Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Life of a Poet - Paul Andrew Russell

Okay, kids, bear with me. It's Sherry Blue Sky, and I am attempting to post my own interview for the first time. A leetle beet scary, but we'll muddle through!

When I found out that this poet played in castle ruins in England as a child, as well as on the slag heaps of the local collieries, I wanted to know more. So today we are sitting down with Paul Andrew Russell, one of Poets United’s steady contributors, and a long-term member.

Poets United: Paul, so good of you to take the time to meet with us. So, the name of your blog is self-evident:  Any story there?

Paul: A few years ago I had a blog on with the name 'Scribulus'. I wanted to be able to do more with it, so I paid for self hosting. As I'd paid for the hosting, I thought I'd use my own name for the new blog. Then when I'm famous I'll already have my own domain. Yes, I'm going to be a famous writer one day. Aren't we all?

Poets United: Good thinking! Tell us a little about yourself. Maybe you could tell us a bit about playing in those castles, Paul? And when you moved to Canada?

Paul: Well, I was born in a small mining town called Bolsover, in Derbyshire, England. It was a great place to grow up in, because on the one hand there was the beautiful English countryside, complete with castle on the hill, and on the other, there were the local mines and the chemical plant. It may sound strange, but all those factors made it a very exciting place to live. Ah, the folly of youth. We got to play in the castle grounds, and also down by the 'Coalite' chemical works, where the river that ran beside it was as black as liquorice. Not forgetting the slag heaps from the local collieries. Fun, eh?

I moved to Canada in 2003.

Poets United: Lots of scope for your writing there! Kids, if you check out Paul’s site, under Monday Memory #1, you’ll see a description of his childhood games in the castle, photos, and a cool video clip of the ruins. Paul, how many people and/or critters do you share space with?

Paul: I live in Newfoundland with my wife Val and daughter Faye. Over my nearly half a century I've lived with and owned dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, budgies, fish and a house sparrow called Sam. I found him on the ground one day , when I was a teenager. He had fallen out of a nest somewhere and was lying there in the pouring rain. There were no other birds around. I took him home, fed him and kept him for a couple of years, until he died. I couldn't release him because he had a damaged wing and couldn't fly properly. He used to go to sleep on my shoulder when I was watching TV, and when I was having breakfast, he used to run down my arm and steal cornflakes from my bowl. We now have just Sparky the cat as a pet.
Poets United: Oh, how adorable! Paul, tell us, what is it about poetry that makes you want to write?

Paul: I like to write poetry to express feelings I have about certain things. I find emotions are easier, for me, to put into words. I think prose is more, dare I say, clinical; everything has to be in the correct order and style or it looks terrible. Poetry can be as free a form of expression as you want. There are no rules. I like that aspect of poetry.

I remember writing my first real poem, but cannot remember much about it, except it was about horses running. I remember the teacher copying it out in calligraphic script and putting it up on the wall of the classroom. It felt very good to see my work displayed that way. I was nine or ten years old.

Poets United: Did you write poetry in high school, and, if so, did the other boys give you a hard time about it?

Paul: No, I didn't write poetry at all in high school. I wrote in my spare time, but I would never have admitted to writing poetry back then. I lived in a mining town. It would have made my life hell. I was bullied as a child, and to admit to writing poetry would have just made it worse. Looking back, it's a sad indictment of the environment I grew up in.

Poets United: Yes, very sad. And I doubt things have changed much since then, sadly. What style of poem do you write the most, Paul?

Paul: I like to write in rhyme, but it appears to have gone out of fashion. People tend to look at rhyming verse as being childish in nature, yet all the greatest poetry, in my opinion, has elements of rhyme in it. I still think in iambic pentameter when I first write a poem, but tend to adjust it to a mixture of free verse and rhyme. It gets a better response from readers. I also like writing haiku. I find them relaxing.

Poets United: How do you know a poem is good? Do you revise your work, or does it usually come just as we see it on your site?

Paul: I don't generally know if a poem is good when I first write it. Sometimes I've thought a particular poem has been magnificent and no one has commented on it. Other times, I've put something up on my blog that I spent five minutes writing and thought was a load of rubbish, and I've had people say how wonderful it was. I think maybe the spontaneous writing has more truth to it than something that takes a long time to write. As poets, we can sometimes censor ourselves too much when we revise.

Most of my poetry appears on the page just as you see it on my blog, except for spelling mistakes, (I can't type without looking at the keyboard). As Max Beerbohm once said, “...the hardest thing about being a poet is knowing what to do with the other twenty three and a half hours of the day...”

Poets United: Oh, good quote! What, most often, triggers you to write?

Paul: Emotions. I find I write my best poetry when I'm either utterly miserable or deliriously happy.

Poets United: What is your take on poetry and the internet? Too much poetry? Great exposure for those of us who used to write into a vacuum?

Paul: I think the internet has been great for every kind of writing. It's given people like us a forum to share our work and learn from others. After all, writers are rather solitary in nature. We can share writing, ideas and inspiration without having to go 'out there' and perform if we don't want to.

Poets United: I so agree. When do you write the most, Paul? Where do you like to write?

Paul: I write mostly in the evenings, when the working day is done. I find if my head is full of work stuff I can't write. I used to write sitting on the couch but have recently bought a new desk and am sitting at it now, answering your questions.

Poets United: Cool! Your work deserves a desk, and now we can picture you there. What poem, written by you, do you like the most and why?

Paul: I have a few I like, but if I had to pick one it would be 'New Day'. It's on my blog. It's short and simple. I like that one.
the morning dawned
bright and clear
a cloudless sky
the air still
as the world held
its breath
exhaling the day
into existence

Poets United: It is beautiful. I love that blue sky. Do you have a favourite poet?

Paul: William Wordsworth. 'Daffodils'. A simple yet beautiful piece of writing.

Poets United: And timely, for April. What keeps you coming back to the keyboard, Paul? 

Paul: I write because I think it's one thing I'm relatively good at. My real love is poetry, but I want to make a living as a writer one day, so I'm currently working on a novel; two novels, actually. I switch between the two when I'm bored. I've put the memoir on the back burner for now. I put a couple of excerpts up on my blog and they didn't go down too well, so I thought maybe the work wasn’t up to scratch. I'll go back to that later.

One of the books I'm working on is a crime novel set in and around Bolsover. The opening scenes are set in the castle grounds. The rest of the book is set in the immediate area of Bolsover and out towards the town of Chesterfield. There's also some action in the Peak District National Park, in the dead of night in a stone circle. I know Derbyshire like the back of my hand so I'm really enjoying writing it.

Poets United: Stone circles! So cool! It sounds an interesting and fun escape, to immerse oneself in that other world. This is why I love doing interviews, I always find out something surprising. We have a crime writer in our midst!

Paul: I published a book of poetry on Lulu, 'Pocketful of Words', because I thought it would be fun to do. It was hard work but gave me immense satisfaction. A few wonderful people have bought copies. It's a great thrill to know a book I wrote is on someone’s shelf.  I definitely want to be published, and like all writers I harbour the desire to have a New York Times bestseller and become very rich from book sales.

Poets United: Oh, I so hear you! What is your favourite type of music? Do you play?

Paul: I like all kinds of music, but classical and easy listening are my favourites when I'm writing. I can't write when there's anything playing that has lyrics. I'm also an ABBA fan from way back. (Yes, I know, it's sad, but someone has to be one.)  I do have a guitar, but can't play more than a couple of chords.

Poets United: Kids, when I saw this photo, on top of the childhood games in a castle, I suspected perhaps Paul was a secret millionaire. He tells me it's not so; this ship was in the harbour. It was sadly only a Photo Opp :)  You look good at its helm, though, Paul! What other poets in the blogosphere do you like to read or visit most?

Paul: I regularly read Eileen O'Neill, Susannah Bec and Martin at Cemetery of Forgotten Poems; all Poets United members.

Poets United:  Wonderful picks! When you’re not writing, what other interests do you pursue?

Paul: I love reading and photography. Gardening used to be a bit of an obsession for me, but since moving to Canada I haven't had much chance to indulge that particular passion.

Poets United: Have you ever lived a great adventure?

Paul: I'm a pretty boring person at heart, but when I was forty years old I sold my home and moved to Canada, so I guess you could say I'm living it now.

Poets United: Indeed. I made a similar leap at 40 myself. It does take courage. Do you have a dream you hope to make come true?

Paul: Yes, I want to be a published author and make my living by writing.

Poets United: A good dream. Do you have a favourite quote that you use often, or live by?

Paul: 'Mmmm...Donuts.' Only kidding. How about 'Life sucks and then you die'. Or 'I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.' Okay, let's get serious. I don't really have a favourite quote. I may have to find one.

Poets United: Hee hee. I love it, especially ‘Mmmmmmm donuts’. Hang on, I feel an urgent need to go to Tim Hortons!!

[image from - seriously!]

Paul, is there anything else you would like to share with Poets United?

Paul: Hmmm............ Let's see. When I was a teenager, I persuaded my younger sister to dye my ginger hair blonde. Unfortunately, it went pink and I had to have it all cut off!

Poets United: Ha! Do you happen to have a photo? :) No? Too bad! Paul, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. It is great to know more about you. Far from being a boring person, I would say you are a very decent and honourable one. Your wife is a lucky gal! I can’t wait for the publication of your crime novel, and would be more than interested to read your memoir! Good luck!

There is much more to a poet than their poetry. The folks that live behind the pen can be some of the most interesting people around. We look forward to giving our readers an intimate and personal look at some of the  poets found here at Poets United, so be sure to come back and see who we chat with next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Yay! It worked! Thanks, Paul, for allowing us into your life. I had a great time getting to know you better. And thanks, Robb, for trusting me with the hard stuff, hee hee! What's that quote? "Easy for you, deefeecult for me!"

  2. Loved reading this interview. It is encouraging to hear that something is in the offing. Russel, I would love to have my eyes feast on your novels. Good tidings.

  3. Add Canada to your crime novel Paul! Beautiful country. But I never made it to Newfoundland.

    Glad to get to know you better. I really want to know, why Newfoundland?

    Plus do you read Agatha Christie? I adore her.

  4. Sherry, you've done it again! This is a wonderful article sharing little-know information about a supportive and active community member.
    I AM a big Paul Andrew Russell fan, and this interview does him justice.

  5. I just popped into home, on a few minutes break from work, and found you'd put this up Sherry. I want to say thank you for your enjoyable questions and for making the interview as painless as possible. It was a definite pleasure. Once again, thank you. :-)

    @ninotaziz: My wife was living in Newfoundland when we met. So here I am. She's a massive Agatha Christie fan too. I've only read a couple believe it or not. I must read more.

    Thank you Kim and Salem too. I hate to dash off but work is calling again. I must make it big in the literary world so I can stay home all day and write. lol

  6. So good to see Paul here!

    It is always such a pleasure to visit his blog and read his poems and memories.

    I really appreciate the fact that he has been a loyal reader over at my 'My Name is Zing' blog and regularly calls in at my other blogs too.

    Paul is a nice guy and it is wonderful to know a little more about him. :-)

    Well done Sherry for another fantastic interview.

  7. Paul,
    Congratulations on being selected for this week's Life of a Poet Interview and well done to Sherry, for such a wonderful presentation!
    Paul,You are a very decent, honest and talented writer.
    I have enjoyed following your writing, in all its forms and with all subject matter.
    Your fantastic Derbyshire roots are evident so often in your words. Since I now live ten minutes from the Derbyshire border, I am very familiar with the area and the beauty of your area of birth.
    I have always found you to be a very supportive friend and an enthusiastic memberof Poets United.
    Enjoy your fame on Poets United Paul. It is very much deserved.
    Best Wishes, Eileen

  8. Wonderful interview, Sherry. Paul, nice getting to know a little bit more about you. I always enjoy your poetry (and comments in my blog).

  9. (Oops, I should have said, my wife was living here in Newfoundland when I first came over. Serves me right for rushing to comment in between work jobs lol I can only type with two fingers. :-) )

    Thank you everyone, for the lovely, positive comments. It's been a great experience getting to know so many wonderful writers. I have made so many new online friends. Lovely people. :-)

  10. Love these pieces. Always nice to get to know the Poets United talent.

  11. This was great. Sherry you did a nice job and Paul, it was lovely to learn more about you. There's a story behind all of us.
    Excellent reading.

  12. Oh, great job, you two!

    @Sherry: You have a way of making these interviews seem like cozy chats...just a couple of friends sipping tea beside a warm fire as they catch up on news...lovely. They are always a pleasure to read, and how clever that you were able to post it as well!

    @Paul: It was grand to learn more about you...that was an adventure indeed to move to the other side of the world in mid-life! As a fellow Brit, I too remember playing in ancient castles during childhood. I look forward to reading your book when it's published. In the meantime, I will take inspiration from your wonderful haiku!

  13. Great Job Paul n' Sherry! Fun questions and great answers. I love knowing you are writing crime novels and have a passion for doughnuts. What an amazing background. I love that you are putting it in your books~ Nice to get know you, better! Adventure is still there, getting ready to fly off your fingertips. Keep writing your novels~
    I loved your haiku~

  14. I love birds and thanks for sharing about your pet, Sam~

  15. Paul, as I'm a recent friend, I feel I know you so much better now. And hey, there are lots of ABBA fans out there, including my husband and me. To hell with the Spandex - it is great music. Thanks for sharing your love of free verse as well as forms. I know you are adept at both. Glad you are in a settle, happy home with so many fabulous pets. And "mmmmm, donuts," has a twin at our house: "Come to me, gummy Venus... (drooling sounds from Homer).

    Keep up the great work - and Sherry, thanks for daring your very first interview! Very personal and readable as well, so good on you.

    Peace, Amy

  16. Paul so glad you were featured here...I have truly enjoyed reading your poetry. It has been wonderful learning more about everyone here at Poet's United!!

  17. wow, Paul is a cool cat! it's interesting seeing all of the poets that pop up here.

    I am very new to Poet's United. What is the criteria for interviewing/being interviwed I wonder...

    Anyway, hello all!

  18. Thank you, lovely fellow poets, for all your kind wishes and visits to my blog. I have made so many new friends since joining Poets United.

    I enjoy visiting all your blogs, and reading so much wonderful writing. Who'd have thought there were so many talented people out there? Thanks to the internet, and blogs, we can do what we've always done but kept relatively private; write poetry but now we get to share it and discuss it with other like minded people. Great!


  19. This is a great format. Thank you Sherry and Paul for a nice Saturday stroll. I stumbled across Paul's Blog via Poet's United and have enjoyed his writing ever since. I also appreciate his supportive comments on my site as well as those above. Write-on Paul.

  20. So, sorry about getting here late. A fantastic interview. Nice to get to know more about you, Paul, and thanks Sherry.



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