This year for the Poetry Olympics I asked for either Spoken Verse or Song donations by independent Poets/Singer/Songwriters. And when I received Barry Hollow’s I was tremendously excited as I relish accents from all over the world. On his Instagram I noticed that it said he currently resides in Bristol – but when I listened to his piece, I heard this awesome Scottish accent that came right through -- clear as day. It’s quite remarkable how many of us are nowhere near where we originally started. Which I find to be so inspirational as it teaches us that we are truly all united and citizens of the world regardless of where we are from. Barry’s poetry is always so lush riddled with vivid imagery and honesty of expression. I relish organic Poets such as Barry as they genuinely take the time to study a form and theme before even posting anything. For more info on Baz! Isn’t that just the coolest nickname? Check him out on Instagram @thehollow.
RMMW: Have you ever been creatively blocked? If yes, how did you overcome it?
BH: I don't really believe in giving it a name and take the perspective that I have a creative cycle. Creative thinking -> note making -> writing -> editing-> rest/creative recovery -> creative thinking. It doesn't always work exactly like that because life gets in the way, but just acknowledging there is a rest/recovery part helps me know there will be an idea along at some point and not to give myself too hard a time about it but to keep an open mind to what might influence, inspire or kick start a new piece.
RMMW: We all must contend with an inner critic; how do you deal with yours?
BH: I'm go fairly easy on myself. There are times when I have written a piece that I wouldn't call my best work, but I still feel happy you put it out there and see what reaction it gets. Often pieces that I haven't personally liked as much connect with other in ways I would never expect. On the flip side, other pieces I’m prouder of, haven't connected. I've learned to take both sides with good grace and use it to help my creative process, particularly in questioning myself when editing.
RMMW: Do you have any artist rituals before starting a new piece?
BH: When I initial read the question, my immediate answer was no. In reality, what I have is more of a process like I described before but what I tend to do is write words, phrases, partial poems or very occasionally full poems in the notes section on my phone. I then cogitate on those and go back to them. When I have the chance to write. I have a favourite café which I go to after I have been to my barber. I always romanticise that I will get my favourite coffee, sit, in my favourite spot and I will be inspired to write. Because it’s such a great spot, it has a real buzz, with loads of interesting characters working and patronising the place. That makes it difficult to write, but it still remains a great place to people watch and be inspired to write later!
RMMW: At what age did you first start writing poetry?
BH: I was 16. I was studying Frankenstein for English at Secondary School [High School] and had to write a critical review from a self-chosen theme. Mine was the unrequited love of the Creation for his ‘Father’. I added the poem as an Annex. I got an ‘A’ for the piece as a whole. I’m still very proud of that poem, however, what followed was some exceptionally cringe-worthy poetry about all manner of subject and teenage experiences! I remember being commissioned by a friend to write a love poem for the object of his affections at the time. We still joke about that to this day as I think he passed it off as his own! Haha! All part of the writing journey I suppose, however, I stopped only about a year later and have only picked up writing again just over a year ago.
RMMW: What do you prefer writing poetry or reading a spoken verse?
BH: I really enjoy writing and the process of crafting a piece, but I never really feel like it is complete until I speak it aloud and then feel like I enjoy the piece as a spoken piece. I often write pieces which definitely lend themselves more to being spoken than just on the page. I have recorded quite a few spoken pieces and posted them on Instagram. That has been a fun and great learning experience but that is with the goal of performing pieces to an audience. I keep threatening to go to an open mic spot but want to be able to recite/perform from memory rather than read, so haven’t quite reached that (literal) stage yet.
RMMW: Who are you favourite poets?
BH: Hollie McNish is a recent discovery and have been listening to her audiobook which is a diary with poems she wrote while pregnant and in the early years of her daughter’s life. However, other favourites include Simon Armitage (the new Poet Laureate), Peter Sanson, Pam Ayres and Spike Milligan and of course, Rabbie Burns. We are from the same county and his poetry and songs are woven into our culture and school curriculum from a very early age.
RMMW: What is your writing process, do you right long hand or right to the computer?
BH: I mostly covered this in the rituals question above. I do about 99% on my phone. The computer gets an occasional look-in. I feel like I can research and edit better on my phone as I can move lines around or correct spelling and word order issues quicker on my phone without it becoming a scribbled mess, I can’t make sense of on a handwritten page.
RMMW: What is your favourite poetic style?
BH: I am definitely drawn to spoken word poetry more. Especially so where it mixes humour and clever word play with serious subjects. However, what I really enjoy about poetry is its variety. I occasionally write in forms now where I initially did more frequently when I first started writing. I really like rhyming poetry but less so where it is always in end rhyme. I try to write in partial and internal rhyme quite often and not so much within a given form.
RMMW: What inspires you?
BH: I think mostly it is words and phrases which catch my imagination. Where I hear somebody say something which sparks a thought or when there are words used in an unusual way, I will often then scribble a few lines down and then work from that. Nature is also a huge influence on my work and often without realising will use nature references throughout a piece.
RMMW: What do you think attracted you to poetry?
BH: When I discussed this recently with my wife, we concluded a couple of things. I have a lot of thoughts and things to say and often frustrate my wife that I talk so much. I have an opinion or thoughts on almost any subject you can imagine. No matter how huge or mundane. Writing those things down and then turning them into poems is definitely a creative outlet for that (not that it stops me annoying my wife any less, having found an outlet for them!) As alluded to, I also have a need to be creative. I have a very ordered and technical job. Poetry allows the freedom of expression that isn’t appropriate for the writing I do for work. As I said before, I’m also very interested in words and language, but I am especially inspired when I learn a new word or phrase, what it means, the origin, but also how the ordering of words can move us emotionally and physically.
RMMW: How do you feel you've evolved as a writer over the years?
BH: Having only come back to writing just over a year ago, I do feel like I have changed quite a lot as a writer in this time. I would put a lot of that down to spending a significant time actually just writing and trying to find different inspiration, methods, forms and language. I also feel like life experience has a lot to do with how I write and how what I write has changed. The 20-year-old me would probably write very different to the 40 year old me does. I do feel like I have missed out on 20+ years of writing practice and experience, though on the same hand I am quite accepting of that as I can’t change it. Reading and listening to many different voices and styles of poetry has shaped what I like to write about and the way I write about those subjects. Like any writer, I have that internal battle between feeling what I have written is really quite good and doubting any of what I have ever written is worthy. Just when I feel I am finding my voice. I learn something new or hear a piece which I feel is on a whole other level and I wonder how I will ever get to be that good. I am fully aware I am not along in this struggle and that it is actually part of what makes the world of poetry and language so interesting and fun. I know I have a long way to go and I’m very much looking forward to it.
RMMW: If you had a superpower, what would it be?
BH: Teleportation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy travelling, especially when it’s for pleasure and leisure, and it often provides much needed thinking time. However, the opportunities to see things I will never get the opportunity to see and visit people and places is obviously endless! Mostly to get more time to spend with friends and family we live a long way from. It’s a very practical superpower.