Edgy ideas that influence a poet

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  • Author Carola Kolbeck
  • Published January 3, 2022
  • Word count 1,453

A philosophical delight - An interview with Tom Rubens - Author of Seven Luminous Paths

Interview by Carola Kolbeck @chameleoninhighheels

Tom Rubens is the author of our latest poetry collection “Seven Luminous Paths”, a philosophical journey across a variety of themes, including history, human actions, connections and nature. Rubens’ back catalogue includes eight books on Philosophy, a selection of poems as well as three novels. As an active and engaged citizen, Rubens is involved in his political and local community, which has deeply influenced this collection and becomes clear to the reader from the first poem onwards. His stylistic and linguistic skills are challenging the norm, as well as the mind of the reader. Simplicity is not his style, inviting us into a rich and colourful world that challenges and enlightens our senses.

In our previous blog post we looked at some of Rubens’ poems, dug deeper into philosophical poetry and also offered some tips on how to read poetry. Poetry, a genre which has been getting a hard time in the past, appears to be making a comeback, giving artists like Rubens a delighted audience.

As part of the launch of “Seven Luminous Paths”, we spoke to Tom Rubens about all things writing and poetry, as well as his writing process, sources of inspiration and his preferred way to write.

Tom, thank you for taking the time to speak to us about your new book and congratulations on the publication. Your published work is extensive and spans across various genres. Regarding this latest publication,how did your writing evolve or change, in comparison with your previous published selection of poems?

My previous selection, entitled The Deepening Foreground, came out all of fifteen years ago, and contained only 35 pages; so it represented a more limited endeavour than Seven Luminous Paths. Since then, I have written a good deal more, and on a wider range of subjects. Also, my handling of language has advanced in a number of ways.

Did the order of poems in Seven Luminous Paths come naturally, or were there some dilemmas you faced?

The order actually came from a recommendation by my editor, Clare Newton at Happy London Press, that I divide the material into theme-sections: something which I hadn't myself previously considered, and which immediately struck me as a very good idea.

Your poems are detailed and intricate and equally paint some beautiful pictures in the reader’s mind. Which poem in Seven Luminous Paths was the most difficult for you to write--and why?

In retrospect, I think it was 'Crowded Do,' which is in fact the longest poem in the book. The difficulties came from my emotional closeness to the subject-matter, plus the amount of detail I had to provide to establish different time-frames.

Are there any of your poems which were left out of the selection? How did you decide which poems to include?

I have roughly an equal number of poems which, by agreement with Happy London Press, were left out of this book and will comprise a second selection called Memory-Minings and Other Probes. But, having said this, I honestly can't recall the factors which led me to my choice of poems for Seven Luminous Paths.

Many of your poems are about places in the UK. Have you written the poems while you were there, or did the ideas come to you randomly after visiting?

A bit of both. Certainly, on site, I was immediately moved by what I saw, and was already coming up with some of the diction which would later go into the poems. But later, on reflection, my thoughts expanded much more, and the main body of the poem took shape.

How important is nature in your process of writing poetry?

If, by 'nature' you mean natural phenomena and forces, then this influence is

especially evident in the 'Powers Not Ours' section of the book.

Readers find it difficult to pick a favourite poem, as many of them speak to them. If I had to pick one, which is your favourite poem in Seven Luminous Paths, and why?

I really don't have a single favourite poem. But, with a number of poems, I do draw a deep aesthetic satisfaction from certain parts of them.

Let’s talk about your writing process. What is your preferred way of jotting down bits of inspiration?

My preferred way is immediately searching for words and phrases which convey the thought and feeling coming to me. By doing this, I try not to let the thought or feeling slip away and disappear--as it may easily do.

I think many of our writers can empathise with that.

When inspiration strikes, do your poems come to you in one go, or do you write in snippets and varying stages?

Usually, I am slow in composing a poem, but I do try to complete it in one sitting--though the sitting may well be a long one. But sometimes one sitting is not enough: my effort then is to complete it at a second session. I rarely go beyond this, because I wish to keep alive the emotions which prompted me in the first place, and this I cannot do over a very extended period of time.

Do you edit as you go along, or write drafts first and edit later?

Echoing what I said in answer to Question 10, I do a bit of both, though the emphasis does fall on editing as I go along.

What is your ideal writing environment? Noisy? Total silence? Music on or off?

Either total silence or with the only sound being music of my own choice.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, how do you get out of it?

Yes, I do suffer from this, but it is mostly when I'm writing prose--and then almost always when the prose is fiction (and not philosophy). With poetry, I find that the intense emotion which turns you to the effort to write a poem is always there, so there is constantly the clear-cut task of finding words for the feeling. This starting-point never disappears. By contrast, in writing fiction, which is a very protracted project, you may frequently be beginning from a position of emotional emptiness, which slows down your mental processes. Then, you simply have to be patient with yourself until something comes. I should add that, in writing philosophy, I find that the 'block' problem is very rare, even though you aren't starting from an emotional position. The position is a logical and rational one: in which one idea logically leads to another. Philosophical thinking has, then, its own in-built progression of this kind.

This is some really insightful and valuable advice for aspiring writers. Talking about your own literacy heroes, who are your two biggest influences in poetry? Could you name one contemporary and one past poet for us please?

The 'contemporary' poet will have to be a near-contemporary, and that will be Philip Larkin. The past poet will be Thomas Hardy. I should add that their effect on me has not been their poetic techniques--since I always find it difficult to pinpoint influence of this kind--but the areas of experience they explore.

What draws you to philosophical poetry, other than your extensive background in philosophical writing?

I am drawn to this kind of poetry because of its ability to compress general observations about reality which, in their prose form, often lack the verbal precision and sensuous impact which characterise poetic language. My exemplar of philosophical language in poetry has always been the diction of Shakespeare's Hamlet in the latter's "To be or not to be" soliloquy. Philosophy deals in generalities, and it does so in prose; so, when those generalities are captured within the field of poetic economy--then you have a corker of a reading or listening experience!

Tom, thank you very much for your time and enlightening answers.

Seven Luminous Paths by Tom Rubens is available from Happy London Press

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Tips how to read poetry

Poetry anthologies are an excellent place to start because they offer a range of voices.

Reading poetry doesn’t require a highfalutin approach; you can read as you’d read anything else.

If you didn’t feel a connection to the poem, it’s okay

Re-Read the poem twice and you will notice little extra meanings the second time

Don't be afraid of unfamiliar words - sometimes authors make them up to express the emotion

Resist the urge to stop halfway through reading - give yourself time to become accustomed to the art form


Bringing words of wisdom from amazing authors and writers from across the globe. Learn from the best and get inspired as we share their writing tips and unique reading insights.

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