Why do you write?
I like the company of people but prefer solitude. I like to listen to people talk, the way they see it and say it. Poetry is real life actions and their chain of consequences, mathematics, music, art. In most group conversations and gatherings, I am usually the quiet one. Nobody minds your natural shyness in a group. Anonymity suits me. I have no need of attention to feel accepted. I am at ease in my own skin and mind. Life is hard for most of us, but also rare in our corner of the universe, so express your own understanding of it. I don’t like wasting words and thinking time is my creative cove. I don’t know why I started writing poetry when thirteen, but it has grown with me and reflects much of who I am now. Some poems sleep for years, jumbles of words, themes and rhythms in subconscious gaseous clouds, form and meaning evolving out of Spinoza’s orderly chaos, while others just happen, triggered by a single word or phrase, a sound, smell, or shape that relates to something from our past, present, or future. Writing a good poem makes me feel like the artist who can paint, or the musician who can play – joy in creating something that others enjoy and feel inspired to try doing themselves.
What books do you read?
Boyhood books that had a great influence on me were The Last Of The Mohicans and The Northwest Passage. The archaeology of Native American Indian Tribes, their cultures, oral history and music remains something I empathise with and profoundly respect in some poems.
My first poetical influences were the Tin Pan Alley lyricists and composers like Sammy Cahn, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart and the Gershwin brothers. I love the fun, rhythm and interplay between lyrics and music. Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen influence my poetry in the same way, allowing me to experiment with metaphor, form and rhythms.
Relationships and love are one of the main themes in my poetry. Two books which have travelled with me through life are Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Tess Of The D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy is probably the biggest influence on my work. Other fantasy fiction authors I read include – Geddings, Moorcock, Feist, Jones and Kerr.
My favourite poets include most of the Romantics, Thomas Hardy, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, Larkin, Neruda, Lorca and W B Yeats.
What inspires you?
Salford – my home town. My working class Irish and Welsh roots. My Muse and Children. The natural and industrial landscape. Archaeology. Astronomy. Social history. The struggle to overcome adversity and oppression. Contemporary poet, musician and artist friends. Trying to play more than three notes on my saxophone and clarinet. Working on my next poem.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
When the Professor of the English department at Swansea University read some of my poetry at my interview, then wrote to me, offering me a place to do a degree in English and Literature, and stating that those poems showed I had real potential to become a writer. That was in 1979. I was 19. Too young about the world and didn’t believe him. I went to Liverpool University instead.
How do you deal with rejection?
I give each one the finger while quietly thanking the editor for keeping my feet on the ground. They make you widen your creative range and work harder on any weaknesses.
Who are some writers you admire?
Adding to those previously mentioned – e e cummings, Bukowski, Brian Aldiss, Chaucer, Marlowe.
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
None really. I have enjoyed finding my own way on life’s road.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read other writers. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone. Take risks and experiment.
What is your writing process?
I write most days with pen on A4 paper folded into quarters. Strings of ideas and phrases. Any time of day, but I prefer the evening and through the night. Some poems survive the first draft. Others go through minor edits to language, theme and structure. Some get butchered and others are sent to hibernate until I return to them.