Roy McFarlane

How did poetry first appear in your life?
Psalms was probably my first introduction to poetry; my mother would read a Psalm every night before we went to sleep as a child. I also had to learn and recite scripture and verse from an early age for Sunday school. There’s something about the King James Version language, it was magical and beautiful reading and reciting words from a bygone age.

What do you think poetry’s relationship to politics should be?
I believe poets need to cause a stirring in the waters, throw a poem into the depths. The more we throw, the more we’ll disrupt, change or affect what’s happening.

Has a poem changed your life?
‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’ by Langston Hughes mesmerized me, made poetry personal to me as a Black Brummie. I stopped playing at the margins of poetry and needed to find out more about Langston and the canon of his writings; Jazz, spirituality and the voice of black America. I began writing, whilst Langston drew me into the Harlem Renaissance. I found ‘my soul has grown deep like the rivers’ in poetry.

Tell us something about your writing process / the process of writing a particular one of your poems.
I’m an early morning riser, gathering my lines together, writing free form, going over old poems that call my attention. I’m the most undisciplined poet when it comes to writing, I’ll work on the poem that shouts the loudest, or play with another poem because I was dreaming about her. I need deadlines, my publisher on my back, commissions, projects or up and coming performances to bring a semblance of order to my life.

Do you have any bad poetry habits?
Having tea and biscuits, with the odd cake, popcorn to nibble on while I’m writing. My partner locks the cupboards when she knows I’m at home working on a collection.

Roy McFarlane reads with Ian Duhig, Chrissy Williams and Zena Edwards at The Civic, Barnsley, on Wednesday 24 May. Click here for further information about the event; you can book tickets through the Civic box office here.