Marvin Thompson is 43 and lives in Cwmbran, south Wales. With an MA in creative writing, he is a writer, teacher and filmmaker and would like to pursue a career in poetry. He was shortlisted for the 2019 Manchester Poetry Prize and his debut poetry collection, Road Trip (Peepal Tree Press, 2020), is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was selected by the Poetry Society as one of five Black Lives Matter Inspiration books in June 2020. Thompson’s The Fruit of the Spirit is Love (Galatians 5:22) recently won the 2020 National Poetry Competition out of 18,000 poems entered.
How do you envisage the programme will help you in terms of your development?
“I am very interested in the following aspects of the mentoring scheme: networking, marketing, community participation and representation / equality. I am eager to share what I learn on the programme and disseminate that learning to others. As such, I am eager to explore community participation in the form of community writing workshops. In the three or four workshops I have facilitated so far in my writing career, there has been a lack of diversity amongst participants. As such, I am keen to find ways to reach out to a more diverse community of poets. I feel this is important because diversity in literary output is enriching for Wales as a nation. In my vision for my participation on this programme, I see myself augmenting my networking and marketing skills. This will not only boost my career but will help to establish diversity in Welsh literary culture. One of my key ambitions is to have a poem or book on the WJEC English Literature list (GCSE or A-Level). Currently, these lists lack diversity. I feel my work could be used to plug this diversity gap.”
What are you most looking forward to as part of the programme? What are you hoping to achieve by taking part?
“As a published poet, I am at the start of my career. If I am to fulfill my ambition of being one of Wales’ literary greats, I have a lot of learning to do. A year-long mentoring relationship will be a fundamental part of this learning process. This scheme will also help me to achieve my more immediate goal of becoming a better poet. A poet who is more descriptive, more musical and more daring with regard to the language and poetic forms I use to express myself.
I have experienced mentoring as part of the Nine Arches Press, Primers initiative. In addition, I was mentored by a friend during the writing of my debut collection. Consequently, I know that my place on your mentoring will have a huge impact on my writing career. It is also my belief that enhancing my skills as a poet will strengthen my abilities as a reviewer, essayist and filmmaker. These are all mediums in which my artistic output is helping to diversify the literary scene in Wales.
As well as developing my own career, I am keen to help others. I have already started a Twitter group for Welsh poets of colour and friends. This group has now taken on a life and momentum of its own. Members freely share online writing opportunities and resources. The spirit is one of togetherness. I look forward to using the skills gained on the mentoring programme to upskill others through community workshops, seminars and other forms of sharing. It is my desire to become a mentor and role model for a diverse range of poets in Wales and beyond.”
As a writer, where would you like to be in 5 years?
“My dream as a writer is to become one of Wales’ literary giants. Someone to be spoken about in the same breath as Charlotte Williams or Owen Sheers. It would also be a thrilling achievement to follow in their footsteps by winning the Wales Book of the Year award. However, my immediate focus is on becoming a more accomplished poet. I am eager to gain mastery over English language verse forms such as sestinas and villanelles. I am also keen to learn more about Welsh verse forms and how they can be applied in an English language context.
Although Wales has a rich tradition of poetry, there are few Welsh poets of colour that are widely read and celebrated. In this regard, I want to be a catalyst for change. I am a Londoner by birth but Wales is the home of my dual-heritage children (step-children and biological children). As such, I have a stake in Wales being a welcoming nation that celebrates difference – a stake, moreover, in helping its literary culture to become more inclusive and to thrive. As part of my drive to help diversify and enrich the Welsh literary landscape, I am eager to translate more of my work into Welsh. I feel it is important to share my ideas about identity, heritage and Welshness with communities across our nation. Indeed, I look forward to the day when my books are translated into Welsh as a matter of course. Again, such ambition rests in the knowledge that I am already working tirelessly to establish myself as a dynamic member of Wales’ literary community. I want to be a role model for all Welsh writers.”