Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?
I used to teach English and Geography for twenty years in Cape Town, South Africa where I am originally from and also in England. English is my second language and Afrikaans was my home language and I’m still learning French. I write in both English and Afrikaans. I guess my creative writing started at high school, where I was given the chance to broaden my imagination in both languages, being fully bilingual. I started writing poetry as an English major student but it was mostly done on notepads even scraps of paper and given to close friends. My English teacher at Belhar High school, Mrs. De Wet, was my inspiration for both reading and writing in English, so much so that I decided to become a teacher of English. My favorite poets are Dylan Thomas, Rupert Brooke, Sylvia Plath, Breyten Breytenbach, Andre Brink, Ingrid Jonker, Adam Small, Maya Angelou and T.S Elliot.
How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?
Before even writing the first word of any poem, I have developed a strategy of jotting down a word, a phrase even a question from watching the news, a movie or any historical reference from whichever source. From that initial stage I write a possible title and leave it until I’m ready to spill ink. I must admit, having met fellow word weavers from around the world, the ones who maintain regular contact inspire me to write a poem even whilst contacting each other! I tend to delve deeper into the message of any poem I write by doing general research on a meaning, a historical fact or a global event. My vision of poetry has definetely changed. I now use personal experiences to fuel my poetry and educate an audience of unknown ideas or history through research and my sense of a shared humanity in this global village.
Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
I am on facebook and have a poetry page https://www.facebook.com/echoesofasalamander/ as well as on twitter @salamander333 as well as Niume, a sharing site for arts and literature https://niume.com/pages/profile/?userID=13485 It certainly connected me with fellow writers and artists globally and is essential for discovering new literature and art which appeals to me and can lead to collaborations internationally.
Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?
Yes, I am part of one of the biggest writing groups on Facebook, ‘Contemporary Poets, Their Works, Current Poetry Projects, News, Links’ where I find many like-minded equals some of whom have become close literary friends of mine and also inspire me to improve all the time. I am also active in the Creative Talents Unleashed group, GloMag , as well as Indiana Voice Journal and Scarlet Leaf Review. I am currently reading ‘Leonardo da Vinci by Charles Nicholl (Penguin Books) and finishing off ‘ A Spot of Bother’ by Mark Haddon (Vintage UK).
What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?
Let rejection motivate you to spill more ink and write even more furiously and fervently than before. Experiment with different genres. Liaise with other writers, even artists, to cross new boundaries. Tailor your poems to carefully selected journals and magazines and for specific audiences. Admit to yourself where you can improve and broaden your reach to a global audience.
Be patient but most of all, stay true to yourself.