Alwyn’s ten books include poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She has won a number of competitions and is very widely represented in magazines, anthologies and on-line. She has appeared at many literary festivals and other literary events and gives readings all over the world. Her latest books are Rapeseed (a novel) and In the image: portraits of mediaeval women (poetry collection).
Formerly a university philosophy lecturer and Director of two international literacy and literature NGOs, Alwyn is Managing Editor of Oversteps Books and research fellow at Surrey University. Her blogs cover, among other subjects, poetry, dance, visual art, publishing and travel.
- What inspired you to write poetry? I have written all my life. My primary school head teacher called my parents in to see one of my poems when I was 6 or 7, and predicted that she would read books by me before she died. I have no idea whether she did or not!
- Who introduced you to poetry? Some wonderful person gave me a book of poems when I was four – it was as tall as I was and the poems were, I seem to remember, about fairies. I wasn’t particularly into fairies, but I loved the poetry and was passionately fond of the tall book. As a child and adolescent, I was also fed a diet of good hymns by the likes of Charles Wesley and George Herbert, and imagine that their control of form and content had some influence on me. My father frequently played word games with us, which fostered in me a love of the English language.
- How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets? I wrote nature poems through primary school then, when I went to a new secondary school and discovered the library, I was stunned to find that the Romantic poets had been writing similar things years ago. Obviously, my childish efforts were pathetic in comparison with theirs, but I suddenly found that I fitted into a long tradition.
- What is your daily writing routine? I write because I love it. There is no routine or discipline. If I’m working on something, I spend longer; if I’m not, I don’t. It is rare to not write anything in a day.
- What motivates you to write? Being attacked by new ideas, needing to understand something, fascination with words and forms.
- What is your work ethic? Even though my writing is so important to me, I try to make sure that I also give time to those nearest and dearest to me. Most of the time this is fine, but sometimes, particularly if I’m working on a new book, I have to remind myself that they need my time and attention, as well as my writing does.
- How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today? I suspect that a propensity to rhyme rooted itself deep when I was small. As an adult, I am careful to control the tendency; but if I need to rhyme for some reason, I find it easy. It has sometimes been harder to resist it. Much of my poetry is in free verse, but it was also liberating to discover half-rhyme.The two dominant poets that affected me in my late teens and early twenties were T S Eliot and e e cummings and as my own work developed I had to distance myself a little from their influence.
- Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why? ’Today’ changes from day to day. I read widely and admire many contemporary poets. It’s great to have so many fine women poets now. I could name names, but I prefer to be surprised and thrilled with each new poem that appeals to me, whoever wrote it. As Managing Editor of Oversteps Books, I also have the privilege of ‘discovering’ new poets and bringing them to public notice.
- Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else? Because I’m me.
- What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?” All the normal stuff about extensive reading, of course. Experiment all the time, and don’t think you’ve arrived and can carry on writing what’s worked before. Then don’t put it off; just DO IT.
- Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment. I’ve been putting together a couple of themed pamphlets recently, and I’ve got a large new collection of poems about women that I’m excited about and want to get published before too long. I’ve recently finished my second novel, for which I also need to find a publisher; and I’ve just been asked to write some non-fiction pieces for a new website. One of these will, in time, grow into a non-fiction book. My ten published books include poetry, fiction and non-fiction; and it seems that I’m going to continue jumping around from one to another. But poetry is my greatest love.