Can you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Yes. It would have been in the first week of my last school – so September 1971, then. An exercise for homework. It had to be a poem in free verse. I thought I'd kept a copy, but alas no. I got 5/5, that I do remember!
And how old you were when you wrote it?
And what it was about?
I have absolutely no idea!
Name a favourite poem or two . . .
Always difficult, and too many to list, so how about one from a late poet and one from a living poet: Henry Reed's "Naming Of Parts" and Robin Robertson's "At Roane Head".
. . . and a few of your favourite poets.
Although Henry Reed wrote one of my favourite poems, his main body of work was not of the same calibre. Robin Robertson is my favourite living poet. Billy Collins and Carol Ann Duffy aren't far behind. I'm also a huge admirer of Louis MacNeice. But RS Thomas is the poet who is most important to my own work.
Do you talk about poetry with your friends or is it a secret part of your life?
I talk about poetry all the time to everyone. I co-host two poetry venues and was involved in organising the poetry element of this year's Festival of Firsts on the Wirral, with over one hundred poets taking part. I can't publicise poetry and make it accessible if I keep mum about it!
Do you write poetry for yourself, or for others, or for both?
I think all poets primarily write for themselves. I certainly do. If others take something away from your work then that's wonderful.
Is it important to you if your poems get published or not?
Getting published is a huge affirmation of your work and, indeed, of you as a person. That's why rejection can sometimes lead to belligerence from the rejected poet. If I wasn't published I would keep writing poetry, but I do enjoy being published. I have never self-published, as I think only published work that's been scrutinised by a third party can have real credibility.
Do you think poetry is important in the global scale of things or just a pleasant, indulgent hobby like needlework or trainspotting?
It's incredibly important. The best poetry can describe the human condition like no other art form. It's no coincidence that at times of great joy or great depression, people who may normally decry poetry invariably look to verse as a voice for their emotions.
What does poetry really mean to you?
It's how I communicate the most profound bits of me to other human beings.
Is poetry better than sex?