Conversation 32: THE DAILY HAIKU INTERVIEWS: William Dean Ford

Introduction

My Name is William Dean Ford. I have been writing for as long as I can remember and over the last ten years have developed a reputation as a surprising spoken word performer who switches between the serious and silly, the rapped and the recited, the whispered and the sung, the heartfelt and the satirical during sets. Such variety is reflected in what I come up with for TDH.

During the first Covid Lockdown I was commissioned by my local health authority to write a weekly poem responding to life under Lockdown and tackled that from a different angle for the 17 weeks of the project. More details on that (and indeed more about me) can be found at the end of this interview piece.

What do you enjoy about being a member of The Daily Haiku Group?

Many things! Since I love responding to prompts, the chance to do so daily keeps the creative energy chugging away. Since haiku is such a short form, at least once (usually several) times a day I can feed that part of me that enjoys completing a piece of writing that may feel frustrated when working on something longer. A little snack of achievement on a regular basis makes me creatively more alive. I love reading (and being inspired by) what others write.

I especially enjoy the variety of pieces others do and the variety I am moved to respond with, whether they be deadly serious, completely silly, self-searching, sharing joy, pain, glee, sympathy, offering advice. The variety of what can end up in a haiku is basically infinite and even occasional ‘naughtiness’ shows up in the work of others and in mine. And to have been able to be part of collective film related projects with other writers of TDH has been a lovely privilege!

There is a great feeling conveyed by TDH that we are all infinitely complex creatures and there are parts of us that are own individual character shaping our own writing and parts of us that share the same basic human experiences, that via expressing tells others and tells us “You are Not Alone” which was a vital thing to feel in anyway, and especially since isolation has become a parallel pandemic since 2020 took the turn it did. Being a Facebook page away from thousands of like (and differently) minded souls has become vital.

The importance of random prompts is they can reach down deep into us for an immediate response and maybe pulls out of us material that we might not have arrived at following our own inclinations, and by taking our thoughts into new places, expand our creative possibilities. Being a member of TDH provides daily inspiration people can take advantage of as they see fit and the immediate offering of our words to others, which can be daunting for some but rather liberating once you have started sharing.

Can you offer insights into your writing process?

I approach haiku pretty much how I approach any form. Considering the act of writing as a form of play is, perhaps, the core of my approach. Playing with ideas, form, tone, and perspective, just basically letting whatever comes come and thinking about what it is about or for afterwards. Even when writing to a specific prompt or for a (sadly too rare!) paid commission, giving self permission to play and see what happens, trusting the process as they say, to produce something useful.

The alternative to this is the dread of the blank page. Just letting it come produces flights of thoughts in word form that might never arrive if I tell myself I must write something valid or clever or important.

My emphasis on writing on as play should not be regarded as not taking it all seriously, though. Even comedic writing is a serious business, often underestimated and regarded as an easy option. Equally, deeply serious writing is often lauded as automatically more valuable than other approaches.

I regard the approaches as all equally valid, and consider the ability to put a smile on faces as a gift. Because while there are all the big questions of life we might seek insight about, sometimes we also need a bit of light relief to help us survive the darker times in life, because life itself is something we certainly cannot ultimately survive!

I am open to pairing written material up with images, video and/or ound but have no fixed opinion on the necessity of this. If it adds to the impact of the words, that is cool, and if it helps bring people to the words who might otherwise not be brought, than that is even cooler.

At its core, writing is something that can be tried by anyone who wishes to try without expenses that might be incurred in almost any other art form.

If there had ever been any financial hurdle that needed to be cleared in order to be ‘allowed’ to write, I know I would never have been in a position to try. But the basic requirements of a pen and piece of paper were well within the reach of a young boy in a children’s home a very long time ago.

The therapeutic nature of writing

Mindfulness and Wellbeing are still relatively recently coined terms as far as the therapeutic nature of creativity goes. Even before anyone was using these terms, without even realising it, I was using writing to process thoughts and feelings, say what I wanted to say, say things I was scared to say, even to say things that I shouldn’t say.

Simultaneously the ‘meditative’ and ‘liberating’ aspects of creativity come into play, the buzz that comes from it is, I feel, an inherent aspect of why anyone would ever bother to be creative in the first place. It doesn’t work out the same way for all, and it certainly sometimes seems that creativity is presented as a panacea for all the ills of life, which no doubt means some end up feeling disappointed if they haven’t previously indulged their creativity and find it isn’t a magic wand to wish away all that is difficult.

But I do believe that whether it is writing or any other creative pursuit, all of us can find something that transports us to that ‘zone’ that disconnects us from the rat race and connects us to ourselves. And then, even if some people initially encounter inner reluctance to share their creativity of feel awkward talking about it, we have an opportunity to be and feel more connected to others. That final point is the key feature of being part of a group like TDH for me

The importance of being in a writing group

I have definitely benefitted over the years from writing groups, both in person and online. For the last six years I have featured in the yearly anthology produced by Cardiff group Roath Writers. I find with this group, as I have found with TDH, the access to prompts produces unexpected results that help me continually rethink what I am capable of and (more importantly) give me the courage to experience failed experiments and just keep going.

None of us see ourselves or our writing the way others do, and maybe there are times we don’t respect or appreciate what we have written and it can be enlightening and encouraging to find others do respect and appreciate what we have done. The harder thing to take (or offer) is critique that doesn’t just praise, and while TDH exists to mainly encourage and inspire, other groups exist to be a little tougher on us, if that is appropriate to our needs.

The energy a group creates can enthuse us, and the energy we contribute can help enthuse others, so it is all good! We can be as different as writers as we are as people and we don’t always like or get what everyone does, and not everyone always likes or gets what we do. But the feeling of being part of a vibrant community of people with the same underlying drive to communicate whatever we communicate via words often keeps alive the enthusiasm for being involved in what could otherwise be a lonely or isolating pursuit!

Two Haiku I have submitted to TDH

It feels like an almost impossible task to choose favourites from my TDH submissions, because there have been hundreds! But here are two recent ones I like, along with the themes I responded to:

HANDS
Symphonies of touch
Conducting the crescendos
Instruments of Lust

BROKEN
Heart shaped jigsaws
In semi-permanent state
Of reassembly

Would you like to say anything else about yourself?

It would be no exaggeration to say writing saved me from the after effects of growing up in care and ending up agoraphobic, living alone, never going out, never seeing or speaking to anyone. In that phase of my life I would never have imagined taking up spoken word performance, arranging and hosting spoken word events, winning  poetry slams, having my words used as inspiration for professional art print makers to create dozens of pieces for an exhibition, giving paid performances, being able to tell ‘my story’ to others and encourage them to share their words to audiences, being able to offer ‘insider tips’ for how to get over performance nerves, make people laugh, move them, sing songs unaccompanied, make friends, feel respected and so much more.

Life is and can never be perfect, but without putting words on paper I may never have made sense of myself, the world, my world, gained the strength to reach out to others at all. So the act of writing and the ability to share it in the real world and online via outlets that most recently include TDH have been vital to my survival. Far from feeling alone anymore, I have been told that my words have often given shape to feelings others have experienced, that I have found ways of expressing things people didn’t even realise they were thinking. And this was never a goal I set for myself, something that would certainly never have happened if I had never used writing, basically, as a survival tool. So thank you TDH for becoming part of my tool kit!

Links:

LOCKDOWN WEEKLY POETRY PRECRIPTION PROJECT:
https://cardiffandvale.art/2020/04/08/our-weekly-poetry-prescription-by-william-dean-ford/

INVOLVEMENT WITH THE ART CONTENT OF LLANDOUGH HOSPITAL MHU (CARDIFF)
https://willdeanford.wordpress.com/2016/02/22/new-adult-mental-health-unitwords-under-construction/

PRE-LOCKDOWN I ARRANGED THIS FESTIVAL EVENT ANNUALLY:
https://willdeanford.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/looking-back-megaverse-hub-festival-cardiff-2019/

12 Comments on “Conversation 32: THE DAILY HAIKU INTERVIEWS: William Dean Ford”

  1. Writing saved me too William. This interview touched me so deeply. I can relate to the agoraphobia which I suffered in my late teens when I was struck down with ME. Having found great solace and passion in poetry as a child I pursued it with energy in recovery. I too found that I enjoyed performing poetry, and still do when I get a chance. I share your approach to writing in all ways, going with the flow, being more serious at times but also enjoying the diversity of the group at TDH alongside that sense of connection. This was a real privilege to get to know you better William and it is always a joy to read your work which is always so fresh and vibrant. You are so in touch with your creativity it is infectious. I loved your involvement in the films and look forward to more projects that I hope you will be involved with too. Here’s a toast to recovering agoraphobics who learnt to stand up in front of a room of strangers and perform their own writing and enjoyed it! To more adventures…

  2. Your enthusiasm is also infectious and has been very important since 2020 ‘went a bit wrong’ Thank you Amanda White for TDH 🙂👏👏👏👏👏

  3. Your story is inspiring William. Thank you so much for sharing your journey into a ‘writing life’ that has sustained you and connected you to others…I really appreciated your interview and enjoy your contributions to TDH.

  4. William, you touched on so many thoughts i have thought, but couldn’t convey. You joined all the pieces together and I thank you so much for the openness and clarity of what and how writing can change a person. i haven’t seen a lot of your haiku in TDH, but when i have i have felt connection and really, that’s what it’s all about … connection; whether with someone else or within. TDH does just that. i look forward to more of your work and will be going to these links as time permits. i am so glad writing was your chosen art form. Just from this little peek I can see you are full of wit and imagination. A beautiful ‘conversation’ from you. Thank you.

  5. So inspiring and moving, William. I’m so glad writing helped you so much. Haiku, in particular, have definitely been deeply therapeutic for me, so that really resonated with me, and the value of being in a poetry workshop group (I’ve run my local Poetry Society Stanza since early 2008), where I have received both praise and constructive criticism, has also helped me enormously. However, TDH, which has forced me to write to a prompt every day, was an amazing, new experience.

  6. The writing and performance world is definitely richer with your voice. It’s inspiring to watch someone’s words appear in various guises in the community, ‘working words’ to inspire people and provoke thought. You encourage others to value their own efforts and this attribute also makes you stand out from a sometimes self-serving scene. I think you show us the practical possibilities of words that extend beyond ourselves.

  7. Will awe inspiring climbing the hill with pen paper n the creative word. Thank you for sharing your amazing formula of becoming a writer free to be n your daily haiku

  8. I really enjoyed reading this. I too was saved by writing. After years of up a and downs, later diagnosed as Complex PTSD I started writing how I felt, then I went on a residential course about writing with others for wellbeing, found Lapidus – Writing for Wellbeing and a Journal therapist. I’m well now and I run online groups. I also write and share my poetry especially haiku and senyru. I have found writers on FB community writing groups tend to be very supportive.

  9. Well, I think everything’s been said. Great to get to know the man behind the haiku, which I always appreciate. Thank you for your deep sharing, William.

  10. Thank you all for such kind and humbling comments 🙂 Much seventeen syllabic love to you all xxx

  11. Sorry I am late to the party and I think everything has been said, so I will just say thank you very much for sharing your story. It was very moving and 8nspiring. ❤👩‍🦰❤

  12. Yes, I’m late to the party too and all’s said.. I share the idea of play with you. Play is a serious (and playful) business! Thank you for sharing so much.

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