Poet Puzzlers – Mike Farren

After a short hiatus, the poet puzzlers are back with international poet of mystery and mushrooms – Mike Farren. Read on for tips on disappearing dead bodies, reincarnation news, and some writing talk too.

  • How have you found Lockdown has impacted your writing?

I’m not sure why but I seem to carry ideas around in my head for weeks, doing nothing about them other than record the essence of the idea so I don’t forget it, then writing three or four poems in a day from those ideas.

  • What would you like to be reincarnated as?

    A bee. This time around, I have been unsocial, unproductive and have probably taken more out of the natural world than I have put in. If there’s a next time, I think being a bee might address all those. And you get a cool uniform. And a sting.

  • What did you want to be when you were at school?

Prime Minister. It was the 60s/70s. Northern grammar school boys got to do that sort of thing then.

  • What was/were the last good poetry book/s you read?

Very recently, there have been Natalie Diaz’s ‘Postcolonial Love Poem’, Wayne Holloway-Smith’s ‘Love Minus Love’ and Romalyn Ante’s ‘Antiemetic for Homesickness’. I’ve just started Sean O’Brien’s ‘It Says Here’, which I think is going to be a cracker.

  • Do you have a favourite word? And could you tell us what it is? (and maybe why?)

Mushroom. I hadn’t thought about it until asked to do so in a workshop with Michael Laskey. It was the first word that popped into my head. No reason why, but I remain happy with my choice!

  • Do you have a hidden skill or talent?

    I’m handy in a pub quiz and put up a mean shelf.

  • What would be your preferred way to dispose of a body?

In plain sight. If anyone notices, I will stress that the murder was limited and specific.

  • You have a video on the Puzzle Poets Youtube channel called ‘York Street Furniture, 1981’. Assuming the poem is based on real-life experience, was that the worst job you’ve had?

It was based on real-life experience and it was a pretty rubbish job, especially considering it was how I spent most of my gap year. The worst, though, was after I had graduated and hadn’t a clue what to do with my career, I took a training contract with a firm of Chartered Accountants. I felt like my soul was being sucked out of me for the following 20 months until I escaped by failing my exams.

  • (This question comes from John Foggin) Clive James said that we live in a in a time when almost everyone writes poetry, but scarcely anyone can write a poem. He writes about ‘slim volumes by the thousand…full of poetry…but few….with even a single real poem in them’. Wotcher think about that?

Crikey, where to start! For the sake of argument, I will take ‘a real poem’ as being one that meets Robert Graves’s criterion – “”The hairs stand on end, the eyes water, the throat constricts, the skin crawls, and a shiver runs down the spine when one writes or reads a true poem.”
On that basis, in principle, I suppose I agree with James but think he was ungenerous with the proportions. There are some feted books in which I think I can see what the poet is doing and why it is lauded without thinking that I detected any Gravesian ‘true poems’ but fortunately, there are still plenty where I do get that frisson.

  • Do you have a book, event, project, invention, armadillo, anything you’d like to tell us about?

For obvious reasons, a lot of things are on hold at the moment. I would love to tell you about upcoming Rhubarb at the Triangle poetry night events in Shipley (I’m one of the hosts) but there aren’t any.
I could tell you about the most recent publication by Yaffle Press (I’m one of the editorial team) – Lorna Faye Dunsire’s Brontë-themed pamphlet ‘Fiery Daughters’.
My own publications – ‘Pierrot and his Mother’ (Templar, 2017) and ‘All of the Moons’ (Yaffle, 2019) are a bit old now but I would be delighted if anyone fancied buying a copy.
Lastly, I have had a bit of good fortune recently in competitions, winning the Saltaire Festival poetry prize and another I can’t tell you about yet. If you liked me reading my poems here, there will be links to my reading the winning poems shortly!

  • Could you give us a question to ask another poet?

    Back to Robert Graves. He said, “Nine-tenths of English poetic literature is the result either of vulgar careerism or of a poet trying to keep his hand in.” I would be interested to know what your poets think of that.


Mike Farren is an academic publishing editor from Shipley, W.Yorks. His poems have appeared widely in journals (including 14, The Interpreter’s House, Dream Catcher and The High Window) and anthologies, including ones from Valley Press and The Poetry Business. He has been placed and commended in several competitions, including as ‘canto’ winner for Poem of the North (2018) and winner of the Saltaire Festival poetry competition (2020). His pamphlets are ‘Pierrot and his Mother’ (Templar) and ‘All of the Moons’ (Yaffle). He co-hosts Rhubarb open mic in Shipley.

You can find out more about Mike over at his website at the following link:

And Mike’s following publications are available now:

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