Today, we have an interview with the prolific and talented published author and poet, Paul Brookes!
If you were to introduce yourself to a group of strangers, what would you say?
I would say, “Hello, my name is Paul.” I would then ask them about themselves.
Tell us what first drew you to writing.
My earliest memory is of singing “The Raggle Taggle Gypsies” and “La Cucaracha” at Starbeck juniors. I loved the rhythms and subject matter. Later handwriting practice at Darrington junior school getting my letters correct above and below the line by meticulously reproducing Kenneth Grahame’s poem https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/166460-all-along-the-backwater-through-the-rushes-tall-ducks-are
At this time I was also completely taken in by Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden Of Verses”, especially “The Land of Counter-Pane”
There I was later introduced to the retelling of Greek, Roman and Celtic myth in the white hard backed books by Roger Lancelyn Green. I particularly enjoyed “The Minotaur”.
Throughout my youth I was taken in by my father’s small Long Player collection, particularly the front cover to Richard Burton’s 1954 version of “Under Milk Wood” which showed a village tumbling down to the sea, like Robin Hood’s Bay, and all the boats bobbing in the harbour…
My dad takes the LP from its inside white cover, lays it on the turntable and carefully places the needle into the first black groove. I will never forget “Time passes.”
Writing is a compulsion I have had since being a child. At school whilst everyone else is kicking a ball around, I am the sad sight of a child sat on the edge of the field with a big green book of blank pages furiously scribbling away, looking forward to getting home and leafing through Roget’s Thesaurus. The compulsion has not waned but got stronger.
When I was eleven I asked my mam and step dad for William Blake’s Collected Works, a doorstep of a book, and “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac for Christmas. Later Hawkwind would lead me to the beat poets, Hermann Hesse and the film “2001:A Space Odyssey” to Arthur C. Clarke and the music of Georgi Ligeti and the wonderful landscape of twentieth century avant-garde classical music. I was an avid listener to the John Peel show and Radio 3 where I was captivated by Christopher Logue’s “War Music”. In the library I was reading Peter Reading, and in my teens began going to Barnsley Literary Society where I saw and heard late, sadly missed Barry Hines and Donald Davie.
I submitted poems to their magazine “Inklings” and was overjoyed to see them in print. I was also writing short pieces for the local parish magazine.
At Hull University I got involved in the Christian Drama Group, and met Neil Ruckmann, a Drama student. He said he was looking for a play he could direct. I told him I would write one. I had already written a farce called “The Flying Monk”, for my Air Venture Scout group. It was about a monk called Eustacius who had dreams of flying, and featured an Abbot who owned a pig called “Flower”. The play was never performed. I believe I based it on this https://www.uh.edu/engines/epi3.htm
I was honoured to have the play “Still Children” performed on the stage of the Gulbenkian Theatre in Hull University grounds. I believe there were four or five performances, and proposals to take it to the Edinburgh festival that never came to fruition.
In 1993 with the encouragement of marvelous tutors like Ray Hearne, a stalwart of the poetry and folk circuit and Jane Rogers, my first chapbook was published by Dearne Valley Arts. It was called “The Fabulous Invention of Barnsley”. A mixture of local history and dialect. It centred on the four monologues in the title piece, running the gamut from surrealism to stark realism.
(I have gone on longer than I intended. I notice the same trend in replying to the first question in the interviews I receive back from others)
What do you write?
Poetry, plays, short stories, flash fiction, local and family history articles. I have also designed, developed and taught creative writing, literature and local history courses for the Worker’s Educational Association (W.E.A).
Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind of music?
Music is a distraction I love dearly. I have to separate the two else my concentration is bifurcated, which is painful.
I was into “ethnic” music before it became “World Music”. I was never a good scholar but enjoyed writing a dissertation on the social place of Gamelan in Balinese society, and its use in the Wayang shadow puppet shows. Love stuff with intriguing percussiveness.
What are you currently working on?
Hopefully this autumn Glass Head Press will launch my first U.K. chapbook since “The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley.”
Kosshali a companion book to my collaboration with Dutch artist Marcel Herms “Port Of Souls” (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Port-Souls-Paul-Brookes/dp/1718873220) . In this book I collaborate with Iranian artist Hiva Moazed.
I am working on a hybrid poetry/memoir about my late dad who died last year from Asbestosis. It will include some of his paintings.
I hope to collect together my short stories, published in anthologies by Alien Buddha Press, about a group of men and women following a pub singer in the 1990’s together with the characters featured in the poetry sequence “The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley” to make a hybrid poetry/short story/novella detective/thriller about the mysterious death of a child called “Lozzy”. How a character fits together clues to find out a truth about an event has always fascinated me.
Who is your favorite author/poet? Why?
Dylan Thomas for the music and inventiveness of his words.
Peter Reading, a genius at constructing whole books and recurrent characters in his poetry.
Christopher Logue for imbuing the Iliad with a different kind of life.
Italo Calvino, especially for “Invisible Cities”, an inspirational work exploring different cities, or perhaps just the one. Stories of the city that reflect itself, and so on. Using fantastical tropes which immediately engage me.
Margaret Atwood, whose poetry to me sees the world from an anthropological perspective.
Gene Wolfe, who has a unique prose technique for creating an invisible narrative above the one on the page.
Jonathan Carroll whose novels combine the everyday with magick.
Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman’ Sandman, Graphic novels to read and re-read.
Terry Pratchett’s hilarious Discworld series, that gently satirises society.
Everyone I have interviewed for “The Wombwell Rainbow” becomes my favourite poet as I indulge in their richness and diversity.
What seems to be the recurring theme(s) in your stories/poems?
I love to use South Yorkshire dialect as it has strength, sinew and grounding qualities, evidenced in all my books.
Fascinated by landscape, especially man made that tries to imitate nature, such as relandscaped pit sites. Textures of rock, trees and plants.
Writing history from the perspective of industrial culture such as coal mining, linen making, nail making as “The Fabulous Inventions of Barnsley”
Exploration of science-fiction ideas as in “The Spermbot Blues”
The Counter-intuitive, turning accepted ideas upside down as in “A World Where”
Exploration of storytelling in poetry as in “She Needs That Edge”.
Re-telling myths in a down-to-earth way, as in sections of “A Pagan’s Year”, (Stubborn Sod, The Headpoke And Firewedding, and the forthcoming Our Ghost’s Holiday)
Humour both black and warm.
Name some of your favorite places to write at (coffee shops, your bedroom, etc.).
Everywhere is my favourite place to write.
Do you usually plan out what to write before starting?
A plan, a shape evolves in the writing. The more you write the faster the patterns appear, or your recognition of them.
Any additional comments or advice you’d like to add for our readers?
Here are my links:
She Needs That Edge https://literati-magazine.com/on-long-way-round-and-patience/
As Folk Over Yonder: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/as-folk-over-yonder
The Spermbot Blues: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1974677818/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i7
My WordPress Site: https://thewombwellrainbow.com/
My YouTube Site: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR67uSk0MjdHHoB_LUPFbpw
My Goodreads Site: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17456273.Paul_Brookes
My Twitter Site: @PaulDragonwolf1
My Facebook Site: https://www.facebook.com/PaulBrookesWriter/
My posts in Literati Magazine https://literati-magazine.com/paul-brookes/
Thank you so much, Paul, for sharing your writing experiences and insight with us!