5 Questions for: Roy Marshall

Roy MarshallPaper Swans Press and Roy Marshall

Roy Marshall’s poems, Aim Higher and Egg were published in Schooldays. Roy’s poem, Rose won our Poetry of Roses competition for The National Trust, Sissinghurst.



Roy Marshall has been employed, at different times, as an electronics buyer, delivery driver, gardener and coronary care nurse. His pamphlet Gopagilla appeared in 2012, and a full collection The Sun Bathers (Shoestring Press, 2013) was short-listed for the Michael Murphy award. Roy’s poems have appeared in many publications in the UK and Ireland, and his poem ‘Dying Arts’ appeared as part of a series of poems in waiting rooms in New Zealand. Roy lives in Leicestershire with his wife and son, and currently works in adult education. Roy’s second collection, Trace is due in 2017.


When did you first start wring poetry and why?

The first poem I ever wrote was an attempt to convince my parents to buy me a dog. I was six or seven. It was entitled ‘I wish I had a dog’ – the ‘d’ of dog was the wrong way round as most of my d’s tended to be at that time. It must have worked as we got a mad beagle shortly afterwards. As a teenager I wrote love poems to my then girlfriend. They were influenced by Brian Patten and Adrian Henri. Decades passed and I hardly wrote at all. When I met my wife I started writing poems again – love poems again!

So far, 2016 seems to have been a good year for you! Can you tell us about your poetry successes?

I was pleased when a poem came second in the Wenlock poetry festival competition. Don Paterson – a poet whose work I admire – awarded the prizes, and I got to read with him and the other prize winners. Another poem came third in the Writing East Midlands competition. The best thing about being placed in competitions is meeting people at the prize giving events and hearing people read. It’s also been good to be published in two or three anthologies recently, including The Emergency Poet – An Anti-stress anthology, edited by Deborah Alma. It is a lovely hardback book, and it’s been nice to have a poem on the shelf in Waterstones! Of course it is lovely to have work winning prizes and published in magazines, but I believe ‘success’ in poetry is when you write something you really like – and with any luck, continue to like as time goes by.

If you had to save just one poetry book from your bookshelf, what would it be and why?

That is a tough question! There are lots of books that are important to me because they showed me what poetry could do at the time I acquired them – books that opened the door to my own writing- some examples would be Jean Sprackland’s Tilt, Paul Farley’s The Ice Age and Robin Robertson’ s Swithering. All of these are special to me in that I remember how deeply I fell for poetry through them, and how much I learnt from them. Collected Heaney would be hard to leave on the shelf- I love ‘The Tollund Man’. I’ll probably have to go for Ted Hughes Crow. It’s still a powerfully immersive read, written by a master.

What, if anything, would you like to see change in the poetry sphere?

I suppose there are many overlapping spheres in poetry and hopefully everyone can find a place, with perseverance, where they can fit in and be comfortable. I hope small presses like your own will continue to flourish and do their important work of helping people into print. I think things are generally changing for the better in terms of diversity and gender representation. There have been lots more women poets being published in recent years, and there are starting to be more female editors of magazines and presses as well. With regard to education, I’d like to see children and young adults being introduced to poetry that might be relevant to them and the times they are living through. That doesn’t mean it has to be contemporary poetry, just work that they can connect with.  There are many ways in which reading and creative writing can enhance our lives and it seems a shame that the emphasis on exams and narrow ways of looking at literacy are taking the joy out of learning and exploring language as a means of expression, discovery and the development of empathy. I’d like to get involved at some point.

It’s quite easy to become disillusioned, or, at least, disheartened as a poet or writer. Rejections hit hard and successes are hard-fought to get. What advice would you give to that poet who wants to get published, but seems to get nowhere?

There may be many reasons why work is returned. I’ve written about this on my blog as I think it’s important to understand that everyone has poems returned; that it’s normal and part of the process.
I find it’s good to concentrate on writing and see publication as a separate thing. I try not to worry too much about getting poems back, and send them out again. However, if you’ve been reading and writing for years and not getting published at all it might be a good idea to go on courses or workshops and receive feedback from a tutor or mentor. I know lots of people who said a course changed things for them.  It’s important to be open to suggestions too. This is not always easy, but if someone offers constructive advice it is a good idea to consider it for a while before deciding if you want to change your poem or not. Poetry takes time – learning how to write well, reading, absorbing –  it’s a slow art and publication is a slow process in a fast world. Regardless of publishing success, all I can suggest is to keep reading, keep enjoying poetry, keep learning, keep discovering, keep writing.

And finally, which poem would you like to share with us?    

Thanks for having me. This is a poem from my next book, Trace, which should be out next year.


Our seventh ghosting in as many days; a thrill
of honking overhead, curtains still drawn
and silver edged. We speculate

over breakfast; are these practice migrations,
training runs from lake to lake; from the Business Park
near the motorway to the reservoir

at Thornton? And if so, could it be the same flock
returning now, a low V fanned across pink cloud
as I drain steaming pasta at the sink? Or is it another band

entirely, traveling west to east, working their turn
like cyclists in a peloton? And that staggered pair,
gapped and off beam; are they frantic

to close, to make the arrow whole? Or do they only
see each other, become one beating wing?

First Published in  The Rialto, summer 2016

Read Roy’s article on Paper Swans Press HERE

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