RODDY WILLIAMS IN CONVERSATION WITH JANE ORMEROD
Originally from North Wales, Roddy Williams lives and works in London. His poetry has appeared in the great weather for MEDIA anthology The Other Side of Violet, plus Magma, The North, The Frogmore Papers, The Rialto, Envoi, and other magazines. He has had two of his plays performed onstage in London and is a keen surrealist photographer and painter.
JO: Congratulations, Roddy, on your publication in our anthology, The Other Side of Violet. Can you tell us a little about this poem?
RW: I have been obsessed with cosmology and Science Fiction literature since I was a child, and a large percentage of my poetry drifts off into Outer Space in various directions. Some time ago I was involved in an online Zooniverse project to catalog some of the galaxies captured by the Hubble telescope, listing how many spiral arms they had for instance, or if they were damaged in some way. Some were, usually it seems from interaction with another galaxy since their respective gravities would have pulled them apart. Later, I was reading about ring galaxies, which are victims of such encounters, damaged in their youth, laced with black holes. There's a metaphor there, I thought, waiting to be shaped and that's where "my own galaxy" came from.
JO: In addition to writing poetry, you are also a photographer, printmaker, and painter. Which came first? Can you juggle all disciplines at once, or do you concentrate on one project?
RW: It goes in cycles, although the writing is fairly constant. I've been alternating the literary and the visual since my childhood, and they have learned to feed on each other. I have illustrated other people's stories and poetry in the past, and a few of my poems use metaphors of painting or photography. It's unavoidable really. I have also written poems based on my paintings and photographs. There's a lot of the visual in my writing now I think about it. I guess it is all related and there are links going back and forth between the words and images. Right now, I am multitasking between writing and printmaking, and each is having an effect on the other to a greater or lesser degree.
JO: You are originally from North Wales and now live in London. How important is location to your creative process?
RW: It's important only in the sense that I tend to write a lot about the past, so memories of North Wales tend to feature heavily. Going back there tends to generate a whole new crop of more contemporary observations, so there's a growing body of past/present contrast. I can write anywhere, mainly in bed and coffee shops though it appears. The smartphone is a godsend.
JO: Do you find any recurring topics in your writing?
RW: Apart from Love, Depression, Childhood, Death, and the rest of the gang, I find I write a lot about communication. What we say, how we say it, what we actually mean as opposed to what is said. I love reported speech and have written a few 'found' poems based on overheard conversations. One-sided phone conversations are great. One has to try and imagine the other half of the discussion.
Weather is a perennial topic, although it is usually employed as a metaphor. It's a particularly British obsession, and comes back to the subject of communication again. British people talk about the weather endlessly, but it is really a form of metatalk whereby two people are effectively trying to connect by finding an area of common ground. It fascinates me.
JO: Which writers and artists do you love? Any lesser known names we should check out?
RW: Early influences were RS Thomas and Dylan Thomas. Lately I very much like the work of Don Paterson and John Burnside. Burnside in particular has a way of deftly getting into one's head with a paucity of words. I would kill to be able to do that. I recently also discovered Luke Kennard whose work excited me more than any other poet in quite a while. Then there's John Kinsella, the Australian poet. His Visitants is one of my favourite books.
Outside of poetry, I love Philip K Dick, whose stories and novels I have read and re-read since about 1973. He speaks to my inner weird.
JO: Finally, what is next for Roddy Williams?
RW: Apart from the constant round of submissions, rejections and the occasional welcome acceptance, I have a collection out for consideration with a publisher. I'm also working on a series of fifty word vignette poems of people I see in coffee shops, which has been enormous fun, and something I now feel compelled to do whenever I pop in for a cappuccino. I'm busy setting up an online shop to sell my linocut relief prints and have also found myself, after a break of many years, writing some short stories, although where that particular avenue is going is anyone's guess.
All the above is subject to whim and abrupt random change, however. I may find myself painting portraits next week for no reason whatsoever.
"The Magician" by Roddy Williams - hand printed linocut, info and purchase ***
The Other Side of Violet is an exhilarating collection of contemporary poetry and short fiction by established and emerging writers from across the United States and beyond. The anthology also contains interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Paul Harding and award-winning poet and novelist Tim Z. Hernandez.
Submissions for our next anthology open October 15 2017.
Live in the UK? All great weather for MEDIA books are available from amazon.co.uk