Wednesday, 11 March 2015

A Bit about Me

Interview with Sarah Cobham Poet and Writer
by Halima Mayat Chair Woman of the Black Horse Poets - Wakefield

Sarah was born and raised in Australia but is now settled and established as a writer based in Yorkshire. Her style is reflective and based on detailed observation. It is deeply influenced by her experiences of different cultures, the natural world and the people she meets. Her work is full of stories and constitutes a platform for the female voice.

Sarah first graduated from the University of Teesside where she specialised in Feminist Literature, and, after lots of travelling, went to Oxford to get her PGCE in  English and Drama.  As an English teacher, with 22 years of experience, she feels this has given her an important skills base for writing, and is now focussing on expressing her own creative self.

Sarah is a poet, writer, public speaker and performance poet and specialises in providing activities that help women find their  creative voice through a myriad of genres. As a Wakefield Council Creative Partner in 2014 her project ‘Giving the Voiceless a Voice’ enabled otherwise marginalised sections of society to explore their creative potential and ‘own’ that experience.

Her continued success as a Creative Partner into 2015 sees her working with the Polish Community to create a short film capturing the stories of their lives and will also see Sarah as the Writer in Residence at the Well Women Centre in Wakefield. This thirteen month project provides a platform for the Woman’s creative voice and is funded by Creative Minds, Creative Partners and the Arts Council UK.

Sarah has been involved in the Wakefield Literature Festival, leading various workshops to empower the female voice and has her work published in the Italian on-line magazine, Margutte  as a result of being a post-code winner in the annual Red Shed Poetry Competition.

 Sarah also writes a blog called ‘Unspoken Georgian’

This blog deals with issues that confront women in the Republic of Georgia.  She became involved in Georgia as a result of being in the Georgian choir ‘Samzeo’ and has organised tours to the UK for singers and artists from Georgia since 2009.

Many of her performance pieces based on her blog are about  issues that are hard hitting and confront many taboo subjects which link women across the globe.

Sarah founded ‘Dream Time Baby Massage’ in 1998.

Dreamtime is Wakefield’s oldest, most established and most successful Baby Massage business whose primary aim is to support mums and babies during crucial first months.


I met Sarah on a blustery Monday morning and we shared a cuppa at Mocca Moocha.

Do you have a routine when writing?

Yes I do. It’s funny, but the house has to be clean and my workspace has to be organised. I don't like domestic chores hanging over me and I don't want to be writing and be aware that house needs hovering! If any domestic chores need doing, I do them quickly but it also depends on how urgent the writing is.

I don't have the radio on or anything like that, I need a quiet, light and airy space which is why I work on my lap top in the conservatory.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

I like words that make an impact. The physical process of leafing through my thesaurus, feeling the paper, smelling the print is deeply satisfying. I also use the thesaurus and dictionary on my lap-top and although it takes less time, it is not as fulfilling.

I thoroughly enjoy playing with words, swapping them around, playing with them. It is important to me to find the right word and ‘feeling’ when it is in its exact place. Believe it- or-not my favourite book is the thesaurus!

What is your least favourite part of the writing process?

I tend to over-complicate things initially especially if I am trying to pin down a complex idea.  But, I recognise that in myself and I have a great editor who helps me de-construct the process, for which I am very grateful.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Everyone says to ‘read, read, read’ and I would agree with that but I would also say ‘watch, listen, observe’. Watching will feed your writing. Watch people, the sky, animals, trees. Feel their energy, touch things if you can, try to connect with them. Writing is seen as a solitary process and of course the ACT of writing is but the process does not have to happen in isolation. You don’t have to be ‘angst’ to be a writer, you just have to be real and honest – to yourself. Write about what moves YOU, what makes you feel passionate about and be true to your own emotional integrity. That way you will have created something real and honest and people, if they come across your writing, will feel that connection and it will matter to them, and you. Have courage and write about things that you care about.

When did you first begin writing and why?

I had a yellow exercise book full of poems I wrote when I was 16. I just needed a platform to respond to A Level text. I read my poems out in class and the students really engaged with it.

My writing style changed as I travelled through life. When I was at Oxford it was mainly academic writing. When I was teaching I wrote comments on student's work. I lost the ability to write creatively.

About 12 years ago I self-published a book called ‘Her Eight of Cups’. It was picked up by WH Smiths and I did some local author talks and signings but did not have the time to pursue it any further after that initial flurry of interest. The process of writing at that time was very therapeutic for me.  I was writing a lost love out of my system. Lots of people over the years have contacted me after finding it on Amazon and said some very complimentary things about it.

What authors have inspired you?

My goodness, where to start? Virginia Woolf has influenced me deeply. I really connect with her stream of consciousness style. She was also an incredibly fascinating woman and of course was part of The Bloomsbury set, which influenced how women’s writing was portrayed.

I admire Simon Armitage and feel very connected to his poetry style. His epic poem after the 9/11 attacks was incredible and I will never forget how I stood stock still in a busy street reading and reading until the end and then wiping away the tears. People must have thought I was bonkers!

Maya Angelou has also been deeply influential to me. As an activist and female modern writer both her poetry and prose gave me the permission I needed to use the anger I feel about the injustices people, but women in particular, face in their daily lives.  She says, ‘Anger is good, it is what fires our senses and forces change.’ I like that.

You write a blog called Unspoken Georgia. What made you decide to write about Georgia?

I have had a relationship with Georgia for about 8 years.

In the beginning, it was like being in the first throes of any new relationship. It was experience of pure love for the music, the people, the beauty of the countryside and the culture. It was very exotic.

The more I visited Georgia and the more I became involved, the more I found the society violent & deeply misogynistic. I have always been a feminist activist and have challenged gender stereotypes, even as a teacher in the classroom, I found my anger at the ‘doubleplusthink’ techniques used by men against women in the Georgian society and the fact that I felt ‘tricked’ by the illusion the country gives out of itself, that anger just spilled over onto the page.  Hence the blog, ‘Unspoken Georgian’

What would your final message be to people who are reading my blog?
I think we are living in difficult but exciting times creatively. Wakefield has some amazing creative partnerships happening and lots of new things are being created all the time. I would urge anyone to become involved. Be active, not passive, start writing, reading, performing, creating.

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