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Interview with Roger McGough

Roger McGough now lives in Twickenham, but he remains at heart a Liverpudlian. The interview was led by The Coalway Junior School of Coleford in Gloucestershire.

What got you started writing poetry? Can you give any tips to Reluctant Writers?

I started writing poems when I was about 18 years old. I had wanted to be an artist and thought that I would try using words instead of pictures. As for Reluctant Writers - well, don’t worry about it. If you’re not keen that’s OK. Some kids aren’t sports-mad; that’s OK too. You need to be able to write for some purposes, but you don’t need to be a Writer.

When you were young, did you get lots of encouragement from home to write? Are your family now also fans of yours?

I was not very good at doing homework, I am afraid, and I didn’t show my poems to my parents (They were my secret). When I became a published poet my mum was proud of me, but sadly my dad had died some years before.

Do you have a favourite poet? Perhaps someone who influenced the way you write. Which is your favourite poem of your own?

I like lots of poets rather than one in particular. As for my own poems, I always like the one I’m working on at the moment. Once they’re published they’re gone. When I’m writing I’m getting to know the poem as it develops and that’s exciting. It’s the process of writing that I enjoy.

Do you have any tips about using rhyme?

Usually the best rhyme isn’t the first one that pops into your head because that’s usually rather obvious. Listening to the poem can make ideas for rhymes come because rhymes are part of the music of what you are writing.

We all loved ‘Bad Bad Cats’. Are cats a particular favourite subject of yours? Do you have any animals at home? Do you enjoy writing about animals? Are there things about people that you can say when writing about animals that you can’t say if you are writing directly about people?

We do have a cat (Tricky) much loved by Isabel (7 years) and Matthew (10). For many years I had a dog (Bran) who was famous because he was the son of ‘Martha’, who belonged to Paul McCartney. I am not a cat-lover in particular, although animals do loom large in my writing. I don’t think that I am writing about people when I’m writing about animals because I never have any problem writing about people as people. The ‘I’ in a poem isn’t necessarily me! We all feel things about people - maybe we feel that we are being got at and in a poem you can get your own back. You change the names around but you can have your revenge for the way you have been treated or ignored!

Q Do you still have any ambitions left, either in your private life or as a writer?

I have never had any ambitions other than to continue writing, in the hope that my poems will be read and spoken.

Thank-you very much Roger McGough!

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YoungWriter was a magazine published from 1995 to 2003 by Kate Jones.
We here at Myst Ltd had the pleasure of producing the magazine for Kate.
Sadly, Kate passed away in 2010.