, short poems; haiku, ballads, rhyming poems; silly poems, sad poems, serious poems. Lastly, as an anthologist I search for originality. I was sent lots of poems about the moon being made of cheese and quite a few about the moon being like a balloon – they didn’t make it into the book. I would also suggest that would-be children’s poets read some modern children’s poetry, to get a feel for what children read nowadays, and what publishers publish.

6. Do you write for adults then?

Yes I do. I’ve one adult poetry collection published as a book and two others are available as e-books. I also have a novel e-book and I’m working on a new book at the moment, which I hope will be published in 2020. Next year I’m planning to write a crime novel for adults. I am a musician and singer/songwriter as well as a writer and have three albums on Irregular Records and this year (2019) made a jazz album. I perform in acoustic venues and folk clubs.

7. Have you any more books for children planned?

Yes! Over the years, I have had three novels and 35 of my own poetry books published, some solo collections, some collaborations and some anthologies, and my poems have appeared in about 400 books. I sometimes think about slowing down, had seven books published in the last two years – The Waggiest Tails (Otter-Barry ) with Brian Moses, The Same Inside (Macmillan) with Liz Brownlee and Matt Goodfellow, the award-winning Apes to Zebras (Bloomsbury), a book of shape poems, with Liz Brownlee and Sue Hardy-Dawson and The Poetry Zone – A Celebration of 20 years of Children’s Poetry (Troika) in 2018 and I Am a Jigsaw (Bloomsbury), Moonstruck (Otter-Barry) and Be the Change, Poems to Help You Save the World (Macmillan) with Liz Brownlee and Matt Goodfellow in 2019. So slowing down seems to be just an idea at the moment! I have only two books for children scheduled for next year – my ‘best-of’ collection, which hasn’t yet found a title, and a book of poems about robots. And I will continue to run The Poetry Zone (www.poetryzone.co.uk) where children can publish their own poetry. The thing about being a poet is that it’s sometimes challenging and can take up all your time, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and fun. So I find it difficult to call it work. And I don’t really want to stop – ever!

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Sanjeev Sethi

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.

Sanjeev Sevi This Summer
Sanjeev Sethi

is published in over 25 countries. He has more than 1200 poems printed or posted in venues around the world. Wrappings in Bespoke, is Winner of Full Fat Collection Competition-Deux organized by the Hedgehog Poetry Press UK. It’s his fourth book. It will be issued in 2020. He lives in Mumbai, India.

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I was a lonely child and extremely sensitive. I recall the joy of reading poetry … whenever in my little mind I could make sense of poetic lines it would delight me no end.
I had this daybook where I used to indite. I have memories of my school magazine publishing my poems. As with a lot of poets I fell in love, or what I thought was love when I was thirteen or so. The bliss and baggage that comes with early love crept into my poems. I guess, there was enough inspiration in it.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

No one in particular. It were circumstances that pushed me to seek comfort in poetry. And it did balm me and still does.

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

I was a cantonment kid and in that milieu there are no markers. Each of us searched and stumbled upon for what gave us the jollies. Very early in life I realized poetry was my thing.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

About six years ago I began an intense creative phase which continues unabated. In this phase I’ve no life outside of writing. All of me is engaged in writing and its auxiliary activity. I’m at my desk for almost 15 hours. If this seems drudge-like, it is not. I am in it out of choice. I luxuriate in it.

5. What motivates you to write?

I see poetry as an extension of myself. I seek it in most settings. Poems are my response to stimuli. They help me make sense of my situation. I wrestle for nuance by wrenching words and woes. Some poems dip into my emotional deposits, others document the demotic. The attempt is to arrest a moment of truth in a tasteful manner. In short, poetry is my engagement with existence.

6. What is your work ethic?

For me inditing is a meditative stance, so I give it all I have.

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

Not in a direct way, not that I’m conscious of. The brain is a wok. We continue to pad it with all we peruse. I’m sure the churn must be creating something meaningful.

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

I have no favourites. I just read and read. A line here, an idea there, a beginning somewhere, a turn of phrase, a full poem sometimes, many poems by another. I keep flitting and flirting. I am not a loyalist. I am a slave of the poetic form, not of individuals who create it.

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

I think a poem of mine will answer this somewhat:

Tuneful

When legit poets and their legally wedded
wives ask, “What do you actually do?” I
sense their agita. I understand when others
segue this with pleasantries and puff. At my
age, I catch on, some I choose not to. This
helps with the horizons.

Sanjeev Sethi

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

If someone has the need or nerve to ask such a question, I wouldn’t take the question or the questioner seriously just give an inane, meaningless answer with a smile.

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

I have just won the Full Fat Collection Competition–Deux organised by The Hedgehog Poetry Press UK so my next book, Wrappings in Bespoke will be out in 2020. Other than that I have a full plate. I have been submitting poems through the slush pile but with close to 600 acceptances worldwide, I think I need to slow down and concentrate on publishing a book a year. This is the broad plan but who knows how it will pan out?

12. In anticipation of your new book let’s look at the previous one, This Summer and That Summer. What inspired it?

I guess I was ready for it. (Smiles). As you are aware a slim volume is a compilation of poems, I had a dekko at my file and chose 51 poems that spoke to me. A poetry book has a certain rhythm, a curve. I worked to get the correct meter. The aim was to include poems that were a departure from those in the earlier collections.

12.1. In what way were they a departure?

Stylistically speaking, in terms of language. One thing good about this form is that if one continues to evolve and hopefully I was, there is a richer texture to one’s response even on a familiar stretch. Life isn’t static. Each day has something new to offer. This Summer and That Summer captured that.

13. In Shangri-La you speak of “When words complete all incompletion”.  What did you mean by this?

Shangri-La, celebrates the art of poetry:  one advantage is that the fissures we create are filled up by poetry and its attendant virtues.

13.1. What “fissures” do we create?

To put it tersely, the aches of existence: they’re different for different people.

14.  Thank you for expanding my vocabulary. I had to look up words such as pourboire, accismus, cantonments, and maquillage. All contribute to the musicality of your poems. How important is it to you to use words not used in common parlance?

I am not on a mission mode, words fall into a poem. If to my mind and ears they flow, I let them pass. The test for me is workability. The poem must work. That’s all there is to it.

15. Final question, Sanjeev. Congratulations on winning the Hedgehog Full Fat Competition, due out next year. What inspired this new fourth collection?

Before I answer, I’ve to thank you for giving me this opportunity. I noticed your keen questioning and the interest with which you inquired about my work.

The answer is broadly the same as to what inspired, This Summer and That Summer or Nine Summers Later or Suddenly For Someone, my books before Wrappings in Bespoke.

Paul, once again, thank you for this platform.