World of Words: Marianne Barber on her own passion for poetry

SUSSEX-BASED poet Marianne Barber, pictured, has been published extensively, in titles such as The Lady and The Chronicle, as well as regularly attending and running poetry workshops.

Her own collection of poems, Strands, was well received, and a second volume of work is expected shortly.

In no more than 10 words, why do you write poetry?

Poetry fulfils my desire to express feelings in words.

What prompted you to become a writer in the first place?

My mother wrote poetry and used to recite poems to me, such as Charles Kingsley’s The Little Doll, when I was a child. I always enjoyed writing composition at school. We were lucky enough to have an enthusiasticteacher, Mrs. Arrowsmith who introduced poetry and we learned A.A. Milne’s The King’s Breakfast, Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman and Hilaire Belloc’s Tarantella by heart. Recently, I was delighted to visit Shipley, where Hilaire Belloc once lived.

How did you get your first proper opportunity?

I joined a local poetry group – The Kingston Poets in Surrey, attending meetings for many years. Also, I did a course with the Arvon Foundation. This organisation helps writers of all different genres – poetry, novels, playwriting, etc. There are two established writers in your particular category on the residential course and I found it a marvellous experience being tutored, keeping your own style yet refining and professionalising your work.

In addition, I attended as many poetry courses as I could, learning about the great poets. My first venture into publication was sending a poem called The Victorian Pansy to The Lady magazine. Several other poems were also accepted in various magazines.

During my time at Kingston University I continued writing and submitted poems for its newspaper.

What’s the worst thing about being a writer?

The worst thing about being a writer is when your print cartridge runs out or your computer is out of action. I like to write my poems initially in longhand but I find it is easier to work on a poem when it is in typed form.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

The excitement of seeing a new poem grow on the page and developing an idea. The finish of a collection and delivery of a new book.

Of what are you most proud?

My children and Strands, the book dedicated to my mother. Helping to set up a thriving poetry group, The Beachcombers, which meets the second Monday in the month in Worthing Library’s basement, between 10.30am and midday. Members bring poems they like or ones they have written. People remark how much better they feel after attending.

Can you name a book or play or poem that changed your life?

After reading Delight, many years ago, J.B. Priestley inspired me to write some of my own essays, which I sent to him and received an encouraging reply.

I admired Proust’s descriptions in Remembrance of Times Past, especially of the hawthorn trees, which I also loved as a child. In Madame Bovary, I was amazed how Flaubert had so much insight into how a woman feels.

What do you think is the secret to being a good writer?

Get your thoughts and ideas of a new poem down on paper as quickly as possible after it comes into your head.

It is best to catch the ideas fresh. Later, you can spend time on developing, but those initial ideas are a wonderful starting block. Write what you truly feel.

What are you reading at the moment?

I have just finished reading Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin. The next book I would like to read is Philomena, after seeing the film and being very moved by it, especially as it has some significance on my own mother’s life.

What are you working on next?

Publishing my second collection of poems entitled Smiling on the Inside.

What are you most looking forward to about the future?

Writing more poetry, attending more poetry workshops and getting more inspiration.

Complete the sentence: ‘I write poetry not prose because...’

I write poetry because it sings without music.