Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Peter J. King

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.

Peter J. King

was active on the London poetry scene in the 1970s, running Tapocketa Press and co-editing words worth magazine with Alaric Sumner. Aside from a brief return to writing and publishing in the 1980s, and translating from modern Greek poetry with Andrea Christofidou, he abandoned poetry for philosophy until 2013, since when he has been writing, performing, and publishing frenetically.
His poetry, including translations from German and modern Greek, has been published in journals such as Acumen, Bare Fiction, The Curlew, Dream Catcher, Eye to the Telescope, The Interpreter’s House Lighthouse, New Walk, Osiris, Raum, Oxford Magazine, the Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore,
A Restricted View from Under the Hedge, Shoreline of Infinity, Tears in the Fence, and The Writers’ Café. His latest collections are Adding Colours to the Chameleon (2016, Wisdom’s Bottom Press) and All What Larkin (2017, Albion Beatnik Press). A second, expanded edition of the latter is scheduled to come out some time in 2019.

https://­wisdomsbottompress.wo­rdpress.com/

Peter J. King
wisdomsbottompress.wordpress.com

The Interview

When and why did you start writing poetry?

It was at school — probably when I was about sixteen or so. I can’t say why (it’s a fairly common thing to do at that age, or was then; perhaps less common to think in terms of people reading it, and to continue writing).

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

It’s hard to say; I have two sets of memories, but they’re not chronologically orderable. One is of my father’s books, and his encouraging me to read (not that I needed much encouragement!); the other is of what I encountered at school, both primary and (more significantly, I think) secondary.

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

The question assumes that there’s a dominating presence of which to be aware… I don’t feel dominated by other poets; I either enjoy what they write or I don’t. When I do (perhaps especially when I don’t), it might give me ideas for my own writing, or it might have no effect on me.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I’m not a creature of routine, except when it’s imposed upon me. In the dim, dead past (especially in the 1970s), I used to write a lot at night, often all through the night. That’s no longer possible, but I might write (or paint, or both) at any time that I feel like it. I do tend to like writing in public places such as cafés, restaurants, and trains — but that’s also irregular.

5. What motivates you to write?

I ought to be able to answer that, as my career (?) as a poet has a very useful shape: I was very active on the London poetry scene in the 1970s, centred on the Poetry Society and the Troubadour; I had what might be termed an emotional breakdown which stopped me writing for a few years, but I returned briefly in the early 1980s; academic work then took over, and I didn’t write again until 2013, since when I’ve been extremely active. So, given all that, shouldn’t I be able to say why I did or didn’t write during those different periods? Yet I can’t. I write because I enjoy it, both the process and the product. I’d write even if no-one but me was going to read it, but having other people read and hear my poetry is also a pleasure.

6. What is your work ethic?

I’m never wholly sure what that means. There’s the chilling notion of a Protestant Work Ethic, but having been brought up a Catholic (long lapsed) I’ve never suffered from that. Leaving aside an odd usage that uses “ethic” to gesture at a kind of self-absorbed concern with oneself, but taking it to mean some sort of set of moral principles, then I think that most work is demeaning and soul destroying, forced upon people as a necessary part of the capitalist system in which we’re imprisoned. That our current government thinks that it has a duty to force people into this demeaning activity (relabelled “dignity-providing”)­ by treating them badly until they give in, is appalling. On the other hand, as Flanders and Swan so elegantly put it:

Heat is work and work’s a curse
And all the heat in the universe
Is gonna cool down as it can’t increase
Then there’ll be no more work
And there’ll be perfect peace
(Really?)
Yeah, that’s entropy, man!

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

Another one that’s hard to answer. Leila Berg’s “Little Pete” stories have never left me, and my lifelong love of science fiction has had a big (and is currently having a huge) effect on my writing. Of all the poets whose work I read before the age of, say, nineteen (before I discovered “experimental” poetry, and came under the influence of Bob Cobbing, et al.), the ones that made the biggest impression were probably Rupert Brooke, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Paul Verlaine, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, E.E. Cummings, and Kenneth Patchen. They’ve probably all affected me in one way or another.

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

I love Sophie Herxheimer’s poetry — both on the page and in performance. Camilla Nelson and Amy McCauley have both produced poetry and performance that have really grabbed and excited me. Adnan al Sayegh, Ruba Abughaida, Wole Soyinka, Jenny Lewis, Jee Leong Koh… I’ll end up just listing all the poets whose poetryI’ve enjoyed. For the most part, I’m very reluctant to rank them in any way.

9. Why do you write?

I can’t really disentangle that from Q. 5 (“What motivates you to write?”).

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

You write. There’s nothing more. To be a good writer, you read (not just the same things over and over, but new things), enjoy what you read, and write a lot.

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

I don’t generally have projects, as such (I find the idea of “writing my next book” rather perplexing and alien to my understanding of poetry — more like what an academic writer does, or a novelist). I’m currently putting together a collection of poems that I’ve written over the decades inspired by and on themes of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and myth, and writing some new poems for that. I’m creating some new cut-up poems for the second, expanded edition of my “All What Larkin”, coming out next year from Albion Beatnik Press. I’m writing lots of other poems as they come to me, in all sorts of styles and on all sorts of themes. I’m filling in gaps in a sequence of seven-line poems on “Great Britain by Registration Numbers”, which I’ve been writing on and off for a couple of years. I’m also working intermittently on translations of the Greek poets Kavafis, Karyotakis, and Doros Loizou ( in collaboration with Andrea Christofidou) and the German poet Gustav Sack, and on reversionings of Rabindranath Tagore’s poems.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: John Greening

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_silence

John Greening

was born in London, studied at Swansea, Mannheim and Exeter, and after working for Hans Keller at BBC Radio 3, became a teacher, living in Egypt, Scotland, New Jersey and Cambridgeshire. Since Westerners (1982) there have been well over a dozen collections, notably To the War Poets (Carcanet, 2013), and several studies of poetry and poets. His Oxford edition of Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War appeared in 2015, as did his music anthology, Accompanied Voices: Poets on Composers. Subsequent publications include a major collaboration with Penelope Shuttle, Heath, a memoir of two years in Upper Egypt, Threading a Dream, a new edition of Geoffrey Grigson’s poetry, and the gift anthology Ten Poems about Sheds. The Silence appears from Carcanet in June 2019. He is a regular TLS reviewer and a judge of the Eric Gregory Awards. He has won the Bridport Prize, the TLS Centenary Prize and in 2008 received a Cholmondeley Award. He was until recently RLF Writing Fellow at Newnham College. He is married with two daughters.

Website: http://www.johngreening.co.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/john.greening.10
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GreeningPoet

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I suspect that the instinct to write poetry is in all of us at some level; but not everyone becomes as obsessed with it as poets do. The simple answer to what inspired me would be ‘reading other poets’, and that will have meant very early jingles like ‘What a clamour, what a fuss/Getting on and off the bus’ and some often surreal nursery rhymes (‘If all the world were paper…’), then ear-candy such as ‘The Jumblies’, and basically anything that entertained. I can remember now being given Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales by an aunt; it was a lovely pale, squarish hardback, with those slightly unnerving original line drawings. There must have been hymns that appealed too – the puzzle of ‘There is a green hill far away/Without a city wall’ (why would it have a wall anyway?) and ‘From Greenland’s Icy mountains’ (my sister and I liked to play at ‘Going to Greenland’).  But as to what stirred me to write…? Those Jumblies were surely behind a rollicking ballad I produced about ‘Jehoshaphat Jim and Jehoshaphat Joe’ when I was at primary school. I had my first ever good review when the headmistress invited me into her study to congratulate me.  Goodness knows where I found the word Jehoshaphat, but I clearly liked the noise it made, which is where poetry begins. But the first proper poem I wrote was actually about the Pyramids – long before I had any inkling that I would live two years in Upper Egypt, that my first collection would be entirely Egyptian in theme, that I would still be writing about it half a century later, culminating in my 2017 memoir, Threading a Dream: a Poet on the Nile*.  I felt early on that poetry was something I could do, that it was the closest I could come to composing music. I would very much like to have been granted that gift, music is so important to me.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

Perhaps it was my mother. She certainly helped me choose a poem when I had to learn one for a school competition:  ‘Ozymandias’  – yes, Egypt again. I can still recite it by heart. But my father was very fond of certain poets and poems. He adored Betjeman (being a 9-5 Ruislip Gardens man himself) and was never happier than with an anthology, Palgrave or Wavell usually. He would quote Leigh Hunt. But teachers played their part. One English teacher was fond of Louis MacNeice, and he’s a poet I still return to. It’s probably at school I came to know the First World War Poets. But we looked at some surprisingly contemporary work too. One of the first poems that really affected me was by the American, Howard Nemerov, his ‘Brainstorm’, which I found and copied out when I was perhaps fourteen. When in 1990 I attended the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo, USA , I actually heard and met Nemerov and was able to tell him this. He thought it rather a grim poem to have made such an impression on a boy. Meeting Jane, my future wife, when I was at university in Swansea, threw me headlong into Eliot, whose work I had somehow avoided. I learnt ‘The Waste Land’ off by heart in order to impress her.

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

I’m not sure that young readers even think of poets as alive, let alone dominatingly old. I naturally turned to the big names (male chiefly, I’m ashamed to admit), such as W.B.Yeats and Wallace Stevens. My first encounter with a Living Poet was when John Montague came and read at Swansea in 1974 . I had the sad task of writing Montague’s obituary for the Guardian in 2016. A bit later it was Ted Hughes I was most aware of: I even sent him some of my early poems and verse plays and he wrote back saying that he thought they were ‘the real thing’(one of his letters is in the Christopher Reid selection). He was always very encouraging, and whatever Hughes’s failings as a human being, one cannot lightly dismiss the kindness he showed to young writers. I’ve never felt hobbled by my elders. I’m of that generation that tends to look up to them and assume they have things to teach us. Perhaps that’s why I’ve spent so much time writing about and editing other poets. Some of those poets have themselves restored reputations. Edmund Blunden (whose Undertones of War I edited*) was responsible for the first selections of Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney, not to mention John Clare, whose manuscripts he found in a cupboard in Peterborough. I’ve just brought out an edition of verse by Geoffrey Grigson*, a man whose thumbs up or thumbs down could make or break a career. More often than not it was a thumbs down. Nevertheless, Grigson was an interesting poet and doesn’t deserve to be forgotten just because he was mean to those who didn’t impress him. Personally, I feel it’s important to encourage young poets, which is why I’ve been one of the Eric Gregory Award judges for the past ten years.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I tend to have spells of intense work, in which case I can find myself getting up ridiculously early or versifying late into the night, oblivious to the world around me. This happened with my recent ‘Huntingdonshire Codices’ (a group appeared in the last Poetry Review) which I began on Boxing Day 2017 and was still writing by 20th March, which was my 64th birthday. So I resolved to stop that day at 64 poems, knowing that I might find it difficult to start afresh. I do like a project – my chapbook, Knot (Worple 2013) was a planned operation produced at Hawthornden –  but that doesn’t always bring out the best work. The ideal thing is when a poem or even a book just drops into your head. When Penelope Shuttle and I were talking after I’d read at Falmouth, we found ourselves reminiscing about our childhoods around Heathrow, and the legends of that area. I laughingly said that we should collaborate on something… So a day or two after I went home to Cambridgeshire, I sent Penny three new poems. She replied with some of her own. After six months of  obsessive writing (and many emails) we had a 200-page book, Heath, which Nine Arches brought out in 2016.* It was the first time I had collaborated like that, and I think we both had fun. But it was entirely unexpected and all the better for it. So, routine? There is something of that. I was a teacher for many years, so it was a case of doing what I could when I could, but I try and write something every day. I do a lot of reviewing, chiefly for the TLS. Like Eliot, I believe that writing prose should go hand in hand with writing poetry.

5. What motivates you to write?

Do you remember that poem of Richard Wilbur’s, ‘To the Etruscan Poets’? It’s only six lines, but it’s enough to make anyone give up. The Etruscan language is long extinct, so the point is that its poetry cannot be read. It’s a state of affairs that will come to all cultures in the end. There are considerable advantages to writing in such an enduring and internationally known language as English, but perhaps not so many in actually being an English Poet. Just as Seferis and Ritsos and Elytis always felt the ancient Greek poets at their back, so we can’t escape our own poetic heritage. We were born into an archive, and it’s guarded by… well, talk about dominating presences! I don’t think any poet considers posterity when writing, though it’s occasionally worth asking yourself how much what you write is going to date. Grigson complained about Robert Lowell’s work that it was full of terminology that would soon be incomprehensible. It’s rather like when you watch a film and the kind of computer or phone instantly gives the period away. What’s the poetic equivalent of the telephone in a film?  Edmund Blunden maybe had the right idea when he decided to write in much the same way as a poet would have done in the eighteenth century. The equivalent of a film where there are no telephones.  Read MacNeice and you’re back with the antique Bakelite in the hall.  I suspect that a good few of  us today (not only the young) will quickly find themselves sounding quaint for all the allusions to smartphones and apps.

6. What is your work ethic?

Once I get going I stick at it. But for most of the time I’m like the Scholar Gypsy, waiting for ‘the spark from heaven’.

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

Yes, it’s interesting how tastes change. I seem to remember W.H.Auden saying something like ‘I can no longer read Rilke’, and there are poets who don’t cast the same magic now. In some cases we’re back with the question of ‘best before’ dates. I wonder whether Ted Hughes will end up becoming a marginal figure like … I don’t know, Thomas Beddoes, perhaps, or George Darley.  I think Philip Larkin, many of whose poems are in my head, will survive the decades, and there will always be certain techniques and tonal slants that I can attribute to him in my own work. I got to know High Windows entirely from his recording of the poems which I had with me when I was studying in Germany. When I eventually saw them on the page I was amazed at the formal ingenuity, the subtle rhyme-schemes. There are poets who speak for their age, whose nuances have lost their impact. But it only needs one poem to end up in the anthologies. I don’t think I’ve written an ‘Innisfree’ or an ‘Adlestrop’ yet. Edward Thomas is still one of my favourite poets, perhaps the most widely influential of all the War Poets, stylistically at least. I still return to T.S.Eliot, especially Four Quartets, which has long been a touchstone, and Louis MacNeice, who holds up well, despite the ‘thirties trappings. Wordsworth is lodged deep inside me and is unlikely to go away, and the same is true of  Marvell, and the much neglected William Cowper. Yeats was important to me in my late teens, and I recently read right through a new edition of his Collected (I was on a retreat on Achill Island, so it seemed appropriate). Since he always adopted a lofty tone (‘the rag-and-bone shop’ claim is a diversion) he has weathered better than many of his more colloquial contemporaries. Heaney I could not do without, although it’s a while since I read him in bulk (one of the most memorable days of my life was meeting the great man at Little Gidding). Being something of a pastoral writer myself, I have to make sure I don’t become too Heaneyesque. There are days when only Derek Walcott will do. Among foreign poets, I return regularly to George Seferis, admiring the way he can draw mythology into his personal preoccupations, and certain Germans such as Peter Huchel. Tomas Tranströmer too, though I came to know him later. Being of a certain age, there are women poets whose work simply didn’t come my way, although I was always drawn to Marianne Moore – perhaps less so to Bishop, much as I admire her. But Penelope Shuttle’s work I got to know early on (which is why it was such a thrill to collaborate with her) and Kathleen Raine has long been important to me. Nowadays there may well be more women poets than men that I read. I couldn’t do without Denise Levertov, Eavan Boland, Louise Glück…

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

Where to start? With those women mentioned above – they are fixed points.  I admire those who have stuck at it, too, whether I like their work or not, and especially if they have produced a lot. There’s something about a mighty Collected that inspires confidence (see Glück, Levertov and Boland).  The very prolific Charles Tomlinson was a considerable influence in the 80s and 90s, perhaps less so now, as was Iain Crichton Smith. I went through a potent Lowell phase, a C.H.Sisson phase. Living in America drew me to A.R.Ammons and James Merrill. But these poets are all dead now so don’t count as ‘today’s’. Of course, I’m always delighted to read the latest from the poets I know personally such as Penny Shuttle or (the one I see most often) Stuart Henson. Stuart and I regularly show each other new work, and we hope to publish a selection of our occasional ‘postcard’ sonnets in 2020.  The real test, I suppose, is whether you feel you need to buy a copy of a living poet’s latest book – be it by Fleur Adcock, Gillian Allnutt, Alison Brackenbury, John Clegg, John F.Deane, Elaine Feinstein, Mimi Khalvati, John Matthias, Esther Morgan, David Morley, Andrew Motion, Les Murray, Anne Stevenson, Rebecca Watts or several dozen others. I wish I could buy another by my dear late friend Dennis O’Driscoll. Anthony Thwaite was right when he wrote that ‘we are too many’, but there’s something to be said for an embarrassment of riches.

9. Why do you write?

Alexander Pope asked himself the same question, and came up with one of his best poems (‘Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot’). I suppose if I could stop, I would. Nemerov used to answer that question by saying it was to ‘get something right in the language’, which I like.

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

I would say: don’t worry about becoming a writer. Just learn to write. And how you do that is by reading as much as you can. Then when you do write, make sure you cut out all that you dare. As Brahms said, it’s the notes that fall under the table that make the symphony. You probably have to write for Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours before something really decent begins to emerge. I’m not sure I’ve quite got there yet.

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

I’m always afraid of that question because it makes me feel as if I should be working on something, rather than just waiting. I do believe that producing poetry is largely a question of making yourself ready to ‘receive’, remaining alert, tuning in: if you find the right wavelength, things will happen, image will connect with image.  There may even be something in common with prayer. I’m very interested in spirituality and have more time than most people for the ‘silly’ side of Yeats (my wife belongs to the Society for Psychical Research, and I’ve attended the odd event). I wrote a piece on Poetry and Coincidence recently for the RLF where I talk fairly lightheartedly about the mysterious connections that poetry makes*. I have just finished a long poem about the British Empire, which was one of those that took me unawares, but I’m currently in thrall to no special theme. At Hawthornden last year I became very preoccupied with trees and Nicholas Ferrar, eventually writing a long poem, ‘The Giddings’, which combined the two. Then came the ‘Codices’, which were the fourth in a series of  long-lined ‘local’ poems which I began in the 1980s. One day I hope to bring out the entire ‘Huntingdonshire Quartet’. Anyhow, I shall be leaving Hunts and going to the USA next month to do some readings and to talk about Edmund Blunden, so maybe some poems will come out of that. Travelling is quite good for prompting poems. I have a few possible publishing projects in the offing. I’m also about to begin the editing of my 2019 Carcanet collection, The Silence which features (along with much more, including a few of those ‘psychic’ pieces) a long poem about the composer Jean Sibelius. It’s essentially a study of the tensions within any creative process, and how the artist handles them. I keep coming back to musical themes, and I may write a prose book on the relationship between poetry and music.

*Books and articles mentioned above:
Threading a Dream:  http://www.gatehousepress.com/shop/collections/threading-a-dream/ )
Blunden’s Undertones of War:  https://global.oup.com/academic/product/undertones-of-war-9780198716617?cc=gb&lang=en& ]
Geoffrey Grigson, Selected Poems: http://www.greenex.co.uk/ge_record_detail.asp?ID=177
Heath (with Penelope Shuttle) http://ninearchespress.com/shop.html#!/~/search/keyword=Heath&offset=0&sort=relevance
‘Only Connect’ – RLF essay: https://www.rlf.org.uk/showcase/only-connect/

The Silence (June 2019): https://www.carcanet.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=9781784107475 ]

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jenn Zed

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.

 

 

Image collaboration with Jordan Trethewey Ars Technica…second one called the Witch of Lower Cornwall .. 

Jenn Zed

My name is Jenn and I make stuff.

hehe

The Interview

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

Pretty late, I guess .. in my early 20’s .. I always admire writers and writing but never felt I had much talent for it

I started writing more as an exercise in trying to organise and define my own ideas that came out of reading other people .. philosophers, idealists, and so on .. but also as a daily exercise in trying to hone some attempt at writing poetry.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My ex .. Hannah .. she introduced me to a lot of literature I may not have otherwise sought out. I tend to let things come to me rather than go looking for them .. I have enough of my own ideas to be going on with .. but, when a writer or artist comes to my attention I usually absorb as much of them as I can if I find them interesting.
3. How aware are you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

Well, quite aware, but mostly through other writers, their inspirations and stylistic muses .. for myself, I have my own influences though I have spent quite a few years removing myself from any influence through literature in order to try to find my own voice, in my writing .. like stopping reading any publication by any major or minor name in the genre for over 15 years .. I’m not sure I consider myself a writer or poet, so I can take a step outside of any ‘presence’ dominating or otherwise.

For example .. the most influential poet who helped me shape and find my poetic voice is an unknown poet by the name of 9. But, the English Poet Billy Childish would be the other main and published, overall influence to style and poetic voice.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I have none .. no routine for writing, not any more .. I have a pen or pencil and notebook always at hand and scribble down ideas as and when they come to me.

5. What motivates you to write?

I need to create.

6. What’s your work ethic?

For my personal art and writing, I am chaotic .. I make for the creative need to create .. I have no real vision beyond that .. I need to create, it is the only true meaning I can make any sense of.

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

Barely. I feel so far removed from any writer I read when I was young .. though, they remain important to me.

7.1 Important. In what way?

Well, for example .. Mary Shelley shaped the idea that women are able to write about complex scientific ideas within a philosophical narrative that explores the human condition, who we are, how our decisions define us. Angela Carter extended this into a feminist structure that broke conventions of what was considered ‘normal’ .. and then William S. Burroughs showed me that the traditional novel / writing can be deconstructed into any new form you wanted it to become .. these were seminal moments in my personal education on ‘what is art’ when considering literature.

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

To be honest, I couldn’t name a single contemporary writer. My self-imposed exile from the world of literature continues .. with one exception .. Stieg Larsson, he of ‘The Girl’ series .. and I admire him as a man who not only explored the inherent violence towards women in ‘the patriarchy’ but also managed to write such a complex and complete female character that does not easily fit into a generalised and easy to define type.

There are a lot of writers who I met through the two websites ‘Poetry Circle’ and ‘Open Arts Forum’ who I admire greatly .. to many to list, really .. but, people like Lavonne Westbrooks, Jordan Trethewey, Dan Flore III, Roger Fenton, Maggie Flanagan-Wilkie, Paul Brookes, Wren Tuatha, Trish Saunders, Maria Mazzenga, Starr Sarabia, Tom Riordan, Ton Romus, Ron Androla, Marc Woodward, Jay Gandhi, Mary McCarthy, Michael Ashley .. and many, many other writers showed me a very vibrant community of creative and thoughtful people which I felt very privileged to be part of.

9. Why do you write?

For the same reason as I make any art .. because I must .. it’s a steam valve. Without it, I may not have been able to explore ideas to the degree I have.

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

Heh .. the great question. How isn’t as important as the why, in my opinion .. but, how is only done by the doing. To learn one must do, the act itself becomes the idea, from there things like style and technique are learned as one evolves in the art.

11. And finally, Jenn, tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

None at all! I have about 5 notebooks worth of scribbles that I may try to shape into some short form poems that I will turn into ‘visual poems’ .. other than that, I continue to collaborate with Jordan Tretheway on our SyncWorld series .. but, I also have upcoming visual art collaborations with people such as Ian Badcoe (Bodkin) and Wren Tuatha .. my personal philosophy toward my own art is ‘Artist without Vision, and even less Ambition’ .. so, I tend not to think very far beyond the next few pieces I have on the go right now .. and then I move on from those, onto the next thing, and so on .. always moving forward.

Image collaboration with Jordan Trethewey called the Witch of Lower Cornwall ..second one .. called Ars Technica

 

 

 

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Anthony Etherin

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.

9781999870201

Anthony Etherin

is an experimental formalist poet. He founded Penteract Press and he invented the aelindrome. Find him on Twitter, @Anthony_Etherin, and via his website: anthonyetherin.wordpress.com.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I started with music. Throughout my teens and early twenties, I played in a number of bands—bass guitar, lead guitar, and some reluctant singing. I was always writing songs. Academically, however, I was more focussed on the sciences. I studied Physics at university, leaning heavily towards the mathematical side of things.

It was only after graduating, and when the bands I played in fell apart (for various artistic and geographical reasons), that I started to write poetry. It immediately appealed to both the musician and the scientist in me. It felt, to some extent, the perfect meeting point of these two mindsets: a place where melody meets reason. Since then, I’ve tried to write with this complementarity in mind, applying various rules and procedures to words, but always with an ear on rhythm and euphony.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My parents were both teachers—my father Chemistry, my mother English/primary. Both read widely. The house was full of books, which gave me plenty of opportunity to discover poetry for myself. Also, I listened to a lot of music, growing up, and there was a natural progression from reading song lyric to reaching for poetry books.

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

I never saw it as a drawback. I’m not one to think that new ideas, styles and paradigms require the destruction of older ones. The more poetry (old or new), the better.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a fixed routine, but I make sure to write something every day.

5. What motivates you to write?

Simply: I enjoy it. I enjoy the challenge, and I enjoy the thrill of making things.

6. What is your work ethic?

I sit down to write, and I don’t get up until there’s a complete poem there—even if the poem’s going to need extensive editing, later. I have an ability to concentrate for long periods, and I hate leaving drafts incomplete. So, I’ll work intently, for long, unbroken stretches—sometimes up to eight hours, without taking a break…. (Of course, when it’s time to stop, relax and unwind, I like to do that properly too.)

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

The first poets I took a strong interest in were the romantics (British and beyond—I read a lot of Poe), and I can still detect their influence in a lot of my poems, particularly in my more pastoral or gothic pieces. Their mark is there rhythmically, too.

Also, the influence of the music I listened to as a teenager remains: I was into the punk scene, and I still have a strong DIY ethic, particularly with my small press, Penteract Press. (Plug: PenteractPress.com).

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

I admire anyone willing to dedicate time to writing and promoting poetry. It requires resilience! I’ve enjoyed the company of nearly all the poets I’ve met. A poet is a mad thing to be, and we are all united by this odd feeling that what we’re doing is entirely pointless, and yet somehow the most important thing in the world. I’ve made a lot of friends, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people, as both poet and publisher.

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

I’d tell them to write what they want to write, and not what they feel will earn them praise; but I’d also warn them that “writing from the heart”, as advice, only goes so far. Every style of writing has an associated set of techniques and tricks, and these will need learning. So, be suspicious of anyone who tells you to write poetry with complete freedom, and be prepared to work very hard….

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

I am currently compiling a small chapbook of short poems, which I have been asked to put together by a small press. I’m also still promoting my recent collection of short anagrammatic and palindromic poems, “Cellar” (https://penteractpress.com/store/cellar-anthony-etherin).

Other than that, I continue to publish leaflets and books, via Penteract Press, and to explore short-form constrained poetry via my Twitter feed and Patreon account (both …/Anthony_Etherin).

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jake St. John

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.

JSJ Book[119348]

Jake St. John

writes out of New London, CT and is the author of several collections of poetry including Workingman’s Odyssey (Analog Submission Press, 2018), In All The Cities The Same Faces (CWP Collective, 2017) and Rotations (Night Ballet Press 2015). His poems have appeared in print and online journals around the world. He can be found wandering the streets of Coyote Territory in SoHo, New London.

Book Links:

In All the Cities the Same Faces
https://www.cwpcollectivepress.com/bookstore-1/in-all-the-cities-the-same-faces-by-jake-st-john

Rotations

http://nightballetpress.blogspot.com/2015/01/our-world-is-spinning-with-rotations-by.html

20150120_165958
Our World Is Spinning with ROTATIONS by Jake St. John!
nightballetpress.blogspot.com
NightBallet Press is an independent small press, interested in the musicality of language and the originality of expression in poetry, with a commitment to excellence.

The Interview

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I was writing song lyrics all the way back in high school.  There was a group of us that would write down lyrics together.  As I got older, Jim Morrison’s lyrics and poetry really grabbed me.  Bob Dylan too.  It all kind of started in college when I spent the day out in the woods reading a Morrison biography.  There were references to On The Road and so I went down to the used bookstore and grabbed a copy.  That’s how I found Kerouac, through Jim Morrison. From there it was all the Beats.  Kerouac, Snyder, Baraka.  I was reading everything I could get my hands on.  I loved the way Kerouac wrote.  I’d never seen anything like it.  All these poets and writers opened my eyes wide.  I started to really see the world.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I kind of found it on my own.  I got turned on to The Doors when I was pretty young.  Watching the Lost Boys movie, which featured a Doors cover of Riders On The Storm.  That pushed me toward The Doors and I discovered Jim Morrison.  Morrison’s words and poetry was something I was drawn to.  It was different, he was different.  Like I said, Jim’s words introduced me to Jack’s words which brought me down the highway.

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

I wasn’t really aware of the poetry world until I met Tom Weigel in New London back in 2004.  We met at a Sunday afternoon reading in the winter.  Tom became my mentor and my friend.  He put books of poetry in my hands at the right time.  He turned me on to Ted Berrigan, Pete Spence, Tom Clark, Bob Kaufman.  Tom introduced to me to Joel Daily in New Orleans and Dick Martin in Boston, Through Tom, I met John Landry, who has stayed a friend and mentor still.  Once I met Tom I was introduced to this world of poetry and poets that just keeps growing.  When it comes to older poets, Tom was the single greatest presence in relation to my poetry.  He pointed me in the right directions.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I try to write a few lines every day.  It’s tough some days to get real work completed. I have two kids, a family.  I might get 3 lines down one night and the next I might get 3 poems finished.  I try to use the time I have appropriately and make the most of it when I get it.  If I’m unable to write, then I read.

5. What motivates you to write?

My motivation is getting the voices that are reciting poetry in my head to stop.  There’s a poetry reading that happens at any time.  Out of the blue.  Driving down the highway, mowing the lawn, taking a walk.  They just start.  They’re recited over and over in my head until I can get them on paper.  I write them as I hear them then I go to work editing and revising until the image is what I hear in my head.  With each poem I feel like I’ve learned something, discovered something new, connected in some way.

6. What is your work ethic?

I try to do something poetry related every day, even if that means reading a book.  When I get stuck and I’m not hearing the words, I’ll grab a book of poems and start reading and soon that poetry reading in my head starts and the words are bouncing around.  Tom Weigel always told me, “If you want to WRITE good poetry you need to READ good poetry.”  That’s the best advice that I’ve ever received when it comes to poetry. I just finished reading John D. Robinson’s new book Echoes Of Diablo (Concrete Meant Press, 2018).  That’s a book everyone should read.  It just tore me up.  Every poem, perfect.  Really moved me.

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

I still go back to all the writers of my youth.  I’m always grabbing a Kerouac book or Gary Snyder.  Kerouac’s Dharma Bums puts me in a different world. Makes me want to get back into the woods.  Snyder’s RipRap & the Cold Mountain Poems makes me want to get back into the mountains. I never go anywhere without a book by AD Winans.  I got a copy of his North Beach Poems Revisited years back and it just changed the way I saw poetry.  Winans wrote the kind of poetry I had been looking for.  From Winans I found out about Jack Micheline. I reread Great Gatsby often.  I was in my thirties when I really discovered Bukowski.  I stayed away for years (Tom’s advice) until I was pulled in and just fell in love with his novels.  I feel like you need to reread your influences every few years and see how they speak to you.  Sometimes it’s the same message and sometimes you discover something new even though you’ve read it multiple times.

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

There are so many great writers out there.  Right now I have Adrian Manning, John Greiner, Victor Clevenger, John Dorsey, Todd Cirillo and Ryan Flanagan books in my heavy rotation.  Flanagan is just prolific, it’s tough to keep up with him, he’s always got something new out.  It’s great to see.  Makes me want to write more and more to keep up.  I just really dig how those guys play with language.  There is a familiarity in their works that pull you in and make you feel part of the poem.

9. Why do you write?

I write because I have to.  Like I said before I have to write to get the words out of my head.  They will stay there reciting over and over until I get them on the page.  And when the voices come they come with a whole set.  I end up with 3 or 4 poems at a time when I’m really listening.

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

I don’t know.  I guess to me, you either are a writer or you’re not.  It’s an innate thing.

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

I haven’t made any official announcement yet but I have my first full-length poetry collection, Lost City Highway, with the editor now.  I’m real stoked for this book.  It’s about 10-15 years of poetry in one collection. Jon Dambacher for A Jabber Publication is putting it out.  Really captures my time living in New London and travelling America on the back roads.  I’ll be making an official announcement soon.  I’m really looking forward to getting this book out.  Another book I am real proud of is In All The Cities The Same Faces.  CWP Press put that out last year and it’s still available from the publisher.

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Alan Catlin

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.

51CPOcMZ3FL._AC_US500_QL65_

Alan Catlin

has been writing and publishing for the better part of five decades and hopes to survive long enough to make it six decades.  He has published dozens of books and chapbooks on a wide variety of topics including books such as “The Schenectady Chainsaw massacre”, “Alien Nation” and “Last Man Standing” based on his work as a barman.  His ekphrastic based arty books include ”The Effects of Sunlight on Fog”, “Our Lady of the Shipwrecks”, “Stop Making Sense”, “Self-Portrait of the Artist Afraid of His Self-Portrait” and “Three Farmers on the Way to a Dance”.  He has won a number of contests  such as the 2017 Slipstream Chapbooks Award for “Blue Velvet” and evil twin of “Hollyweird” He is finishing the eighth book in the series of movie poems now.  His quasi ekphrastic books include “American Odyssey” and “Wild beauty” He is working on a final draft of the concluding volume to be titles “Asylum Garden” He has written a memoir “Books of the Dead “ and novella “From the Waters of Oblivion.

He is the poetry editor of misfitmagazine.net

The Interview

  1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

There is so much to say and no other way to say it.

2.  Who introduced you to poetry?

I cannot remember a time without poetry so we were never properly introduced, we just always knew each other . I was an early reader. I read everything. I still do. Poetry is what moves me most.

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

Extremely aware. That is what course work in poetry is all about.  Reading your predecessors, older then newer one. Then your contemporaries.

4. What is your writing routine?

I don’t have one. I used to write a poem a day which I did for three and half years and then my father died. It was impossible to do for some time after that (in 2004). Never resumed the practice. Now I write as projects evolve, stimulus inspires.  The world turns.

5.  What motivates you to write?

Without writing there is nothing.  It is what being is all about. The soul of matter. I can’t imagine not writing.  You don’t give up writing, writing gives you up. Or you die.

6. What is your work ethic?

I am generally considered prolific.  Whereas I do not write everyday now, once I am  involved in a project I can write dozens of poems at a sitting.  Have done, not so much anymore, as I don’t have the mental energy I once had.  I would say obsessive might cover my work ethic, though driven works also. I can’t stop, and won’t do so until the project feels finished. it’s why I don’t write novels.

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

Intimately. I can look back at poems from years ago and I can recall exactly what I reading then, as something from the reading has crept into the work,  subconsciously, or more overtly, as a quote or reference.

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

I admire writers who are intellectually honest, are willing to take risks, transcend borders and eschew bullshit. They know who they are.

9. Why do you write?

It is in the blood.

10.  What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
You have to work at it. Learn from your mistakes, read , read, read and read some more. What have other people been doing, what do they avoid, how can I learn to make the kind of positive decisions they do. Revise.  Rewrite.  And work harder.  Ask questions. Never give up.

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

I generally have several ongoing projects. The longest one right now is a series of dark noir poems based on movies that has a working title of Hollyweird. They are social commentary disguised as pictures on a moving screen. I guess you can consider that a natural extension of another project called Alien Nation which were political and social commentary disguised as bar poems.  Yes, there are aliens among us, Trump proved it and continues to prove it daily. We must not let them take over our culture. It’s like the movie “The Mysterians” when the general said we can’t give them an inch and they will take a mile.  Boy, was he ever right.  In the end the good guys prevail as they generally do in all those low budget sci fi movies form 50’s and early 60’s but that does not mean solutions always happen for the best . I’m also at work on a quasi-ekphrastic series of poems based on artworks of both high and low culture concentrating on photography.

 

 

 

Window Rainbow Interviews: Sarah James/Leavesley

Window 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.

Sarah James/Leavesley

(http://sarah-james.co.uk) is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Author of seven poetry titles, two novellas and a touring poetry-play, she’s been published by the Guardian, Financial Times and in the Blackpool Illuminations. Sarah runs The Poetry Society’s Worcestershire Stanza and V. Press poetry and flash fiction imprint (http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.com/). 2018 books: Always Another Twist (Mantle Lane Press) and How to Grow Matches (Against The Grain Press).

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

Feeling intense beauty and emotions with little time (because of work or my children) to really feel or write about them in anything but the briefest snatches.

“To write songs of flight in italics
against grey skies, and dig out

the worms that dirt hides. To carry dawn
home in my silky down, spread light

across fields and town, then balance
stillness in the winter’s stark trees.”

(From ‘Fierce Love’, The Magnetic Diaries, Knives Forks And Spoons Press, 2015, collection highly commended in the Forward Prizes)

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My mum, church, school. Poetry of one sort or another, with or without the overt music of nursery rhymes or hymns, has always been all around me. William Blake’s work, especially ‘The Tyger’(https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43687/the-tyger), resonates particularly strongly in my memory from childhood – finding its way out later in some of my poems.

“I am the tiger. Stripes alight, my bright
eyes burn two holes in the night as I blaze
fearful forests with my gaze; search my self
for the slightest trace of symmetry.”

(From ‘Welcome to the Zoo’, Into the Yell,(http://www.circaidygregory.co.uk/intotheyell.htm) Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010, third prize in International Rubery Book Awards 2011)

But I think I’ve also made a fair few references to T.S. Eliot’s poems too in my own work over the years, as well as many other writers.

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

I’m very aware of presence and influence – it’s there in everything I read (and all I experience). But I wouldn’t describe it as dominating. It’s just there, and it’s natural that it should be there. It can be indirectly useful to me, as in re-reading Ted Hughes’s ‘Thistles’ (https://www.faber.co.uk/blog/thistles/)many times while writing ‘Endurance’ for plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press, 2015), (http://ninearchespress.com/publications/poetry-collections/plenty-fish.html) where:

“Stubborn roots draw up strength
from the land’s glacial inheritance…”

Or it can be the spring-board for a more explicitly direct response, as in ‘From His Uncoy Mistress, 2016’, where:

“Your words rise up to meet me
at the most awkward times –
now poised on a crest of surf
ready to claim the perfect wave;
only my own body to hold in balance…”

(From ‘From his Uncoy Mistress, 2016, How to Grow Matches, Against The Grain Press, 2018, shortlisted in International Rubery Book Awards 2018)

These words referred to are actually the ex-lover’s in the narrative. But the poem itself is a response to Andrew Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’. Taken on their own, my first two lines above could also apply to the writing influence process. Personally, I tend to find others’ great writing mostly inspires me to try harder, craft better, strive for something differently striking. I guess one particularly slightly daunting figure for me though, as a woman who’s written a lot, but not exclusively, on themes of womanhood, depression and mental illness is Sylvia Plath. In this case, her presence is maybe a counter-force rather than my wanting to follow in her footsteps. Her writing is totally unique. I’d aspire to that level of uniqueness more than Plath’s style.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a strict routine as such. There’s always too much to do for the time available, so I have prioritising systems to ease both writing and general workflow. For example, I use personal, competition and submission deadlines to focus me and make me edit. I became a reviewer for Riggwelter to allow me to prioritise some reading above other jobs. I’ve also learned the hard way to listen to my own energy levels and fit different tasks to the right time/mood, rather than battle to get something done immediately when I’m in the wrong frame of mind. What takes five hours at the wrong time can take 5 minutes in the right headspace. This is particularly true for me on a long tiring day when going to bed is likely to mean I can power away first thing the next morning rather than try to get something finished that night, fail and then wake up still exhausted. One thing I have to have in my daily routine is exercise, preferably outdoors, to balance my energy levels, generate ‘feel-good’ hormones, get a sense of greater perspective and also so my subconscious can pace out editing problems in a way that keeps the words in rhythm. I guess this might all reduce down to a guiding writing mantra that’s somewhere between the following:

“With me, without me, the clock’s hands pierce crimson wormholes…”

(From ‘Blue’, Be[yond], Knives Forks And Spoons Press, 2013)

“Rain presses its rhythms into earth skin;
our heartbeats glisten.”

(From ‘Laptop TV’, Hearth, Mothers Milk Books, 2015)

5. What motivates you to write?

Intense beauty, emotion or wonder. Trying to understand or capture something important through snapshots in words, such as:

Raindrop on a Red Leaf

His hand cupping a spider, wrist trembling;
a thin branch in the wind,

or the lurch of lungs and stomach when a plane
takes off and the world sinks away,

or the first bead of bone clearly conceived
from that scan’s black smudge.

Suspension of time itself, the moment’s
gasp of skin and lips,

when the whole future balances
on the wet leaves of two tongues.”

(From plenty-fish, Nine Arches Press, 2015, shortlisted in International Rubery Book Awards 2016)

I guess also part of this may be trying to hold onto, or guard against forgetting, important moments in life.

“Ada thinks of Babcia and what it must be
to live with no past, just a flickering now
traced in fragments on an unstill surface.

“Even the things she’d will to forget
are part of her heart’s pulse.”

(Lampshades & Glass Rivers, part XIV, Loughborough University, 2016, Overton Poetry Prize Winner 2015)

The analogy of authors in some ways being like gods in terms of their creations is one that’s been used a lot. But I think authors’ power isn’t without a darker, more devilish, side (as suggested maybe by my quoted lines in answer to the second question above). Also, when I start a new piece of writing, I often feel the inspiration and characters are as much in control of me as vice versa. Control returns to my hands more in the editing stage.

6. What is your work ethic?

“I am the cochineal beetle who bleeds
ink willingly. I’d grind my own body
to find the answers; spell them out in red
while the cactus quill spears me as I write.”

(From ‘Welcome to the Zoo’, Into the Yell, Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010, third prize in International Rubery Book Awards 2011)

Work hard, then work harder? Try, try and try again? I’ve been diabetic from the age of 6, so I have a strong striving cycle built into me, with a need to prove something – that I’m not faulty despite the disability, that I won’t be stopped from doing things because of the diabetes… Of course, in reality, my life isn’t the same as someone without diabetes, never could be. But the same is true of lots of conditions and circumstances. Overall, I get satisfaction from a job well done, and I am someone who bores easily, so I like to always be doing something. I’ve learned with age that balance and down-time are an important part of work, both for recharging energy and also because some procrastination gives creativity space to happen, allowing ideas to arise from the subconscious. These days, I try to adapt ‘work hard’ to ‘work smart’, and then smarter!

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

All of them. I think everything I’ve experienced is part of my life and part of me in some way. Traces of this thread through this interview. One author I’ve not mentioned and ought to in terms of my fiction is Jane Austen. As a child, I felt her novels were all very similar in terms of plot but I absolutely loved her free indirect speech style. Her influence is there in many of my third-person flashes, but also my two short companion novellas from Mantle Lane Press: Kaleidoscope (2017) and Always Another Twist (2018).

“Claire stares at her life – a painted brick box, 8ft by 10ft. It’s small but at least it means she can shut out the world, almost pretend she isn’t there. Instead, she’s on a palm-tree beach, the sun on her face, a cocktail in her hand, warmth beneath her bare feet. Or she’s staring out over a clam blue ocean: seals are soft, curved and shiny on the rocks, dolphins arc through the air, spray falls in rainbows. If she’s lucky, there’s a baby in her arms. And if she’s not? Well, she’s still somewhere else, anywhere but here…” (Kaleidoscope)

“Betrayal always has a name, Julie sees that now. This name as familiar as a best friend’s or partner’s. But, once betrayal has a name: Lucy, it also has a face that can be made to cry, a heart that will bleed.
“After discovering what her boss, Lucy, has been up to, Julie’s a cauldron of anger and frustration…” (Always Another Twist)

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

I tend to admire writing rather than writers, and I don’t hierarch them. I have eclectic reading tastes, so what I like and admire most differs a lot, depending on what reading or writing ‘zone’ I happen to be in at any given time. All my collections have poems written ‘after’ or referencing other writers – across a broad range including contemporary writers like Lyn Hejinian, to name just one. At the moment, I’m finding a lot of writing inspiration and admiration outdoors, in nature and from poets like Lorine Niedecker, Gillian Allnutt, Mark Goodwin…

Too Modest

after Lorine Niedecker

Lone ‘plover’:
contents shaped
from marsh mud & Rock banks

That anon can
thru which cut
lines shine

A rhythm river trimmed
with reeds,
silver fish & light slivers

(From plenty-fish, Nine Arches Press, 2015, shortlisted in International Rubery Book Awards 2016)

When I won second prize and a commended in the 2018 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, it was an even greater delight because Mark Doty and Carol Rumens were judges.
I was also very lucky to have Michael Symmons Roberts and Jean Sprackland as portfolio supervisors on my masters – amazing to get feedback and advice from two poets whose work I really admire.

Of course, for every writer I might mention here, there are x others I’d have unintentionally missed off. There’s a lot of great and inspiring poetry out there!

9. Why do you write?

Because I can’t not write. Writing doesn’t feel like a conscious choice, more something that’s part of me, so happens whether I want to do it or not. I love the creative and inspiration part of the process but editing is a mixture of delight (when the metalwork starts to gleam) and frustration (when it refuses to shine no matter how hard I polish). On top of language’s inexactness and the almost impossible act of balancing rhythm, sound, imagery, meaning (some compromise somewhere nearly always has to be made), being a published writer comes with other anxieties. These worries include how the work will be received, if my writing actually achieves anything, if I should be doing something more useful…to the point sometimes of:

“I’ve stopped writing poetry because…

my children have eaten all the pens,
the mouse won’t click right,
my smart screen has frozen,
and the keyboard ‘e’ keeeeeps sticking;”

Full poem on Amaryllis Poetry here.

Of course, this circles right back round to the start of my answer. Though I often feel like not writing, it’s so much part of me that however long this feeling may last, I’m more likely to end up writing about this feeling than actually definitively stop writing! And this is another of the infinite number of true answers I could give to this question – a desire to create something of beauty or meaning, even out of pain, maybe especially out of pain.

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

Make sure that you’ve got loads of mice and your children don’t eat pens! The problem with advice is that it’s often too generic, not individual. I’d say that for myself I didn’t become a writer, writing has always been in me. In terms of working as a writer or becoming published, there are lots of website, journals and books out there that might help (such as How to be a Poet, Nine Arches Press). I’d also suggest interacting with other readers and writers, find out what’s worked (and not worked) for them, then decide what might work for you.

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

I’ve two potential poetry collections and two pamphlets that I keep tinkering with now and then but haven’t done anything with yet. I also have a memoir that was longlisted in the New Welsh Writing Awards, which I’m not sure where to go next with. A lot of my time is currently taken up running V. Press poetry and flash fiction imprint though, which means my personal slots of creativity are quite short, so more at the level of individual poems or flashes.

Another thing that I’ve become increasingly interested in in our highly social mediaed world is combining poetry and photography. Two of my own haiku-influenced ‘photo-poems’ can be found below. But I also recently started an online journal to open this up to other writers. In LitWorld2, I combine others’ short poems or 100-word flashes with my photos to create Pic Pocket a Poem or Snap Up a Flash images which can be used by the writer and are shared through Instagram and other social media, as well as on the journal.

Thank you, Paul, for such thought-provoking questions!
Thank you, Paul, for such thought-provoking

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Sonja Benskin Mesher

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following poets, 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.

 

31pzq3w1tNL._AC_US500_QL65_

Sonja Benskin Mesher

Sonja lives in Dolgellau, North Wales. She is an Academician of the Royal Cambrian Academy. And has worked full-time as an artist since 1999. She explores different ways to communicate thoughts and concerns.

The Interview

by no means finished; let the conversation continue…..
1. What were the circumstances under which you began to write poetry?

i  was asked to support a blog site and the response was that what I wrote was verse

I thought

so be it.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

not sure, possibly school with the rhyming gallopy stuff,like

‘the road was a ribbon of moonlight’

which

made pictures in my head

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

not at all aware

4. What is your daily writing routine?

no real routine, that may be an issue

i write when it comes

daily

mostly
5. What motivates you to write?

those  things around me, things are said, overheard and remembered

history, news

writing

it means the dust will not settle, and each small thing has importance. it gives me voice

with
a rhythm of sounds, words and all feelings

I find that when I cannot draw it, photograph it I can at least describe it

layer it
i started writing

a long time back, in my head. I started writing it on paper, perhaps 10 years now

6. Why do you write poetry?

to commemorate the times, and happenings, to let the secrets  free

7. i like glyn hughes.

8. i think you asked what advice I have for others…..

just do it really, keep doing it

your own way.

there really are no rules ( think on this)

Sonja Benskin Mesher RCA UA

information-

http://www.sonja-benskin-mesher.com
/http://sonjabenskinmesher.wordpress.com/diary/

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Scarlett Ward

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.

Scarlett Ward

is a 25 year old Poet, Witch and snail mama working from staffordshire, UK. She has had poetry featured in anthologies and literature journals from presses such such as Verve Poetry, Hedgehog Press and Fly On The Wall Publishing.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

My mom brought me up with stories of unicorns and fairies and it meant I always had a very romantic magical imagination. As I got older I used my writing as a way to process my emotions, deal with life around me and react to the universe I live in.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I remember the first poem I ever fell in love with was The Highway Man by Alfred Noyes when I was around 10. It was so tragically romantic it just broke my little heart. It’s still one of my favourite poems of all time! I can’t remember my teacher’s name but she sparked a love affair with poetry!

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

The term “older” is tricky. I am quite a young poet at 25, and there are a lot of older people within the literature world purely because they have worked at it for longer because they have existed for longer. There is a really great representation of younger poets in Birmingham, with many youthful poetry evenings targeted at younger demographics. I don’t particularly think that the presence of older poets is domineering or in any way a bad thing though, I accept all the help I can from more experienced people!

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Whilst I do make time to write I don’t think I have so much of a routine. I don’t treat it as a chore, I make sure I allow myself time to write before work and when I get free time on evenings, but my phone is filled with notes I’ve written because I’ve thought of something on the go.

5. What motivates you to write?
Whenever I read poetry that I really connect with, I feel that gut-wrenching soul ache, or I feel like I’ve been seen in a crowd, as though I’ve been recognised and I’m not alone. The idea that I can have that kind of affect on people through my writing is what drives me.

6. What is your work ethic?

The more you write the more you write. ALSO The more you read the more you write! If you’re feeling writers block the best medicine is to read!

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

When I was younger I used to read a lot of easily-consumable poetry like Michael Faudet and Rupi Kaur. I think that was a great doorway into the world of poetry, and it definitely still influences me in that I feel poetry should have a bold statement to it, but I felt as I matured I learned to be patient with my poems and take more time to expand on points.

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

I really adore Cheryl Pois’ “Oysterlight” because it contains some of the most gently beautiful imagery I have come across in a long time. I have read that book over and over, lent it to girlfriends, screenshott’ed pages to send to my mom, all sorts. I really admire the way she writes such powerful poetry using such soft language. Reading her book is like being bowled over by a butterfly wing. She is also such a lovely person!

(I deleted Q9 I felt it was covered in Q5)

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

Just write. Hone your craft. Read as much as you can. Join writing workshops where you can discuss your work and get feedback. Go to poetry nights and make like-minded friends; that’s half the fun!

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

I’m currently working on my manuscript for my own collection. I love to make little art/poetry zines by hand which I sell on my etsy shop and I also make small trinkets like bookmarks, lockets and frames. I’m going to apply for the Staffordshire Laureateship in 2019 too so it’s going to be a busy year!

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Kristin Garth

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.

WnIuMdPB

A collection of front cover images of her books heads Kristin’s website.

Kristin Garth

is a Pushcart & Best of the Net nominated sonnet stalker.  Her poetry has stalked magazines like Glass, Yes, Five:2: One, Anti-Heroin Chic, Former Cactus, Occulum, Luna Luna, & many more.  She has a chapbook Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), three forthcoming: Pensacola Girls (Bone & Ink Press, Sept 2018) and Shakespeare for Sociopaths (The Hedgehog Poetry Press Jan 2019), Puritan U (Rhythm & Bones Lit March 2019) Her full length, Candy Cigarette, is forthcoming April 2019 (The Hedgehog Poetry Press). Follow her on Twitter:  (
@lolaandjolie), her weekly poetry column (https://www.rhythmnbone.com/sonnetarium)
rhythmnbone.com/sonnetarium) and her website (http://kristingarth.wordpress.com)
kristingarth.wordpress.com).

The Interview

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

I started writing poetry when I was a little girl, free verse.  It was mostly to deal with abuse issues and a traumatic homelife.  I wrote my first sonnet as a high school assignment.  In college I continued doing that and got a partial creative writing scholarship based on them.  I dropped out of grad school to establish my financial independence and became a stripper.  Even in that milieu I wrote some sonnets.  I’ve always married modern themes with the form.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I read poetry as a child from the childish stuff Silverstein to Poe.  They had a huge effect on me but the biggest influence was a poet from the Ozarks who came to speak at my school.  He was the first living poet I met.  He read from his book, and he was from a small town like me.Even as a child I think I associated poetry as a thing people from big places did — professors and such.  It was when i realized someone from a small place could be charismatic and own a room.

2.1 When did you realise you could own a room?

I don’t think I have realized that reading in person.  I know I haven’t because I have never successfully done it.  In grad school, we were forced to do it but I couldn’t make it through my poem.  And I dropped out so I never won that battle.

I only recently started recording audios of poems. I love that, and people seem to enjoy them.  At first I was terrified and thought my voice was too babyish and quiet and not professional.  I’ve learned though there is a power in all of that.

I recently got asked to be the voice of Rhythm & Bones Lit Which records their editor’s picks of the best pieces in the magazine.  I will be recording those.  It’s crazy to me to think only a year ago I was battling my insecurity about my voice and now I’m being asked to read other people’s work.  Maybe I will conquer the public readings one day too.

 

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

Well as a girl who writes Shakespearean sonnets primarily, I am totally dominated in a sense by a 400 year old poet.  I try to follow his form though I’m a rebel and I play loosely at times.  It obviously doesn’t bother me to have buses and influences.  I feel like my content is a beast and it requires a time-tested, solid cage.  The cage frees me so I can release my rage and passion.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Right now I’m at a Starbucks with earphones in.  I just finished a sonnet and sent it to a magazine that was expecting it.  Since it was one I wrote from an alternate POV, I sent it to a couple of female poet friends I respect to read it.  Sometimes I do that when I feel out of my comfort zone or unsure.

I write every day.  I was attempting for the first time in two years to take a week off of writing.  I just finished a chapbook on my sexual assault at a Christian college, and it was grueling.  It’s called Puritan U, and it is being published by Rhythm  & Bones Lit in March next year.  It is an important but grueling book.  And it’s my fourth solo chapbook in two years, so even for a Capricorn I though I earned a break.  I made it two whole days, and here I am back in the Starbucks, doing the thing.

5. What motivates your writing?

I am definitely motivated by my own need to extricate a poison from my body.  I write about traumas, power imbalances I have experienced or seen that shaped me.  I carry these things inside like burdens, and the physical act of putting them on paper is like an exorcism of a darkness — or at least a layer of it.

As a person who was abused, who was expected to keep secrets, to keep up appearances, owning the ugliness of life and experience is extremely empowering to me.  Putting my name to a piece of paper telling a shameful story, it says I am in a whole different world than I was as a child.  The first poem I published was a fetish poem, for example, and it’s the only one I ever used an alias because I lived at home.  I was not safe.  The act of writing provocative things and owning them is such a celebration of the free state of my soul these days.

6. What is your work ethic?

My work ethic is pretty intense.  I’m a Capricorn, and work is intrinsic to our nature.  One of my best writing friends Tianna Hansen who is the editor of Rhythm & Bones is a Capricorn too, and it’s why her magazine is such a force of nature.  Capricorns live to work.  When we take breaks, it is only for the sake of the work.

I had to have this pep talk with my self to force myself to take a week Writing break: it will make you come back so strong.  I only made it two days.  I do feel stronger though.  I live to write.  Everything in my life supports that.  That is my purpose.

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

I feel Poe’s influence in a lot of my gothic sonnets.  On his birthday last year I wrote a sonnet that was published in Moonchild Magazine called A Geography of Loneliness.  You can read it here:
(link: https://www.moonchildmag.net/kristingarth3.html)
moonchildmag.net/kristingarth3.… — it was a tribute to Poe, using the language of horror to describe a mental landscape I felt.  I latched on to dark writing in my youth because it spoke to my troubled soul, and I think it’s ambience reflects the dim geography of my past that I carry around still in my heart.

I also read about the Salem witch trials.  I have a huge attraction to that period in American History when Puritans really controlled things, women were so constricted to very limited, rigid roles and completely without power.  Sadly, though women have a lot more rights, in our current political climate, I feel a lot of resonance with this time period.

Also having attended a Christian college in a state (Utah) where the division between church and state is maybe the most clouded of any I have ever experienced, I personally relate to this.  It’s why I named my fourth solo chapbook Puritan U.

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

I love so many poets like Chen Chen, Justin Karcher, Joanna Valente,  Kailey Tedesco.  I love vivid images and fearless writing.  I also love novelists like Joyce Carol Oates, Chuck Palahniuk, Caroline Kepnes, Bret Easton Ellis, Dave Eggers, I love writing that uses darkness, gothic horror themes even to illustrate power imbalances and stark truths.  I’m reading a book right now Dietland by Sarai Walker that is another awesome social commentary in a great page turner of a novel.

 

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

I know people who went the school route to writing — as I did for part of my journey. I don’t regret it at all.  I’m very glad for my education even if I didn’t fully complete my Master’s degree.  It taught me a lot about reader reaction to my work and exposed me to so many styles of writing.

I would say to find an experience where you can workshop your work and gain critique from others.  If that is school great, if that is a website — I personally when I returned to writing used the website Scribophile.  It toughens you up as a writer to have your work critiqued by others.

Even if you don’t change things based on the critiques it causes you to sharpen things about your writing, if only to clarify your objectives.  It teaches you about your writing, even just defending it.  Sometimes you learn things too – crutches you don’t know you have.  It prepares you for the world of editors which can be intimidating and harrowing and such an education.

I personally don’t critique anymore but I use friends who are poets as sounding boards when I’m unsure.

10. Tell me more about the writing projects you are involved in.

Published Work
kristingarth.com
As I’ve stated before about writing projects, I just finished my fourth solo book, Puritan U.  It wlll come out in March.  I have a chapbook out currently available at Maverick Duck (my publisher) and my website
(link: http://kristingarth.com)
kristingarth.com.  I have another one that is all Shakespearean sonnets on sociopaths called Shakespeare for Sociopaths that will be released in January from The Hedgehog Poetry Press.  In April that press will also release my full length poetic memoir on stripping in the Deep South in pigtails and cheerleading uniforms called Candy Cigarette Womanchild Noir.  So having said all this week I am just writing poems and not thinking of the next big project.  If you interview me in a week though I’ll probably be contemplating my next big book — Capricorn problems.