Ian McMillan Interview
Posted on 27 May 2004. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to poet, broadcaster, lyricist and dramatist Ian McMillan, who currently presents 'The Verb' for Radio 3
Tell us something about your background.
Blimey! Well, I was born in 1956 and I’ve been a full-time writer, broadcaster and performer since 1981; I’ve written books of poems for children and adults as well as stage plays, radio plays, lyrics for musicals. Currently I’m presenting The Verb on BBC Radio 3, a weekly programme of new writing and performance; writing weekly columns for the Barnsley Chronicle and The Yorkshire Post, writing a play for Chol Theatre Group and gigging and doing workshops all over the place, either on my own or with The Angel Brothers, a ‘world music’ band or Tony Husband, cartoonist of the year. I’m always trying to expand the range I things I do, both in writing and performance.
How did you start writing?
I’ve always wanted to write; I wrote a lot at junior school, encouraged by wonderful teachers, and it always seemed like the most natural thing to do
What poets have been a formative influence on your work?
Pete Morgan was a great influence and example, and people like Ted Hughes showed me that you can come from Yorkshire and be a poet. Shakespeare’s my main man!
How did you get your agent/first publisher/commission?
My agent came to see me at a gig in Kidderminster, and he now organises me completely; my first poem was published in the school magazine…I can’t recall my first commission…I’ve tried to remember, I promise!<br>
Do you have a writing routine? A place that’s special?
I don’t have a routine..I try and write every day, and mornings are best. I either write into my notebook wherever I happen to be, and then I work at the kitchen table on my laptop. I don’t like silence!
Who are your favourite writers and why?
That changes every day! Today I would say the great New York poet Frank O’Hara, who teaches me that I can write about anything, the old Northumbrian poet Basil Bunting who knows so much about how a poem should sound, and the American novelist Saul Bellow, who I’m just rediscovering. I read all the time, so ask me tomorrow and I’d say something else!
Do you ever get blocked?
No, I never do! You don’t hear about plumbers getting blocked! I feel that ‘blocked’ gives a kind of dignity to it. If you have to write something then you write it; so always write, every day, until it becomes the most natural thing in the world…
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