UK poet, publisher, and freelance writer Richard Wink just finished a new poetry collection, Dead End Road, featuring over fifty poems, published by BeWrite. Gloom Cupboard is still going strong in it’s second year, and it seemed like a good time to pester him for some candor on the state of poetry, small press, and what we can expect from him next. Interviewed by Lynn Alexander.
Your new poetry collection will be available as both a print edition and an “ebook”. What factored into that decision, and do you see potential in the electronic media format?
I’m very much a traditionalist; I prefer the touch and feel of a book. I prefer to read from the page. I guess there wasn’t really a decision as such because I believe BeWrite are simply moving with the times and offering books in both formats.
The ‘ebook’ however has its advantages, both in terms of speed and immediacy, and I think very much that poetry suits the electronic format. At the moment ‘we’ (the worldwide poetry community) are still tinkering, trying to strike the right balance between the traditional and the future. I think there is room for both, in the same way that vinyl exists alongside digital music files, paperbacks can coexist with ebooks.
You have been on both sides of the process of connecting words and readers, as a writer and editor. What is your take on the state of poetry? On small press?
The state of poetry is vibrant, especially in the UK. The dull, dreary Andrew Motion has served his time as poet laureate and finally we have a real poet taking the position in the shape of the marvellous Carol Ann Duffy. The live scene is popular; performance poetry is well received at mainstream festivals such as Latitude and Glastonbury. Earlier in the year the BBC devoted a lot of programming to poetry for their Poetry Season. Poetry this year has received more mainstream coverage then any year that I can remember.
In terms of the small press, well it is a mutant Shark Tank; full of the good, the bad and the ugly. We are all fighting for the crumbs that trickle down from the mainstream publishing houses and the dead poets that taunt us from Borders book shelves. I see a number of fine poets out there, attempting to climb the ladder, but I fear that because they are tagged as small press poets that they are not getting the attention they deserve.
Have any of your views about your work changed in recent years, or your goals? What would you say about your expectations of the small/independent press scene or its vitality?
After I realized I had a knack for poetry it was always my intention to get published. I got published relatively early on in a couple of Print Anthologies, even my student newspaper featured a poem of mine before I stumbled across a vibrant Anglo/American scene that was growing over the internet. I began to network – email, message via Social Networking sites and slowly began submitting to ezines, perhaps I was over eager, because in the early days there are some diabolical poems that I have had accepted that I now regret. Eventually the inner critic was able to spot errors and I noticed people becoming more receptive to my work, my confidence grew and I approached a few small press publishing houses, putting together a few chapbooks. Eventually I amassed enough material to put together this full length collection. Never have I been deluded enough to believe that writing poetry would lead to money and fame, but it was always the main objective to get a proper book done.
Without the Small Press I would be an impotent blogger pasting poems into the abyss. I’m not sure about fellow Small Press poets but I believe we perhaps undersell ourselves; surely we can afford to celebrate ourselves a little more. I think what we are doing is meaningful and important. There is a true sense of community.
Reading your recent collection, I couldn’t help but notice a deliberate scheme to the order of the poems, the way the collection progressed, the way the order influenced my overall perception of the work. What’s it like to put together a chapbook, what considerations are important to you?
I have to thank Sam Smith for the ordering, he worked diligently with me for a good few weeks ironing out the creases and getting things to flow. The important thing was to attempt to tell a story. Basically each poem is a snippet, a snap shot of everyday life, looking at various families and individuals that live along a fictional road. There is a hell of a lot going in each poem, a lot if left open to interpretation, I like readers to use their imaginations and build upon the scenes I have set. I’d really love for other poets to write response poems, to add to the story.
Are there any impressions about your work, up to this point, that you think indicate a misunderstanding about what you are trying to do? Are there cases when there was just a disconnect between you and the reader, where the execution or intention was just missed?
Possibly, earlier on a lot of my poetry was based on literal real life events; there was a time when readers were assuming I was still writing from experience when in fact I was beginning to experiment with writing fictional situations. I think what turned me away from writing literally was a series of poems I put together about a girl called Alex who I would term “my last crush” (Luckily these poems will never see the light of day!). Rather immaturely I was absolutely infatuated with her; she was an art student with a great sense of style, obsessed with music, though never could I articulate to her what I was feeling, even if I could I doubt she would have felt the same way, but C’est La Vie. Life goes on.
How do you respond to that, to subjective interpretations in general?
I welcome misunderstanding. I was in London the other week wandering around the Tate Modern gallery and was enthralled by an exhibition of Viennese Actionism. Simply put, it was some crazy shit; mutilation, transgression, blood, guts, cum, piss, all kinds of gore on display. But it got me thinking, got me questioning. I evaluated whether all art was pointless, however much or little skill was on display. It wasn’t the shock that got me, it was the fact that I had to think, I pondered long and hard what it all meant. Then there was this awkward self conscious reaction afterwards when another person walked into the exhibition room, I wondered if I stared too long at the video or the canvasses that it would make me seem like a voyeuristic weirdo.
What are you doing now, what are your plans?
Trying to get a bloody job! Ha, I’m masquerading as a freelance writer / erstwhile temp at the moment and ideally I’d like to get some stability in my life. So if anyone is reading this then as they said in Boys from The Black Stuff – “Gizza’ Job”.
Gloom Cupboard is still going strong, we are on the cusp of our second anniversary, and I’ve recently assembled a crack Editorial Team so things are still going strong on that front.
As far as poetry goes, I’d like to do some readings, and branch out a bit more.
Who are you reading these days, who or what stands out?
Off the top of my head….
I admire what Claire Askew does at One Night Stanzas.
I’ve spent a lot of time listening to various poetry / small press orientated radio shows. Jane Crown, Epic Rites, and Rob Plath and Jack Henry’s shows immediately spring to mind.
There are a few other sites. Sein Und Werden, 3AM, Dogmatika. I was featured in a collection put together by Chance Press; those guys are working hard to get something going.
I’m not going to mention individual names but each and every writer we’ve featured at GC has excited me, one way or another.