I don’t remember when I first encountered Paul Brookes (Wombwell Rainbow) and his prodigious work marked by a keen appreciation for art and history and his observations of everyday life salted with irony and humor and his rich Yorkshire Dialect. I think Paul either submitted work to The Poet by Day, Wednesday Writing Prompt or to an issue of The BeZine, maybe both. I do remember I had to look up Wombwell. It seemed to me a rather odd name for a blog. Wombwell (clearly not Paul’s family name) turned out to be the town were Paul currently lives in Northern Yorkshire and “Wombwell” may mean “Womba’s Well” or “well in a hollow.”
What prompted today’s post is that I am able to bring you one of Paul’s poetry readings. I’ve used this as an excuse to also get to know Paul better. Read on: this is an interesting interview. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I have. / J.D.
JAMIE: Paul, are you the only poet in your family? How did you come to poetry?
PAUL: The only published one, yes. When I was seven or eight I remember holding my head in my hands at home when my English homework was to write a nonsense poem in the style of Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll. I had brain freeze. Off the cuff Mam wrote one for me about an Elephant with a propeller for a nose. It was very funny, though the elephant died. His propeller was used as his grave stone. Mam was also the youngest editor of NALGO magazine when she worked as a secretary for the hospital board in Harrogate. I don’t know where she got her creativity with words.
JAMIE: Quite frequently you write in Yorkshire dialect, which as a reader I find charming and challenging. What made you decide to do that?
PAUL: Dialect is always said to be dying out and being replaced by Received Pronunciation. I remember my late Mam balling at the broadness of my late sister’s dialect when she was chatting with her mates on the telephone. No mobiles then. My Mam encouraged us to have a “telephone” voice so we wouldn’t sound “so common!” Dialect for me provides metaphor, strength, muscularity and gives a sense of place. (Editor’s emphasis.) I know it is challenging but worthwhile. It is often painted as a comic device, used by lowly characters in plays and satirised by Monty Python in the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, however this micky taking has a long history. In the nineteenth century there were locally published Almanacs in which dialect was used for humorous purposes. Yorkshire folk love not taking themselves seriously. Yorkshire dialect is often shoehorned into rhyme. I wanted to use it in unrhymed poetry to hark back to our Norse ancestors.
JAMIE: Pride of place is obviously important to you. You’ve named your blog for the town in which you live. Is the Yorkshire literary tradition – quite impressive from the Bronte sisters to Ian McMillan – an inspiration?
PAUL: I was dragged up by Yorkshire writers, studying Barry Hines “KES” in school, Ted Hughes selected poems, Tony Harrison’s selected poems. Ian McMillan is often seen as a “professional” Yorkshireman, bigging up the county. He also has his tongue well and truly in his cheek when doing this, an aspect folk from other parts of the country don’t see. They view it instead as the over earnest promotion of “God’s country.”
I was not born in Wombwell but a small town between Harrogate and Knaresborough called Starbeck. You have to pass through it to get from one to the other. Starbeck is a place between tourist destinations. A “through” town.
From there we moved a lot to Darringto, a place by the side of the A1, close to a notorious black-spot for car accidents, to various places in Barnsley, Wilthorpe, Pogmoor, Ward Green, and the little village of Dodworth.
I love being settled in Wombwell and getting to know familiar customers in the supermarket where I work part-time. I love engrossing myself in the local history and culture, gaining a sense of belonging.
JAMIE: We’re coming close to putting a wrap on 2019. What’s on your literary agenda for 2020?
PAUL: Hope to have the final part of A Pagan’s Year finished. It will be called Ghost Holiday and be about pagan festivals and stories from August to December. This is in collaboration with my great Dutch friend and amazing artist Marcel Herms. Also on the agenda for 2020 is Skyfish, poems about delight written in response to the paintings of Iranian artist Hiva Moazed.
If you are reading this from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to view the video.
PAUL BROOKES (Wombwell Rainbow) is a shop assistant. He lives in a cat house full of teddy bears. His chapbooks are The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley (Dearne Community Arts, 1993). First part of four connected books, other three unpublished as yet. Second book is made up of four short stories, already published in Alien Buddha Press’s short story anthologies ). The Headpoke and Firewedding (Alien Buddha Press, 2017.This is the first book of a threesome called “A Pagan’s Year”,and covers June and July) ,A World Where (Speculative poetry) and She Needs That Edge (narrative poetry) with Nixes Mate Press, 2017, 2018) The Spermbot Blues (Sci-Fi poetry with OpPRESS, 2017), Port Of Souls, responses to paintings by Marcel Herms (Alien Buddha Press, 2018),Please Take Change (Cyberwit.net, 2018)
Stubborn Sod, by Marcel Herms (paintings) and I,(poetry) ,(Alien Buddha Press, 2019.This is the second part of “A Pagan’s Year” January to May), As Folk Over Yonder ( ebook with Afterworld Books, 2019). Forthcoming Skyfish, responses to paintings by Hiva Moazed and companion book to “Port of Souls” (Alien Buddha Press, 2019)
Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights. Email email@example.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.
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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019
“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton