Paul Brookes spoke to David Subacchi
The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?
My father’s death in 2011. He was born in Italy and had a huge influence on me. He had endured the horrors of war in North Africa and Italy during WW2 and his story telling of those days is deeply imprinted in my mind. His work was very hands on and physically demanding, so I saw much less of him than my son sees of me today. After he retired, the family thought that he would be unhappy because he never had the time for any hobbies or pastimes. To our delight and surprise, he began wood carving, a skill he had learned at school in Italy in Cremona in the 1930s. Despite having carved very little for a very long time, his work was exceptional and widely praised. My writing is inspired by him and sometimes tinged with sadness because it only blossomed after his death. So I am a latecomer to writing poetry, before 2011 my writing was occasional only and not that good.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?
I studied poetry at school but my introduction to writing poetry came when I joined one of the oldest established poetry writing clubs in my area ‘Chester Poets’. The club provided great encouragement and a positive outlook towards writing. I have never looked back.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
I was at school in the 1960s and influenced heavily by the Bible, Shakespeare and Dickens. Also T S Eliot, Byron, Blake, Shelley, Keats, Yeats, Auden, Dylan Thomas, R S Thomas, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. I am very aware of the standards that these and other great poets set , but have never allowed their influence to deter me from finding my own style and my own voice.

4. What is your daily writing routine?
I’m mostly an urban poet and a high output poet. I visit the town centre almost every day and spend time writing there in all sorts of ‘hide outs’ – bars, libraries, art galleries etc. I also scan the daily news for events to write about. There are quiet days but also days when I write non-stop.

5. What motivates you to write?
The need for self-expression and self-discovery and the desire to move hearts and minds.

6. What is your work ethic?
Strong. I get uncomfortable when I have not written anything for a day or two. I file, date and record my writing methodically. I never throw away anything I have written. What looks a lost cause today often presents possibilities when looked at a day or two later.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
They set standards of expression and showed me how to move the reader emotionally without descending into ranting and raving, over sentimentality or cursing.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I am something of a magpie with modern poets, taking a bit here and a bit there, very often from poets I see perform their work or that I meet, so I’m not going to name any, if that is allowed?

9. Why do you write?
Like most writers I am compelled to write by the desire to express my creativity. Also as mentioned above my desire is to move hearts and minds with the poetry I write. My poetry covers a wide range of subjects and is not restricted to any particular theme or topic. I prefer it that way. I have no campaigns or crusades that drive or dominate my writing.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Join a local writers club and interact with other writers. Have realistic expectations about publishing, making money from writing and achieving fame and success in the literary world. Any good writers club will act as a sounding board for your work and a source of good quality, unbiased, sensible advice.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I have a new collection of poems (my sixth) which will be published in the first quarter of 2019. It is called ‘Where is Wales?’ and contains 62 poems on topics related to Wales where I was born and where I live, but typically for me it also contains poetry on many other themes and subjects. I’m very excited about it.
Also I’m writing a lot of poetry based on works of art produced by local artists and I’m reading some of my war poetry at a festival in honour of the World War 1 poet Wilfred Owen and also at another event honouring the role of women in the Great War.

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Footnote: Diana Baur is privileged to have received poetic responses to some of her paintings from this amazing man.