I Own My Views - an interview with David Williams

David Williams is a poet and playwright, a founding member of The Red Button Theatre and author of several collections of poems. He generously publishes much of his work-in-progress on-line, and has a built a reputation for potent, entertaining drama that does not shy away from politicising the everyday scenarios he often chooses as his focus... (Much of his work is archived by the National Library of Wales.)

David Williams 
Your poetry often veers into prose and vice versa. How would you define ‘poetry’ and is it the same thing as ‘the poetic’?

First of all thank you Remy for taking the time to read my work (and especially Diolch for setting up IAWN, a resource that is desperately needed by writers in Wales).

As a former English & Drama teacher I am ashamed to say that I don’t know the difference between poetry and prose. They are all just words to me that come out in whatever form or order they do and that is why on my Amazon author’s spotlight I say that my poetry is really a collection of angry words.

To me, poetry is the shortened form, a precis or lyrical form of the long winded. Perhaps my opinion of poetry and the poetic is best summed up in a poem wot I wrote : ‘Poetry is Cool’

There are many overt political references in your writing, are some of these the views of the character espousing them and not your own? Do you catch a lot of flak from people misunderstanding the idea of fiction in poetry?

Every character, play or short short story I write is me.

They are my political views. I don’t think I would be able to write them otherwise. The plays are agit-propaganda and ‘In Yer Face’. Not much room for subtlety in my work. I have never thought of the idea of fiction in poetry myself.

Most of my work, be it plays or poetry, is autobiographical in some way so not fiction at all. It has affected my world view and therefore I am sure it would offend some people if I was to say it to them. I leave it out in the digital realm for them should they wish to read it. In real life, I am not so much ‘in yer face’ as I appear on the page.  If I get flak, it is for my glibness and facetiousness - a trait honed to deal with authority and institutions.

Genius Loci - Poems about People and Places
Do you think writing in a bilingual setting has affected your themes and approach (as opposed to the simply being able to use two languages)? I am thinking of your use of other dialects, such as the Afro-Caribbean-South-London language of Brickstown

Great question, and I think it must have done subconsciously.

I have an affinity with the oppressed and being a part of a linguistic minority, in a country that lends its name to one of the languages, gives you an empathy or understanding with others’ struggles - therefore, the gentrification of Brixton in Brickstown and the Mental Health conflict of the character in Freedom Come Freedom Go!

It was also in South East London that I was an English and Drama Teacher and some of the patois and speak I must have picked up, but I am told by a former colleague that the Jamaican dialect does need correcting.

What is your connection with Red Button Theatre and what is the company’s connection with community health? 

I set up Red Button Theatre at the University in 1994 as a vehicle for my own writing. I have wanted to work with it in a community health setting but have lacked the oomph to do this! We are there or rather I am there if people would like to work with us. My main interest is in Mental Health because after ruminating on the fact that I might not be ‘right in the head’, I was diagnosed with the writers and artists’ disease ‘Bipolar Disorder’ in 2005. This could be another reason why I have not extended the hand of friendship further out to the community.

Do you think a writer has a social duty? 

I think it is compulsory for why else are you writing?

My succinct and ‘in yer face answer’ might offend a few because some might be doing it for elusive fame and fortune. 

101 Poems by David Williams
When did you realise you were a writer?

When I couldn’t stop writing. when I couldn’t stop filling up notebooks. When I wrote my final play for the Theatre and Drama degree at the University of Glamorgan as a mature student at the age of 28.  I had always had pretensions as a younger person but really after my first degree and then after the MA in Playwriting at the University of Salford completed in 2014 I thought ‘yup this is me, a penniless writer’

Tell us a little bit about your approach to writing – do you have a ritual or regimen? What are the similarities / differences between writing prose, plays and poetry?

The three are the same to me and there is a crossover. I write as I think, a stream of consciousness and if those words and thoughts fit neatly into one of the above definitions, then great, if not, even greater. As a human of this race I have been pushed into boxes that don’t fit me and don’t suit me and likewise my precious babies, my words, I don’t want them boxed into a definition.

I don’t have a ritual or regimen. I am one of those rare/common creatures who waits for the muse to strike. To quote the old cliché, you are never ‘not writing’ at least in your head anyway and fortunately when an idea or concept hits home I get it down. I should have a routine but I don’t and I think that is the difference between a successful and unsuccessful writer. The discipline. I am in the latter category.

 What is the view like from your usual writing place?

“I see the church, I see the people, Your folks and mine happy and smiling, And I can hear sweet voices singing, Ave Maria.” Oops! Those are the lyrics to the Wedding by Julie Rogers. My glibness has surfaced again. Apologies Remy! When in Caerdydd, the view is of  Anti -Social Housing out the back and when on sojourn in West Wales, the view is of a stunning beech tree.

What is your beverage of choice when writing? 

I gave up the absinthe and balkan sobranie years ago, so now I will have a coffee when the muse strikes and follow it with copious amounts of Yorkshire Tea (Product Placement) throughout the day. 

Who have been your favourite writers and what have you learned from them? 

Charles Bukowski and John Tripp as the Poets. I have learnt to ‘say it as it is’ from them. I am very partial to the ‘In Yer Face’ playwrights of the 1990s and am hoping that this form of anarchic theatre will make a comeback.

Thank you very much! 

Diolch i chi!

David Williams was talking with Remy Dean

David Williams in Limbo Land

buy David Williams books via his amazon author page

...and check-out The Red Button Theatre website here


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