I remember the exact moment when I met John. It was on twitter August 2011. I was having a conversation with another Englishman about the London riots, and John interjected and suggested I read his article on the matter.
The rest is history, really. We’ve been friends ever since, and have discussed numerous topics ranging from poetry to politics to music to the Royal Mail system. He’s helped me in a fundraiser for a fellow author, and he’s been a constant source of friendship.
For all these reasons, it’s my privilege to highlight John and his writing.
Please give a very warm welcome to poet/writer and consummate thinker, John Anstie.
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So happy to have you here, John—finally! Tell readers how your best friend would describe you in 20 words or less.
I asked her and she said: “Noisy, caring, strong (mostly in a good way), supportive, honourable, loyal, but often elsewhere.”
All good. 🙂 Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job?
I retired three years ago, so I don’t have a paid day job any more. I don’t write full time either, because I have so many other commitments – as Chairman of a local mixed voice choir, volunteer Guide Dogs Puppy Walker (24/7), Parkland Ranger and budding house tour guide for a local historic estate, Wentworth Castle. I am a Trustee. I also have responsibility as an attorney for my ageing step-mother’s financial affairs. In the meantime, I am trying to toughen the finger tips of my left hand once again to renew my competence on my forty four year-old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar and learn to play the piano again. That didn’t really answer your question, did it!
No, but I don’t mind! If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
That I could read faster and write more pithily. Sorry that’s two things!
I’m bad at math, so you’re in luck. What profession other than your own would you like to try?
Musician or, more precisely, a singer/songwriter.
You would’ve done very well. I’ve heard you play. 😉 What is your greatest accomplishment?
Whether by luck or design, keeping my family together, with the same wife (and almost the same waistline) for forty years, as well as raising three fantastic kids, who love, support and get on with each other so well.
Huge accomplishment indeed. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
War and Peace, Love and Loss, humanity and inhumanity and the effects of human insecurity … about sums it up.
All incredible reasons to feel inspired, John.
Let’s talk about your writing. Your poetry appears in The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry edited by Frank Watson. The summary is fascinating.
From America to Nigeria, Germany to Malaysia, and all around the world. One voice in the dark joins another, then another. Soon there is a chorus of voices and the night comes alive. No two voices are the same and each adds depth to the song. Soon it spreads and people in the next town are singing, then in the next country, and then in all the continents of the world. Different languages where the words don’t sound the same, but the heart unites as one. The song is not just the one you hear, but the one that plays “connect the dots” along the veins in your arm—as you inhale and—join in.
Explore the world of contemporary poetry through the eyes and words of over ninety poets from around the world. Drawn primarily from the poets contributing to dVersePoets.com, The dVerse Anthology features the unique voices and styles of poets as they delve into topics as varied as love, family, travel, conflict, loss, and much more. Take a peek and see what the poets have to offer about the pulse of life in modern society.
John, what would you say is the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Don’t waste words and be consistent.
I like that. How would you define your style of writing?
Instinctive and narrative.
Is it important for you to know the title or ending of a book before you write it?
Most times, yes, but, very often, the title of an essay or poem changes or evolves during the writing or after I’ve completed it. The ending has to be memorable, if at all possible, and, again, is rarely planned.
P.S. I decided on the title of my autobiography over thirty years ago!
Hurry up and write it then! Do you outline, plot and structure, or do you just sit down and write?
I just sit down and write, although, for the anthology, there was a lot of planning and much time spent developing the theme and its structure.
Do you have a set schedule for writing? Tell us about your typical writer’s day.
There is nothing typical about my writer’s day – I’m constantly planning essays, poems and more major projects in my head, but only start writing when I have the time or when an idea is burning my brains out!
What is your best advice for new authors?
Trust your instincts. Don’t be a perfectionist in your first drafts, but edit ruthlessly (and get someone else to proof read, if not edit for you), and thank you, Eden, for proof reading and editing the anthology. Your feedback was not only professional and constructive but also invaluable.
It was my pleasure to look it over, John. Now is a great time to talk about the poetry anthology you’ve just alluded to—Petrichor Rising. Why do you think people should read it?
Whilst the distinguished elite of the poetry world lead the way for us, there is still a very significant number of what I call grass roots practitioners of the art, who may not be pre-eminent, but who are capable of amazing insight into human life. The authors who contributed to this book not only represent that grass roots talent, but they also represent an extraordinary and international diversity of perspectives. It would be a shame to lose sight of the exceptional ability that may be sitting next to you on the bus, or who walks by you in the street without your noticing. Every one of us has a story to tell and we need to try and listen to those, who do decide to tell us theirs. That’s why people should buy this book, I guess.
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Petrichor Rising takes you on a journey that exposes you to the full spectrum of emotions, from barely concealed despair to hope, from love to sorrow, with a clear appreciation of nature’s value and humanity’s shortcomings. It rides a roller-coaster that moves you to consider many of life’s challenges from a different perspective, as all good poetry should. Haunting yet shocking, aching nostalgia and enchanting stories about dragons. Optimism and hope tinged with shadows of doubt. Places never seen and humanity’s uncaring nature, prosodic social commentaries and observations of the minutest details of life. Mood, atmosphere and romance. Clever writing that brings you close to the edge of society, still capable of moving you and not pulling any punches. Poetry with a universal appeal covering subjects as varied as the loss of a cat or a harrowing account of the 7/7 London bombings, poetry that focuses on the roots of all that makes us respond to life and long for something better.
Buy links for Petrichor Rising (in print)
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I love my copy of Petrichor Rising! It’s such a beautiful book. How long did it take to complete?
From inception, when we all met on Twitter during the summer of 2011, to publication, two years! But in reality, from receiving poems and starting in earnest to pull it together and choosing a publisher, it took about nine months. Standard human gestation, I’d say!
What inspired you to write the book?
Unexpected friendships from an unexpected source and a shared belief in the power of poetry.
How did you celebrate when you finished Petrichor Rising?
With a quietly satisfied smile.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from it?
Editing is not as easy a job as I thought it would be, particularly of other people’s work.
What is the best way for someone to support the book, aside from buying it?
Ideally, just like you yourself have done over the past six months or more since its publication, Eden, promoting it consistently, doggedly and without hesitation, you have been a shining star. The best way for anyone to support it is to give it a mention every now and again (not forgetting its royalties are all being donated to UNICEF). You could also expose it on social media, prime time national and international television and radio, messages in bottles, banners, billboards at the Super Bowl, Twickenham and Wembley, broadcasts by Time Lords to intergalactic listening stations … I could go on ;).
Well then, let’s have a quick lightning round to finish off!
Aside from people/pets, what is the ONE item you would save if your house was on fire? Torn between my iPad and my forty-four year old Yamaha FG140 guitar, but the guitar wins!
Favorite place you’ve traveled to? There are many, but if I have to elect for one, it’s India, which assails all the senses including the sixth!
Name a food you can eat everyday. Wholemeal bread, preferably my wife’s homemade.
Salty or sweet? Salty
Cat/dog/other pet? Dog
Favorite style of music? Eclectic, but finger style guitar playing, Jazz, folk/roots and choral or harmony groups come top.
The best gift you’ve ever received? My life, my wife and my children.
Your most guilty pleasure. Ooh! Should I admit in public?! Having nothing to do other than what pleases me.
Favorite season. Spring
Name something you cannot go a day without. There is nothing I could not go a day without. A week or a month would be a different matter! How fortunate most of us are in the affluent west …
So true John. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Your readers probably know already, that you are the most incredibly supportive person, certainly the most supportive fan of poetry any poet could ever hope to have. That you yourself are a very busy full time writer and published author, who, I know, has a lot of other life and commitments as well, makes it all the more remarkable. On behalf of all those lucky people, who you unstintingly support, I’d like to say thank you for your patronage and your love.
You are most welcome, John, and it’s so lovely to finally interview you. Come back anytime.
Readers, please connect to John at all his virtual homes and leave a comment for him. He’s cool to know.
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Connect To John
I could describe myself as an amateur blogger-poet-musician-photographer and would-be ‘film’ maker, but there are those, who might describe me otherwise! I was educated and trained as a scientist and engineer, but spent most of the following 35 years in a creative desert. That period was not without fruit, however: one very special wife and three fantastic children may have had a fair influence on many of my creative exploits, to say nothing of the influence of my earlier life.
My life, so far, can be divided into four quarters: As an overqualified Metallurgical Engineer, I worked for the first ten years in special steelmaking; and, with the same industry for the next ten, in Marketing and Export Sales; the third period of fifteen years was spent in the IT arena in roles varying from Bank back office and ATM Engineering, Project Management including three years contracting through my own company. The last quarter (unless something else happens to add a fourth career change) has been spent putting the World to rights with my pen. This last period differs from the previous three in one important way: I am accountable to no-one but my family, for whose benefit it was always my intention to write, for their history, for my children and their children, for as long as my family lives on this earth and … or for as long as the media on which it was recorded survives!
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